The leadership of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) will nominate a new president at a meeting on Monday morning following President Thabo Mbeki’s announcement of his resignation at the weekend.
A spokesperson for the party said the national executive committee has mandated the officials of the ANC to discuss some options. “As you know, we are the ruling party and as the ruling party, we will put a preferred candidate before the ANC caucus in parliament,” said ANC spokeswoman Jessie Duarte.
“We understand that it is parliament that elects the president,” she added.
An announcement on the ANC’s preferred candidate to stand in for Mbeki until general elections next year will be made in Johannesburg at noon.
In his farewell address on Sunday eveing, Mbeki said he had tendered his resignation to the speaker of parliament, Baleka Mbete, who many believe will be the ANC’s preferred candidate to act as president.
Mbeki announced his resignation after the ANC NEC decided to “recall” him on Saturday following a court ruling two weeks ago that Mbeki may have been behind a political plot against ANC president Jacob Zuma.
Mbeki used his farewell speech to defend his legacy and repel accusations that he had exerted pressure on the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to charge Zuma.
Mbeki disputed a ruling by Pietermaritzburg High Court Judge Chris Nicholson that he may have been involved in a political conspiracy against Zuma. “I would like to state this categorically that we have never done this and never compromised the right of the National Prosecuting Authority to decide whom it should prosecute and not prosecute,” he said.
Earlier 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”. He said the decision was a political way to deal with the implications of Judge Nicholson’s ruling.
Meanwhile bankers said there was likely to be a small, negative knee-jerk reaction on Monday to President Thabo Mbeki’s resignation.
Rand Merchant Bank’s John Cairns said the Nicholson judgement more than a week ago sets the tone, “the ZAR having lost around five cents on the day, with news wires reporting that this was on uncertainty over what policies a Zuma administration would follow.”
Cairns said “anecdotally some of our foreign clients will be surprised by the news; attention has been so much on the subprime problems that South Africa’s political problems understandably aren’t headline news.”
However, international investors were well used to emerging market political risk, he added.
He said the markets would also be comforted by the fact that Finance Minister Trevor Manuel had said he would stay, as well as by “the likely reduction in infighting” in the ANC.
In her reaction ppposition leader Helen Zille said Mbeki made a dignified resignation speech. “He used the opportunity to spell out the points of his presidency for which he wishes to be remembered, and to differ with the opinion expressed by Judge Chris Nicholson in the judgment of 12 September 2008. This judgment gave the Jacob Zuma faction the reason it had been seeking for a long time to oust Mbeki and seize power so that they can impose a political solution to avoid Zuma having to face his day in court,” she said.
Zille said Mbeki demonstrated respect for a court judgment, even though he has not been given a chance to state his case in court. This contrasts sharply with the response of Jacob Zuma and his followers, who only respect court judgments that are in their favour, “and vilify and defy the judiciary if they are not”.