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Manuel plays down chance of ANC split

South Africa’s finance minister said he expected more officials to resign in the aftermath of president Thabo Mbeki’s removal, but played down speculation the African National Congress could split.

Mbeki quit last week after a judge suggested he had meddled in the corruption trial against his rival ANC president Jacob Zuma.

The resignation on Monday of pro-Mbeki Gauteng Premier Mbhazima Shilowa, has added to speculation that the monolithic party could break apart before elections expected around April.

Shilowa said he was resigning ”due to my convictions that while the African National Congress has the right to recall any of its deployed cadres, the decision needs to be based on solid facts, [and] be fair and just”.

”I also did not feel that I will be able to, with conviction, publicly explain or defend the national executive committee’s decision on comrade Thabo Mbeki,” Shilowa told reporters.

‘A few resignations’
”I think probably over the next two weeks or so there would be a few resignations like this,” Finance Minister Trevor Manuel, told the BBC’s Hard Talk programme, during which he was asked whether the ANC was going to split.

”There is likely to be some steadying of the ship over the next period and as that happens individuals will choose to depart,” said Manuel, credited with steering South Africa to a decade of economic growth, in the programme broadcast on Tuesday.

Despite the resignations of Mbeki loyalists from official positions, there have so far been no major defections from the ANC itself, which has ruled since the end of white minority rule in 1994.

The ANC denied reports of a party split.

”The ANC takes notes of the reports in the media on the imminent formation of a new party. These reports have no face to them and are denied by people reported to be spearheading such a formation,” the South African Press Association quoted ANC spokesperson Jessie Duarte as saying.

”The ANC will not be distracted from its historic mission and … its immediate task as the leading party in government.”

Manuel formally resigned last week but immediately accepted to serve new President Kgalema Motlanthe. Manuel reiterated that the government would keep to pro-business policies despite pressure from leftist allies of Zuma.

Zuma is expected to win the presidential election next year, but prosecutors on Tuesday filed an application to appeal against the court ruling that threw out the corruption case against the ANC leader on technical grounds.

Manuel said the government’s economic direction would not change under either Motlanthe or Zuma.

”I think we need to signal that politics will continue, that you will have policy continuity even if individuals change,” Manuel said.

But despite the reassurances from top ANC brass, investors are uneasy about the country’s direction under a Zuma presidency in light of the ANC leader’s strong support from trade unions and the small but influential South African Communist Party.

The rand weakened last week amid the ANC infighting and slumped by about 4% late on Monday due largely to the global financial crisis. It recovered somewhat on Tuesday, but remained under pressure.

”There has obviously been contagion from the subprime-crisis, but there is some political risk factored in,” said Colen Garrow, an economist at Brait Merchant Bank. – Reuters

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Paul Simao
Guest Author

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