The official opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) has said the African National Congress (ANC) National Executive Committee’s decision to “recall” President Thabo Mbeki is motivated by revenge to settle political scores.
Reacting to the decision, taken by the ANC on Saturday, the DA said the decision had nothing to do with the interests of the people of South Africa, and that the ANC had turned its internal battles into a crisis for South Africa.
“ANC factionalism has long undermined government’s ability to deliver, and it now threatens to destabilise the entire country. The move is clearly an attempt to find the political solution to (ANC leader) Jacob Zuma’s legal problems that his supporters have been calling for.
”Replacing President Mbeki with a Zuma proxy will open the way for them to ensure that he does not have to face a court of law to answer the 783 allegations of corruption against him. If Zuma is put above the law, it will do more to undermine the Constitution than anything else,” said DA leader Helen Zille.
She said it was untenable for Zuma to assume the Presidency without being acquitted of the corruption charges by a court of law.
“The DA looks forward to the 2009 election, when the people of South Africa, rather than the ANC, get to choose South Africa’s next president. People are sick and tired of the factionalism in the ANC and the abuse of state institutions for factional advantage. The DA will offer South Africa a clear alternative to the ANC: A party that places the rule of law, the Constitution and the interests of South Africa before internal power struggles,” Zille said.
Meanwhile, the Freedom Front Plus’ Pieter Mulder has called the decision a “democratic coup” that “proves to the international community and the sensitive economic markets that there is instability in South Africa”.
The leader of the Inkatha Freedom Party said history would judge Mbeki as “a towering figure who did much to consolidate President Mandela’s remarkable legacy”.
“President Mbeki will, perhaps, be remembered as the person who did more than any other individual to enhance his dream of an ‘African Renaissance’,” said party leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi.
The United Democratic Movement’s Bantu Holomisa said the decision to axe Mbeki was an act of “political barbarity that threatens to plunge the country into anarchy”.
The Sunday Times newspaper said the ANC’s decision to remove Mbeki from office was the right thing to do.
“Mbeki’s greed for power, his determination to make his personal beliefs government policy, his disrespect for state institutions, his chronic denialism and his tolerance for the incompetence and corruption of his acolytes have destroyed the moral and political fabric of our society. He chose to make leading South Africa an academic exercise, rather than one of vision, inspiration and nation-building. He was a bad president,” the paper said.
Mbeki, whose second term in office is due to expire in 2009, has become South Africa’s first democratic leader to be asked to resign.
Addressing the media at the Esselen Park conference centre in Kempton Park on the East Rand, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said the decision to recall the president was taken “as an effort to heal and unite the African National Congress”.
The presidency later confirmed that Mbeki would resign.
“The President has obliged and will step down after all constitutional requirements have been met,” said presidential spokesperson Mukoni Ratshitanga.
The ANC National Executive earlier decided that removing Mbeki was the best way of dealing with the implications of Pietermaritzburg High Court Judge Chris Nicholson’s ruling that Mbeki may have been involved in a political conspiracy against ruling party leader Jacob Zuma.
The move now puts Zuma one step closer to the presidency.
He has intensely-committed supporters, such as the head of the ANC youth league, Julius Malema, who said in June that he was “prepared to kill for Zuma”.
Zuma was fired by Mbeki as deputy head of state in June 2005 after his financial adviser was jailed for canvassing bribes for him. In 2006, he was acquitted of rape charges.
The Speaker of the House, Baleke Mbete, will serve as acting president until next year’s general elections. Panapress.