Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Top South African Cabinet Ministers Step Down

Finance Minister Trevor Manuel and six others say they will work with new leader

South Africa's finance minister resigned along with some of the country's leading cabinet members Tuesday, even as he and six others said later they would be willing serve in the country's new administration.

Finance Minister Trevor Manuel, his deputy Jabulani Moleketi, eight other cabinet ministers and three deputies quit along with Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, a spokesman for President Thabo Mbeki said Tuesday.

Manuel's spokeswoman, Thoraya Pandy, quickly released a statement saying that Manuel and Moleketi "want to make it clear that they are ready to serve the new administration in any capacity that the incoming president deems fit."

Manuel, along with Mbeki, won the confidence of local and foreign investors by promoting pro-market policies that have seen the country enjoy unprecedented growth averaging 5 per cent over nearly a decade.

The South African markets went into a sharp decline after the announcement of his resignation, but recovered after Manuel's camp suggested he would serve in the new administration.

In afternoon trading, the Johannesburg Stock Exchange's benchmark FTSE/JSE Africa All Share index dropped 1.8 per cent, although it was down as much as 4.4 per cent earlier in the day, Bloomberg News reported.

The rand also weakened against the U.S. dollar to 8.1470 at 5:09 p.m. local time from 7.9939 before news of the resignations broke, reported Bloomberg.

Zuma set to take reins

The resignations of the cabinet ministers comes after Mbeki was forced out of office Sunday.

Mbeki quit in the face of growing pressure from his own African National Congress party to step down, ending a long power struggle with his deputy, Jacob Zuma. Mbeki remains president until parliament names an interim successor, likely this week.

Most of the ministers who resigned belong to the ruling African National Congress. They include the ministers of defence, intelligence, public enterprises and public services as well as Sydney Mufamadi, the local government and housing minister who was the key mediator in Zimbabwe's political crisis.

ANC leader Zuma is seen as the real power in South Africa now, despite needing to win elections next year— and put a corruption scandal behind him — to claim the title of president.

Business has been jittery about Zuma, a Mbeki rival seen as owing his rise to support from labour groups and the South African Communist Party. Zuma is not eligible to become president immediately since he is not a member of parliament, a constitutional requirement for the president.

No ministers had informed the party that they were resigning, Zuma said.

He appealed to "all ANC ministers and deputy ministers to continue their work and to serve the people of our country."

Motlanthe interim head of state

The ruling ANC said Tuesday its moderate and conciliatory deputy leader Kgalema Motlanthe would take over as interim head of state.

Opposition parties voiced alarm at the mass resignations but gave a cautious welcome to Motlanthe's nomination.

"Over the past year Mr. Motlanthe has been one of the few voices of reason in the ANC," said Patricia de Lille, leader of the small Independent Democrats.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, considered South Africa's moral conscience, described him as "a conciliatory person who appears to want to act out of integrity."

Tutu has warned that a Zuma presidency could jeopardize South Africa's international standing.

Mbeki sacked Zuma as the country's deputy president in 2005 after Zuma's friend and financial adviser was sentenced to 15 years in prison for corruption and fraud for soliciting bribes from a French arms company in return for Zuma shielding it from a government investigation.

The ANC put pressure on Mbeki to quit after a judge threw out a corruption case against Zuma this month and implied that the Mbeki administration had put political pressure on prosecutors to bring charges.

Source: Cbc.Ca


  1. I've been reading along for a while now. I just wanted to drop you a comment to say keep up the good work.

  2. Hi there - first off, been a longtime fan, but this is my first comment. I thought I should probably say thanks for posting this piece, and I'll be back!