Tuesday, September 23, 2008



September 22 2008 at 18:28

ANC leader Jacob Zuma said on Monday that the decision to ask President Thabo Mbeki to resign as president of the country was one of the most difficult in the history of the ruling party.

Zuma, in his first public remarks after Mbeki’s resignation, told a news conference in Johannesburg that the decision was taken to help South Africa move forward.

Mr Zuma added that South Africa’s economic policies will remain stable and unchanged.

“Our economic policies will remain stable, progressive and unchanged as decided upon in previous ANC national conferences,” Mr Zuma told a news conference.

Zuma said the party will announce its candidate to replace Mr Mbeki until a national election next year at an appropriate time, adding that he was sure ANC deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe would be up to the task if chosen.

Earlier, other sources said Parliamentary speaker Baleka Mbete, 59 was to be given the job.

Parliament will elect a new president on Thursday, he chief whip for opposition Democratic Alliance said on Monday.

“The election will take place ... on Thursday,” Ian Davidson told Reuters after meeting with the ANC’s chief whip and officials from other political parties.

Meanwhile, the removal of Mr Mbeki has raised questions over the future of the ANC and its ability to lead the country.

Mr Mbeki, who presided over South Africa’s longest period of economic growth, said in a televised address on Sunday he had tendered his resignation after the ANC asked him to quit before the end of his term next year.

The ANC made its request eight days after a judge threw out corruption charges against party leader Jacob Zuma, suggesting there was high-level political meddling in the case.

News of Mbeki’s departure helped push South Africa’s rand weaker in overnight trading although traders said the political moves would not affect the currency much in the short term.

In the most dramatic political crisis since apartheid ended in 1994, the ANC announced on Saturday it had recalled Mr Mbeki before his term ends. He agreed to step down a few hours later.

The move exposed the worst internal crisis in the history of the African National Congress and increased the chance it could split before next year’s election, which Zuma is expected to win because of the party’s electoral dominance.

It shows the growing strength of the ANC’s more radical wing, which may hurt Zuma’s efforts to reassure foreign investors that left-leaning allies will not force him to steer the country away from pro-business policies.

The precedent could also be a dangerous one for Zuma himself if he fails to fulfil the hopes of his allies on the left.

“Labour and the left is in a stronger position then when it was six months ago,” said Nic Borain, political consultant to HSBC Securities. “This victorious triumphalism hurts the country. It is bad for business.”

ANC militants led the charge against Mbeki after a judge threw out graft charges against Zuma and suggested there was high-level political meddling in the case.
ANC Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe repeatedly said during the announcement the decision to recall Mr Mbeki, who lost the ANC leadership to Zuma in December, was made by consensus and was designed to ensure political stability.

While the move vindicated Mr Zuma, it may have caused irreparable damage to the ANC and deprived him of the chance to take over Africa’s biggest economy backed by a united party after a transitional government.

Mr Mbeki, who took over from Nelson Mandela as president in 1999, said he remained a loyal ANC member and respected the party’s decision but repeated that he did not influence the prosecution in the case of Zuma, his rival.

Recipe for civil war

Mbeki’s brother, Moeletsi Mbeki, a political analyst who has been a tough critic of Mbeki, was quoted in a newspaper as saying the ANC’s purge was a “recipe for civil war” that set a dangerous precedent.

Uncertainty may deepen if Mbeki supporters split from the ANC and contest elections as a breakaway party in 2009, as media reports suggest they will.

Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota, Deputy Defence Minister Mluleki George and other Mbeki loyalists are planning to start a new party and organisers will meet this week to discuss the move, South Africa’s Sunday Times reported.

“The threat of a breakaway party is now significant. Its implications would be grave,” said Razia Khan, regional head of research Africa at Standard Chartered.

And, South Africa’s influence overseas could be dented by the loss of Mbeki, who has successfully mediated an end to a number of African conflicts and acted as a broker between rich industrialised nations and the developing world.

Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka would have been the next in line after Mbeki’s resignation to take the post.

At the weekend, Zuma supporters, appeared to favour Ms Mbete, the speaker of parliament for the top post. But, the ANC plans to name Mr Motlanthe as president until next year’s election.