Elevated to the presidency following the ANC decision in September 2008 to recall Thabo Mbeki, Kgalema Motlanthe had the distinction of receiving neither an electoral mandate nor the unequivocal support of the ruling party. Motlanthe was sworn in as South Africa's third post-apartheid president, but his seven month tenure was purposefully that of a care-taker, marking time until the president in waiting - Jacob Zuma - took office. By late 2012, Motlanthe's supporters were campaigning to challenge Zuma for the ANC presidency at the ANC's 53rd national conference in Mangaung in December 2012.
Kgalema Motlanthe was born in 1949, influenced by the Black Consciousness movement, and has long been viewed as the glue that holds the ANC's alliance with the Congress of South Africa Trade Unions (COSATU) and the South African Communist Party (SACP) together. He came from a trade unionist background and served a 10-year sentence on Robben Island along with Govan Mbeki, the current President's father, and Nelson Mandela. Motlanthe is a consummate politician who plays his cards close to his chest. Motlanthe goes to great lengths to play down his role and concentrates on efforts to build relations with the many factions that compose the ANC. Earlier in 2008 when asked if he would was interested in the country's top position, Motlanthe eschewed any possibility he would seek the post by noting he would rather run the ANC's political school -- but ended with traditional ANC formulae -- he would serve wherever the party asked him to.
South African companies reportedly were implicated in the scandal-ridden UN Iraqi oil-for-food program. The Iraqi Government under Saddam Hussein used the program to try and influence South Africa's foreign policy by giving oil contracts to ANC-aligned companies, according to a report by an independent UN commission of inquiry. Several local companies may have secured illicit contracts from Iraq under the UN oil-for-food program. Opposition Democratic Alliance Party leader Tony Leon called in 2005 for a national inquiry into the allegations. He suggested that ANC/SAG alleged involvement in the bribery scheme was reinforced by Imvume CEO and ANC insider Sandi Majali's business trip several years earlier to Iraq accompanied by ANC Secretary-General Kgalema Motlanthe and national spokesperson Smuts Ngonyama.
The ANC deputy was instrumental in 2007 in securing an agreement between the public service unions and the state when Public Service and Administration Minister Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, an Mbeki loyalist, could not come to terms with the labor movement. ANC members view Motlanthe as wise and approachable and always ready to listen to ordinary members. However, Zuma's most ardent supporters were concerned that Motlanthe's name always came up when options to Zuma are raised.
The ANC's National Executive Committee (NEC) decided on 17 March 2008 to "deploy" ANC Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe to government in order to smooth the transition from current national President Thabo Mbeki to the next administration, which presumably would be led by new ANC President Jacob Zuma.
Deputy President of the ANC, Kgalema Motlanthe, at the insistence of Zuma's supporters, was first made a member of parliament, then a Deputy President of the South African government with the portfolio of leader of Government Business. In fact, his real job was to facilitate the transition between Mbeki and Zuma. African National Congress (ANC) Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe replaceed President Thabo Mbeki on an acting basis until elections are held within seven months. Mbeki in a nationally televised speech on September 21 agreed to abide by the ANC decision to replace him and will step down after all legal and constitutional obstacles for his resignation can be met. ANC President Jacob Zuma in a September 22 press conference did not officially confirm Motlanthe would assume the presidency. However, Zuma strongly implied Motlanthe would be a good choice for acting president and would have the support of the ANC if Parliament opted to nominate the ANC deputy.
Parliament was expected to elect a new President on September 25. There is no constitutional guidance on what procedures would follow the voluntary resignation of a president, giving the ANC the chance to replace Mbeki with its own choice as approved by Parliament without calling for early elections. The ANC appears to have opted for the so-called "British model" to give the party time to unify and ease international concerns for a potential political crisis that could paralyze the government. The ANC probably would choose Motlanthe, long rumored to be the frontrunner to assume the presidency should ANC President Jacob Zuma be sidelined by legal troubles, to ease tensions between Mbeki loyalists and Zuma supporters.
Zuma was recharged with corruption, money laundering, racketeering, and fraud charges in December 2007. The Pietermaritzburg High Court on September 12 ruled the decision to recharge Zuma was invalid and perhaps politically motivated by Mbeki. The ruling, and the state's subsequent decision to appeal that decision, contributed to the ANC decision to recall Mbeki over the weekend. Motlanthe was appointed a Minister in the Presidency in order to become a second deputy president to facilitate the transition from Mbeki's to Zuma's administration and may be more palatable to more members of the ANC than other contenders such as party chairperson Baleka Mbete.
