South Africa's parliament will this week begin the process of electing a possible new president after Thabo Mbeki tended in his resignation. Mbeki stepped down as South Africa's president after the national executive of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party last Friday called upon him to resign. In a televised speech last night Mbeki said he had presented his resignation letter to the speaker of parliament adding that he would leave his post once a new president is chosen.
Some political observes say it is unclear who would be chosen to succeed Mbeki to finish his term of office, which expires early next year. Professor Rok Ajulu is a political science professor in South Africa. He tells reporter Peter Clottey from the capital, Pretoria that the ruling party and Mbeki's move are unprecedented in South Africa's political history.
"Following the announcement of the National Executive of the ANC that they have decided to recall President Mbeki, the president had a press conference at which he announced that he had tended his resignation, which then goes to the speaker of parliament. And the parliament would now begin the process of electing a successor," Ajulu noted.
He said the move by the national executive forcing the president to step down is new to South Africa's politics.
"It is un-chattered waters indeed. This is the first case in South Africa and indeed in the continent where a sitting president can be re-called by his own party. But the processes here are such that the president is elected by parliament from the leading party so as they say the process deploys the presidency and therefore the party, which deploys is the ANC has the right to recall him if they feel that he has not followed the policies or he has not performed his work to the satisfaction, and I think this is what has happened in this case," he said.
Ajulu said Mbeki's trouble started after a judge dismissed graft charges against ANC president Jacob Zuma on technical grounds, citing political interference.
"Certainly this decision to recall him (Mbeki) obviously hinges around the judgment the previous Friday when Zuma questioned the processes that the prosecution authorities followed. And I think we need to remind ourselves that the judgment was based on technical processes. The judge did not pronounce on the guilt or otherwise of Zuma, and indeed this says that as soon as due processes are followed, the NPA (National Prosecution Authority) can re-institute the trial processes," Ajulu pointed out.
He said supporters of ANC president Jacob Zuma were reportedly upset with Mbeki and his cabinet about possible political maneuvers on the graft charges against him.
"The mere fact that the same judgment also made inferences about political interference from the politicians on the prosecution authority strengthens those within the ANC who felt that Zuma has been treated unfairly, and that there was political interference from the president and his cabinet. This is the excuse that has been used now, to institute the processes, which has led to the recalling of President Mbeki," he said.
Ajulu concurs that the latest political development in South Africa depicts the deep-seated rift within the ruling ANC party.
"It's been clear for quite sometime now, the ANC is terribly divided between the two camps that there are being perhaps indeed exists factions and there are serious divisions within the two camps. But lets put it this way in the ultimate analysis I think that what we are looking at here is political contestation between the two powerful forces; Mbeki on the one hand and Zuma on the other. So, if you cut out all the legal processes, this in the political analysis is a political struggle. And in political struggle the question of strategies and tactics, the person with the superior actually wins," Ajulu noted.
Meanwhile, supporters of embattled former South African President Thabo Mbeki are reportedly considering a split from the ruling ANC party and contest elections as a breakaway party in 2009.
Some political analysts say Mbeki's downfall came about a week after a judge suggested there was high-level political meddling in the graft case of Mbeki rival and ANC President Jacob Zuma, who is considered to be the frontrunner to win the next presidential election next year. Although Mbeki's willingness to give up the reins without a fight suggests an orderly transition of power, a number of ministers have threatened to resign rather than serve in a Zuma-controlled government.