Wednesday, September 24, 2008

South Africa's Government Crisis

From Reuters:

More than a third of South Africa's cabinet stepped down on Tuesday after President Thabo Mbeki resigned, deepening the biggest political crisis since the end of apartheid.

The list of resignations included respected Finance Minister Trevor Manuel, immediately shaking markets, but they recovered when his office said he was ready to serve under a new president.

The resignation of 10 ministers and the deputy president out of a cabinet of 30 followed Mbeki's decision on Sunday to step down after his ruling African National Congress withdrew its support.

The demise of Mbeki was the climax of a long and bitter battle with Jacob Zuma -- who toppled him as ANC leader in December -- which has seriously split the formerly monolithic party.

Parliament is expected to appoint deputy ANC leader Kgalema Motlanthe as interim president on Thursday until a general election next year which Zuma is widely expected to win.

Mbeki's resignation followed accusations of meddling in a long running graft case against his rival.

Treasury spokeswoman Thoraya Pandy said Manuel had "resigned as a member of the cabinet and felt duty bound to do so as he served at the pleasure of the president, and President Mbeki had resigned.

"However, the minister has indicated a strong willingness to assist and to serve the new administration in whatever capacity they may ask of him."

The rand, which had tumbled on first news that Manuel was stepping down, regained its losses. The Top-40 index of blue-chip stocks also recovered most ground lost after the resignations were first announced.
I was not the greatest fan of Mbeki; his AIDS denialism did neither him nor his country any favor. But global warming and a global economic downturn are going to hit Africa particularly hard, and South Africa is the closest thing Africa has to a solid, stable regional leader to lead them through these crises. If its own leadership is in turmoil...

(Then again, I'm not exactly pleased by his successor's Zuma's legal situation, either. )

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