Is SA heading for a civil war?


The Cabinet of President Thabo Mbeki was to meet for the last time on Wednesday before he left office at the behest of the ruling party, the government said.

With its deputy leader Kgalema Motlanthe set to be elected to succeed Mbeki in parliament on Thursday, the African National Congress played down fears of instability after the country's deputy president and 14 ministers and deputies said they would step down with Mbeki.

Seven of those who had given notice had indicated they would be available to serve again, the party said.

The cabinet meeting late on Wednesday afternoon would be followed by a press briefing on the resignations, a government statement said.

"It will be the last one," government spokesperson Themba Maseko said, referring to the Mbeki administration's final meeting.

Mbeki bowed to a call to resign from the ANC leadership following a damning court ruling which hinted he was instrumental in a decision to prosecute his longtime rival Jacob Zuma, who had ousted him as party leader.

He has denied the allegations.

"The (cabinet) resignations do not pose a crisis and there is no need to panic," said Zuma, widely seen as the favourite to become president after next year's elections, on Tuesday.

But political analyst Moeletsi Mbeki, the outgoing president's brother and frequent critic, said on Wednesday the party was headed down a dangerous path which could end in civil war.

"The ANC is destabilising the country, it's destabilising its own country," Moeletsi Mbeki told Talk Radio 702.

"This is a warning to the ANC national executive committee that if they... continue to follow the path of not following the constitution, then they are going to lead this country to civil war."

He said the ANC should have lodged a complaint with parliament following the remarks of the judge who threw out corruption charges against Zuma on a technicality.

This would then have allowed for an investigation into whether President Mbeki was innocent or guilty.

The announcement of the ministers' resignations came shortly after parliament approved Mbeki's exit from office effective on Thursday, ending the nine-year administration of the man who succeeded anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela.

The ministers resigning include Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, who spearheaded a turnaround of the country's Aids policies, and Local Government Minister Sydney Mufamadi, a key negotiator in the Zimbabwe crisis.

ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe on Tuesday labelled Mbeki's announcement of the resignations, which plunged markets into disarray, as a "dangerous mistake".

"I would say it was a dangerous mistake by Mbeki, I don't think he tried to embarrass us," Mantashe said, as quoted by the Sapa news agency.

The ANC later told Sapa that any "mistake" made would have been by the president's staff and not Mbeki himself.

The country's widely-respected finance minister, Trevor Manuel, seen by investors as vital to the country's stable economy, was among the 11 ministers of the 31-member cabinet who handed in their resignations.

Manuel's spokesperson made it clear that he was ready to serve the new administration, but his announcement led to market jitters with the rand slipping from R7.98 to R8.16 to the US dollar.

The president's office said the ministers' resignations would also take effect on Thursday.

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

The 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.

Mbeki attempted to salvage his reputation in the Constitutional Court on Monday, as he challenged the judge's ruling which he says cost him his job as president.


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