|June 14, 2005
Minister of Minerals promoted first female Deputy President
President Thabo Mbeki has sworn in Mrs Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Minister of Minerals and Energy, as the first female Deputy President in the country’s history. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka who has the reputation of being a tough manager has started her professional carrier as a teacher in KwaZulu/Natal, later moved to Cape Town and was involved in a number of welfare NGOs. Elected to Parliament in 1994, she became Deputy Minister in the Department of Trade and Industry in 1996, Member of the National Executive Committee of the African National Congress in 1997 and Minister of Minerals and Energy in 1999.
The nomination of a new Deputy President of the Republic followed the axing by President Mbeki of his longstanding Deputy Jacob Zuma, ahead of a special joint session of parliament that was dealing with Zuma's former financial adviser Schabir Shaik. The latter had been found guilty of corruption and fraud by a Durban High Court ruling that had also implicated Zuma, saying the relationship between the pair was corrupt, hence sparking calls for Zuma to resign.
Speaking to the special joint session of parliament, Mbeki emphasized that South Africa's 11-year-old democracy would uphold the rule of law, and that not even the popular Zuma would be beyond the law's reach. ''I have come to the conclusion that the circumstances dictate that in the interest of the honourable deputy president, the government, our young democratic system, and our country, it would be best to release the honourable Jacob Zuma from his responsibilities as deputy president of the republic and member of the Cabinet," Mbeki announced.
Jacob Zuma himself accepted the President’s decision but stressed his innocence of graft and insisted he had been tried unfairly by the media. By reading a statement to journalists an hour after having been sacked, he said that he believed that Mbeki had taken that decision not because he was guilty of any crime, but because of considerations relating to the constraints within which government operates. "As stated before let me reiterate that my conscience is clear. I have not committed any crime against the state or the people of South Africa. I however still maintain that I have been treated extremely unfairly throughout the entire debacle for about half a decade. I have been tried by the media and in effect found guilty by a court in absentia. I have not been given an opportunity in any appropriate forum to defend myself against the allegations made," Zuma emphasised.
(Business Day, Mail&Guardian / Johannesburg)