At least three South African ministers have called for President Jacob Zuma to resign, local media reported today, in the most serious challenge to his leadership since he took power in 2009.
The News24 news agency, citing sources in the ruling ANC party, said that Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi and Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi called on Zuma to step down.
The clash came at a weekend National Executive Committee meeting of the African National Congress (ANC) party, which was extended to today amid heated debate over Zuma's fate.
The president, who has faced mounting criticism of his leadership, came under further pressure this month when a corruption probe unearthed fresh allegations of misconduct.
The probe by the country's top watchdog raised accusations of possible criminal activity in Zuma's relationship with the Guptas, a business family accused of wielding undue political influence.
But Zuma, 74, retains strong loyalty among many party members and its lawmakers -- easily surviving a vote of no confidence in parliament on November 10.
"There is no doubt that Zuma is fighting for his political life," analyst Ranjeni Munusamy wrote on the Daily Maverick website.
"He is hanging on while it is clear that large sections of the ANC and alliance no longer want him as president."
Increasing numbers of anti-apartheid veterans, ANC activists, trade unions, civil groups and business leaders have called for Zuma to resign in recent months.