By Wendell Roelf
CAPE TOWN (Reuters) – African National Congress leader Cyril Ramaphosa avoided questions about the future of South African President Jacob Zuma on Sunday as the party’s executive body called a meeting to discuss a transition of power.
Zuma, in power since 2009 and battling corruption allegations, has been living on borrowed time since Ramaphosa replaced him as leader of the ruling party in December.
Ramaphosa said last week that he hoped to conclude talks with Zuma on a transition of power “in coming days … in the interests of the country.”
ANC spokesman Pule Mabe said the party’s National Executive Committee, which has the power to instruct Zuma to resign, would meet on Monday, but Ramaphosa declined to comment further on the leadership as he arrived for a service at Cape Town’s Anglican St George’s Cathedral on Sunday morning.
“We leave this church well armed with the good blessings and prayer… so as the leadership of the ANC we have been well empowered as we move ahead… and as we manage this transition,” Ramaphosa told reporters.
He was due to make a speech later on Sunday as part of year-long celebrations to mark 100 years since the birth of former President Nelson Mandela.
ANC deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte said the party needed time to deal with discussions on Zuma’s future.
“The matters that are at hand, they are not simple matters, they are complex matters, we have faith in (Ramaphosa) and his ability to find solutions to take us forward,” Duarte told local news service Eyewitness News on Sunday.
A senior ANC source told Reuters that the ANC’s executive committee would discuss Zuma’s situation at its meeting on Monday.
The party had originally planned to hold an executive meeting next weekend but Mabe said it had been brought forward to Monday to discuss the leadership.
Ramaphosa looked relaxed as he arrived at church, allowing parents to take pictures of him with their children.
St George’s Cathedral was at the forefront of the anti-apartheid struggle and during a Christmas mass service last year its Archbishop Thabo Makgoba called on the new ANC leadership to act “quickly and decisively” to replace Zuma as head of state.
The ANC called off a special meeting of its executive body to discuss Zuma’s future scheduled for last Wednesday after the president and Ramaphosa agreed to hold talks for a transition of power.
The party has only said that the talks were “constructive”.
Zuma, who no longer holds a top position in the party, has not said whether he will resign voluntarily before his second term as president ends in the middle of next year.
A senior ANC source told Reuters that the executive committee would meet at 1200 GMT in Pretoria on Monday.
Zuma also faces another no-confidence vote against his leadership in parliament on Feb. 22, brought by the ultra-left Economic Freedom Fighters party.
(Additional reporting by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo and Alexander Winning in Johannesburg; Editing by Paul Tait and Susan Fenton)