September 26, 2008

South Africa elects Motlanthe president

CAPETOWN, South Africa (CNN) -- South Africa's Parliament chose the deputy president of the ruling ANC party, Kgalema Motlanthe, as interim president Thursday to replace outgoing President Thabo Mbeki, the African National Congress said.

Kgalema Motlanthe would remain in office until elections in South Africa next spring.

Mbeki resigned last weekend at the request of the ANC, which holds a majority in the National Assembly.

Motlanthe, a left-leaning intellectual with roots in South African labor unions, will be sworn in Thursday. He will remain in office until the general elections, now scheduled for April.

The new interim president is a former political prisoner under the apartheid regime who spent 10 years at the infamous Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was also incarcerated.

After more than a third of the cabinet resigned after Mbeki's ouster, Motlanthe is under pressure to put together a government that will inspire confidence among investors jittery about South Africa's political stability and direction.

ANC President Jacob Zuma, who defeated Mbeki in an election for the political party's top job in December, is widely expected to win the nation's presidential contest.

Ten days after Zuma was chosen as ANC leader, prosecutors indicted him on corruption, fraud and racketeering charges.

A judge threw out the case this month, calling it invalid, and accused Mbeki's government of political interference. Prosecutors could still revive the case.

Mbeki led South Africa for nearly 10 years before announcing Saturday that he would step down.

In his speech, he listed several of his accomplishments, saying that under his leadership, the country has had the longest period of sustained economic growth in its history and has reached out to indigent people in an unprecedented way.

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