ANC begins debate on Mbeki future after Zuma trial


SOUTH AFRICA:SOUTH AFRICAN president Thabo Mbeki was waiting to hear last night whether the leadership of the African National Congress (ANC), the party he used to lead, would call for him to be removed from office.

The ANC's most senior members began a three-day conference in Johannesburg and top of the agenda was a debate on Mr Mbeki and his alleged links to the National Prosecuting Authority's decision to charge their leader last November. There were indications that a decision could be reached by the end of the night.

The authority decided to resurrect corruption, fraud and racketeering charges against ANC leader Jacob Zuma days after he was elected leader of the ruling party at Mr Mbeki's expense.

Mr Mbeki has been in the firing line since high court judge Chris Nicholson ruled last week that the authority's decision to prosecute Mr Zuma was invalid due to procedural mistakes.

The judge also said it was not too difficult to believe the decision to change the ANC leader was politically motivated. However, the authority has decided to appeal Mr Nicholson's ruling to the supreme court.

Yesterday Mr Mbeki denied "for the record" he had any involvement in the authority's decision to prosecute Mr Zuma, saying the "insults being hurled" by his supporters were not based on facts.

"We would like to state, for the record, that the NDPP [National Directorate of Public Prosecutions] neither met nor communicated with the president or any official in the presidency before making its determination [in relation to charging Mr Zuma]," the presidency said.

Since Mr Zuma walked free from Pietermaritzburg High Court eight days ago, his longtime supporter, ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema, has publicly called for Mr Mbeki to stand down.

It has been suggested in some quarters that criminal charges should also be brought against him.

A number of newspapers speculated how many of the ANC's 80-member National Executive Council would vote in favour of asking Mr Mbeki to stand down early before next year's general election, but views varied widely.

If the council decides to ask Mr Mbeki to stand down and he agrees, then parliament would elect a new president from one of its MPs. If he refuses to resign, then a two-thirds majority vote in parliament would be required to pass a motion ruling that he is not fit to hold office.

The lower house could also call for a vote of no confidence in the government, which means a general election has to be called.