South African president Jacob Zuma's speech postponed amid pressure to quit

6 February 2018, 16:13

A state of the nation address which South African president Jacob Zuma was due to deliver later this week has been postponed amid mounting pressure for him to resign.

The leader is facing calls to quit over corruption scandals and a weakening economy which have hurt the popularity of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party.

Parliament speaker Baleka Mbete said the decision to postpone the speech, which had been due to take place on Thursday, was made in the "best interests" of South Africa.

Some opposition legislators have disrupted previous parliamentary appearances by the president.

Earlier, the Nelson Mandela Foundation, which promotes the legacy of South Africa’s anti-apartheid leader and first black president, said Mr Zuma should go "sooner rather than later" and that any delay would lead to violent conflict.

The non-profit group first called for the president to resign more than a year ago.

Mr Zuma has been embroiled in a series of corruption scandals but denies any wrongdoing.

Many ANC members have turned against him out of fear he will negatively impact the party ahead of the 2019 elections.

The party's national executive committee, its highest decision-making body, will hold a meeting on Wednesday to discuss his possible removal.

"We thought that we needed to create room for establishing a much more conducive political atmosphere in parliament," Mr Mbete told reporters.

"A new date for the state of the nation address will be announced very soon."

The ANC's deputy secretary general, Jessie Duarte, said senior party officials had discussed Mr Zuma's position on Monday.

"It was discussed at a great deal of length. I can say to you that there are different views," she said.

Many ANC members are pushing for deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa, the new head of the party, to immediately replace Mr Zuma, 75.

However, those loyal to Mr Zuma say the serving president should complete his second and final term in office, which would end when elections are held next year.

Ms Duarte confirmed that if Mr Zuma resigned, Mr Ramaphosa would automatically take office.