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Ramaphosa able to lead South Africa, says Mandela

2001-04-29 20:40

Johannesburg - Former President Nelson Mandela on Sunday renewed his support for Cyril Ramaphosa, Tokyo Sexwale and Mathews Phosa, who were named in a probe of an alleged plot against President Thabo Mbeki, adding that Ramaphosa could lead the country.

In London for a concert marking seven years of democratic rule in South Africa, Mandela said there was no political crisis in the country and he had full confidence in the men named by Safety and Security Minister Steve Tshwete on Tuesday.

The Sunday Times published the documents that triggered the police inquiry into the alleged plot to oust Mbeki by purporting to link him to the 1993 murder of a key rival.

The newspaper said an October 2000 report to Mbeki and a sworn affidavit given to police on Tuesday had led Tshwete to announce on national television that Mbeki's life could be at risk as a result of a plot by senior members of the African National Congress.

Tshwete named the former ANC secretary-general (Ramaphosa) and two former provincial premiers (Sexwale and Phosa) in a Xhosa news bulletin, but did not repeat their names in later broadcasts.

However, Mandela said on Sunday that he did not believe they were involved in a plot against Mbeki, whom he called a remarkable man worthy of a second term as president.

'In high esteem'

"Until there is concrete and credible evidence I will continue to hold Cyril Ramaphosa, Tokyo Sexwale and Mathews Phosa in high esteem," he said.

"Ramaphosa has been the architect of the modern South Africa ... He would be one of the right people to lead South Africa," he added.

The three black businessmen have denied plotting to oust or harm Mbeki.

Ramaphosa, 48, led the ANC negotiating team in handover negotiations with the former government, headed the Constitutional Assembly that set rules for democracy, served as secretary-general of the ANC and was narrowly beaten by Mbeki in the race to become Mandela's deputy in 1994.

He is currently chairperson of companies including the Johnnic Industrial Corporation and Times Media publishing group.

In the two documents, suspended ANC official James Nkambule says Phosa, a former ANC constitutional law adviser and provincial premier, called an October meeting to plan a campaign to discredit Mbeki.

He says part of the plan was for Janusz Walus, one of two white right-wingers serving life terms for the 1993 murder of revered Communist Party leader Chris Hani, to name Mbeki as a co-conspirator and say he provided the gun.

When he died, Hani was Mbeki's key rival to become deputy president under Mandela following the first democratic elections the following year.

Zwelinzima Vavi, leader of the powerful Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), called for an apology to the three men on Sunday, but softened his criticism of the probe.

Vavi said the fact that Tshwete named the men only once indicated that he had erred and said the minister should apologise to them and their families.

Months of speculation and leaks

Several newspapers and opposition leaders have said Tshwete should resign or be fired.

Vavi, who on Friday said the authorities' handling of the alleged plot made South Africa look "like a banana republic" said it was important to investigate, adding in a television interview: "There are allegations that the people concerned may be plotting against the president in a manner that is out of bounds, outside the norms and regulations that are provided in the ANC constitution or in the national constitution."

He said the probe had followed months of speculation and leaks about a possible successor to Mbeki, whose aloof and authoritarian style has angered many in the party.

"It is creating such a negative environment that we will find suddenly nobody is trusting anybody. We think that that environment is a recipe for disaster in the future," Vavi said.

Many political analysts have said Mbeki authorised revelation of the alleged plot in hopes of crushing an internal revolt against his controversial leadership.

The Sunday Independent said in an editorial that the ploy had backfired spectacularly and that Mbeki had fuelled rather than ended discussion about a successor.

"The ANC is likely to be the ruling party for the foreseeable future, but it is overwhelmingly good news that the spell of fear and silence surrounding discussion of the presidency for most of the past 22 months has been broken for good," the newspaper said. - Reuters