22 Sep 2008

Mbeki resigns as South African leader

5:11 pm on 22 September 2008

Thabo Mbeki has formally resigned as the president of South Africa, a day after accepting a call by the governing African National Congress to resign.

In a televised address, Mr Mbeki said he had handed a resignation letter to the speaker of the National Assembly.

He said he would leave his post as soon as a new president was chosen.

The BBC reports it is not clear who will succeed him, but the ANC appears to favour the parliamentary speaker, Baleka Mbete, as acting president.

Mr Mbeki's speech followed an emergency cabinet meeting. He is stepping down before his final term expires next year.

He thanked the nation and his party, the ANC, for giving him the opportunity to serve the nation.

The ANC's decision to remove Mr Mbeki capped years of infighting sparked by his 2005 firing of Mr Zuma, the former deputy president, in a corruption scandal, and comes days after a high court judge suggested that Mr Mbeki may have interfered in the corruption case.

Mr Mbeki denied allegations that his government had interfered in the court proceedings, saying he had always defended and respected the independence and integrity of the judiciary.

Parliament is likely to meet in the coming days to formalise the resignation.

Mr Zuma is widely expected to succeed Mr Mbeki in scheduled elections next year.

The decision to call for Mr Mbeki's early resignation was taken at a meeting of the ANC's National Executive Committee.

ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said the move had followed "a long and difficult discussion".