Mzansi Afrika

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Thursday, June 23, 2005

The new deputy president

As Minister of Minerals & Energy Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka established a reputation for efficiency and hard work. She also gained praise for her understanding of industry, the economy and excellent negotiating skills. However, despite being considered a strong candidate for her new post, Mlambo-Ngcuka has been appointed against a backdrop of political controversy and tension within the ruling ANC party. Her appointment as Deputy President comes as the result of the axing of her predecessor, Jacob Zuma, who had become embroiled in allegations of corruption. Zuma was subsequently charged on two accounts of corruption by the National Prosecuting Authority in June 2005.

As Deputy President, Jacob Zuma had built up a strong following and support base within the ANC, particularly among the left wing members of the ruling alliance including Cosatu and the SACP. He was also, significantly, the ANC Youth League's chosen candidate to one day succeed President Thabo Mbeki. Zuma's dismissal, and the build up to the event has been responsible for much tension within the ANC and their alliance partners despite their public show of unity. It was Mlambo-Ngcuka's husband, Bulelani Ngcuka, former head of the National Prosecuting Authority, who said in 2003 that there was a prima facie case of corruption against Jacob Zuma, an investigation that was ultimately to lead to Zuma's downfall. Mlambo-Ngcula enters the Deputy Presidency without particularly strong following or constituency within the ANC and will have to contend with potentially difficult political fallout from Zuma's supporters.

Analysts have also pointed out that Mlambo-Ngcuka comes into office with the unresolved baggage of "Oilgate" hanging over her head, this is a potentially wide-ranging corruption scandal involving political party funding and influence-peddling. Allegations have been made in Parliament that her brother, Bonga Mlambo, was the recipient of a payment of R50 000 made by Sandi Majali, CEO of Imvume, the company who allegedly channeled funds from the state funded oil company PetroSA into the ANC’s election coffers last year. Mlambo-Ngcuka, as Minerals and Energy minister, exercised oversight over PetroSA.

Nevertheless, her appointment has been generally welcomed by the business sector and by opposition parties, and has been seen a positive move in the direction of gender equality. She has proven herself as a competent member of Cabinet who manages to deal successfully with challenges, and has implemented the complicated negotiations regarding the Mining Charter. One of the areas President Mbeki emphasises at present is the capacity to deliver – and she deserves a good rating on that score.

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