Deputy President Baleka Mbete was a longstanding member of the ANC, having served on the ANC's National Executive Committee since 1991. She had been a member of Parliament since 1994 and served on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission during the 1990s. She was Deputy Speaker of Parliament from 1996 to 2004 before becoming the Speaker of Parliament. As a former Secretary General of the ANC's Women's League she brings strong support from the organization to both the deputy presidency and to her position as National Chairperson of the ANC. Many pundits and political analysts, including columnist Patrick Laurence, were shocked when Zuma won support from the Women's League at Polokwane in 2007, but commentators say ANC officials such as Mbete played a key role in Zuma's ascension to the party presidency. Her biggest supporters in the ANC include both Zuma and Motlanthe, who reportedly view her as a compromise candidate in broader ANC power struggles and see her as a way to carry forward the mandate of gender balance within the ruling party.
Although Mbete had been the rumored frontrunner for the interim presidency, the choice of Motlanthe represented an effort to ease tensions between Mbeki loyalists and Zuma supporters. If Mbete were chosen many of the Mbeki supporters would resign or leave the party. Mbete would be a safe choice for Zuma because she reportedly has no presidential aspirations at this time, but she would come with controversy. Mbete was elected to Parliament in 1994 but she raised eyebrows within the party when she accompanied Tony Yengeni, the party's former chief whip, to prison in a show of support after he was convicted of misleading Parliament for his role in the controversial 1998 arms deal. She was also in the headlines two years ago when she chartered a private plan -- at taxpayer expense -- to attend the inauguration of Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
President Kgalema Motlanthe, the unelected "caretaker" president of South Africa, delivered his first and only State of the Nation Address at the opening of parliament on 6 February 2009. Motlanthe found himself in a unique situation as, not only is he essentially holding office for ANC President Jacob Zuma after the dismissal of former president Thabo Mbeki, he delivered the address three months ahead of a general election. Despite credible rumors that Zuma supporters within the ANC preferred that Motlanthe's speech be downgraded to a parliamentary statement rather than a presidential address, he successfully avoided overshadowing the "president in waiting" Jacob Zuma.
In ANC tradition, he was a "deployed cadre" subject to the direction of the National Executive committee which makes policy for the party. The ANC tends to conflate the party with the government and the recall of Thabo Mbeki was based on the ANC's belief that he was not acting on the behalf of the party's collective decision making process. Motlanthe's detractors are determined that he should not supplant Zuma in the nation's affections and have been blamed for media leaks about his private life which are seen as a bid to discredit him as a reasonable alternative to the legally challenged Zuma as the next president.
The National Prosecuting Authority cited official meddling in the proceedings and dropped all charges against Zuma in April 2009, relieving Zuma of this legal millstone in the last month of the campaign. South Africa on 22 April 2009 held its fourth national election since the end of apartheid in 1994. The ANC remained the strongest political party in the country and dominated the electoral scene. The ANC majority in Parliament elected Jacob Zuma to be inaugurated in Pretoria on May 9, 2009.
According to a new book authored by Ebrahim Harvey, Kgalema Motlanthe: A Political Biography, Motlanthe wanted the party to find a “political solution” to Malema and the Youth League’s misdemeanours — something Malema also pleaded for. Motlanthe thought it was wrong for the ANC disciplinary committee “to have inflicted the drastic sentence of expulsion on its own youth leader”. He added that the league’s politics of “bitterness and hatred, and a determination to hurt” President Jacob Zuma were wrong, but “discipline must not be used to vindictively get even and settle scores”. By late 2012, after having been his biggest supporter, expelled ANCYL President Julius Malema was actively pushing to remove Zuma, and was rallying behind Motlanthe.
Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe pulled a bold and surprising move: He refused to re-run for his current job. That left the mild, professorial man in an all-or-nothing position. And in the end, he got nothing. On 18 December 2012 slightly fewer than 4,000 votes were cast between the two candidates. Motlanthe won nearly 1,000 of those.
Motlanthe's efforts to downplay his political role also translated into a shielded political life. The ANC deputy is a self-confessed jazz enthusiast, according to Brown, and listens to the sounds of Duke Ellington, Phillip Miller, and Madeleine Peyroux. He lives in a gated golf community and drives a Jeep Cherokee. Motlanthe is married with three children even though it is often reported that he is single. His first wife had an affair while he was imprisoned on Robben Island, and he embraced as his own the child born out of the affair. Motlanthe filed for divorce two years ago after his romance began with businesswoman Gugu Mtshali.
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