By Alexander Winning and James Macharia
PRETORIA/JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - The leadership of South Africa's ruling party went into a special meeting on Monday on President Jacob Zuma, who is mired in corruption allegations, with expectations high that a decision on his fate would be reached by the end of the day.
As the executive of the African National Congress (ANC) met in a hotel outside Pretoria, the stage seemed set for a decisive showdown between the 75-year-old leader's allies and those members backing a swift transfer of power to Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Zuma's position has weakened since he was replaced as leader of the ANC by Ramaphosa in December though he still holds the state presidency.
Speaking on Sunday, Ramaphosa, 65, who says he has held direct talks with Zuma over a transfer of power, said the meeting of the party's executive committee would be aiming on Monday to "finalise" the situation.
An ANC spokeswoman declined to comment on whether there would be an announcement of the results of the meeting. Reporters were barred from entering the Saint George Hotel, where the NEC meeting got under way from 1200 GMT.
Zuma survived calls last year by some members of the NEC for him to quit.[L8N1IU0QO] But analysts say there is greater support for him now to step down.
Analysts said it was not clear whether Zuma would accept the demand by his party to step down if requested to do so.
Zuma's tenure as president officially runs until mid-2019 and he has not said in public whether he will step down voluntarily.
Zuma's whereabouts on Monday were not known. His spokesman could not be reached for comment.
The rand, which has tended to strengthen on signs that Zuma could step down early, was slightly firmer as traders awaited clarity on the political drama.
Zuma is also facing a no-confidence motion in parliament set for Feb. 22, but has survived several similar attempts to oust him in the past. His entire cabinet would have to step down if the motion of no-confidence against him was successful.
Since becoming president in 2009, Zuma has been dogged by scandal. He is fighting the reinstatement of 783 counts of corruption over a 30 billion-rand (now $2.5 billion) government arms deal arranged in the late 1990s when he was deputy president.
Some within the ANC and the opposition say the Gupta family, friends of Zuma, have used their links with the president to win state contracts and influence cabinet appointments. The Guptas and Zuma himself have denied any wrongdoing.
The Bank of Baroda, which became embroiled with the Guptas, has announced plans to exit South Africa, the central bank said on Monday.
Ramaphosa has put the focus on rooting out corruption and revitalising economic growth since defeating Zuma's preferred successor, Zuma's ex-wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, in the ANC leadership race.
The far-left Economic Freedom Fighters party (EFF) opposition, which brought the no-confidence motion, has demanded that it be held this week.
The speaker of parliament, Baleka Mbete, has said she is considering their application.
Julius Malema, leader of the EFF, told reporters in Cape Town that should the speaker decline to bring the motion forward, his party would seek a court order to compel parliament to do so.
Speaking at the same event, opposition leader Mmusi Maimane, who heads the Democratic Alliance party, said the opposition parties will back the no-confidence motion to remove Zuma and his cabinet and demand early elections.
"Anyone from the ANC that wants to lead this country, must get their mandate from the people of South Africa," he said.
(Additional reporting by Wendell Roelf in Cape Town; Writing by James Macharia; Editing by Richard Balmforth)