Thursday, September 25, 2008

South African Parliament Elects Kgalema Motlanthe as President and Baleka Mbeta and Deputy

SAfrica parliament speaker to be deputy president

Thu 25 Sep 2008, 5:57 GMT

CAPE TOWN, Sept 25 (Reuters) - South African parliamentary speaker Baleka Mbete is expected to be appointed the country's deputy president, officials from the ruling African National Congress said on Thursday.

Mbete will replace Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, who resigned on Tuesday together with 10 other cabinet ministers out of loyalty to Thabo Mbeki, who stepped down as president on Sunday. Parliament is expected later on Thursday to replace Mbeki with ANC deputy leader Kgalema Motlanthe, who will serve as interim state president until a general election next year

Motlanthe elected South African president

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA Sep 25 2008 13:57

The deputy president of the African National Congress (ANC), Kgalema Motlanthe, was elected President of South Africa in the National Assembly on Thursday by 269 votes to the 50 cast for the chairperson of the Democratic Alliance, Joe Seremane.

There were 41 spoilt ballots.

As the result was announced there was a tumultuous outbreak of singing and dancing from the ANC benches.

The result of the secret ballot of MPs was announced by Chief Justice Pius Langa, who took the chair for the election.

Motlanthe then walked through to Tuynhuys, the presidential offices in Cape Town to take the oath of office.

Known as "the elder brother" for his level-headed approach to even the roughest political waters, Motlanthe was one of the first to enter the house and walked in quietly, with no fanfare.

ANC president Jacob Zuma and other political heavyweights sat in a packed public gallery, while groups of parliamentarians sang and danced as they entered the house.

Motlanthe will guide the country towards elections due next year while aiming to bridge the gaping divide within the ANC.

Motlanthe attended Mbeki's last Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, trying to send a message of continuity within the government after a third of the county's top leaders, including the country's deputy president, resigned in solidarity.

Fraser-Moleketi, Didiza resign

Two of the ministers who resigned but who the ANC said were willing to serve in Cabinet again, indicated on Thursday they were in fact not available for re-appointment.

Public Service and Administration Minister Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi and Public Works Minister Thoko Didiza have both resigned as members of Parliament.

This is contrary to a statement by ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe earlier this week that Didiza and Fraser-Moleketi were among seven ministers who resigned following Mbeki's departure, but who were still available for re-appointment.

Fourteen Cabinet ministers resigned in total, but Mantashe said seven of them were willing to serve in Kgalema Motlanthe's Cabinet.

After the announcement of the 14 resignations, Mantashe told reporters he had done "a simple exercise" and phoned all those ministers who had resigned.

"We spoke to everyone on that list. Having done that, we can confirm that there's no crisis. Six of the ministers have confirmed they would not come back," he told reporters in Johannesburg.

But Fraser-Moleketi's spokesperson Ramona Baijnath said: "That was misinformation. She's not available at all. They [the ANC] had it wrong."

Didiza's spokesperson, Thami Mchunu, said she had resigned.

"The minister has resigned as a member of Parliament. She has resigned from the National Assembly as an MP effective from last night [Wednesday].

"If the minister is a not a member of the National Assembly, she cannot be a member of the executive. Do you get that?," he asked, declining to answer any other questions.

Fraser-Moleketi's office announced her resignation as MP in a statement.

"The former minister has expressed her availability to assist the incoming administration in the hand-over process and with any other assistance that might be sought from her," the statement read.

She thanked Thabo Mbeki for the opportunity to serve the country under him.

"I would like to express my unequivocal appreciation to the former president for his inspired leadership and the confidence that he placed in me by appointing me to various ministerial positions," she said.

Fraser-Moleketi congratulated Motlanthe, saying they had had a "long and productive working relationship spanning the course of her political career".

She added that she would always remain a "committed member of the ANC".

Motlanthe was expected to name his new Cabinet after being sworn in on Thursday.

Zuma on Wednesday insisted that the resignations had not sent the country into crisis.

"There is no problem, the situation is under control, there must be no panic," he said on news.

Zuma is widely expected to be voted into the country's top office in elections next year.

Court ruling

Mbeki bowed to a call to resign from the presidency following a damning court ruling that hinted he was instrumental in a decision to prosecute his long-time rival, Zuma, whom he fired as the country's deputy president in 2005.

He has denied the allegations and is appealing that aspect of the ruling in a bid to clear his name from the insinuation of judicial meddling.

In a farewell letter to his Cabinet published on Thursday in the Star, Mbeki said he had accepted the ANC's decision in the interests of South Africa and without "resistance or rancour".

The sudden end to Mbeki's nine-year administration leaves 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 widely respected finance minister Trevor Manuel to resign with the other top officials. Manuel's spokesperson later made it clear that he was ready to serve the new administration.

