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Motlanthe sworn- in as SA prez
Cape Town, Sept 25 (Agencies):
Published on 26 Sep. 2008 1:08 AM IST
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The deputy leader of South Africa's ruling party Kgalema Motlanthe has been sworn in as caretaker president, replacing Thabo Mbeki. Mr Motlanthe won three-quarters of the votes cast by MPs in a secret ballot in parliament in Cape Town. A veteran of the African National Congress (ANC), Mr Motlanthe said he was "deeply humbled" by the outcome. The new president is seen as a figure who can help ease tensions between supporters of Mr Mbeki and Jacob Zuma. He will serve until polls next year, when Mr Zuma, as ANC leader, is widely expected to become president. Mr Zuma is not an MP and so was not eligible to be elected president. He watched Thursday's vote from the public gallery. Mr Mbeki announced his resignation on Sunday amid claims of political interference in a corruption case against Mr Zuma. He denies the allegations but said he was stepping down in the interests of party unity, as the ANC leadership said it was recalling him. There were loud cheers in the national assembly as the chief justice announced that Mr Motlanthe had secured 269 of 360 votes cast. His challenger, Joe Seremane, of the opposition Democratic Alliance, got just 50 votes in a parliament heavily-dominated by the ANC. However, there were 41 spoiled papers, suggesting a protest by some parliamentarians, the BBC's Southern Africa correspondent Peter Biles says. One of Mr Motlanthe's tasks will be to ensure a smooth political transition given the talk of feuding and divisions within the ANC, our correspondent adds. In his first speech as president, Mr Motlanthe vowed that the country's economic policies would not change, and that he would intensify efforts to create more jobs. "In a turbulent global economy, we will remain true to the policies that have kept South Africa steady, and that have ensured sustained growth," he said. Mr Motlanthe is a long-serving member of the party hierarchy and a man generally seen as a safe pair of hands, our correspondent says. During the apartheid years, he was imprisoned on Robben Island along with Nelson Mandela. After his release in 1987, he became a top official of the National Union of Mineworkers and then the ANC, although he only became an MP in May this year. Mr Mbeki had been invited to attend the parliamentary session, but declined. Earlier, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe described Mr Mbeki's resignation as "devastating". Mr Mbeki was the key mediator during months of negotiations that recently led to a power-sharing agreement in Zimbabwe. "It's devastating news that President Mbeki is no longer president... but that is the action of the South African people," he was quoted as saying by Zimbabwe's state-run Herald newspaper. "Who are we to judge them? But it is very disturbing." It is not clear whether Mr Mbeki will continue with his role. Mr Mbeki's departure led to a flurry of resignations from the cabinet and caused uncertainty on the markets. The widely-respected Finance Minister Trevor Manuel was among 11 cabinet ministers who resigned, but he has said he would be happy to serve a new president. Corruption charges against Mr Zuma were thrown out by a court earlier this month on a legal technicality. It remains unclear whether they will be pressed for a third time. His supporters have long claimed that a series of charges against him were part of a plot to stop him becoming president

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