South African parliament elects Motlanthe as president
Friday, 26 September 2008

AFP, CAPE TOWN - South Africa's parliament on Thursday elected Kgalema Motlanthe as the nation's third post-apartheid president, after the dramatic ouster of Thabo Mbeki by his own party.

The ruling party's second in command won 269 of the 360 votes cast, Chief Justice of the constitutional court Pius Langa said.
 
"I accordingly declare the honourable Kgalema Motlanthe the duly elected president of the republic of South Africa," he told the house, which erupted in cheers and applause.
 
Motlanthe will guide the country toward elections next year while aiming to bridge the gaping divide within the ruling African National Congress (ANC) as the nation comes to grips with its worst political crisis since the end of apartheid in 1994.
 
Motlanthe, known as a level-headed presence in the ANC, is set to be sworn in later in the afternoon.
 
He will have to build bridges between supporters of the fallen Mbeki and the ANC president Jacob Zuma, whose bitter political wrangling led Mbeki to resign last weekend.
 
Motlanthe attended Mbeki's last cabinet meeting Wednesday, trying to send a message of continuity within the government after a third of the county's top leaders, including the country's deputy president, resigned in solidarity.
 
While it is expected that seven will stay on in the new administration, several others have said they are not willing to.
 
Zuma, who in December 2007 replaced Mbeki as ANC leader, has downplayed concerns that the political turmoil has plunged the country into crisis.
 
"There is no problem, the situation is under control, there must be no panic," he said on e-tv news Wednesday.
 
As party leader, Zuma is widely expected to be voted into the country's top office in elections next year.
 
Mbeki bowed to a call to resign from the presidency following a damning court ruling that hinted he was instrumental in a decision to prosecute his longtime rival Zuma, whom he fired as the country's deputy president in 2005.
 
He has denied the allegations and is appealing that aspect of the ruling in a bid to clear his name from the insinuation of judicial meddling.
 
In a farewell letter to his cabinet published Thursday in The Star newspaper, Mbeki said he had accepted the ANC's decision in the interests of South Africa and without "resistance or rancour."
 
The sudden end to Mbeki's nine-year administration leaves an embarrassing stain on the legacy of the man who succeeded anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela.
 
The political turmoil has rattled the economy, with currency markets shaken by the decision of the widely-respected finance minister, Trevor Manuel, to resign with the other top officials.
 
Manuel's spokesman later made it clear that he was ready to serve the new administration.
 
Zuma said the decision to recall Mbeki had been "one of the most painful and difficult decisions" taken in the party's history.
 
The outgoing president had been increasingly at loggerheads with his party, which split into two camps behind him and Zuma when he made his failed bid to run for a third term as party president at a crunch ANC conference last year.

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