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Motlanthe greeted with relief, but South Africa’s problems are not over

September 26, 2008

Kgalema Motlanthe takes the oath of office as South Africa’s president in Cape TownSouth Africans have widely greeted new President Kgalema Motlanthe, many of them with a sense of relief after the bitter and divisive power struggle between his ousted predecessor Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma, leader of the ruling African National Congress.

Motlanthe, quiet spoken and dignified, struck exactly the note the public were looking for when he took office, sober but smiling gently – a huge contrast to the theatrical ebullience of Zuma and the aloof, intellectual style of Mbeki, who was seen as arrogant and out of touch with his people.

The sense of relief was palpable on Friday.

“Motlanthe restores order” said the front page headline of Johannesburg’s Star newspaper, over a picture of the new president swearing the oath of office. “New leader steers SA to calm,” said the Pretoria News. “For now the country has at its head a nice and largely untainted man with not much ego who doesn’t think he knows everything and who listens to people. You can almost feel the relief in the republic,” Business Day said in an editorial.

But Motlanthe’s honeymoon may not last.

He must try to end an unprecedented battle inside the ANC while his country, Africa’s biggest economy, faces serious stresses including record inflation, slowing growth and a power supply crisis that has hit vital platinum and gold mines. Yet, he has little room for manoeuvre. Although fully accepted as the third president since the end of apartheid, he is seen only as an interim leader, holding the fort until Zuma takes over after elections expected around April next year.

This will make it difficult even to make a mark, without arousing suspicions that he wants the permanent job himself–something that many South Africans would welcome.

Ironically this suspicion, if allowed to grow amongst Zuma’s militant allies within the party, could create new divisions instead of allowing Motlanthe to do the job for which he has mainly been elected — gluing back together the once monolithic ANC which is now torn by rifts that have distracted policy makers from addressing huge economic and social problems including persistent and widespread black poverty, an AIDS epidemic and rampant crime.

He has promised to stick with the economic policies of Mbeki, who presided over South Africa’s longest period of growth, but is already under pressure from Zuma’s leftist allies to shift policy away from protecting investors and towards rapidly spreading the fruits of black rule. On Friday, his first day in office, the powerful COSATU trade union confederation called on him to eradicate policy and create jobs.

Can Motlanthe make a difference and end South Africa’s instability? Could he eventually dislodge Zuma to become the next president? Or will he just leave problems untouched until the election? What do you think?


Unfortunately, for him he comes ionto office with a lot of heavy-lifting to do. But difficulties break some men, and make others. There is nothing left but to do the heavy-lifting. I am sure he will rise up to the occasion.


Comrade montlanty wil steer south africa to a right direction

Posted by Jacob | Report as abusive

Motlanthe appears to be the safest bet. If Zuma is a pragmatic politician, he can leave motlanthe run the show but he , Zuma, remains the kingmaker to ensure that the people’s demands are met.

Posted by victor | Report as abusive

I do not agree that many South African’s will prefer Motlanthe. It would be rather unfortunate for him to start nursing ambitions for the high office. The people of South Africa want Zuma. The arrogance displayed by the likes of Sexwale, Ramaphosa and Phosa in removing Thabo Mbeki is not forgotten!!! Awuleth’umshini wami

Posted by Bobo | Report as abusive

This article is misinformed about South Africa.It is distorting facts.Surfice to say it also pretends that success are based on an individual.The premise equates our democracy to other countries which is not true.We want Zuma, and the breakaway group democratically lost in our National Conference.We are still here as ANC and there are no divisions in the Party.

Posted by Gcaleka | Report as abusive

I think the polices of the Government is very good,according to President Kgalema Motlanthe,They are prepared many plannes for the good result of there economy.


I would like to ask the following questions to President Kgalema Motlanthe. these questions were tackled on South Africa’s new political debate show:

Do we have double standards on crime? Is there one law for the rich and powerful, and another for the poor? Is zero tolerance the answer? Should Jackie Selebi be fired whilst he faces the law?

Watch THE BIG DEBATE tomorrow at 9pm on the eNews Channel, with Minister of Safety & Security Nathi Mthethwa, opposition parties, business and labour.

I agree with Prof. Adam Habib we all need to “smack all the politicians heads together” for playing politics over the crime issue. Also interesting on the show, was hearing Soweto’s criminals talking openly about their crimes, since they feel they have nothing to lose.

You can also watch THE BIG DEBATE online:

Visit to watch our previous episodes on Zimbabwe and on the Elections and to leave your comments.


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