Sunday, September 21, 2008



By REUTERS,in Johannesburg
Sunday Nation in Nairobi
September 20 2008

South Africa’s ruling party said it had decided to recall President Thabo Mbeki before the end of his term next year and that he had pledged to accept the move and step aside voluntarily.

“After a long and difficult discussion the ANC decided to recall the President before his term of office expires,” Gwede Mantashe, the ANC’s secretary-general, said in a press conference east of Johannesburg.

Mbeki’s term was set to end in April 2009. Mantashe said Mbeki, who has ruled Africa’s largest economy since taking over from Nelson Mandela in 1999, had welcomed the news when he was informed.

Last week Mbeki had told the cabinet he would accept whatever decision the ANC made.

The ANC will ask Mbeki’s cabinet ministers to remain in their positions in the transition period after Mbeki leaves office for the sake of the country’s stability, Mantashe added.

ANC discussed the future of Mbeki on Friday after he was accused of interference in a corruption case involving the party leader, ANC officials said.

“We are in the middle of a debate,” Mantashe told a news conference.

A judge who threw out a graft case against ANC leader Jacob Zuma has accused Mbeki of interfering in the process. South Africa’s Times newspaper said the ANC was expected to tell Mbeki to resign or face a no-confidence vote in parliament.

The party’s national executive committee, the policy-making body, is dominated by Zuma allies.

Mbeki is popular with investors because of his pro-business policies but he is mired in accusations that he conspired to undermine Zuma.

Zuma supporters accuse Mbeki of ignoring the poor and using state institutions to purge opponents, charges he denies.

Fired as Mbeki’s deputy president in 2005 after he was linked to alleged wrongdoing in an arms deal, Zuma defeated his former boss in a leadership contest late last year and is seen as frontrunner to succeed him as head of state next year.

Mbeki, who has consistently denied he hatched a political conspiracy against Zuma, said he was not involved in prosecutors’ decision to appeal the Zuma ruling.

“It impoverishes our society that some resort to the tactic of advancing allegations with no fact to support these,” Mbeki said in a statement.

Zuma has said he wants Mbeki to serve out the remaining months of his term but he faces a growing chorus within the ANC to force Mbeki to resign or push him out in a no-confidence vote in the ANC-dominated parliament.

“Zuma will have to listen to all viewpoints, but it is unlikely that the NEC will rescue Mbeki,” Business Day newspaper quoted an unidentified committee member as saying.

Quick decision

The opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) called on the ANC to make a quick decision on Mbeki.“The ANC’s extraordinary delay in announcing a decision on the political fate of President Mbeki is the result of a growing war in the ruling party.

“There has never been a more powerful illustration of the leadership crisis within the ANC,” DA Federal Chairperson James Selfe said in a statement.

Mike Davies, Africa analyst at Eurasia Group, speaking before The Times report, said worries about widening internal divisions before next April’s elections may lead more moderate committee members to support Mbeki.

“However, the opportunity for the supporters of ANC president Jacob Zuma, who dominate the NEC, to take revenge on Mbeki could be difficult to resist. Mbeki’s position hangs in the balance,” Davies said in a research note.

Forcing out Mbeki, credited by the business community for policies that have spurred nearly a decade of economic growth, would create uncertainty among investors.

It could prompt the exodus of loyal ministers, possibly including the popular finance minister, Trevor Manuel.