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Pressure Mounts on South African President Mbeki to Resign

South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki is coming under intense pressure to resign after allegedly meddling in the graft case against Jacob Zuma, president of the ruling African National Congress (ANC). Zuma supporters have maintained that the corruption charges against him were politically motivated. They claim the recent expulsion of graft charges against Zuma by a South African judge citing political interference vindicates their claim.

Yesterday, South Africa's opposition parties unanimously called on President Mbeki to respond to accusations of meddling in Zuma's graft case. They say Mbeki's failure to do so should be grounds for his dismissal. Rok Ajulu is a professor of international relations in South Africa. He tells reporter Peter Clottey from the capital, Pretoria that critics of Mbeki have been strengthened by the verdict in Zuma's corruption case.

"Since the judgment on Friday, it was mostly the ANC alliance that is COSATU (Congress of South African Trade Unions) SACP (South African Communist Party) and the ANC Youth League, which have actually asked for Mbeki to resign as a result of the judgment or the recall of Mbeki by the ANC, but that is basically nothing new. The judgment has actually strengthened that call. After Polokwane, the youth league and those critics have been calling for it, but the leadership of the ANC has said that Mbeki must be allowed to complete his term. So, we are watching the scene as well and waiting for how it is going to pan out," Ajulu pointed out.

He said it was highly unlikely that the decision-making body of the ruling party would force Mbeki to step down as president before his term expires.

"If you were to ask me, I would say that I don't think the leadership is going to be as irresponsible as recalling Mbeki. It would cause a lot of instability in the run up to the election. Secondly, it is fraught with uncertainty because to recall Mbeki, you have to have a vote of no confidence in South Africa's parliament and the Zuma faction is not quite sure if they can map up a two thirds of the ANC," he said.

Ajulu said calls by the opposition for Mbeki to resign received a significant boost by some partisans of the ruling party.

"The point is within the ANC itself there have been these calls. These calls have bee now further strengthened by the judgment, which has indicated or implied that Thabo Mbeki as president interfered with the prosecution to make sure that Zuma was charged. Zuma has been claiming that all along, but up to now it has been speculation, but now that it has been pronounced by the judge, a judicial officer. It has taken a prominence of strengthening the hands of those people who are consistently said that there was a political conspiracy against Zuma," Ajulu pointed out.

He said the latest call by the opposition for President Mbeki to step down is a political game, which makes them relevant in the internal political climate in South Africa.

"Naturally the opposition would do that particularly with six months to the election. If you are in the opposition and you didn't do that then you would be hurting yourself. But if the ANC decided that Mbeki should continue with his term, I don't think the position by the opposition matters on this because the opposition is so miniscule that what they can do is make noises. So, the real player is going to be the ANC," he said.

Ajulu denied that the ruling party has failed to defend President Mbeki with the recent escalation of calls for his resignation.

"The ANC has defended Mbeki in the past. After the immediate post- Polokwane period, there were calls for Mbeki to resign. And the ANC came out with a statement categorically stating that Mbeki would be allowed to continue with his term. But the ANC has said that they are going to issue a statement on Friday after the ANC National Executive Committee meeting. I broadly expect that statement is going to confirm earlier statements, which says that Mbeki would be allowed to complete his term," Ajulu noted.

Meanwhile, the ruling ANC's National Working Committee has reportedly been meeting to discuss a course of action after the allegations against Mbeki were made. The youth wing of the ANC reportedly said Tuesday that it would lobby the ruling party's National Executive Committee to adopt a resolution to remove Mbeki. The committee is due to meet over the weekend.