Sunday, May 25, 2008

Mbeki Must Resign, Africa's Biggest Paper Says

South African President Thabo Mbeki must resign because he has failed the nation during a two-week spate of anti-immigrant violence that has necessitated the deployment of the army, the Sunday Times, Africa's biggest newspaper, said in an editorial.

At least 50 immigrants have been killed and more than 20,000 made homeless by the violence that started in the northern Johannesburg suburb of Alexandra on May 11 and then spread across the country, according to the police. Mbeki didn't order the army's deployment until May 21 and is yet to interrupt his official program, which included trips to Mozambique and Tanzania. He will address the country later today.

``Throughout this crisis -- arguably the most grave, dark and repulsive moment in the life of our young nation -- Mbeki has demonstrated he no longer has the heart to lead,'' the Johannesburg-based newspaper said on its front page. ``He has shown himself to be not only uncaring but utterly incompetent.''

Mbeki, in power since 1999, lost control of the ruling African National Congress in December when he was defeated in his bid for a third term as head of the party by Jacob Zuma. He has attracted criticism for his uncritical policy toward Zimbabwe, his questioning of the cause of AIDS and his conduct ahead of the arrest of Jackie Selebi, a political ally and head of South Africa's police.

Under his tenure, the government also delayed a decision on constructing new power plants, causing an electricity shortage that may last until at least 2012.

``The Sunday Times should go and make a presentation in its wisdom to the ANC, which deployed President Mbeki,'' Mukoni Ratshitanga, Mbeki's spokesman, said in an interview from his mobile phone. Mbeki will make a televised address to the nation at 6:50 p.m. local time, he said.

Tiyanhi Rikhotso, a spokesman for the ANC, referred queries to ANC spokeswoman, Jessie Duarte. Duarte didn't answer a call made to her mobile phone, which didn't offer the option to leave a message.

A flood of mainly illegal immigrants has entered South Africa over the last few years as Zimbabwe's economy collapsed. The country, with a population of 48.5 million, now has about 3 million Zimbabwean immigrants as well as other Africans from countries including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique and Somalia. Those immigrants compete for jobs and scarce housing in a country where one in four is unemployed.

If Mbeki resigned, the country would be run by Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka until a parliamentary vote could be held to appoint someone to serve out the rest of Mbeki's term, which ends next year. While Zuma is not a member of parliament his deputy in the ANC, Kgalema Motlanthe, was appointed as a lawmaker last week.

The Sunday's Times call follows a similar editorial in the smaller Mail & Guardian newspaper on May 23. The Democratic Alliance, South Africa's biggest opposition party, has also called for Mbeki to step down.

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