News & Current Affairs

September 21, 2008

South Africa president steps down

South Africa president steps down

Thabo Mbeki has formally resigned as the president of South Africa, a day after accepting a call by the governing African National Congress to quit.

In a televised address, Mr Mbeki said he had handed a resignation letter to the speaker of the National Assembly.

He said he would leave his post as soon as a new president was chosen.

Correspondents say it is not clear who will succeed him, but the ANC appears to favour the parliamentary speaker, Baleka Mbete, as acting president.

Mr Mbeki’s speech followed an emergency cabinet meeting. He is stepping down before his final term expires next year.

I have been a loyal member of the African National Congress for 52 years… and therefore respect its decisions
Thabo Mbeki

The move comes days after a high court judge suggested that Mr Mbeki may have interfered in a corruption case against his rival, ANC leader Jacob Zuma.

But during his address, Mr Mbeki made an impassioned defence of his position.

There had been no effort at all to meddle with the judicial process, he said. And Mr Mbeki dismissed any suggestion he had been trying to shape the judgement for his own political ends.

This was a very measured and reflective speech.

Mr Mbeki began by saying that the ANC would decide the date of his leaving.

“I have been a loyal member of the African National Congress for 52 years. I remain a member of the ANC, and therefore respect its decisions,” he said.

This was a very clear signal that he like so many others is keen to make the transition as smooth as possible, our correspondent says.

Mr Mbeki, who succeeded Nelson Mandela as president in 1999, thanked the nation and his party, the ANC, for giving him the opportunity to serve in public office.

He went on to list some of his achievements, notably the country’s solid economic growth.

He said there was still much to be done in South Africa, and he urged the incoming leadership to continue to combat poverty and social injustice.

“Trying times need courage and resilience. Our strength as a people is not tested during the best of times… For South Africa to succeed there is more work to be done and I trust that we will continue to strive to act in unity,” he said.

‘For stability’

Parliament is likely to meet in the coming days to formalise his resignation, and select a caretaker leader.

Jacob Zuma (file photo)

Mr Zuma is widely expected to succeed Mr Mbeki in scheduled elections next year.

The decision to call for Mr Mbeki’s early resignation was taken at a meeting of the ANC’s National Executive Committee (NEC).

The ANC’s secretary general said the decision to seek Mr Mbeki’s early departure as president had been taken for “stability and for a peaceful and prosperous South Africa”.

This was not punishment for Mr Mbeki, Gwede Mantashe told reporters on Saturday, adding that the president would be given the chance to continue his role as mediator in Zimbabwe.

ANC cabinet members are being urged to remain in government to ensure continued stability.

Political interference

Mr Mbeki fired Jacob Zuma as deputy president in 2005 after his financial adviser was found guilty of soliciting a bribe on his behalf.

But Mr Zuma returned to the political stage to topple his rival as ANC leader in bitterly contested elections last year.

Earlier this month a High Court judge dismissed corruption and other charges against Mr Zuma, saying there was evidence of political interference in the investigation.

In his ruling the judge said it appeared that Mr Mbeki had colluded with prosecutors against Jacob Zuma as part of the “titanic power struggle” within the ANC.

The accusation was strongly denied by Mr Mbeki.

Mr Mbeki became leader of South Africa in 1999 and won a second term in 2004.

Perhaps his biggest policy success has been South Africa’s rapid economic growth since the end of apartheid and the rise of a black middle class – but to the anger of many, wealth is more unevenly distributed than ever before.

He has failed to convince the trade unions and the poorest South Africans that the government has acted in their interest – providing space for Mr Zuma to mobilize a powerful constituency.

Domestically, his government’s handling of the HIV/Aids crisis and failure to stem violent crime in the country also weakened his hand.

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September 13, 2008

Details of Zimbabwe deal emerge

Details of Zimbabwe deal emerge

Morgan Tsvangirai and Robert Mugabe, file images

Both Mr Tsvangirai (l) and Mr Mugabe claim to have won this year’s elections

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe is to retain control of the army and chair cabinet meetings, according to leaks of Thursday’s power-sharing deal.

South African President Thabo Mbeki said Mr Mugabe had agreed to share power with Morgan Tsvangirai but said details would be released on Monday.

