Zuma: It was painful but Mbeki had to go

ANC leader holds off naming party No 2 as caretaker-president

Jacob Zuma, the ANC leader, has sought to reassure South Africans that there will be a smooth transition of power following the ousting of President Thabo Mbeki, but left them waiting to hear who will act as caretaker-president until next year's elections.

Making his first public appearance since the weekend's dramatic events, Mr Zuma said the decision to recall the sitting President had been "difficult and painful" but stressed: "It had to be taken in the interests of making the country move forward."

For the moment, however, South Africa is treading water. The ANC had been expected to name Mr Mbeki's replacement yesterday, but the announcement has now been delayed until Thursday. Parliamentary sources in Cape Town said the baton would pass to the party's No 2, Kgalema Motlanthe, and not the speaker of parliament, Baleka Mbete, as had been widely reported. But there was no confirmation from the man for whom the caretaker-president will be merely keeping the seat warm.

"We have in cabinet many experienced ministers, including the deputy president of the ANC, Kgalema Motlanthe. I'm convinced that if given that responsibility, he would be equal to the task," was all Mr Zuma would say. Sitting quietly by his side, Mr Motlanthe allowed himself a smile.

The message Mr Zuma wanted to focus on yesterday was that the game of leadership musical chairs was no cause for alarm. "There is no reason for South Africans to be apprehensive... We expect a smooth transition," he said. "We have clearly matured as a democracy and we should all be proud."

Not everyone shared that characterisation. Archbishop Desmond Tutu professed himself "deeply disturbed that the nation, the state, South Africa has been subordinated to a political party". "Why humiliate the nation's President in this fashion?" the Nobel Peace Prize-winner asked. "Our country deserves better. The way of retribution leads to a banana republic."

South Africa's newspapers were similarly concerned. A cartoon in Business Day showed Mr Zuma brandishing a chainsaw and an evil grin, with the severed head of Mr Mbeki at his feet, declaring: "Now I can get back to my work of uniting the ANC."

Helen Zille, the head of South Africa's main opposition, the Democratic Alliance, said: "Democracy will only mature when the voters put leaders out of office, not when personal vendettas decide things. The realignment of politics in South Africa is long overdue."

The South African media has reported that staunch Mbeki allies are considering breaking away and forming a new party. "The ANC is a hostile place to live at the moment if you are not part of the anti-Mbeki group," the commentator Justice Malala wrote in the South African newspaper The Times. "A whole raft of ministers are now facing the political wilderness... they all need a home."

A march is planned for Mbeki supporters on the parliament in Cape Town tomorrow, according to local media reports, and this might be the first gauge of the strength of the pro-Mbeki camp.

As yet, however , there has been no mass exodus from the cabinet, and Mr Zuma stressed that he wanted all current ministers to remain in their posts, and even promised that Mr Mbeki would "continue to be given tasks", referring to him, without any apparent irony, as "my friend and brother".

Some analysts suggested that the conciliatory tones in public from both sides and the eventual election of Mr Motlanthe as interim president could help heal the party divide. "He's a very solid person and... he always avoids wild rhetoric," said Keith Gottschalk, a political analyst at the University of the Western Cape. "He seems to also avoid making enemies and, in the present political climate, that's a good thing."

However Steven Friedman, director of the Centre for the Study of Democracy in South Africa, said choosing Mr Motlanthe would be an "extremely odd decision" given that "some people within the ANC believe he would be a better president than Mr Zuma".

He also questioned whether it was a done deal: "If that was so, why did Mr Zuma not make the announcement immediately rather than leaving everyone in limbo? We must remember that this is a party whose members spend every waking hour jockeying for power."

Voices of South Africa: The view on Zuma

"I hope the feuding in the ANC leads to a split. I don't like their two-thirds majority. We need an opposition"

Werner Cronje, 34, computer programmer

"This country could go like Zimbabwe. Zuma looks like the kind of president who doesn't like criticism and that reminds me of Mugabe"

Matilda Khawundta, 26, waitress

"They could have waited and let Mbeki serve his term. But we are a democracy, and changing presidents is very natural"

At Nel, 40, musician

"It about revenge, pure and simple. It's terrible for the ANC and I'm worried that this is going to take the country down"

Mandla Mnguni, 35, chef

Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
premier league
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
people'I hated him during those times'
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
Dame Vivienne Westwood has been raging pretty much all of her life
peopleMemoir extracts show iconic designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Life and Style
fashionAlexander Fury's Spring/Summer 2015 London Fashion Week roundup
Arts and Entertainment
Lauryn Hill performing at the O2 Brixton Academy last night
musicSinger was more than 90 minutes late on stage in Brixton show
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
people''Women's rights is too often synonymous with man-hating'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam