September 21, 2008

South African President Starts Final Cabinet Briefing

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

President Thabo Mbeki officially started his final cabinet briefing at 4.40 p.m. [local time] at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on Sunday. After a tumultuous week which ended with Mbeki being recalled by the ruling ANC, his cabinet gathered with him ahead of his state of the nation address to be broadcast at 7.30 p.m.

The mood inside the meeting room was jovial and upbeat with the cabinet ministers, government officials and high ranking ANC officials chatting and laughing. Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota, who was booed at the ANC conference in Polokwane, joked about South Africa's poor performance at the Olympic Games, and there was brief chatter about the upcoming Fifa World Cup.

"The World Cup is not going anywhere," said Mbeki, formally dressed in a blue and white shirt and collar with a dark jacket, and flanked by his deputy Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, dressed in bright cerise, during the five minutes that the media was allowed in. Mbeki thanked reporters for coming and they were then asked to leave for the private session to begin.

Mbeki said on Saturday that he would step down once all constitutional requirements had been met. Further details of these are expected to be revealed in the television broadcast.

Present at the meeting is ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe and ANC deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe who recently became a minister without portfolio in the presidency. Mbeki was recalled by the ANC on Saturday during its national executive committee meeting, at the end of a week of speculation about how the ANC would handle a court judgment that criticised the handling of the corruption investigation into ANC president Jacob Zuma and suggested political meddling.

Originally published by SAPA news agency website, Johannesburg, in English 1520 21 Sep 08.

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