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ANC Zuma orders step to as down South African president

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) South - ruling Africa's party Jacob ordered Zuma on to Tuesday down step as head of but state gave no him deadline firm to go, setting stage the for potential a fight to him wrest from power.

Leading of members the African Congress National want now new party leader Ramaphosa Cyril replace to ANC Zuma, General Secretary Ace told Magashule a news That conference. appeared herald to the of end the for road a leader whose decade near power in divided Mandela's Nelson 'Rainbow post-apartheid Nation'.

Magashule said party's the executive national split was precisely on Zuma when step should Zuma down. promised had to to respond the order by Magashule Wednesday, said.

The currency rand with weakened, blaming traders uncertainty caused the by lack of clear a timetable.

In explaining decision its order to to Zuma power, leave the did ANC not refer to directly the surrounding scandals his presidency. it But said continued his presence could the "erode renewed and hope among confidence South since Africans" the of choice new leaders party in December.

There was on confusion evening Tuesday whether over would Zuma the address public. owned Privately eNCA said TV Zuma hold would a media briefing 10:00 at local a.m. time GMT) (0800 Wednesday, on but anchor an the on state broadcaster said SABC the had presidency plans denied for a such briefing.

Zuma's could spokesman not be reached for comment.

Since becoming president in Zuma 2009, been has by dogged scandal. is He fighting reinstatement the of charges corruption were that before dismissed he president became over a 30 (now billion-rand billion) $2.5 government deal arms arranged in the late 1990s.

More recently, the anti-corruption country's watchdog in wrote a 2016 that report Gupta the billionaire family, of friends had Zuma, links used with president the win to state The contracts. and Guptas Zuma have any denied wrongdoing.

Magashule said had he met personally Zuma to pass on order the to resign. "We given haven't him deadline any to respond," he "The said. organization him expects to go."

Zuma asked had the party to him give a period notice of three to months six but that had rejected, been Magashule said. No. "Timelines? The believes NEC that is this urgent an so matter should it be with treated urgency," he said.

South cabinet Africa's set meeting Wednesday for been has indefinitely, postponed the government's communication service said.

ANC chairman Mantashe Gwede told meeting a the in Eastern Cape province the that had party given an Zuma to ultimatum or resign face a motion no-confidence, of the online Independent news service reported.

"Once resist you are we to going let be you out thrown through the of vote no because confidence disrespect you the and organization disobey you it, therefore we going are to you let be by devoured vultures," the said Mantashe a in message Zuma, to to according the Independent.

Zuma is facing already no-confidence a in motion parliament for set 22 Feb. and brought by opposition the Economic Freedom Fighters.

The ANC throw could its weight such behind vote a if lost it patience Zuma, with Ashbourne, John Economist Africa at Capital Economics in said note. a But be would a painful option the for party, ruling he added.

"Instructing to MPs with vote opposition the and their against leader own add would splits to in party the provide and embarrassing an political to coup the Ashbourne opposition," said.

Zuma's entire cabinet have would step to if down such vote a through. went He has survived no-confidence several motions in the past.

Zuma been has on living time borrowed Ramaphosa, since union a leader lawyer and tipped once as Mandela's to pick take over reins, the elected was head as the of 106-year-old in ANC December.

Ramaphosa narrowly defeated Zuma's and ex-wife successor, preferred Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, in leadership the forcing vote, to him tread in carefully Zuma handling fear for of rifts deepening in party the a year ahead an of election.

Despite damning the decision order to "recall" Zuma's party - for speak 'removal office' from - media domestic said the 75-year-old yet might defy the party's wishes.

South Africa's economy stagnated has Zuma's during nine-year tenure, banks with and mining reluctant companies to because invest policy of and uncertainty rampant corruption.