South African President Thabo Mbeki has held his first news conference since losing the leadership post of the ruling ANC party earlier this week. Mr. Mbeki lost to political rival Jacob Zuma, who many believe is now a step closer to becoming South African president himself.
Reporter Delia Robertson monitored President Mbeki’s news conference. From Johannesburg, she spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about whether there were any exciting developments.
“Not really. I think the only exciting element to it is it’s been such a long time since President Thabo Mbeki gave a press conference. He’s very reticent about calling the media to come and ask him questions…. I think it was also an effort on his part to put the official government spin on what happened at the (ANC national) conference and sort of concur with what has come out of conference on the ANC side…that nothing has changed, that government will continue as before, that there are no enemies in the ANC,” she said.
Asked whether there was an element of face-saving on Mr. Mbeki’s part, Robertson says, “I think he did it because he thought it should be done from the side of the government. And I think that’s why he did not give a press conference at the conference itself. I think that he felt that was perhaps Mr. Zuma’s prerogative to give that press conference yesterday (Thursday)…but I think that given the number of questions that have arisen over the possible negative impact Mr. Zuma’s election as president of the ANC could have on the running of government, given that there are now these two so-called centers of power, I think he thought it incumbent on him to reassure South Africans and the world at large, particularly with respect to the possible economic fallout of this.”
Mr. Mbeki was asked about the revival of corruption charges against Mr. Zuma, which could lead to trial. Robertson says, “What he said basically was the ANC position is and the government position is that innocence prevails until somebody is proven guilty. He did, however, allude to the effect of Mr. Zuma having to appear in court over a lengthy trial. What sort of an impact that might have on the ANC? And he said that is something the ANC is going to deal with and manage because it’s a complicating manner and could take up a lot of Mr. Zuma’s time.”