Agence France-Presse

The leaders of South Africa’s ruling party pulled out of a series of public engagements Friday, fuelling speculation that they will meet to finalise the departure of embattled President Jacob Zuma.

African National Congress (ANC) party officials met with Zuma over the weekend to request his resignation, but he refused, triggering a week of dramatic political manoeuvering.

The ANC said in a statement on Thursday that it was awaiting the “imminent conclusion” of negotiations between Zuma and his deputy Cyril Ramaphosa, the president-in-waiting.

The sudden decision by the party’s “Top Six” leadership to abandon plans to attend events in Cape Town marking the 100th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s birth has prompted speculation that they will join efforts to ease out Zuma.

“The national officials of the ANC will no longer participate… This is because of various other commitments they are required to attend to,” said a brief party statement.

Local media reported that Ramaphosa and Zuma would meet in the capital Pretoria on Friday while analysts speculated the “Top Six” party officials would be drafted in to heighten pressure on the head of state to go.

The government also postponed an awards ceremony scheduled for Saturday at which Zuma was due to officiate, effectively clearing the president’s short-term diary.

Zuma, 75, who has been in office since 2009, has clung to power despite a string of corruption scandals, economic slowdown and record unemployment.

He faces several court cases, including action relating to 783 payments he received allegedly linked to an arms deal before he came to power in 2009.

The ANC has been under pressure from both within the party and the public to get rid of Zuma.

“The ANC have been pushed into the corner and so have to act and take a decisive decision,” political analyst Ralph Mathekga told AFP. “I think they might be announcing something over the weekend.”

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