CAPE TOWN– African National Congress (ANC) leader Cyril Ramaphosa pulled out of public events to focus on pressing matters, fuelling speculation that Ramaphosa was making a final push to force Jacob Zuma to step down as South Africa’s head of state.

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 and members of the ANC’s ‘Top Six’ most powerful officials had been due to visit Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and supporters at various events in Cape Town on Friday. But an ANC spokesman said they would not participate in those events due to other pressing matters.

An ANC official in the Western Cape province said the schedule changes related to the party’s push to force Zuma to stand down.

We all know and anticipate that they are dealing with the current issue that is facing our country, Faiez Jacobs, the party’s provincial secretary, told eNCA television.

Ramaphosa, 65, has been lobbying for Zuma to resign and has said he hopes to conclude talks with him over a transition of power in coming days…in the interests of the country.

A spokesman for Ramaphosa, who also serves as South Africa’s deputy president, said the ANC leader no longer had any public engagements on Friday or Saturday. He said Ramaphosa had returned Gauteng province, where the ANC’s headquarters is located in the country’s commercial capital Johannesburg.

South Africa’s ANC official urges patience during Zuma exit talks

In JOHANNESBURG, the party’s national chairperson Gwede Mantashe said South Africans should be patient with Ramaphosa as he holds talks with Zuma for a transition of power.

Addressing an ANC rally in the eastern province of Mpumalanga, Mantashe said ANC officials should be fearless and must be able to make difficult decisions, but leaders had a duty to analyze and mitigate risks.

There is no disagreement about where we want to go (on Zuma) but the tactics on how to do that is the responsibility of leadership, Mantashe told the rally.

Speaking to state broadcaster SABC television after his speech, Mantashe said people should give the ANC space to manage a very complex situation.

Allow (Ramaphosa) to lead, Leadership is a science, a profession and also an art. Allow Cyril Ramaphosa to execute and use his art and his personality to manage this, Mantashe said.

Ramaphosa, who negotiated on behalf of the ANC in talks to end apartheid, has ignored frustration from some sections of the media and opposition parties who have been howling for Zuma to go for years.

Zuma, South Africa’s most controversial president since the end of white-minority rule in 1994, has overseen a tumultuous nine years in power marked by economic decline and numerous allegations of corruption.

Zuma has not said whether he will resign voluntarily before his second term as president ends in the middle of next year. He still retains the support of a faction within the ANC but has seen several prominent party allies desert him.