Accessibility links

Breaking News

Ruling Party to Consider Asking South African President to Step Down

In South Africa, the leadership of the ruling ANC party is holding a three-day meeting, at which it is expected to discuss whether to ask President Thabo Mbeki to step down.

Some ANC members and related groups have called for his resignation, even though Mr. Mbeki is in the final months of his second term. Some reports say those opposed to Mr. Mbeki want to replace him with Baleka Mbete.

VOA reporter Delia Robertson is following the story. From Johannesburg, she spoke with English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the importance of the issue in South Africa.

"It's important because if indeed the ANC does decide this weekend to ask Mr. Mbeki to fall on his sword or to try to force him out, the way in which it happens could have implications for the whole country because you could end up having a constitutional crisis. And I think that is what the ANC would like to avoid, if they do, indeed, make that decision. We've heard from a number of people, but we haven't heard from the entire National Executive Committee of the ANC. It's not exactly clear whether the entire committee supports this maneuver," she says.

There are some published reports that say if Mr. Mbeki is asked to step down, it would be done in such a way as to avoid an early election. The presidential election is scheduled for next April. Robertson explains why the ANC might want to avoid an early vote.

"The ANC has lost support, according to current polls. Enough public support so that they would not have a two-thirds majority in Parliament, if an election [were] held today," she says.

Why such anger towards the president in some circles of the ANC? Robertson says, "It goes around the prosecution of Jacob Zuma, the former deputy president of the country and the current president of the African National Congress. Last week, a judge implicated Mr. Mbeki. He said that it appears there has been political meddling in the prosecution of Jacob Zuma. And this has given strength to the arm of those people who say that the prosecution of Jacob Zuma is entirely political."

Zuma's corruption trial, which is related to a major arms deal, is currently at a standstill because of a judge's recent technical ruling in the case. Robertson outlines the judge's position. "The decision to prosecute Jacob Zuma was invalid because certain procedural requirements had not been followed. He did, however, very specifically say that his decision had nothing to do with the merits of the case," she says.

The National Prosecuting Authority is expected to appeal that decision.