JOHANNESBURG, September 23 – Eleven key members of South Africa’s cabinet have resigned following President Thabo Mbeki’s decision to step down under pressure from his party, the presidency said Tuesday.
Widely respected Finance Minister Trevor Manuel, seen by investors as vital to the country’s stable economy and impressive growth, is one of the ministers who handed in his resignation.
But Manuel’s spokesman also made it clear that he was ready to serve the new administration.
"The resignations will be effective from the day that the president’s resignation takes effect," said a statement from the president’s office.
"All the ministers have expressed their availability to assist the incoming administration in the hand-over process and any other assistance that might be sought from them."
Eleven cabinet members including 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, will step down.
The others include: Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota, Minister in the Presidency, Essop Pahad, Intelligence Minister Ronnie Kasrils, Correctional Services Minister Nconde Balfour, Public Enterprises Minister Alec Erwin, Science Minister Mosibudi Mangena, Public Works Minister Thoko Didiza, and Administration Minister Geraldine Fraser Moloketi.
The deputy ministers of foreign affairs, Aziz Pahad, finance Jabu Moleketi and correctional services Loretta Jacobus will also leave their posts.
These cabinet members occupied some of the most important portfolio’s in the 31-member cabinet — which includes the president and his deputy.
Their decision to step down comes after Mbeki bowed to pressure from the ANC to tender his resignation in what the opposition has termed the settling of political scores.
Mbeki is believed to have asked cabinet members to stay put in the interests of stability, and analysts had said the country would not face a crisis if the transition was well managed and government ministers did not abandon ship.
ANC treasurer general Mathews Phosa said Sunday that the party was not planning to oust Mbeki loyalists in cabinet, and wanted them to stay in place.
"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."
Zuma said the decision to recall Mbeki had been "one of the most difficult decisions" taken by the ANC national executive in the party’s history.