According to ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule, the negotiations between party president Cyril Ramaphosa and head of state Jacob Zuma fell apart because the party could not agree to the demand that Zuma stay in office for three to six more months.
Here's why President Zuma wants to stay on:
HE WANTS TO LEAVE OF HIS OWN VOLITION
In interviews with HuffPost ahead of the recall, presidency officials said they believed Zuma would leave by June, with some factoring in a Zexit in April or May. "The madcaps on President Zuma's side think he will serve until 2019. You don't want to give them an inch," said an aide, adding that a date of May or June was likely. He added: "It would be incorrect to push him or embarrass him. He will fight back."
President Zuma has felt pushed about and embarrassed, so his protracted exit and games of brinkmanship are examples of his fighting back.
HE CAN MOBILISE IN KZN IF HE'S PUSHED
"If you don't do it properly, people can die; it can spark a civil war," said the aide at the time. Zuma's supporters have threatened repeatedly in off-the-record discussions in the past fortnight that "ethnic mobilisation" in KwaZulu-Natal is a risk if Zuma is pushed, instead of falling at his own pace.
BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT THE LAW SAYS
Zuma also calculated that he had the law on his side. A party recall has very little effect in law, although it is a political bomb to put under a party deployee.
"The president still has constitutional powers to take decisions. He is an ANC deployee, but the Constitution says he has to make a rational decision in terms of the law, and he is under no constitutional requirement to consult. We need a structure where the president of the ANC and the president of the country meet every week," the aide said in interviews prior to this week.
NASREC IS NOT POLOKWANE
And President Zuma knows that even if he is in a weakened position, he has more power than former president Thabo Mbeki had when he was recalled.
"This is not a post-Polokwane conference, which produced a 60:40 victory for President Zuma. Ramaphosa's win at the Nasrec conference was 50:50. This [finely balanced polity could] kill the ANC. You need to balance things and get everyone into the tent. In order for that to happen, you need to manage the transition soberly. To put the ANC first; the government must operate."
BECAUSE HE IS A STATESMAN
The aides told HuffPost that Zuma also wants to take dignified leave of the international stage. Ideally, he wanted to still be president when the BRICS summit of Brazil, Russia, India, and China gather in South Africa in July. Zuma counts South Africa's role in BRICS as a significant part of his presidency. Magashule also said that Zuma wanted to complete his term as chairperson of the Southern African Development Community (SADC). He was elected chairperson in August last year, on a one-year term.