South Africa’s president Thabo Mbeki resigned on Sunday, to be replaced by Kgalema Motlanthe.
However, Motlanthe is in a caretaker role for a few months until Jacob Zuma – who has already replaced Mbeki as president of the ruling ANC – is able to take over.
Zuma is seen as the candidate of the left, and has much popular support, despite accusations of corruption and his lack of any serious alternative policies.
The immediate trigger for Mbeki’s resignation was the accusation that he had attempted to interfere in Zuma’s recent trial, in which he was acquitted.
Sunday’s Observer recalled the excitement in ruling circles when Mbeki took over the presidency in 1999: “Here was the economist whose adherence to the strictures of neoliberalism would herald a decade of unprecedented economic growth. Here was a leader who could inspire a continent.”
In that sense his premature removal is a blow to the neoliberals. But Mbeki’s neoliberal policies and the ANC’s failure to challenge poverty in its 14 years in power has led to widespread anger and resistance.
For more background on South Africa go to » Anger at betrayals fuels ANC rivalry