President Jacob Zuma of South Africa in 2015. The confrontation between Mr. Zuma and his party, the African National Congress, heightened a power struggle that has paralyzed the country. Credit Nic Bothma/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

JOHANNESBURG — Top leaders of South Africa’s governing party ordered President Jacob Zuma to step down on Tuesday, saying that his continued presence was eroding the “renewed hope” felt since the election of new party leaders in December.

Ace Magashule, secretary general of the African National Congress, said that the party had not given Mr. Zuma a deadline to respond, but added that he was certain that the president would deliver a reply the next day.

“Let’s leave it to President Jacob Zuma,” Mr. Magashule said at a news conference at party headquarters in Johannesburg.

In a meeting with party leaders Monday night, Mr. Zuma was defiant, insisting that he had done nothing wrong and refusing to resign, according to the local news media.

The extraordinary confrontation between Mr. Zuma and the A.N.C., the party that until recently had backed him throughout a scandal-plagued presidency, heightened a power struggle over the past week that has paralyzed South Africa, which has the continent’s most powerful economy.

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