April 29 and 30, 2001

South Africa: Mbeki controversy


Sunday newspapers took this week's controversy about an alleged plot by political rivals to overthrow President Thabo Mbeki further this weekend, with some also reporting emerging challenges to his deputy.

The Johannesburg-published Sunday Times front page lead covered crisis management talks by the ANC and inside published the documents in which former African National Congress Youth League leader James Nkambule made the plot allegations. The documents implicated former politicians turned businessmen Cyril Ramaphosa, Tokyo Sexwale and Mathews Phosa. The newspaper said it published the documents because it was in the public's interest to know the allegations but stressed it did not authenticate the claims. The first document, a four-page "Report to the President" was penned by Nkambule in October last year who said he faxed it to the National Intelligence Agency. The second document, an affidavit by Nkambule, was made to police in Pretoria on Tuesday. The paper reported that Safety and Security Minister Steve Tshwete had ordered tighter security measures to be put in place around Mbeki.

The Sunday Independent front page report went under the headlines "Plot set up real threat to Mbeki" and "Anger at public mauling of three senior ANC leaders has backfired against the president and his followers." The Independent's editorial "Time to move on Tshwete", called for the minister to be sanctioned for his actions. "It is also good news that an open challenge to the president is at least possible. Democracy is starting to kick in a dramatic way," the paper wrote. It called for debate on the relationship between the ruling party and the state. Under what circumstances was it justified to use the state security resources to counter a physical threat to the president, the paper questioned.

City Press columnist and popular national radio broadcaster Tim Modise under the headline, "Blurring of the line between party and state went too far", also followed the same line. He said it was time for the ANC to transform itself from a movement with a loosely defined culture and discipline to a party that differentiates itself from the state and expels leaders it no longer wants.

The Afrikaans Sunday newspaper, Rapport led its main edition with a report that top ANC leaders and officials in the Presidency were meeting through the weekend on initiatives to defuse the crisis. It reported one proposal had been to issue a joint statement by Mbeki and the three alleged conspirators. In its editorial, the newspaper said it was up to Mbeki to act decisively.

The City Press's front page story said that candidates lobbying for the position of deputy president had started in several provinces and named front-runners as ANC national chairman Mosioua Lekota and Eastern Cape premier Makhenkesi Stofile. Sowetan Sunday World's editorial said Tshwete's revelation of a plot to oust Mbeki was unwise.

Former South African president Nelson Mandela gave a vote of confidence to embattled President Thabo Mbeki in London. "Thabo Mbeki is a remarkable man, he is intelligent, very bright, alert, hard working - he is the driving force between the present government," he told the BBC. "I will gladly support him for the second term." Asked to comment on rumours of a plot by rivals within the ruling African National Congress (ANC) to challenge the president, Mandela reiterated his confidence in the three accused men. "Until there is concrete and credible evidence to the contary, I will continue to hold Cyril Ramaphosa, Tokyo Sexwale and Mathews Phosa in high esteem," he said. Mandela added that Ramaphosa "would be one of the right people to lead South Africa" should the businessman decide one day to run for president. South Africa's first black president added that the ANC had never been as strong as it was today. Mandela is in London on a four-day visit to take part in celebrations marking the seventh anniversary of the end of apartheid in South Africa. He was to attend Sunday a "Freedom Day" concert in Trafalgar Square, where the South African embassy is located. REM, Atomic Kitten and the Corrs were among the groups billed to play at the concert (South African Press Agency)
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