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Asking, 'What is the rush?' South African President Jacob Zuma condemns his party's decision to oust him

Robyn Dixon, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- A day after his own party urged him to resign, South African President Jacob Zuma on Wednesday condemned the decision, insisted he had done nothing wrong and warned that leaving the presidency would divide his party and could lead to violence.

"What is the rush? I have been asking this question all the time. You can't force a decision as is being done now," he told SABC television in a lengthy interview.

Zuma condemned Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa for moving against him, saying Ramaphosa reneged on an agreement to allow Zuma several more months in power.

The president has been under increasing pressure to resign after Ramaphosa narrowly won the presidency of the African National Congress at a national conference in December. Zuma's term as national president is not due to end until elections in 2019, but Ramaphosa and his supporters are determined to oust Zuma swiftly.

Zuma said the ANC's leadership demand he resign was unfair: He said he asked leaders what he had done wrong and never got an answer.

"The problem is nobody has provided to me what have I done. There's nothing I have done wrong. What's the problem? I don't understand," Zuma said.

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He said he told ANC leaders: "I have a problem with your approach and decision. I don't think it is fair. It's the first time I feel a decision is not right. I said to them I disagree with the decision you are taking."

In a news conference a day earlier, party Secretary General Ace Magashule said Zuma had done nothing wrong but was being removed for procedural reasons, to avoid having "two centers of power" in the country.

Zuma dismissed this concern, saying the ANC never provided that a new party president should immediately become president of the country.

Earlier Wednesday, Zuma canceled a morning news conference at which he had widely been expected to step down. He told the SABC he would make a statement on the matter later Wednesday.

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