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South Africa's Mbeki says no internal ANC war, but new party leader, allies indicate otherwise

South Africa's Mbeki says no internal ANC war, but new party leader, allies indicate otherwise

President Thabo Mbeki says his African National Congress party is not at war with itself, despite his dramatic ouster as party leader. But statements by the new ANC chief and his leftist allies indicate otherwise.
The most important issue at stake is management of the economy, including addressing poverty and unemployment that have not been alleviated despite an economic boom since democracy was installed and the ANC took over from the white minority government in 1994.
At an ANC convention last week, Mbeki and half his Cabinet were ousted from the party's policy-setting National Executive Committee, now packed with allies of new party president Jacob Zuma, including trade unionists and Communist Party leaders. The Communist Party and the powerful Congress of South African Trade Unions have complained for years that their voices are being ignored, despite their historic alliance with the ANC.
Both Mbeki and Zuma sought to reassure investors concerned the economy could take a left-leaning slide because of Zuma's election. Government policies would not change and Mbeki and his Cabinet would serve out their terms that expire in 2009, both men told reporters afterward.
But statements since then by the trade unions, Communist Party, and the ANC's radical Youth League that ensured Zuma's ascent, as well as Zuma himself, have raised questions.
Zuma has no role in government, but the governing party decides policies the government must follow. Details on broad-based policies set at the party convention will be finalized at an ANC National Executive Committee conference next month.
"The masses of our people ... (confirm) that the present levels of unemployment, poverty and inequality are unacceptable, and that new policies are needed," the trade unions' congress said.
Zuma said one of the many issues he will focus on in the near future is "inflation targeting" _ an integral part of Mbeki's much-lauded economic policy _ according to The Sunday Independent.
"Clearly, our main method of inflation targeting, which is hiking the interest rate, has resulted in complaints from both the top end of the financial spectrum as well as the bottom end," Zuma is quoted as saying in an interview with the newspaper. "So it stands to reason that there's some kind of problem there. ... It is something that I am going to get to."
Eight interest rate hikes in the past 18 months, bringing the interest rate to 14.5 percent, has raised costs of mortgage payments, goods bought on installment and credit cards.
The Communist Party, whose chairman Gwede Mantashe was elected ANC secretary general on the Zuma ticket last week, said, "What is needed now is much greater determination to drive forward these transformational, progressive policy perspectives" regarding "industrial policy, a strong developmental state, an accelerated land and agrarian reform program and measures to address unemployment."
Among other things, Zuma's allies have called for nationalization of some industries and speedier reforms to return lands seized for whites under the apartheid regime to blacks who are mainly subsistence farmers and farm workers.
Mantashe was quoted in the Cape Argus newspaper Sunday as dismissing fears that Mbeki's governance could be crippled by conflict with Zuma.
Mbeki himself said that while ANC members might differ about their preferred candidates "they are not at war with one another." He spoke in an interview Sunday with the state-owned South African Broadcasting Corp. in which he did acknowledge that the sight of ANC delegates shouting each other down at the conference conveyed "a bad image" to a world that closely watched developments in Africa's political and economic powerhouse.
Zuma and Mbeki apparently cannot even agree on whether Zuma is next in line to become the country's president. The ANC leader is traditionally its presidential candidate, but Zuma faces a possible corruption trial that could derail any quest to be president of the country.
Mbeki told reporters Friday that "There is nothing automatic about being president of the ANC _ you do not necessarily become the (country's presidential) candidate."
However, Independent Newspapers said it has a copy of a resolution passed at the party convention that "the ANC president shall be the candidate of the movement for president." The ANC has not lost a presidential race since apartheid ended in 1994.


Updated : 2021-04-15 22:41 GMT+08:00