South Africa's largest weekly newspaper wants President Mbeki to resign

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Thabo Mbeki

A front page editorial in South Africa's largest weekly newspaper, The Sunday Times, criticizes President Thabo Mbeki's "incompetent" handling of the country's ongoing anti-immigrant violence, and urges him to resign from office.

"Either he will not lead or he cannot lead. Whichever is the case, the conclusion is the same: he must go," the editorial reads. "And so we appeal to President Mbeki: Stand down in the interests of your country."

In the past two weeks, mob attacks against foreigners have spread across the capital of Johannesburg and surrounding cities. The foreigners, many of whom have come from neighboring Zimbabwe, are being blamed for South Africa's rising crime rates and job shortages.

Violence has now been reported in seven of South Africa's nine provinces. Police have reported at least 50 deaths as a result of the violence, and The Sunday Times reports that around 44,000 have been displaced from their homes. An estimated 700 people have been arrested, police say.

And so we appeal to President Mbeki: Stand down in the interests of your country.

The Sunday Times editorial

On Wednesday, Mbeki deployed the National Defence Force in an effort to quell the violent situation. This was, The Sunday Times says, "an admission that things were out of control." But the newspaper criticizes Mbeki for proceeding to go about "business as usual", by attending events such as a meeting with business leaders and the restoration of a school.

"Throughout this crisis — arguably the most grave, dark and repulsive moment in the life of our young nation — Mbeki has demonstrated that he no longer has the heart to lead," The Sunday Times says.

Although Mbeki has spoken out against the violence, he has been criticized for not visiting any of the affected areas or addressing the entire nation about the crisis. Mbeki seeks to remedy this with a nationally televised address scheduled for Sunday night.

Other calls for Mbeki's resignation have come from the Mail & Guardian newspaper and the Democratic Alliance, South Africa's main opposition party.

If Mbeki were to resign, he would be temporarily replaced by deputy president Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, until the National Assembly would meet to vote for a new president who would serve the rest of Mbeki's term.

If Mbeki doesn't resign, The Sunday Times warns that he could be dismissed with a two-thirds vote of Parliament. In this case, Mbeki's cabinet would also be forced to resign. The office of President would be held by Baleka Mbete, the Speaker of the National Assembly, until a new election was held.