South Africa: Why the ANC Toppled Mbeki

The Post (Buea)
25 September 2008
Posted to the web 25 September 2008

Francis Wache

Thabo Mbeki, the man who has ruled South Africa since 1999, has resigned. This follows a call from his party, the ruling African National Congress, ANC, Saturday, September 20, for him to step down.

The decision was reached during a meeting of the National Executive Committee of the party. Announcing the decision, ANC Secretary General, Gwede Mantashe, said, curtly, that the NEC had "decided to recall the President of the Republic before his term of office expires." The decision, according to Mantashe, was to "heal the rifts" which have rocked the party recently.

Mbeki, reacting to the decision, said he had tendered his resignation to the Speaker of the National Assembly. Jacob Zuma, Mbeki's bitter rival, has, so far, kept sealed lips on the matter. Unlike other ANC hardliners, Zuma felt that Mbeki's political life was virtually over and that, as such, there was no need to "beat a dead snake."

Therefore, Zuma argued, Mbeki should have been allowed to finish his term next April and bow out gracefully. No, retorted ANC radicals. The "dead snake" had to be buried promptly.

The last time Mbeki and Zuma had a face-off was last December when they wrestled for the leadership of the ANC.

In the power tussle, Zuma, the populist, grassroots rabble-rousing, "Machine Gun Man" emerged victor walloping the elitist, aloof Mbeki. After December 2007, the humiliated Mbeki began his days in the political wilderness.

The rancorous aftermath of the December confrontation simmered. The Mbeki camp wanted to draw blood by sending Zuma behind the bars.Mbeki, however, went down fighting. He is alleged to have attempted to influence the case against Zuma, his one time Deputy, on charges of corruption. Zuma and his supporters cried political wolf. Recently, a Judge dropped the charges.

The common question now is why Mbeki accepted to resign without the least resistance. According to ANC sources, if he had resisted, the party would have passed a vote of no confidence and, ultimately, sacked him. This would have left him vulnerable to future probes.

Although Mbeki's camp maintains that the President resigned to preserve peace and unity in the nation, and, statesmanlike, avert deepening the political crisis, it would seem, rather, that it was a political master stroke at self-survival.

After the Judge's ruling, Mbeki and his acolytes insisted that they would challenge the decision. This, it now seems, was ill-advised. Zuma, smelling blood, convened NEC, which he controls. NEC snookered Mbeki.

In the words of the acerbic leader of the ANC Youth leader, Mbeki, the "dead snake" had been politically killed. The ANC had buried him without firing a shot. He had been toppled. Curiously, Mbeki had capitulated without even a bleat.

Paradoxically, Mbeki fell from national political grace at the moment he was at the apogee of his international negotiating brinksmanship. He was basking in the glow of adulation after brokering the Zimbabwe peace deal that witnessed Robert Gabriel Mugabe and Morgan Tsivangarai sharing power.

In his address to the nation on Sunday, Mbeki insisted that he never interfered with the Zuma prosecution. Mbeki further maintained that he was a loyal member of the ANC and called on his compatriots to contribute towards a smooth transition. "Trying times need courage and resilience," Mbeki said.

Mbeki who succeeded Nelson Mandela in 1999 was expected to end his two term mandate in April next year.

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