Mbeki urged to stay on

The resolution was made at the Eastern Cape provincial ANC’s three-yearly conference, and came immediately after Mbeki ally Stone Sizani was named as the new provincial chairman.

It was proposed by the province’s Amathole region, which is led by deputy defence minister Mluleki George, and the Nelson Mandela metro region, chaired by new provincial leader Sizani.

The region urged the President to make himself available in the likely event that he was nominated for the party leadership, which comes up for nomination at the national conference to be held at end of 2007.

The Eastern Cape ANC forms the largest provincial bloc of votes at the national conference, and is likely to have a significant say in how the vote for the party’s leadership turns out.

Mbeki’s term as leader of the ANC and his tenure as state president expire next year when the party will hold elections to nominate a new leader and a candidate for the state presidency that he rescinds in 2009.

However with the party facing an apparent leadership crisis, Mbeki’s exit from the leadership of the ANC and the country as a whole is believed by many to be a cause for serious concern.

Mbeki has previously stated that he would not be interested in standing for a third term as head of state, a move that would require an amendment to the constitution.

He has however remained mum on whether or not he would consider continuing with the leadership of the party.

Political observers believe the ANC is under growing pressure to present an acceptable successor for Mbeki to its supporters.

They said the proposal for Mbeki to prolong his role as leader of the party was a sign of growing jitters within the ANC over the party and the country’s fate.

“There has been much debate within the ANC’s executive structures about the party’s succession. The ANC has given no clear indication of who will lead the party after Mbeki and it appears that its members are starting to take a stand,” political analyst Aubrey Matshiqi said.

Mbeki’s succession has sparked widespread debate across the country and has reigned in several senior party leaders.

As Mbeki’ second in command, ANC deputy president Jacob Zuma has been touted by many as Mbeki’s most likely successor. But with a damaging rape trial and charges of corruption hanging over his head, many believe his chances of succeeding Mbeki have been severely dented.

South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority is still investigating charges of corruption and fraud against Mbeki, which they say are tied to his corrupt relationship to jailed businessman Shabir Schaik.

The NPA had its initial case against Zuma thrown out of court for lack of evidence in September, but has continued to investigate the charges.

NPA officials recently said they were “close” to resubmitting their case against the former deputy president, who has sought to clean up his image since the end of his corruption trial.

Matshiqi believes Zuma is trying to restore his image in order to take up his place in the race to succeed Mbeki.

However, despite constant denials that he is campaigning for the country’s top post, Zuma has not denied that he would be interested in taking up the post should it be offered to him.

In recent interviews with the media Zuma said he would take up any post that the ANC wanted him to take.<BR>
Media reports have also suggested that the ANC deputy president was considering breaking away from the ruling party and forming a separate party of his own.

The point of this, the reports said, was to overcome an alleged conspiracy by ANC senior officials that was aimed at frustrating his presidential hopes and ensuring that he did not become the party or the country’s next leader.

But in an interview broadcast on BBC World two months ago, Zuma said he would “never” lead a breakaway faction of the ANC and was not in the running for any party post.

He insisted that he was “not applying for any job” and that he was not involved in a campaign for leadership “of anything”.

The tempestuous succession debate has also created some enmity between supporters of both Zuma and Mbeki.

“Zuma’s supporters believe there is a conspiracy against him and on the other hand we have Mbeki supporters who do not believe that Zuma is the right person to succeed their president,” Witwatersrand University political studies expert Peter Hudson said.

Mbeki was snubbed by hundreds of Zuma supporters who began leaving the reburial memorial service of ANC hero Moses Mabhida last weekend when he began to speak.

After listening to Zuma’s speech, the supporters began booing Mbeki and singing Zuma’s trademark, uMshini Wami. At least 60 other supporters also left the stadium.

Zuma has also courted the ire of Mbeki some loyalists.

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu recently slammed Zuma as in inadequate presidential candidate.

“I for one would not be able to hold my head high if a person with such supporters were to become my president, someone who did not think it necessary to apologise for engaging in casual sex without taking proper precautions in a country that is being devastated by this horrendous HIV/Aids pandemic. What sort of example would he be setting?

“I pray that someone will be able to counsel him that the most dignified, most selfless thing, the best thing he could do for a land he loves deeply is to declare his decision not to take further part in the succession race of his party,” Tutu wrote in a recent column.

December 2006
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