/ 10 May 2008

ANC denies summit talks on removing Mbeki

The South African Communist Party (SACP), an ally of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), called at a weekend summit for President Thabo Mbeki to be sacked, newspapers said on Saturday, but the ANC said the issue was not even on the agenda.

The summit between the ANC, the SACP and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) is aimed at healing rifts that have emerged between the groups under Mbeki, who was ousted as party leader by rival Jacob Zuma late last year.

Zuma, who became the frontrunner to succeed Mbeki after defeating him as ANC leader, has vowed to work more closely with the Cosatu and the SACP.

The three are in a formal coalition that has governed since the end of apartheid in 1994.

The Weekender newspaper quoted an unnamed SACP central committee member as saying at the start of the summit that: ”The central committee expressed a strong sentiment that there is a leadership crisis and that he [Mbeki] should be recalled because we don’t have confidence in his ability.”

The Saturday Star newspaper said the SACP and Cosatu agreed the Mbeki presidency was in crisis, pointing to factors including months of power shortages that have hit the economy and a shake-up at South Africa’s public broadcaster that has highlighted divisions between the ANC’s two centres of power.

But ANC spokesperson Tiyani Rikhotso dismissed any suggestion that Mbeki’s political future was being discussed at the summit.

”The president of the ANC, Jacob Zuma, the general secretary of the SACP, Blade Nzimande, the general secretary of Cosatu, Zwelinzima Vavi, all of them gave their political input in opening the alliance summit,” Rikhotso told Reuters.

”At no point in their input did I hear any of them suggest that the president of the republic should be removed from office. So I don’t know where that is coming from.”

Asked whether the alliance conference would discuss removing Mbeki from office, he said: ”That item is not on the agenda. It is not an issue that is being discussed by the summit.”

Labour leaders have accused Mbeki and his senior officials of acting as little more than business agents for the country’s corporations and its predominantly white elite at the expense of workers and the poor.

Investors are spooked by the prospect the ANC could heed the left’s calls for a shift away from Mbeki’s business-friendly policies. Business has credited Mbeki and Finance Minister Trevor Manuel for laying the groundwork for an economic boom that has spawned rising investment, higher consumer spending and the emergence of a black middle class. — Reuters