Thu Apr 17 03:23:29 SAST 2014

Why Mbeki got the chop

Mar 11, 2012 | MOIPONE MALEFANE |

ANC leaders recalled former president Thabo Mbeki because they feared dropped corruption charges against former deputy president Jacob Zuma could be reinstated.

This is contained in former director-general in the Presidency Frank Chikane's book, which reveals the series of events that culminated in the removal of Mbeki.

The book, Eight Days in September - The Removal of Thabo Mbeki (Pan Macmillan South Africa), is likely to ruffle feathers as Chikane writes that ANC national executive committee members who included Zuma, relied on the faulty judgement of Judge Chris Nicholson, which dropped corruption charges against Zuma.

The judgement suggested that there was political interference when Zuma was charged for corruption and implicated Mbeki in the alleged conspiracy.

But a unanimous Supreme Court of Appeal bench, led by deputy judge president Louis Harms, dismissed Nicholson's judgement.

In the book, Chikane says: "The more I think about and listen to those who campaigned for Mbeki's removal, the more I become convinced that his sudden, dramatic removal was not mainly about the way in which he had removed Zuma from the cabinet, but about the fact that Zuma was charged and that they believed that Mbeki was responsible.

"Mainly they feared that as long as Mbeki was president the case would be re-instituted once the procedural flaws Nicholson had referred to were corrected."

Chikane reveals that before the NEC meeting that took the decision to recall Mbeki, Zuma had a meeting with Mbeki at which he assured Mbeki that notwithstanding ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema's statements, he would be allowed to serve his full term.

Following Nicholson's judgement, Malema publicly stated that Mbeki would be recalled after the NEC meeting.

"The way Malema's words ultimately became Zuma's word as president of the ANC, raised serious concerns for many South Africans.

"More worrying is that this has become a pattern," Chikane says. He writes that between 2003 and 2010, the ANC entered the "stormiest waters" and so ran the risk of being shipwrecked.

After Polokwane, he says, Mbeki knew it would not be business as usual and he chose not to attend ANC meetings unless invited. But that left a communication gap between Luthuli House (ANC headquarters) and the Union Buildings.

"Efforts were made to step up a meeting between Mbeki and Zuma but this was not successful as meetings were irregular and infrequent.

"With the appointment of Kgalema Motlanthe as minister in the presidency (in 2008), leadership communication with Luthuli House improved but Mbeki still kept his distance from the party," Chikane recalls.

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