x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

South African finance minister resigns

South Africa's respected finance minister and others quit following the resignation of President Thabo Mbeki.

Supporters of the South African president Thabo Mbeki demonstrate outside the South African parliament against his resignation.
Supporters of the South African president Thabo Mbeki demonstrate outside the South African parliament against his resignation.

CAPE TOWN // South Africa's respected finance minister and other top Cabinet ministers have quit following the resignation of President Thabo Mbeki, the president's office said today. Trevor Manuel's departure was a potentially devastating blow for the economic stability of Africa's most powerful nation, and for the new administration expected to take over on Thursday. Mr Manuel and his deputy minster Jabu Moleketi, who directed government planning for the 2010 World Cup, handed in their resignations in a letter to Mr Mbeki, the president's office said.

Mr Manuel has been finance minister for 11 years and is credited with helping the country achieve macroeconomic stability and growth rates topping 5 per cent per year. The announcement came after South Africa's ruling party, which ousted President Thabo Mbeki over the weekend, said today its moderate and conciliatory deputy leader Kgalema Motlanthe would take over as interim head of state. The nation's deputy president, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, will also quit now that Mr Mbeki has resigned, her spokesman said today as parliament formally accepted his resignation.

The leadership changes follow a tense power struggle within the African National Congress (ANC) between Mr Mbeki and the party's populist leader, Jacob Zuma. Mr Zuma is likely to win the presidency in next year's elections given the party's popularity and despite his being tainted by corruption allegations. Until then, Mr Motlanthe will be the president so that Mr Zuma can be elected with "a fresh mandate", the ANC spokeswoman Jessie Duarte told radio 702. Mr Motlanthe is widely seen as a conciliatory figure. Born in 1949, he was influenced by the anti-apartheid Black Consciousness Movement of Steve Biko, who was killed by police in 1977.

Mr Motlanthe was detained during student protests in 1976, and arrested again the next year and sentenced to 10 years at Robben Island prison. Upon his release, he joined the National Union of Mineworkers. Recently, Mr Motlanthe's close ties to the Zuma camp were strained after he publicly rebuked militant Zuma supporters for threatening to "kill" opponents. *AP