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South African President Thabo Mbeki has accepted the ruling African National Congress's request to resign, his office said on Saturday.
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South African President Thabo Mbeki has accepted the ruling African National Congress's request to resign, his office said on Saturday.
The ANC's decision to remove Mbeki, who was favored by investors for his pro-business policies, came after years of infighting sparked by his 2005 firing of then deputy president Jacob Zuma in a corruption scandal.
Last week a judge dismissed graft charges against Zuma and suggested there had been high-level political involvement in the case. The ruling spurred Zuma militants within the executive to demand Mbeki's head.
The resignation may raise political instability in Africa's economic powerhouse 14 years after its transition from the end of white minority rule, although a smooth process to replace him, and reassurances on policy, will ease fears.
"Following the decision of the National Executive Committee of the African National Congress to recall President Thabo Mbeki, the president has obliged and will step down after all constitutional requirements have been met," the presidency said in a statement.
The decision must be ratified by parliament, which should be a formality, given the ANC's two-thirds majority.
The ANC's National Executive Committee, its top decision-making body, earlier decided to recall the president.
"After a long and difficult discussion the ANC decided to recall the president before his term of office expires," ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe told a news conference.
MANUEL TO STAY
Mbeki, who has ruled South Africa since taking over from Nelson Mandela in 1999, was due to leave office in 2009.
He lost the leadership of the ANC to Zuma last year.
Zuma, popular with leftists within the party and with its trade union and communist party allies, is the frontrunner to succeed Mbeki.
It was unclear whether he would immediately step into the post. He would first have to be appointed to parliament and the cabinet.
Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka might have assumed the presidency but she has signaled she will resign with Mbeki. Cabinet ministers and the speaker of parliament follow in the succession line.
It is generally expected that parliament, which is dominated by the ANC, will elect a new president within 30 days. Baleka Mbete, speaker of parliament and a Zuma loyalist, has been mentioned as the most likely one to lead the transition.
Mantashe said the ANC would ask Mbeki's cabinet ministers, including Finance Minister Trevor Manuel -- who is widely respected by markets -- to remain in their positions in the transition period for the sake of stability.
Manuel's office told Reuters he would not step down -- a decision that should calm some investors fears.
"If you have the continuity of the cabinet staying largely intact I would not expect a major market reaction," Citigroup strategist Leon Myburgh said.
"But you will have to see how individuals react ... key decision-makers like Finance Minister Trevor Manuel will be key to how the market reacts."
Mbeki and Manuel have presided over the country's longest ever period of economic growth -- a decade.
Mbeki's presidency ended after a heated debate within the ANC executive committee over his future in the wake of allegations he had meddled in the corruption case against Zuma.
Trade unions and ANC members have accused Mbeki and his aides of plotting to smear Zuma and derail his hopes of succeeding Mbeki. The South African leader has consistently denied any involvement in the prosecution.
The decision to oust Mbeki comes just a week after one of his greatest triumphs -- mediating a power-sharing deal in neighbor Zimbabwe that should end years of political and economic crisis.
(Writing by Paul Simao and Gordon Bell; editing by Elizabeth Piper)
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