South Africa's ruling party says the scandal-tainted President Jacob Zuma must leave office.
Ace Magashule, secretary-general of the African National Congress, confirmed the party's national executive committee has decided to "recall" Mr Zuma, who has been discredited by corruption scandals.
Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Mr Magashule said Mr Zuma previously had agreed to resign but wanted to stay in office for several more months, a condition that the party committee rejected.
If Mr Zuma refuses his party's instruction, the matter could go to parliament for a vote on a motion of no confidence.
Mr Zuma's presidency has been marred by corruption scandals, slow economic growth and record unemployment that have fuelled public anger in Africa's most developed country.
Cyril Ramaphosa, the deputy president, told a meeting of African National Congress’s leaders on Monday night that Mr Zuma had 48 hours to resign or face dismissal in a no-confidence debate in parliament later this week.
After a nine-hour meeting, the ANC’s 86-member National Executive Committee (NEC) agreed to “recall” Mr Zuma from his position. Mr Ramaphosa then left the meeting at midnight and took the ultimatum to Mr Zuma at his official residence in Pretoria, according to the South African Broadcasting Corporation and the Cape Times.
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He told Mr Zuma, whose term as head of state is not up until next year, that if he does not resign by midnight on Wednesday he will be sacked by parliament where the ANC has a 62 per cent majority. All South Africa’s 13 opposition party MP’s would vote with the ANC.
Earlier on Monday, in a long and politically charged day, South Africa’s opposition parties called for parliament to be dissolved and early elections to be held while the ANC remained locked in talks on whether or not to recall Jacob Zuma.
The president has faced a barrage of calls to step down in recent weeks.
Mr Ramaphosa has been negotiating with Mr Zuma over the terms of an early exit for days before he called a special meeting of the 86 member NEC, including several cabinet ministers loyal to Mr Zuma, to decide whether or not the party should recall the president.
In a speech on Sunday afternoon, Mr Ramaphosa said the matter of Mr Zuma’s leaving office would be “finalised” during an NEC meeting.
Earlier in the day the SABC, South Africa’s public broadcaster, reported that Mr Zuma had agreed to step down, but the president’s spokesman denied the reports, calling them “fake news”.
As the talks carried on, several opposition parties issued a joint ultimatum demanding that a vote of no confidence against Mr Zuma, currently scheduled for Feb 22, be moved forward to this week, so that parliament be dissolved and that fresh elections be held.
“To think that when Zuma leaves our problems are going to disappear, that is disingenuous,” said Julius Malema, head of the radical Left Economic Freedom Fighters.
“The problem is not Zuma. The problem is not Cyril. The problem is the ANC. So the ANC must be voted out.”
Several cabinet ministers loyal to Mr Zuma and who were in the difficult NEC meeting are likely to lose their jobs when Mr Ramaphosa becomes president of South Africa, either after Mr Zuma’s resignation or following his departure via the vote of no confidence.