South Africa's caretaker president sworn in

South Africa's parliament elected Kgalema Motlanthe, deputy head of the ruling African National Congress, as interim president as President Thabo Mbeki bows out. Presidential elections are scheduled for next year.


South Africa's parliament Thursday elected the deputy leader of the governing African National Congress (ANC), Kgalema Motlanthe, as president, the chief justice of the constitutional court said.

Motlanthe -- whose mandate will run until elections scheduled for next year -- won 269 of the 360 votes cast, Chief Justice Pius Langa said.

"I accordingly declare the honourable Kgalema Motlanthe the duly elected president of the Republic of South Africa," he said.

The opposition Democratic Alliance candidate Joe Seremane received 50 votes, while 41 ballots papers were spoiled, he added.

Motlanthe gave a slight grin as the result was announced, nodding his acknowledgement to congratulations from cabinet ministers as the house cheered and clapped.

Motlanthe takes over from Thabo Mbeki, who was forced from office by the ANC in a bitter internal feud with party leader Jacob Zuma.

Motlanthe's elevation to the presidency ends Mbeki's nine-year administration, leaving 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 the widely-respected finance minister, Trevor Manuel, to resign with the other top officials.

Manuel's spokesman later made it clear that he was ready to serve the new administration.

But his resignation led to market jitters with the rand slipping from 7.98 to 8.16 to the US dollar on Tuesday. Markets were closed Wednesday for a public holiday.

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.

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