Motlanthe elected South African president

The deputy president of the African National Congress (ANC), Kgalema Motlanthe, was elected President of South Africa in the National Assembly on Thursday by 269 votes to the 50 cast for the chairperson of the Democratic Alliance, Joe Seremane.

There were 41 spoilt ballots.

As the result was announced there was a tumultuous outbreak of singing and dancing from the ANC benches.

The result of the secret ballot of MPs was announced by Chief Justice Pius Langa, who took the chair for the election.

Motlanthe then walked through to Tuynhuys, the presidential offices in Cape Town to take the oath of office.

Known as “the elder brother” for his level-headed approach to even the roughest political waters, Motlanthe was one of the first to enter the house and walked in quietly, with no fanfare.

ANC president Jacob Zuma and other political heavyweights sat in a packed public gallery, while groups of parliamentarians sang and danced as they entered the house.

Motlanthe will guide the country towards elections due next year while aiming to bridge the gaping divide within the ANC.

Motlanthe attended Mbeki’s last Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, trying to send a message of continuity within the government after a third of the county’s top leaders, including the country’s deputy president, resigned in solidarity.

Fraser-Moleketi, Didiza resign
Two of the ministers who resigned but who the ANC said were willing to serve in Cabinet again, indicated on Thursday they were in fact not available for re-appointment.

Public Service and Administration Minister Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi and Public Works Minister Thoko Didiza have both resigned as members of Parliament.

This is contrary to a statement by ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe earlier this week that Didiza and Fraser-Moleketi were among seven ministers who resigned following Mbeki’s departure, but who were still available for re-appointment.

Fourteen Cabinet ministers resigned in total, but Mantashe said seven of them were willing to serve in Kgalema Motlanthe’s Cabinet.

After the announcement of the 14 resignations, Mantashe told reporters he had done “a simple exercise” and phoned all those ministers who had resigned.

“We spoke to everyone on that list. Having done that, we can confirm that there’s no crisis. Six of the ministers have confirmed they would not come back,” he told reporters in Johannesburg.

But Fraser-Moleketi’s spokesperson Ramona Baijnath said: “That was misinformation. She’s not available at all. They [the ANC] had it wrong.”

Didiza’s spokesperson, Thami Mchunu, said she had resigned.

“The minister has resigned as a member of Parliament. She has resigned from the National Assembly as an MP effective from last night [Wednesday].

“If the minister is a not a member of the National Assembly, she cannot be a member of the executive. Do you get that?,” he asked, declining to answer any other questions.

Fraser-Moleketi’s office announced her resignation as MP in a statement.

“The former minister has expressed her availability to assist the incoming administration in the hand-over process and with any other assistance that might be sought from her,” the statement read.

She thanked Thabo Mbeki for the opportunity to serve the country under him.

“I would like to express my unequivocal appreciation to the former president for his inspired leadership and the confidence that he placed in me by appointing me to various ministerial positions,” she said.

Fraser-Moleketi congratulated Motlanthe, saying they had had a “long and productive working relationship spanning the course of her political career”.

She added that she would always remain a “committed member of the ANC”.

Motlanthe was expected to name his new Cabinet after being sworn in on Thursday.

Zuma on Wednesday insisted that the resignations had not sent the country into crisis.

“There is no problem, the situation is under control, there must be no panic,” he said on e.tv news.

Zuma is widely expected to be voted into the country’s top office in elections next year.

Court ruling
Mbeki bowed to a call to resign from the presidency following a damning court ruling that hinted he was instrumental in a decision to prosecute his long-time rival, Zuma, whom he fired as the country’s deputy president in 2005.

He has denied the allegations and is appealing that aspect of the ruling in a bid to clear his name from the insinuation of judicial meddling.

In a farewell letter to his Cabinet published on Thursday in the Star, Mbeki said he had accepted the ANC’s decision in the interests of South Africa and without “resistance or rancour”.

The sudden end to Mbeki’s nine-year administration leaves an embarrassing stain on the legacy of the man who succeeded anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela.

The political turmoil has rattled the economy, with currency markets shaken by the decision of widely respected finance minister Trevor Manuel to resign with the other top officials. Manuel’s spokesperson later made it clear that he was ready to serve the new administration.

Zuma said the decision to recall Mbeki had been “one of the most painful and difficult decisions” taken in the party’s history.

The outgoing president had been increasingly at loggerheads with his party, which split into two camps behind him and Zuma when he made his failed bid to run for a third term as party president at a crunch ANC conference last year.—I-Net Bridge, AFP

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