Citizens of South Africa were stunned Sunday when South African President Thabo Mbeki announced to the nation that he had resigned.
South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) on Monday named its deputy president, Kgalema Motlanthe, as head of state after Mbeki bowed to pressure and announced his resignation. Motlanthe will serve as head of state until elections are held in seven months.
Observers are saying that Mbeki lost a power struggle to Jacob Zuma, who had been tainted by allegations of corruption but is now poised to lead the country.
Mbeki, 66, said he had submitted a letter to the speaker of Parliament “to tender my resignation from the high position of President of the Republic of South Africa.”
Mbeki was pressured to quit after a judge threw out a corruption case against Zuma earlier this month on a legal technicality and implied that Mbeki’s administration had put political pressure on prosecutors in an attempt to derail Zuma’s political ambitions.
The South African president lost the final battle in the long struggle against ANC President Zuma, his former deputy, on Saturday.
In his television address, Mbeki said “categorically” that he had never interfered in the work of prosecutors who were investigating Zuma for allegations relating to an arms deal.
“I am convinced that the incoming administration will better the work done during the past 14-and-a half years so that poverty, underdevelopment, unemployment, illiteracy, challenges of health, crime and corruption will cease to define the lives of many of our people,” Mbeki said.
Mbeki thanked South Africans for letting him serve them for five years as deputy president and nine years as president.
According to observers, the ANC has a huge majority and is expected to claim victory in the polls.
Although Zuma is considered to be the leading contender to seize power in South Africa, he still needs to win elections next year-and put a corruption scandal behind him-before he can claim the actual title of president.
When questioned about corruption accusations he has so far beat on technical grounds that could make him ineligible for the presidency, Zuma told news sources, “Allegations are not conviction. People are innocent until found guilty.”
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu said he was deeply disturbed by Mbeki’s resignation. “The way of retribution leads to a banana republic,” Tutu said Monday, voicing concern that the allegations of corruption still hangs over Zuma’s head.