SA’s ruling ANC faces split after Mbeki sacking
Posted Sunday, September 21 2008 at 19:28
Supporters of deposed South African President Thabo Mbeki may split from the ruling African National Congress and contest elections as a breakaway party in 2009, South Africa’s Sunday Times said.
The move threatens to shatter the foundations of the country’s post-apartheid political landscape, which has been dominated by the African National Congress, and tilt Africa’s largest economy to the left.
Mr Mbeki, who has followed a pro-business line since taking over from Nelson Mandela as president in 1999, agreed on Saturday to accept the ANC’s request that he resign before the end of his term next year.
Late today, Mr Mbeki said he had tendered his resignation as head of state.
The resignation will be effective from a date to be decided by South Africa’s parliament, Mr Mbeki said in a speech on national broadcaster SABC.
His downfall came about a week after a judge suggested there was high-level political meddling in the graft case of Mbeki rival and ANC leader Jacob Zuma, the frontrunner to win the next presidential election.
Although Mbeki’s willingness to give up the reins without a fight suggests an orderly transition of power, a number of ministers have threatened to resign rather than serve in a Zuma-controlled government.
Some are contemplating the unthinkable: leaving the ANC.
Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota, Deputy Defence Minister Mluleki George and other Mbeki loyalists are planning to start a new party and organisers will meet this week to discuss the move, the Sunday Times said.
“I’m not in a position to discuss this thing at this stage, but in a few days or a week you will hear the details,” George told the newspaper.
The ministers were not available for comment.
Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka has already said she intends to resign with Mbeki, and others could also leave the ANC, which fell under the control of Zuma after he beat Mbeki for the party leadership late last year.
Mr Zuma has strong support from the country’s powerful trade unions and its small but influential communist party. Mbeki’s wing of the party is more friendly to investors, having adopted policies that spurred nearly a decade of economic growth.
Mr Zuma and other senior ANC officials are trying to prevent a mass exodus of the cabinet, which could trigger early elections. The country had not been expected to go to the polls until April or May of next year. ANC Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe has appealed for ministers and civil servants to remain in their positions.
Zuma is not expected to take over immediately.
A transitional leader, likely parliamentary speaker Baleka Mbete, a Zuma loyalist, is likely to be named to replace Mbeki and possibly serve the remainder of his final term.
The constitution barred Mbeki from seeking a third term.
Analysts said the prospect of a new party, either led or inspired by Mr Mbeki, represented a threat to the ANC, which has held a stranglehold on power since spearheading the drive to overthrow white minority rule in 1994.