By Angela Quintal

The woman who served as acting president for a mere 14 hours on Thursday, ensuring a smooth transition between Thabo Mbeki and his successor, Kgalema Motlanthe, did "nothing dramatic" such as declare war.

There were no last-minute Acts to sign into law, nor did she have to "invade a neighbouring country like Swaziland or anything", communications minister Ivy Matsepe- Casaburri joked.

She was referring to 1998, when then-home affairs minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi was acting president while Nelson Mandela and his deputy, Thabo Mbeki, were abroad.

The IFP leader had had to authorise the deployment of the national defence force to Lesotho.

In terms of the constitution, the acting president has the full constitutional powers of the president, and it was left to Buthelezi to authorise the defence force's deployment.

Matsepe-Casaburri was appointed acting president at Wednesday's last cabinet meeting of the Mbeki administration.

This was after Mbeki told his executive that someone would have to hold the fort from midnight when his resignation came into effect, until his successor as head of state was elected in the assembly.

In terms of the hierarchy, deputy president Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka should have served as acting president, but as she had resigned, too, the next in line was a cabinet minister appointed by his or her counterparts.

As she had served in an acting capacity before, it was decided that she should serve again to ensure a "smooth transition", Matsepe-Casaburri said.

"We didn't expect anything dramatic to happen. I was consoled by the fact that seven of those hours would have been spent in bed, anyway."

Matsepe-Casaburri was reappointed communications minister by Motlanthe when he announced his cabinet yesterday.