The African National Congress (ANC) is due to meet for a second day today to decide the fate of President Thabo Mbeki, amid reports he will be ousted from office.

The party’s national executive committee (NEC) was meeting just after noon to discuss whether to remove Mbeki, who is mired in accusations that he conspired to undermine ANC leader Jacob Zuma.

Tension mounted all day on Friday as the NEC – meeting in Kempton Park on the East Read — delayed an announcement on the matter, which had been expected by 5.30pm.

ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe said on Friday that the NEC was “not discussing Thabo Mbeki. It is discussing the Judge [Chris] Nicholson judgement in its entirety. At the end of that discussion, we will come and brief you.”

Insiders in the party told the Mail & Guardian that although it is now imperative for the ANC to get rid of Mbeki, it must be done in a way that will not force the party to go the polls prematurely, as this will throw its planning into disarray.

The plan is to replace Mbeki with parliamentary Speaker and ANC chairperson Baleka Mbete, but this will not be done through a parliamentary vote of no-confidence or by impeachment.

Instead, all stops will be pulled out to get Mbeki to step down voluntarily and avoid a public battle. Mbeki indicated to his Cabinet this week that he will not defy the ANC’s leadership if they tell him to go.

It is understood that the NEC’s core leadership, the national working committee, decided at a meeting on Monday to recommend Mbeki’s removal as president.

After the NEC’s decision, the intention is to send a high-ranking delegation to ask Mbeki to do “the honourable thing” by stepping down and avoiding the embarrassment of being ousted by a motion of no confidence.