Sunday, September 21, 2008

South Africa Moves To The Left, As President Mbeki Ousted

South African president Thabo Mbeki was essentially kicked out of office today by his own African National Congress ( ANC) Party.

This leaves a major power vacuum in the country, as his Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka is also resigning. Under South Africa's constitution, she'd normally be next in line.

The ANC is by far the dominant party in South Africa, and this the final act of a long standing contest between Mbeki and Jacob Zuma, who ousted Mbeki as ANC party leader last december in a contest that was largely seen as a referendum between the two.

What happened is that the ANC's 86-member National Executive Committee ordered Mbeki to quit at a meeting in Johannesburg, eight days after a High Court judge suggested Mbeki pressured prosecutors to pursue corruption charges against Zuma.

Zuma, like Mbecki is an old ANC hand and was Mbecki's deputy president until Mbeki fired him in 2005 after a scandal surfaced that Zuma's adviser Schabir Shaik tried to solicit a bribe for him in connection with contracts for South Africa's navy. Shaik took the fall for his boss, was convicted of bribery and sentenced to 15 years in jail.

Charges against Zuma were dropped after High Court Judge Chris Nicholson invalidated them last week on a technicality, saying prosecutors didn't follow proper procedures and that the case may have been politically motivated. There was no attempt to find out whether Zuma actually did takes the alleged bribes.

After the government decided to appeal, the ANC acted quickly to prot4ect its leader and booted Mbecki out.

Zuma has the backing of his Zulu tribe, the labor unions and the communists, who are a large political factor in the country.Before they took power, the ANC was a communist organization backed by the Soviets, and while they have their ownparties, there are still a lot of them within the ANC.

Mbecki's biggest headaches aside from his feud with Zuma were South Africa's spiking crime rate, an out-of-control AIDS epidemic and general instability in the economy, all of which affected foreign investment and the country's standard of living.

Mbecki left crime and AIDS alone, but attempted to privatize parts of the economy, which ticked off the unions and the rank and file marxists in his own party.

Adding to the uncertainty is the question of who takes over now.As the ANC leader, Jacob Zuma would noramlyy take over, and the ANC has already nominated him to succeed Mbeki. But he can't take over the presidency until elections, which are supposed to happen next year, because he isn't in parliament right now.

What will probably go down is that the ANC will appoint a caretaker president until Zuma can take over.

This isn't the first time turf wars between factions in the ANC have paralyzed South Africa.

In any event, once Zuma takes over, look for South Africas to veer leftward.It remains to be seen whether Zuma can get control over the country's deep seated problems.

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