Eleven South African cabinet ministers quit

September 23rd, 2008 - 9:10 pm ICT by IANS  

Johannesburg, Sep 23 (DPA) South Africa’s ruling African National Congress’ (ANC) hopes for a smooth transition of power after its ousting of President Thabo Mbeki were quashed Tuesday when 11 cabinet ministers resigned in a shock move.Finance Minister Trevor Manuel, credited with keeping the country on a steady course over a decade, was among those who quit in sympathy with Mbeki. Three deputy ministers also resigned.

However, Manuel and his deputy, Jabu Moleketi, said they were “ready to serve” a new administration, ministerial spokeswoman Thoraya Pandy said in a statement.

Among the resigning ministers were Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota; and Public Enterprises Minister Alec Erwin.

The South African currency Rand plummeted following the announcement, but recovered slightly after Manuel indicated he might return.

It remained to be seen whether ANC deputy leader Kgalema Motlanthe, the party’s candidate to replace President Thabo Mbeki until elections next year, would be able to convince some of the ministers to return.

Thursday, the ANC-dominated National Assembly is expected to vote in Motlanthe as acting president, formally ending Mbeki’s nine-year stint as head of state.

The ministers’ mass resignation turned on its head ANC leader Jacob Zuma’s assurance Monday of a “smooth transition”.

Mbeki was forced out of office by the ANC on the weekend on suspicion of interfering in a corruption case against Zuma.

The party had appealed to his cabinet loyalists to remain in office.

The bell tolled for Mbeki when a judge in the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Sep 12, in setting aside the corruption charges against Zuma on a technicality, inferred Mbeki had a hand in the decision to lay charges against him.

Mbeki’s enemies in the ANC seized on the ruling to push for his resignation.

Mbeki has denied the allegations and approached the Constitutional Court, the country’s top court, Monday to seek leave to appeal on the grounds that the ruling was “prejudicial” to him and harmed his right to dignity.

Motlanthe, a former ANC secretary general and party moderate, has acted as a bridge between the Mbeki government and the ANC.

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