21 Sep 2008
Addresses the Nation
The awaited reaction of President Thabo Mbeki to Saturday’s decision by his party, the ANC calling on him to resign as president of South Africa came on Sunday September 21.
President Mbeki addressed the nation Sunday evening saying that he had handed his letter of resignation to the speaker of the national assembly and will wait for the parliament to determine when he will effectively relinquish power.
President Mbeki was composed, and addressed the nation in a very dignified and matured manner .He devoted considerable time to emphatically deny allegations that his government was interfering in the judicial procedures against his erstwhile rival Jacob Zuma. A recent court ruling insinuated that link and provoked the ANC national executive to call on Mbeki to step down. “Our successive governments since 1994 have never acted in any manner intended willfully to violate the constitution and the law”. Mbeki said. Adding that he could not do anything to jeopardize what they sacrificed enormously to achieve.
Thabo Mbeki thanked all those that have contacted him to express support and his fellow colleagues on the African continent for the time they have worked together. He pointed to the pan African spirit of the African National Congress and said that; “We have devoted time and resources to the task of achieving the renaissance of Africa”. Adding, “Africa and Africans will not and must not be the wretched of the earth in perpetuity”. He mentioned his efforts to resolve conflicts and strengthen democracy on the continent.
Mbeki encouraged his compatriots to stay focused and be optimistic. Apparently reacting to apprehensions of ordinary South Africans to the unfolding crisis, Mbeki told them that “gloom and despondency have never defeated adversity” and that “trying times need courage and resilience”.
He continued; “I depart the office of president of South Africa knowing that this country has many men and women who have dedicated their lives to ensure that South Africa, Africa and the candidate of the South will in time manage to ensure a better world for all of humanity”.
He concluded by saying; “I thank you most sincerely for affording me the opportunity to serve you and the people of Africa”.
The genesis of the conflict between Jacob Zuma and Thabo Mbeki dates back to 2005 when, Zuma, then deputy president to Mbeki was forced to resign his position due to corruption allegations involving arms purchase. Zuma was later to face other legal troubles including the much publicized rape case in which he was cleared. The corruption case against Zuma resurfaced shortly after Zuma defeated Mbeki in a hotly contested election for the leadership of the ANC. The left- leaning supporters of Zuma suspected that Mbeki was using state apparatus to try and block his rival from succeeding him as the president of the Republic in 2009.
A war was effectively declared against Mbeki by supporters of Zuma who were now reinvigorated by their grip on the party apparatus. The loquacious ANC Youth Wing leader Julius Malema led the charge against Mbeki. He was quoted as having said he was ready to die or kill for Zuma. He called Mbeki names and was among the first to call for his resignation. Even when Jacob Zuma indirectly suggested that Mbeki could be allowed to finish his term as president through his comment that there was no need beating a dead snake, Malema retorted that; “Fine, we are leaving this dead snake, but we must bury it, it is dead now... we are no longer beating it and we are burying this snake this weekend." And during the weekend, the Executive Committee of the ANC asked Mbeki to step down.
Thabo Mbeki has presided over a South Africa that has experienced a remarkable growth rate but at the same time has created very wide disparities in income. Zuma is generally seen by the poor South Africans as someone likely to identify with their plight while the business community view him with some suspicion. He has tried to allay the fear of investors by promising that he will not initiate any radical changes when he becomes president hopefully next year. A new chapter thus opens in the political life of Africa’s leading economic powerhouse.
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