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South African President Jacob Zuma reacts while participating in a discussion at the World Economic Forum on Africa 2017 meeting in Durban, South Africa May 4, 2017. REUTERS/Rogan Ward

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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa President Jacob Zuma defeated a no-confidence motion against him at a meeting of top officials of the ruling African National Congress party on Sunday, News24 reported on its website.

Zuma is facing mounting pressure against him within the ANC, opposition parties and civil society has swelled since he axed respected finance minister Pravin Gordhan in March, triggering credit rating downgrades that have hit chances of a recovery in the struggling economy.

Citing two unnamed sources with direct knowledge of the meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC), News24 said Zuma had survived a heated NEC meeting that lasted late into the night.

News24 said a source who attended the meeting that started on Friday in the capital Pretoria reported that as many as 70 party officials took part in the debate for and against the motion, and that the president had the support of most speakers.

Local news service Eye Witness News (EWN) said on its Twitter feed that the president was "hard hitting" in his response, and told detractors that he knew that "they are used by foreign forces".

EWN said that of the 72 participants who spoke about motion, 18 spoke in support and 54 against.

The ANC said earlier it would hold a media briefing on Monday on the NEC meeting.

The ANC stood by Zuma at a similar meeting in November in a debate about whether he should step down.

Zuma is scheduled to step down from the ANC helm in December. His term as South African head of state runs until 2019.

(Reporting by James Macharia; Editing by Mary Milliken)

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