CAPE TOWN, September 22 – South Africa’s ruling ANC on Monday named its deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe as head of state after Thabo Mbeki bowed to pressure and announced his resignation, a spokesman told AFP.,
Motlanthe is to serve as head of state until elections are held in seven months’ time.
"Motlanthe will be the president, not interim, he will be the president of the republic until the election," spokesman for the ANC parliamentary caucus KK Khumalo said after a meeting between the party and lawmakers.
Mbeki announced in a live television address Sunday that he had tendered his resignation to speaker of parliament Baleka Mbete after his party called for him to step down in the interests of African National Congress unity.
He said he had tendered his resignation "effective from a day that will be determined by the national assembly."
Mbeki, 66, who succeeded Nelson Mandela as president in June 1999, has become the country’s first democratically-elected president to be forced out of office before the end of his term.
South African newspapers saluted the outgoing president’s dignified exit — but had harsher words for the party that had sacrificed him.
"A defiant President Mbeki has bowed down from office, proclaiming his innocence while pledging loyalty to the organisation that unceremoniously ousted him as head of state," the Star newspaper reported.
"The real cause for concern this morning, as we continue to digest these big events, is that the ANC has put the party before the people on this account, in a move that will have serious and long term consequences for us all".
Phosa said the ANC wanted the current cabinet to stay in place, after speculation Mbeki loyalists may follow him in tendering their resignation.
"No we want them to stay. We are very happy if they stay and we do these things together. We really want stability and we want them to stay."
Phosa said the call for Mbeki to resign was not an act of retribution, but a bid to unite the party behind one leader ahead of polls next year.
"We have done an assessment of what the problems are," said Mathews Phosa.
"It is internal stability and what will take us forward to the elections with the whole of the ANC behind one leader (party president Jacob) Zuma," he added.
The decision came after a week of pressure following a September 12 court ruling that threw out a corruption case against Mbeki’s political rival Jacob Zuma, and a judge hinted that Mbeki’s government had interfered in the decision to prosecute the ANC chief.
The court ruling that all but sealed Mbeki’s fate also cleared Zuma of corruption charges, paving the way for his bid to become South Africa’s president in the 2009 election.
Under the South African constitution, the president is appointed by parliament, which has been dominated by the ANC since the end of apartheid and the start of majority rule in May 1994.
Mbeki’s term had been due to expire in mid-2009, and he has been largely seen as a lame duck president since losing the leadership of his party to Zuma at a key ANC conference in December.