/ 8 January 2008

ANC: Mbeki excused himself from meeting

The African National Congress clarified the absence of President Thabo Mbeki and a close ally, Joel Netshitenze, from Monday’s national executive committee (NEC) meeting, the South African Broadcasting Corporation reported on Tuesday.

ANC spokesperson Tiyani Rikhotso said both men excused themselves from the meeting a week ago, citing prior engagements.

Monday’s NEC meeting was the first since the new executive was elected at the ANC’s national conference in Polokwane last month. The new NEC is dominated by supporters of new party president Jacob Zuma.

The NEC was expected to announce the list of members of the party’s new national working committee (NWC) on Tuesday, the report said.

The 28 NWC members were responsible for the day to day running of the organisation. The NEC would also announce the outcome of other discussions at its key meeting.

Among the other issues discussed, were the party’s traditional ”January 8” statement and the charges being brought by the National Prosecuting Authority against Zuma.

Zuma, as party president, was expected to deliver the statement in Atteridgeville in Tshwane on Saturday.

The ANC was founded on January 8 1912 and it has become customary for the NEC to release a statement mapping its tasks for the year ahead.

Mbeki, who was trounced by Zuma during the elections for the party presidency, also failed to use his position as an ex-officio member to attend the party’s executive meeting held on Friday.

Zuma (65) was on December 28 charged with fraud, corruption, money laundering, racketeering and tax evasion following a probe which also implicated a French arms manufacturing group, Thales.

The trial of Zuma, who married his fourth wife on Saturday, is scheduled for August 14.

Zuma was sacked by Mbeki in 2005 after his financial advisor Schabir Shaik was found guilty of soliciting bribes.

Given the ANC’s dominance of South African politics since the end of the whites-only apartheid rule in 1994, Zuma would normally expect to become the country’s president when Mbeki’s second term of office expires in 2009.

Zuma has said he will stand down from his position if found guilty of any offence but he has steadfastly insisted on his innocence. – Sapa, Sapa-AFP