South Africa’s Governing Party Suspends Ex-Leader Jacob Zuma

South Africa’s governing party, the African National Congress, in a remarkable rebuke, suspended its former president, Jacob Zuma, on Monday, for launching “vitriolic attacks” against the organization after throwing his support behind a rival political party.

Calling Mr. Zuma’s behavior “erratic” and “disruptive” ahead of crucial national elections this year, one of the A.N.C.’s top officials essentially assailed the former president as an agent of “right-wing” forces seeking to stifle Black progress.

“Former President Zuma is actively asserting himself as the figurehead of counterrevolution in South Africa,” said Fikile Mbalula, the A.N.C.’s secretary general, reading from a statement by the party’s top decision-making body.

It was a stunning turn of events for a former freedom fighter who was once imprisoned alongside Nelson Mandela on Robben Island. Mr. Zuma later rose to power as the leader of the A.N.C. and the nation, dispensing populist rhetoric that attracted a fervent following.

“It is an extraordinary characterization, there’s no doubt about it,” Bongani Ngqulunga, who teaches politics at the University of Johannesburg and was a spokesman for Mr. Zuma when he was president of the nation, said of the A.N.C. statement. “It just demonstrates the alienation between former President Zuma and the political party that he served and led.”

The suspension signals a break from Mr. Zuma’s corrosive legacy by party leaders who had spent years defending him against accusations of corruption and wrongdoing, even as his actions eroded public support. It is also a show of strength by President Cyril Ramaphosa, a nemesis of Mr. Zuma’s, as he seeks re-election.

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