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South Africa’s Ruling Party Urges Mbeki to Appoint ANC Deputy President to Cabinet

Partisans of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) party have welcomed as a step in the right direction ongoing discussions between supporters of State President Thabo Mbeki and ANC president Jacob Zuma aimed at encouraging Mbeki to appoint ANC deputy president to the parliament. Some political analysts say deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe’s possible appointment into parliament would enable him gain the necessary experience for future state assignments. VOA Scott Bobb is following the story. He tells reporter Peter Clottey from Johannesburg that the ANC is coming out with a strategic smooth transition from one leadership to the other.

“This is a culmination of months of discussion and negotiations that followed the Polokwane conference of the ANC in which Jacob Zuma was elected president of the party and became the front runner to be candidate for the next president of South Africa. Motlanthe is the deputy; he has no parliamentary experience and no experience in government. His experience has been in the party and the liberation struggle,” Bobb noted.

He said there could be two possible reasons why the party is encouraging President Mbeki to appoint the ANC deputy president to parliament.

“There are two reasons. One is to provide him with experience and secondly to also provide a conduit, a connection between the government and the leadership of the party. The ANC National Executive Committee requested or decided that he should be included in the cabinet. But in order to be included in the cabinet, he must first be a member of parliament, and so this is part of the process. He has to take over a parliamentary seat that was vacated by the death of a previous parliamentarian, and this is one more step towards his becoming a member of the cabinet,” he said.

Bobb said although the recent Polokwane conference showed some divisions within the party, the party has done well to come together to heal the alleged divisions.

“Initially, there was a great deal of animosity and confrontation, and ill will resulting from that very bruising conflict. But nevertheless, the party delegate spoke, and in broad terms this has been accepted. It was also agreed that or realized eventually that this was necessary for two reasons. One Mr. Motlanthe as deputy president should have some experience in government both parliament and in the executive. Secondly, if Mr. Zuma is unable to be the candidate for president because of the court cases that are pending against him then this would be a good preparatory measure in order to ensure continuity and ensure that an experience person exceed to become the next president of South Africa,” Bobb pointed out.

ANC deputy president Motlanthe is reportedly a left-leaning intellectual and a strong ally of ANC leader Jacob Zuma. He has also been touted as a possible compromise presidential candidate if Zuma's legal problems force him to stand down before the 2009 election.