September 20, 2008

SAfrican Opposition, Analysts Note “Deep Concerns” Over Mbeki’s Ouster

Text of report by website of non-profit South African Press Association (SAPA) news agency

[Report by Mirah Langer]

JOHANNESBURG Sept 20 - While the ANC said president Thabo Mbeki's agreement to resign on Saturday will help stabilise the country, some opposition parties and analysts expressed deep concerns for its ramifications for SA [South Africa].

Addressing the media at the Esselen Park conference centre in Kempton Park on the East Rand, African National Congress secretary- general Gwede Mantashe said the decision to recall the president was taken "as an effort to heal and unite the African National Congress".

The presidency later confirmed that Mbeki would resign.

"The President has obliged and will step down after all constitutional requirements have been met," said presidential spokesman Mukoni Ratshitanga.

Mantashe said the decision was a political way to deal with the implications of Pietermaritzburg High Court Judge Chris Nicholson's ruling that Mbeki may have been involved in a political conspiracy against ruling party leader Jacob Zuma.

"The biggest worry of the ANC has been the question of a reversal of the closure of the chapter [that the Nicholson judgement seemed to have promised]."

The National Prosecuting Authority's decision to appeal the judgement had become a worry, said Mantashe.

"If pursued it will continue to be a point of division for the ANC."

"We share their (SA citizens) desire for stability and we believe our decision is in the interests of making that security".

However opposition parties said the decision could bring great instability into the country.

"ANC threatens to destabilise the entire country," said the Democratic Alliance's Helen Zille.

Freedom Front Plus's Pieter Mulder called the decision a "democratic coup" that "proves to the international community and the sensitive economic markets that there is instability in South Africa".

Inkatha Freedom Party president Mangosuthu Buthelezi said the decision represented "the biggest challenge to South Africa since apartheid"; while the United Democratic Movement's Bantu Holomisa said it was an act of "political barbarity that threatens to plunge the country into anarchy."

The country now faced "far reaching and uncertain constitutional and political complications for the country," said former SA president FW de Klerk.

Zille also raised concerns that the decision was an attempt to protect party president Jacob Zuma from possible prosecution on charges of fraud and corruption.

"Replacing President Mbeki with a Zuma proxy will open the way for them to ensure that he does not have to face a court of law," she said.

The Pan Africanist Congress of Azania said the ANC decision was "informed by its desire to pre-empt the appeal by the National Prosecuting Authority".

Some analysts, concurred with opposition parties' fears of instability for the country.

"It could create uncertainty and investors might lose confidence in the country," Institute for Democracy in South Africa (IDASA), political analyst, Judith February said.

She said the country could not afford an "exodus" of ministers.

"If a high number of senior civil servants together with ministers leave government, then we are likely to face a crisis," Director of the Centre for the Study of Democracy, Steven Friedman.

However, political analyst Tinyiko Maluleke said while Mlambo- Ngcuka was likely to resign, a majority of cabinet ministers were likely to stay.

"There is a distinction between threats made by those ministers and what they would actually do now that the decision (to recall Mbeki) had been made," he said.

Earlier, Mantashe said ANC president Jacob Zuma would meet with ANC deployees in government to assure them that the ANC wished them to remain in government.

Mantashe said the party would respect the decision of cabinet ministers who might choose to resign once Mbeki does so.

"We cannot chain them to the process. we will respect their decisions."

Deputy president Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka's spokesman Denzel Taylor said that Mlambo-Ngcuka would hand in her resignation if Mbeki handed in his.

The cabinet is expected to meet with Mbeki on Sunday afternoon.

Mantasha also said on Saturday that Mbeki was not shocked when he was told of the NEC decision.

"He didn't display shock or any depression. He welcomed the news and agreed that he is going to participate in the process and the formalities" He said Mbeki was not being punished and so would be "given space to participate in activities.

He said it was now up to parliament to work out a formula to implement the decision.

"We are quite patient for Parliament to develop a system."

ANC deputy secretary-general Thandi Modise said Mbeki "would now do whatever he wants to do".

"He does have a responsibility to our neighbours which he will conclude," she said.

Mantashe was mum on who would take over from Mbeki.

"The person in charge is Mbeki until he resigns because we don't create ruptures and we don't appoint a president on top of another president."

On Saturday, the Foreign Affairs department said Mbeki would no longer attend the 63rd session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Tuesday.

Instead Foreign Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma would head the delegation.

Mbeki became president in 1999, taking over from Nelson Mandela.

He was the head of the ANC from 1997 until he lost a battle for power at the ANC's national conference in Polokwane in December 2007, when Zuma, his former deputy president, became the head of the organization.

The IFP's Buthelezi said history would judge Mbeki as a "towering figure" who consolidated President Nelson Mandela's remarkable legacy and promoted the notion of an "African Renaissance".

De Klerk said acknowledgement should be given to Mbeki's 14 years of uninterrupted economic growth and his contributions to conflict resolution in Africa, most recently in Zimbabwe.

Originally published by SAPA news agency website, Johannesburg, in English 1647 20 Sep 08.

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