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South Africa President Mbeki Expected to Officially Step Down Thursday


South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki is expected to officially step down today (Thursday) after the ruling African National Congress Party (ANC) appointed an interim leader. Mbeki resigned this week after he was accused of politically influencing graft charges against ANC leader Jacob Zuma. Mbeki denied the charges and has gone to the Constitutional Court to clear his name.

The ANC claims the demand for Mbeki's resignation was necessary for party unity. However, some observes say Mbeki's departure was the climax of a long and bitter battle with Zuma, who toppled him last December as leader of the ANC.

Meanwhile, South Africa's parliament is expected to appoint ANC deputy leader Kgalema Motlanthe as interim president until a general election is held next year. Professor Adams Habib is a South African political analyst. He tells reporter Peter Clottey from Johannesburg that the country will have an interim president today.

"Yes, I think that definitely it is going to happen either by 11 O'clock to two O'clock today. You will see Kgalema Motlanthe be elected president of the country and Thabo Mbeki officially stepping down. The resignation of Thabo Mbeki is dated to take effect today, so clearly the ANC will move quickly to ensure that Kgalema Motlanthe is appointed. What is that likely? Well, I'm almost certain immediately after that, Kgalema Motlanthe will appoint his cabinet and get the process going and then hopefully that would create a level of certainty in the South African context," Habib noted.

He said President Mbeki's resignation signals a dawn of new leadership in South Africa.

"I do think that today Thursday represent the end of one era and the beginning of another. And that is something that probably is going to happen within hours," he said.

Habib said recent developments lend credence to the deep-rooted divisions within the ruling ANC party.

"I must say a couple of things, and it seems to me personally that the ANC is a very divided organization and the ANC leadership has a habit of denying divisions within the organization. But if you listen to Gwede Mantashe, the general secretary of the ANC the entire rationale of recalling Mbeki was to heal the organization. Why would you want to heal the organization if it wasn't divided in the first place? Habib asked.

Habib said the massive resignation of Mbeki's cabinet after he tendered his resignation has different political undertones.

"The resignations themselves are interesting because they could represent two issues. One is that they could have resigned; some of them did resign on principle saying that they didn't want to participate in another government under another president. But then others said that they were resigning, but were open to re-appointment by the new president. They felt that it's important as cabinet members to resign because they were appointed by the last president and that they would be appointed for re-appointment by the new president and that included Trevor Manuel (finance Minister) Aziz Pahad, and a whole range of others… I suspect that a fair degree of them would be carried over the next cabinet although some new faces are likely to emerge," Habib pointed out.

He said the ruling party's move of recalling President Mbeki would not particularly begin healing the deep rift among ANC partisans.

"I'm almost certain that it won't succeed in doing so. I think the divides are quite deep at the moment. Mbeki's speech itself was a magnificent exit speech; I think it was one of the best of his entire 15 years in office other than I am an African speech; I think it is his best effort. It was humane it was humble it was magnanimous. It was critical of the judge's remarks, but it was respectful of the judiciary and it encouraged South Africans to be committed to the political system and to the ANC and it said all the right things. And clearly he decided to go out in a dignified way, but I also I think it is important to bare in mind that it does represent a serious divide within the ANC. And clearly he is appealing to the constitutional court on Tuesday afternoon has antagonized an elevated the political temperatures in the Zuma camp," he said.

Meanwhile, more than one-third of South Africa's cabinet stepped down on Tuesday out of loyalty to Mbeki. Some political analysts say the reported deep rift is the worse crisis to hit the ruling ANC party since the end of apartheid.

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