Mbeki remains my comrade, says Zuma

The chief whip of the African National Congress (ANC) told Parliament Monday the resignation of President Thabo Mbeki should take effect in three days.

“I move without notice that the house ... agrees the resignation of the president of South Africa will take effect on September 25 2008,” chief whip Nathi Mthethwa said.

Speaker Baleka Mbete read out Mbeki’s letter of resignation, a day after the president announced on live television he would be stepping down following calls by his party for him to do so in the interests of ANC unity.

“The leadership of my political organisation has informed me that they have decided to recall me as president of the country. This letter serves to inform you that I have therefore decided to resign my position as president ...” read the letter.

Mthethwa said Mbeki’s mandate would end on Thursday, “noting that the letter by the president states that the resignation will be effective upon being informed that Parliament has finalised the matter”.

The motion will be placed on Tuesday’s agenda after a minority party objected to it being moved without notice.

Mbeki was asked to resign a week after a judge threw out graft charges against his political rival and ANC chief, Jacob Zuma, hinting that Mbeki had interfered in the decision to prosecute his foe—allegations Mbeki denies.

The ruling party earlier said it would announce its new nominee for president—which caucus spokesperson Khotso Khumalo claimed would be ANC deputy Kgalema Motlanthe—in Parliament this week.

The leader of the main opposition Democratic Alliance, Helen Zille, said in a statement that Motlanthe was “perhaps the most level-headed and reasonable of all the politicians in the Zuma camp”.

“The challenge for Minister Motlanthe is to rise above the ruling party’s internal power play and govern in the best interests of the people of South Africa between now and the next election.”

Meanwhile, Zuma on Monday said: “We will announce the name of our candidate in Parliament at an appropriate moment.
We have in Cabinet many experienced ministers, including the deputy president of the ANC, comrade Kgalema Motlanthe.”

“I am convinced that if given that responsibility he would be equal to the task,” Zuma told reporters in Johannesburg amid news that two Cabinet ministers also intended resigning.

Minister in the Presidency Essop Pahad and Minister of Science and Technology Mosibudi Mangena are among those who intend resigning. A spokesperson for Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka was not immediately available to comment on what her position is.

Motlanthe was sworn in as an MP and made a minister without portfolio in the Presidency in July, ostensibly to smooth the way for the change in administration next year.

Although Zuma was expected to become president after the 2009 elections, he is currently not eligible because he is not a member of Parliament.

The ANC, together with Parliament, would ensure the election of a new president took place as speedily as possible, said Zuma.

He said the ANC expected a “smooth transition” with no policy changes as this was not a change of parties, but only of leadership in government.

“Our economic policies will remain stable, progressive and unchanged, as decided upon in previous ANC national conferences, including Polokwane,” he said.

The decision to recall Mbeki was “one of the most difficult decisions the national executive committee has ever had to take in the history of the ANC”, and it was expected to bring stability to the government and to public life, said Zuma.

“We fully understand that the decision comes with a degree of pain to comrade Mbeki, his family, friends, members of the ANC, ordinary South Africans and members of the international community with whom we interact.”

He continued: “Comrade Mbeki has devoted decades of his life to the ANC and our country. The decision to recall him was not taken lightly, but it has to be taken in the interest of making the country move forward.”

Zuma said the ANC appreciated the cooperation of Mbeki and the “dignified manner” with which he had conducted himself during this “difficult situation”.

He said Mbeki would continue to work within the party on various tasks as a senior cadre and paid tribute to him, saying the achievements during his tenure were impressive.

Conditions for economic expansion were in place, with the government scoring gains in service delivery and increasing Africa’s profile in international debates.

“There is no reason for South Africans to be apprehensive. The transition will be managed with care and precision.”

Zuma said there should be no changes to premiers as this had already been taken care of.

He reiterated previous statements that there was no fight between himself and Mbeki.

“There is no fight ... absolutely,” Zuma said, repeating what he said after defeating Mbeki for the ANC presidency at Polokwane: “He is my brother, he is my comrade.”

If the National Prosecuting Authority decided to charge him a third time for corruption, Zuma said: “We cross that bridge when we come to it.

“We appreciate the prevailing atmosphere of calmness and maturity that has accompanied the recall. We have clearly matured as a democracy and we should all be proud.”

‘Deeply disturbed’
South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu said on Monday he was “deeply disturbed” by the forced resignation of Mbeki, which he described as the settling of political scores.

“I am deeply disturbed by recent events in our beloved country,” said the Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

“The so-called recalling of the president of our land fits the pattern of settling of scores and the throwing about of weight that has happened post-Polokwane,” Tutu said in Cape Town.

“Our country deserves better. The way of retribution leads to a banana republic,” said the veteran anti-apartheid activist.

“I am deeply disturbed that the nation ... has been subordinated to a political party,” he added. “South African belongs to all who live in it, not to any political formation, however powerful.”—AFP, Sapa

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