Mbeki's campaign for more G8 aid to Africa is hit by struggle over his scandal-ridden deputy

President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, who is trying to convince G8 leaders that more aid to Africa will not be pilfered by the continent's corrupt rulers, is facing the toughest decision of his presidency: what to do with his own embattled deputy, Jacob Zuma.

Mr Zuma has refused to resign after a South African court last week imposed a 15-year jail sentence on a businessman accused of paying him more than £100,000 in exchange for business favours. Not only has Mr Mbeki so far refused to fire his deputy, straight after the verdict he named Mr Zuma as his stand-in while he went to Chile.

The South African leader has diligently lobbied G8 leaders to back Tony Blair's project for rich countries to fork out another $25bn in annual aid to Africa. The Prime Minister's initiative rests on the assumption that Africa has developed the capacity to absorb huge amounts of aid without it being lost to the continent's legendary corruption.

As leader of Africa's largest economy and most stable state, many say, Mr Mbeki must show that corruption will not be tolerated, helping to still the many critics of Mr Blair's plan in G8 countries. But firing Mr Zuma risks a split in the ruling ANC.

"Few people would choose to be Deputy President Zuma right now. But fewer still would want to be in the position of President Mbeki," wrote one political analyst, Vukani Mde.

Unlike the intellectual Mr Mbeki, who is considered aloof and cold by the party rank and file, the charming Mr Zuma commands grassroots support in the ANC. Although he has no formal education, he is a skilled negotiator, brokering a deal that ended widespread violence in KwaZulu Natal and saved the country's first free elections in 1994.

In line with ANC tradition, Mr Zuma was seen as the automatic successor to Mr Mbeki when the President's term ends in 2008, and his supporters insist they will fight any attempt to block his succession. The South African Communist Party and the Congress of South African Trade Unions, Mr Mbeki's partners in his ruling tripartite alliance, have declared unconditional support for his deputy.

The influential ANC youth league has gone even further, attacking the integrity of the judge in the corruption case. Hillary Squires, a former justice minister under the Ian Smith regime in UDI-era Rhodesia, was described as an "old, white apartheid judge" recruited in a "shady scheme" to block Mr Zuma's ascent to the presidency.

Even Nelson Mandela has come out in support of the Deputy President, after Mr Zuma paid what was described as a "courtesy call" on the country's most revered figure.

Dismayed speculation in the press - Business Day said it was "one of the worst calls of his long political life" - had it that Mr Mandela was seeking to preserve ANC unity above all. But there is no doubt that Mr Zuma has succeeded in a charm offensive to reinforce his support in the party and complicate any decision to fire him.

Even commentators who oppose Mr Mbeki strongly have acknowledged his dilemma. "If Mbeki were to act as swiftly as many are demanding, he could cause an almighty rumpus in the ANC," wrote the usually anti-Mbeki Citizen newspaper in an editorial. "Therefore we expect a slow, methodical exit for Zuma. But he must go or Mbeki's legacy as Africa's leading light will be ruined."

Instead of firing Mr Zuma tomorrow, as some reports are speculating, sources say Mr Mbeki might seek first to mobilise support within the party. Whether he can do that before the G8 summit at Gleneagles next month is another matter.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003