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South Africa's Mbeki agrees to step down

Latest update : 2008-09-21

South Africa’s embattled President Thabo Mbeki has agreed to step down after the country’s ruling party, the ANC, asked him to do so on Saturday.

President Thabo Mbeki’s resignation is merely the epilogue of a merciless fight for the leadership of the African National Congress (ANC), the party that has led South Africa since 1994.


Everything began in 2005 when Mbeki, Nelson Mandela’s successor decided to sack his vice president Jacob Zuma due to allegations of corruption in an arms sales scandal. Everyone thought this decision meant the end of the very charismatic Zulu leader’s career. But this dismissal, which deeply divided the supporters of the former liberation movement, only made Zuma even more popular.


Thanks to the support of the communist party and the all-powerful Convention of South African Trade Unions, “comrade Zuma” decided to gather all citizens around him who were disgruntled with a system of government that was not responding to the people. As indictments rained down (he was charged with rape in 2006 and corruption in 2007), the “friends of Jacob Zuma” argued that there was a “plot” and “persecution,” turning the Zulu leader into a martyr and the head of state into his executioner.


In December 2007, the pro-Zuma faction scooped all of the ANC’s leadership positions, including the role of the treasury’s secretary general as well as the vice-presidency. Thabo Mbeki, who was considered too intellectual and too authoritarian, was replaced as head of the ANC by Jacob Zuma, the choice of the party's low ranking members.



Everything would have been fine, had Mbeki’s supporters - with 18 months to go before the end of his term - not displayed their own vengeful tactics. The only way to remain in power was to press charges against Zuma, whose financial adviser had just been sentenced to 15 years in prison for fraud, corruption and tax evasion. Apparently, there was no reason for Jacob Zuma to escape the South African justice system.


The final theatrical move came on September 12. A judge from Pietermaritzburg dismissed the corruption case against Zuma on a technicality. Judge Chris Nicholson even spoke of “interference” from the state’s highest levels in this matter.


This ruling, which questioned Mbeki’s integrity with regard to his dealings with judicial powers, offered an ideal pretext to get rid of him. The committee director of the ANC then announced that he had decided to recall the president of the republic before the end of his term.


President Mbeki immediately announced that he would resign according to the terms of the constitution. But what will become of his successor? According to Judge Nicholson, if the first indictment procedure has not been conducted under strict rules, Zuma would once again appear before a tribunal on corruption charges. The attorney general announced that he would appeal the dismissal of the charges. The battle of the titans for the leadership of the ANC is not yet finished.


Date created : 2008-09-20