The appointment of ANC deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe as president Thabo Mbeki’s successor would offer hope to South Africa, Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille said on Monday.

“Motlanthe is perhaps the most level-headed and reasonable of all the politicians in the Zuma camp,” said Zille at a public meeting in Kempton Park on Monday evening.

She said that unlike Zuma, Motlanthe had had the courage to rebuke the African National Congress Youth League for its statements that it would “kill” for the ANC President.

“Whereas Zuma has been equivocal on the supremacy of the Constitution, Motlanthe has committed himself unequivocally to it, and to the independence of the judiciary.

“If any member of the new ANC leadership can govern in the best interests of South Africa, rather than in the narrow interests of a cabal within the ANC, it is him.”

She said there were rumours that Motlanthe harboured “long-term presidential ambitions. “He is unlikely to be satisfied with a stopgap spell as the caretaker President.

“It may just happen that Motlanthe refuses to heed the call of the hardliners for a political solution to Zuma’s legal problems.”

She said there might be a chance he would support a call that Zuma should not be president until he faced corruption charges.

“With a reasonable voice such as Motlanthe’s in the ascendancy, there is some hope that good sense and the rule of law may yet prevail,” she said.

On Monday, Zuma hinted that Motlanthe would take over from Mbeki whose resignation becomes effective on Thursday. “We will announce the name of our candidate in Parliament at an appropriate moment.

“We have in Cabinet many experienced ministers including the deputy president of the ANC, comrade Kgalema Motlanthe,” Zuma said at a Johannesburg press conference.