Zuma Should Step Down If Asked to, South Africa’s Mbeki Says

South African President Jacob Zuma should do the “honorable” thing by stepping down if citizens and the ruling African National Congress ask him to do so, the nation’s former leader Thabo Mbeki said.

Mbeki, who was defeated by Zuma in 2007 in an election for the ANC’s top post and then ousted a year later as the nation’s president, told London-based Channel 4 News that corruption within the government is undermining South Africa and the vision of leaders such as Nelson Mandela, who died on Dec. 5 at the age of 95.

Zuma, 71, was booed by a crowd of thousands attending a memorial service on Dec. 10 for Mandela, while Mbeki was cheered. Zuma became president in 2009 just weeks after prosecutors dropped charges against him for allegedly taking bribes from arms dealers.

The Johannesburg-based Mail & Guardian reported last month that a draft report by the nation’s corruption ombudsman found Zuma personally benefited from a state-funded upgrade of his home that cost more than 200 million rand ($19 million). The ANC has denied that Zuma was involved in any wrongdoing relating to spending on his home in Nkandla in KwaZulu-Natal province.

Mbeki, who stepped down as president of the country at the request of the ANC in 2008, said Zuma should do the same if asked to.

ANC Votes

“I would hope that if similar circumstances arose and confronted President Zuma that he himself would not think of himself, but think about the country, the people, what would be in the interest of the people,” Mbeki said. “That would be the honorable way to respond.”

The Johannesburg-based Sunday Times said today 51 percent of registered ANC voters in a survey it commissioned think Zuma should resign because of the scandal surrounding Nkandla. Thirty-four percent of those polled said they were less likely to vote for the ANC next year, according to the newspaper, which didn’t give details of the size of the survey sample or margin of error.

Mbeki said ANC members will continue to be inspired by the vision of Mandela, the nation’s first black president who was buried at Qunu in the Eastern Cape province today, and won’t allow the party to lose its way.

“There is sufficient of those within the ANC to be able to, at some point, to act in a way that intervenes in a decisive manner to make sure the ANC doesn’t go astray,” he said.

Mbeki said that South Africans are becoming fed up with rising corruption.

“When they see this corruption in the country, which seems to be increasing at all levels of government, the people are aggrieved,” he said.

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