SACP: Mbeki should be recalled

President Thabo Mbeki has failed to provide leadership and should be recalled from the presidency to make way for early elections, the South African Communist Party (SACP) said on Sunday.

The SACP, in a coalition government with the African National Congress (ANC) since the end of apartheid more than 14 years ago, blamed Mbeki for a recent wave of violence against foreigners in which 62 people have been killed.

“While there is not yet support from our allies in this regard, the SACP continues to believe that the president of the country should be recalled,” the party said in a statement condemning the attacks on immigrants.

“Quite how this should be done without creating more instability is a matter to be considered soberly—perhaps the calling of an early election could be considered.”

Mbeki, who has seen his power and prestige shrink since losing the ANC leadership to Jacob Zuma at the end 2007, was already under fire for failing to prevent a persistent power shortage when mobs went on the rampage last month.

Leftist voices in the alliance say his economic policies have favoured business at the expense of the poor.

The SACP said the Congress of South African Trade Unions agreed with it about a “leadership crisis” in the country, but they differed on how it should be dealt with.

Asked how an early election or the recall would work, SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande said: “We can’t go into detail about it. All these issues should be up for discussion.”

The SACP reiterated its call to re-visit the inflation-targeting policy, which sets the desired band at between 3% and 6%, after South African Reserve Bank Governor Tito Mboweni hinted he might raise interest rates by two percentage points in June.

The bank has raised its key interest rate by 4,5 percentage points since June 2006 to 11,5%, while inflation is at a five-and-a-half-year high of 10,4%.

“The Reserve Bank governor’s threat ... betrays a policy mandate that is increasingly hysterical and increasingly irrelevant, if not plain dangerous to the well-being of our country,” the SACP statement said.

“The appropriateness of inflation targeting and the present target band need to be re-visited,” the statement said.

The central bank meets on June 11 and 12 to decide on interest rates after first-quarter growth slowed sharply due to the power shortage and lower demand on the back of higher interest rates.

‘Shameful acts’

Mbeki came under fire earlier this week for travelling to Japan as aid groups struggled with thousands of displaced victims.

Mbeki delivered a rare televised national address last Sunday where he lambasted the “shameful acts” that have sullied the reputation of a country styled as a “Rainbow Nation” since the end of the whites-only apartheid regime 14 years ago.

But most commentators said the president’s intervention was too little, too late, pointing out that Mbeki had still to visit any of the township areas where the violence broke out.

According to opposition leader Helen Zille, Mbeki had managed to compound the sense of remoteness by flying halfway round the world for a conference entitled “Towards a Vibrant Africa: A Continent of Hope and Opportunity”.

“I have said the president should have been home.
He should have had a hands-on approach and he should have intervened much earlier with what is going on,” Democratic Alliance leader Zille said.

Bantu Holomisa, president of the United Democratic Movement opposition party, contrasted Mbeki’s response to the crisis to that of his predecessor, anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela.

“Mr Mandela would have the following day been to townships and addressed the people and gone to the people and addressed the nation,” Holomisa told AFP.

“The nation has a right to say ‘we were longing for a voice from the highest office but it didn’t come when it needed it’.”

In his address on Sunday in which he referred to “savagery” and “barbarity”, Mbeki tried to dispel the mounting criticism.—Reuters, AFP

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