Mr Tsvangirai will control the police force and chair a new council of ministers, the sources say.

The deal followed seven weeks of talks and this year’s election violence.

Mr Mugabe has yet to comment on the agreement, brokered by South Africa’s leader.

Fair division?

BBC News is banned in Zimbabwe, but a correspondent inside the country says MDC supporters are not rejoicing on the streets, nor are Zanu-PF backers protesting.

Instead a silent optimism prevails – and after so many false dawns, Zimbabwe is holding its breath, our correspondent says.

REPORTED DEAL
Robert Mugabe:
President
Heads armed forces
Chairs cabinet
Zanu-PF has 15 ministers
Morgan Tsvangirai:
Prime minister
Chairs council of ministers
Controls police force
MDC has 16 ministers – 3 from smaller faction

International donors have said they would resume financial aid for Zimbabwe’s collapsing economy if Mr Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) is given a genuine share of power.

The EU said it would “evaluate the situation” at a foreign ministers’ meeting on Monday.

The agreement appears to give Mr Mugabe and Mr Tsvangirai roughly equal shares of power.

In cabinet, Mr Tsvangirai’s MDC and another MDC faction will together have 16 seats, while Mr Mugabe’s Zanu-PF will have the remaining 15.

Mr Mugabe will control the armed forces, while Mr Tsvangirai will be in charge of the police.

Our correspondent says the devil will lie in the detail and in the ability of the two men and the power blocks under them to wield genuine authority.

Mbeki hails deal

Work on finalizing the agreement will continue over the weekend. Some opposition MDC voices have already called the deal a climb-down, although others have said it is the best available.

MDC chairman and Zimbabwe’s parliamentary speaker Lovemore Moyo told that although his party was pleased with the deal, it had been a compromise.

“We wanted a titular head of state with an executive prime minister but that did not happen,” he said.

“So what we got at the end of the day perhaps was probably nearly a sister-sister power-sharing, so I’m saying it’s not exactly initially what we wanted.”

Negotiations started at the end of July, but stalled over the allocation of executive power between Mr Mugabe and Mr Tsvangirai – bitter rivals for a decade.

The breakthrough came after the last four days of talks in the Zimbabwean capital, Harare.

Mr Tsvangirai was first to announce the breakthrough, telling reporters on Thursday simply: “We’ve got a deal.”

Later, Mr Mbeki told a news conference the two sides had agreed to form an inclusive government.

He said: “I am absolutely certain that the leadership of Zimbabwe is committed to implementing these agreements.”

The deal would be signed at a ceremony in Harare attended by African leaders, he said.

British concern

Zimbabwe’s envoy to the UN, Boniface Chidyausiku, told the BBC that the deal was a “triumph for African diplomacy”.

The UN special representative on Zimbabwe, Haile Menkerios, said the announcement marked a way forward that all sides could live with.

HAVE YOUR SAY

This deal will work if outsiders stop prescribing to Zimbabweans what is good or not good for them

Dzvinyangoma, Zimbabwe

Britain’s Foreign Office said it was following the situation closely, adding that “our concern is the welfare of the Zimbabwean people”.

Zimbabwe has the fastest shrinking economy in the world with annual inflation of more than 11,000,000%.

Mr Mugabe, in power since independence from Britain in 1980, won a controversial presidential run-off election in June.

He ran unopposed after Mr Tsvangirai withdrew, claiming the MDC was the target of state-sponsored violence.

In the first round of the presidential election in March, Mr Tsvangirai gained more votes than Mr Mugabe, but official results say he did not pass the 50% threshold for outright victory.

September 12, 2008

Zimbabwe rivals agree unity deal

Zimbabwe rivals agree unity deal

Zimbabwe’s opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and President Robert Mugabe have reached a deal to share power.

After mediating four days of talks in Harare, South African President Thabo Mbeki said the agreement would be signed and made public on Monday.

Mr Tsvangirai has confirmed the deal, but Mr Mugabe has yet to comment.

The government and the opposition MDC had already agreed that Mr Tsvangirai would be prime minister with Mr Mugabe staying on as president.

Negotiations have been on-off since the end of July, but have stalled over the allocation of executive power between Mr Mugabe and Mr Tsvangirai, bitter rivals for a decade.

