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Massive Walk Out of S. African Ministers and Deputies After Mbeki Resigns


Eleven key cabinet ministers and three deputies have resigned and will leave their posts along with President Thabo Mbeki Thursday. However, as VOA's Delia Robertson reports from our Johannesburg bureau, the Finance Minister says he will be available to the incoming president if he chooses.

The news of the resignations came as a great shock to South Africans already anxious following the resignation of Mr. Mbeki and was immediately felt in the market. The currency lost 18 points against the dollar but rallied slightly when it was revealed that Finance Minister Trevor Manuel is willing to continue in his post.

Manuel's spokesperson, Thoraya Pandy, told national radio Minister Manuel has no desire to impose himself on the incoming president.

"It also provides space and opportunity for the new president to choose whichever ministers he wants in cabinet," she said. "And the minister therefore provides that space to say that you are not duty bound to keep me on as your minister of finance, but I am willing to serve if that is what you are asking of me."

Pandy says that the deputy finance minister is also available for re-appointment.

One economist suggested the Manuel may also have been concerned about the economic direction the new administration would take and that by resigning he had put himself in a position to stipulate the conditions of his return to cabinet.

University of Johannesburg political analyst Adam Habib tells VOA that up until yesterday it appeared as though both factions in the ANC had agreed to a smooth transition. Now he says, it seems clear that despite the reassuring statements from the ministers, something serious has happened to upset Mr. Mbeki's supporters.

"Well the big question is this, how come on Saturday afternoon when [Finance Minister Trevor Manuel] was approached and prevailed upon to stay, he had agreed to do that," said Habib. "Clearly something has changed in the last 24 hours, if we sift through the diplomatic speak something has happened that has antagonized such a large lay of people."

Some commentators say that the tone of a press conference addressed by ANC president Jacob Zuma on Monday may have offended some in the cabinet. South Africans were left confused following the press conference in which Zuma failed to offer certainty to the country on a number of issues, and some analysts described his attitude as flippant and lacking in leadership.

Among those leaving is Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, who spearheaded a turnaround in government HIV/AIDS policies and forged a partnership between government and AIDS organizations to implement it.

Other ministers who have resigned include Defense Minister Mosioua Lekota, Public Service Minister Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, Sydney Mufamadi, Minister of Provincial and Local Government and Minister of Public Enterprises, Alex Erwin. All are experienced ministers who run key departments in government.

In a hastily arranged press conference in response to the resignations, ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe said the party did not ask any minister to leave and hoped they would stay on.

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