South Africa’s third post-apartheid president is set to be sworn
into office Thursday after the dramatic toppling of Thabo Mbeki by his
own party, just months before the end of his term.

The ruling
party’s deputy leader Kgalema Motlanthe is expected to be elected as
president when parliament votes at 11.00am (0900 GMT).

Known as
“the elder one” for his level-headed approach to even the roughest
political waters, Motlanthe will guide the country toward elections due
next year while aiming to bridge the gaping divide within the ruling
African National Congress (ANC).

Motlanthe attended Mbeki’s last
cabinet meeting Wednesday, trying to send a message of continuity
within the government after a third of the county’s top leaders,
including the country’s deputy president, resigned en masse.

stepped down in solidarity with Mbeki’s forced removal, although seven
of them have indicated they would be available to serve again, the ANC
has said.

On Wednesday party chief Jacob Zuma, who earlier
upstaged Mbeki as ANC leader, reiterated the party’s claim that the
resignations had not sent the country into crisis.

“There is no problem, the situation is under control, there must be no panic,” he said on e-tv news.

As party leader, Zuma is widely expected to be voted into the country’s top office in elections next year.

bowed to a call to resign from the presidency following a damning court
ruling which hinted he was instrumental in a decision to prosecute his
longtime rival Zuma, whom he fired as the country’s deputy president in

He has denied the allegations and is appealing the ruling in a bid to clear his name from the insinuation of judicial meddling.

elevation to the presidency ends Mbeki’s nine-year administration,
leaving an embarrassing stain on the legacy of the man who succeeded
anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela.

The political turmoil has
rattled the economy, with currency markets shaken by the decision of
the widely-respected finance minister, Trevor Manuel, to resign with
the other top officials.

He is seen by investors as vital to the country’s stable economy.

spokesman made it clear that he was ready to serve the new
administration, but his resignation led to market jitters with the rand
slipping from 7.98 to 8.16 to the US dollar on Tuesday. Markets were
closed Wednesday for a public holiday.

Zuma said the decision to recall Mbeki had been “one of the most painful and difficult decisions” taken in the party’s history.

outgoing president had been increasingly at loggerheads with his party,
which split into two camps behind him and Zuma when he made his failed
bid to run for a third term as party president at a crunch ANC
conference in December last year.