‘Parallel governments’

Mr Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), was first to announce the breakthrough, telling reporters simply: “We’ve got a deal.”

Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai speaks during a press conference in Harare on 11 September 2008

Later, Mr Mbeki told a news conference the two sides had agreed unanimously to form an inclusive government.

He said: “I am absolutely certain that the leadership of Zimbabwe is committed to implementing these agreements.”

MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa told : “Both political parties are committed, it’s our wish that the deal will be successful.”

Zimbabwe’s envoy to the UN, Boniface Chidyausiku told that the deal was a “triumph for African diplomacy”.

The UN special representative on Zimbabwe, Haile Menkerios, said the announcement marked a way forward that all sides could live with.

Britain’s Foreign Office said it was following the situation closely, adding that “our concern is the welfare of the Zimbabwean people”.

The discussions are thought to have been deadlocked over how many ministries each party should have in a unity government, and how much power Mr Mugabe should retain.

Mr Tsvangirai has consistently demanded that he should become executive prime minister, thereby taking over some of the powers that Mr Mugabe has exercised for more than 28 years.

Mr Tsvangirai may now chair a new council of ministers and control the day-to-day running of the country, but Mr Mugabe will head the cabinet, our correspondent says.

However, how two – in effect – parallel governments will work is unclear, he adds.

Aid hopes

The agreement opens the way for international donors to help to revive Zimbabwe’s economy.

Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe arrives for the talks in Harare on 10 September 2008

It is now the fastest shrinking in the world with inflation galloping to more than 11m%.

Mr Mugabe, in power since independence from Britain in 1980, won a controversial June presidential run-off election unopposed after Mr Tsvangirai withdrew, claiming the MDC was the target of state-sponsored violence.

In the first presidential election in March, Mr Tsvangirai gained more votes than Mr Mugabe, but official results say he did not pass the 50% threshold for outright victory.

Earlier on Thursday, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said any power-sharing deal in Zimbabwe would be judged by how much it reflected legitimate election results.


Are you in Zimbabwe or do you have family or friends there? What is your reaction to the news of a power-sharing deal? Send us your comments

September 8, 2008

Mbeki bids to save Zimbabwe talks

Mbeki bids to save Zimbabwe talks

Morgan Tsvangirai

Morgan Tsvangirai said no deal was better than a bad one

South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki is due in Harare to revive Zimbabwe’s deadlocked power-sharing talks.

Both Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai claim to have won this year’s elections.

Since South Africa-brokered crisis talks broke down last month, both sides have hardened their positions.

Mr Mugabe has said he is ready to form a government alone, while Mr Tsvangirai over the weekend said there should be new elections if a deal is not reached.

South African Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa said Mr Mbeki would meet both men, as well as Arthur Mutambara, the leader of a smaller opposition faction.

‘Surrender powers’

Before talks broke down the two rivals had agreed that Mr Tsvangirai would be named prime minister while Mr Mugabe remained president, but they could not agree on how to share powers.

The MDC wanted Mr Mugabe to become a ceremonial president, while the ruling Zanu-PF party insisted he retain control of the security forces and the powers to appoint and dismiss ministers.

Robert Mugabe

Mr Mugabe has threatened to form a government without the MDC

“The issue that we are facing here is that Mugabe must accept to surrender some of his powers for the power-sharing arrangement to work,” Mr Tsvangirai told a Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) rally in Gweru, in central Zimbabwe on Sunday.

“We would rather have no deal than a bad deal,” Mr Tsvangirai said.

He also said he would not bow to pressure from Mr Mbeki, who has been acting as a mediator in the crisis.

The MDC leader gained more votes than Mr Mugabe in March elections but official results show he did not pass the 50% threshold for outright victory.

Mr Tsvangirai pulled out of the June run-off, saying some 200 of his supporters had been killed and 200,000 forced from their homes in a campaign of violence led by the army and supporters of the ruling Zanu-PF.

Zanu-PF has denied the claims and accused the MDC of both exaggerating the scale of the violence and being responsible for it.

Mr Mugabe said on Thursday that the opposition MDC had one week to agree a power-sharing deal, or he would form his own government.

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