9. May 2008

Attempts to reconcile two ANC factions

The leaders of South Africa's ruling ANC party met labour and Communist allies for a summit aimed at healing rifts that have emerged under the rule of President Thabo Mbeki.
Investors are spooked by the prospect the ANC could surrender to the left's calls for a shift away from the business-friendly policies pursued by Mbeki's government for the better part of a decade.
Zuma, who became the frontrunner to succeed Mbeki after defeating him for the ANC leadership last year, has vowed to work more closely with COSATU, the largest labour federation, and the small but influential South African Communist Party.
The three are in a formal coalition that has governed since the end of apartheid in 1994.
In a speech at the outset of a three-day summit outside Johannesburg, Zuma praised the ANC-led alliance for showing unity on a wide range of thorny political and economic problems. "We have spoken in one voice on issues facing our country and continent, be it food and fuel prices, the energy challenge or the crisis in Zimbabwe," said Zuma, cheered by labour for taking a harder line than Mbeki on Zimbabwe.
South Africa's ruling party has submitted the name of its deputy leader Kgalema Motlanthe, seen as a possible president, to become an MP.
Mr Motlanthe became the ANC's number two in December, at the same time as Jacob Zuma was elected party leader. As the ANC candidate, Mr Zuma would be the favourite to become South Africa's next president after 2009 elections.
But he faces a corruption trial in August and if convicted, Mr Motlanthe would be next in line.
The ANC wants Mr Motlanthe to become an MP, following the death of another ruling party parliamentarian. An ANC statement suggests he will be appointed to cabinet but did not specify which post he would hold. There is speculation that he could replace Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka as deputy president.
Correspondents say there are two centres of power in South Africa at the moment - allies of President Thabo Mbeki and supporters of Mr Zuma, who hold all the top ANC positions. President Mbeki steps down as president in 2009, with Mr Zuma favourite to succeed him. (Rts)


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