The African National Congress has announced it is recalling South African President Thabo Mbeki - in effect forcing him to leave office.  VOA's Delia Robertson reports from our bureau in Johannesburg, a statement from the presidency says that Mr. Mbeki will "step down after all constitutional requirements have been met."

The announcement came from ANC Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe.

"After long and difficult discussion the ANC decided to recall the president of the republic before his term of office expires and our decision has been communicated to him," he said.

Mantashe said Mr. Mbeki has agreed to his party's request to step down.  He added Mr. Mbeki was informed of the decision of the National Executive Committee, the party's highest decision-making body and received the news "normally."

The party's decision follows a court decision late last week declaring that the decision to prosecute ANC president Jacob Zuma was invalid because of procedural irregularities.

The judge in that case also said there may have been political meddling in his prosecution.  He cited several meetings between the National Director of Public Prosecutions and a former justice minister.  Legally the justice minister has oversight over the National Prosecutions Authority and its head.

The ANC says the transition will be managed smoothly and indirectly suggested that the ANC will not seek to proceed in a way that will require an early election.

However Mantashe offered no clarity on who will succeed Mr. Mbeki.  Normally the deputy president will act as president and within thirty days parliament must convene to elect a permanent replacement from their ranks.

However, Deputy President Pumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka has indicated she will resign out of loyalty to Mr. Mbeki.  And there has been widespread speculation that as many as half of the members of cabinet will do the same.

Jacob Zuma is currently not eligible because he is not a member of parliament but the party could ask for someone to resign and replace that individual with Zuma.