Motlanthe elected South Africa’s caretaker president (Lead)

September 25th, 2008 - 8:21 pm ICT by IANS  

Johannesburg, Sep 25 (DPA) African National Congress (ANC) deputy leader Kgalema Motlanthe was elected South Africa’s caretaker president Thursday in a landslide vote in the National Assembly in Cape Town.Motlanthe easily defeated Joe Seremane, candidate of the official opposition Democratic Alliance, 269 votes to 50 votes out of 360 cast. Forty-one votes were spoilt.

“I accordingly declare the honourable Kgalema Petras Motlanthe duly elected president of the Republic of South Africa,” Chief Justice Pius Langa, presiding over the vote, announced.

His election comes four days after Thabo Mbeki submitted his resignation following demands by the ANC that he resign over a court finding of political interference in the prosecution of ANC leader Jacob Zuma.

Motlanthe is expected to preside only for six or seven months until general elections slated for April or May, after which, if the ANC wins as predicted, Zuma will take over.

“Comrade Motlanthe has an impeccable record of selflessness and sacrifice in the struggle for a free South Africa,” an ANC member said.

“The ANC commends Comrade President Kgalema Motlanthe to you and the nation with a full confidence that he will serve with honour and humility to promote the unity of the nation as the constitution calls him to do.”

Born on July 19, 1949, to a family of 13 children in Alexandra township near Johannesburg, the relatively little-known Motlanthe was politically active from an early age.

A year after the Soweto Uprising in 1976, he was arrested and sentenced to 10 years in prison, where he rubbed shoulders with ANC stalwarts like Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu.

After his release he became general of the National Union of Mineworkers and later secretary general of the ANC in 1997.

At the ANC electoral conference in December 2007, where Jacob Zuma trounced former president Thabo Mbeki for the party leadership, Motlanthe emerged as a bridge between Zuma and Mbeki factions within the party.

He was rewarded by Zuma’s supporters with the position of party deputy president.

Motlanthe has been repeatedly tipped to take over from Zuma, in the event that Zuma, who has been dogged by allegations of corruption, cannot assume or retain the presidency.

Motlanthe has denied coveting the job of president, saying he would rather coach South Africa’s hapless Bafana Bafana football team or coach young ANC members in politics.

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