South Africa suspends Jacob Zuma’s state of the nation address

South Africa’s parliament has taken the extraordinary step of postponing President Jacob Zuma’s state of the nation address on Thursday, as pressure grows on him to resign.

The opposition had threatened to disrupt the speech, saying Mr Zuma could no longer remain in office.

The governing ANC has called a meeting of the party’s top body for Wednesday to decide the president’s future.

Mr Zuma, 75, has resisted calls to quit over corruption allegations.

He was replaced as party leader by his deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa, 65, in December. He is now the front runner to succeed him as president.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Nelson Mandela Foundation urged Mr Zuma to step down.

South Africa had seen “systematic looting” under Mr Zuma’s rule, and he “must go sooner rather than later”, the foundation said in a statement.

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How did the parliament speaker explain her decision?

In a statement, Baleka Mbete said that recent “calls for disruption” of the speech “caused us great concern”.

Therefore the decision had been taken, she said, to “create room for establishing a much more conducive political atmosphere in parliament”.

Ms Mbete said that “with this in mind”, Mr Zuma was approached about postponing the address, but “when we met the president, we then learnt that he was already writing to parliament to ask for the postponement”.

Mr Zuma’s office later said in a statement that “the president has requested the postponement due to certain developments”.

On Monday, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) said it would not allow Mr Zuma to address the nation and would, instead, push for a no-confidence debate.

The EFF and the other major opposition parties welcomed the postponement.

No new date has been set for the speech, the main political event of the year.

Is Zuma’s time almost up?

Analysis by Lebo Diseko, BBC News, Johannesburg

It is unprecedented for the state of the nation address to be postponed.

Making the announcement, Ms Mbete cited concerns over disruption. This was in reference to fears of possible disruption by the opposition if Mr Zuma were to give the address. And as the sitting president, he is supposed to.

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