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South Africa's rand strengthened on Tuesday, touching its highest level in two sessions, after rumours that President Jacob Zuma had stepped down spurred a temporary rally in the currency against the greenback.
Zuma's announcement comes a day before a meeting of the ruling African National Congress executive committee amid speculation that new party leader Cyril Ramaphosa and his allies are lobbying members to oust Zuma as head of state.
Zuma's removal also had "no expressed authority" according to the ANC constitution, the letter said, adding that the NEC was not and had never been "an appointing authority on any person to the office of the president of the Republic of South Africa, irrespective of the fact that Zuma was its preferred candidate for that position before and after [the 2014] general elections".
"I am concerned that this matter has occupied the public mind for some time now and deserves urgent attention", Zuma said in a statement. "His hand has been forced", said Mmusi Maimane, leader of the main opposition Democratic Alliance.
It also deeply divided the ANC, which has been in power since the end of white minority rule in South Africa in 1994.
In 2016 a damning report questioned Zuma's dealings with the Guptas, a wealthy family of Indian origin, who allegedly were granted influence over his cabinet appointments.
Zuma had challenged the right of the Public Protector to call for a judicial inquiry and the appointment by the chief justice of a judge to head it, saying it was the president's prerogative whether to set up such an inquiry.
"The Zuma trigger today (yesterday) gives a glimpse of how the rand will react if Zuma does step down early, although this possibility is increasingly being priced in", said Christopher Shiells, a senior emerging market analyst at Informa Global Markets.
Before taking office, Zuma dismayed the nation during his 2006 rape trial when he told the court he had showered after having unprotected sex with his young HIV-positive accuser to avoid, he said, contracting the virus.
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