What many thought was impossible has happened, the African National Congress  (ANC)’s National Executive Committee (NEC) has confirmed that it has recalled President Jacob Zuma, signalling the beginning of the end of President Zuma’s seemingly interminable term as president of South Africa.

The NEC briefed the media on the outcome of a marathon special NEC meeting which ended in the early hours of Tuesday. ANC Secretary General Ace Magashule said “The NEC therefore decided as follows: To recall its deployee, Comrade Jacob Zuma, in accordance with Rule of the ANC Constitution, which accords the NEC the authority to “recall any public representative”.

“The decision of the #ANCNEC to recall Cde Zuma is final. It can’t and will not change. We will treat Cde Zuma with dignity and we will not humiliate him,” Magashule added.

Magashule said the ANC wanted party president Cyril Ramaphosa to take over the country’s presidency. “When we took this decision it was because we have a new President of the ANC in Comrade Cyril Ramaphosa and we need to ensure alignment. President Ramaphosa will deliver the State of the Nation Address,” Magashule said.

“The decision of the NEC provides certainty to the people of South Africa at a time when the economic and social challenges facing the country require urgent and resolute response by all sections of society,” the NEC added in its statement.

Former President Thabo Mbeki and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa at the funeral service of ANC Stalwart/Rivonia Treason Trialist Ahmed Mohamed Kathrada, 29 Mar 2017Photos GCIS). Photo: GovernmentZA

Read: South Africa’s 2016 election result: Zuma must go

In its statement the NEC noted that, “South Africa is going through a period of uncertainty and anxiety as a result of the unresolved matter of transition. Further that this uncertainty and anxiety will erode the renewed hope and confidence among South Africans since the 54th National Conference of the ANC”.

President Zuma survived the chop on numerous occasions, and as the proverbial cat with nine lives he seemed to hold on and rise even when the odds were stacked heavily against him.

The president has been under immense pressure to leave office following Ramaphosa’s election as ANC president at the party’s national conference in December held in Johannesburg.

President Zuma’s term should have ended in 2019 but his position became increasingly untenable following the elective congress, which shifted power dynamics in the ANC. The party has been deeply divided over whether Zuma should be recalled from his position, and Zuma continued to ignore calls to step down from within the ANC, opposition, civil society and the ANC alliance partners.

Cosatu’s Zingiswa Losi was quoted saying, “We must listen to workers who are saying that for as long as we keep the president of the republic in power, the ANC’s brand becomes damaged.”

“We are saying that the matter of President Zuma to resign is not an ANC matter. It is an alliance matter, it is a South African matter.”

Protests over Zuma’s presidency

Last year, opposition political parties coalesced and pushed a campaign for Zuma to step down citing Zuma’s controversial Cabinet reshuffle and a worsening economy. Two ratings agencies downgraded the country to junk status following the reshuffle. The protest began following the sacking of the widely respected Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. Thousands of South Africans marched to the Union Buildings, calling for President Zuma to step down, but the he did not yield to the protest.

Read: Will Zuma end South African exceptionalism?

Zuma has led the ANC since 2007 and his tenure as President of South Africa has been marred by numerous scandals, and corruption allegations, which have seriously damaged both Zuma’s credibility and the ANC’s brand. The economy continued to underperform under Zuma’s leadership. Following various scandalous allegations, the ANC has lost popularity, worsened by the failure to address slow economic growth, high unemployment and income inequalities.

Zuma has also been accused and found guilty by the South Africa’s highest court for having violated the constitution by using state funds to expand his private residence in Nkandla in the KwaZulu-Natal province.

The president is still fighting a court order of numerous corruption charges against him over a multi-billion dollar arms deal.

Members of the public, political parties‚ labour organisations, civil groups, and business organisations have welcomed Zuma’s recall, expecting a swift resolution of the issue.