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.

-- I-Net Bridge, AFP
Source: Mail & Guardian Online
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ANC Youth League wields its power

Sep 25 2008 07:01

Regarded by some as troublemakers and courted by others as kingmakers, the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) has been basking in the limelight as its hero Jacob Zuma closes in on the nation's presidency.

Julius Malema, the youth wing's leader, was this week gloating that his group played a key role in the downfall of president Thabo Mbeki, who was forced resign at the weekend after a judge threw out a corruption case against Zuma.

An interim national president is to be appointed on Thursday. But the way is now clear for Zuma to become head of Africa's economic powerhouse after elections scheduled early next year.

"The ANC Youth League celebrates the fact that the decision to recall President Mbeki was influenced by our organisation," Malema told reporters this week. "The ANC Youth League is not ashamed of its capacity to influence decisions in the ANC."

The league has about 370 000 members and claims to represent millions of young black South Africans who face poor standards of education and little chance of finding a job. But critics say its leaders are more interested in advancing their own political careers.

The brash and bombastic Malema -- known for his taste for expensive clothes -- dismissed claims that the party was trying to rein him in amid alarm over recent inflammatory statements.

"There is no one in the ANC that can tell us what to do," Malema said.

The ANCYL, along with key ANC allies such as the trade unions and the South African Communist Party, have been Zuma's staunchest supporters. They rallied around Zuma after Mbeki fired him in 2005 over a bribery scandal, and have kept up an aggressive campaign since.

They have played on dissatisfaction with Mbeki's aloofness and pro-market policies and accused him of abusing state power to stop Zuma becoming president.

At a key party conference in December they ran roughshod over anti-apartheid veterans and engineered Zuma's takeover of the ANC presidency from Mbeki. Two weeks ago, when a judge found that Mbeki may have interfered in Zuma's prosecution, the league was first to make a loud call for the president to be ousted.

Malema has grabbed headlines by vowing to "eliminate" anything blocking Zuma's path to the presidency. He has refused to apologise for saying he would kill for Zuma.

When ANC deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe -- tipped to be South Africa's interim leader this week -- called his comments reckless, Malema derided him as a "paragon of political correctness".

New life

The 29-year-old former student movement leader sees himself as following in the footsteps of former president Nelson Mandela, one of the founders of the Youth League in 1944. Mandela and another anti-apartheid icon, Walter Sisulu, were behind the ouster of ANC president Alfred Xuma in 1949.

"Part of our work is to keep the ANC in line and to inject new life into it," Malema said.

Political analyst Aubrey Matshiqi does not feel the young Turks should be feeling quite so satisfied with themselves.

"They are definitely loud and there is definitely a coincidence between their desires and how events have turned out. But it is mere coincidence," he said.

While the league does carry some clout, Matshiqi believes that it is the pro-Zuma coalition as a whole -- of which the ANCYL is a part -- that holds the key to power.

"It is because of that coalition that Zuma is ANC president and so close to the gates of the Union Buildings," he said.

But he acknowledged that trying to muzzle the youth leaders may be politically disastrous.

"Keeping the coalition is critical until he has the key to the Union Buildings," Matshiqi said. "And Zuma won't want to fracture that coalition" by publicly criticising Malema and his organisation.

Another analyst, William Gumede, thinks more moderate voices will prevail in the future.

"They are going now to want to show that they can govern and will gravitate toward more moderation and try to rein in more militant groups," said Gumede. -- Sapa-AP

Source: Mail & Guardian Online
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Mugabe: Mbeki resignation is devastating

HARARE, ZIMBABWE Sep 25 2008 10:34

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe said the resignation of former South African president Thabo Mbeki was devastating, state media reported on Thursday.

Although Mbeki was frequently criticised for taking a soft line with Mugabe in a year of negotiations, he managed earlier this month to broker a power-sharing deal to end Zimbabwe's deep political crisis.

But Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai are still deadlocked over Cabinet posts.

"It's devastating news that president Thabo Mbeki is no longer the president of South Africa, but that is the action of the South African people," the state-controlled Herald newspaper quoted Mugabe as telling reporters in New York, where he is attending the United Nations General Assembly.

"Who are we to judge? But it is very disturbing," he added.

Mugabe met South African Foreign Affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma on the sidelines of the summit to discuss political events in South Africa, the Herald reported.

Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change says it does not expect Mbeki's resignation to affect the negotiations.

Mbeki was forced out by his own African National Congress in the climax to a long power struggle with party leader Jacob Zuma, who has been more outspoken over Zimbabwe than the ousted president. -- Reuters

Source: Mail & Guardian Online
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