25 September 2008
The minister in the Presidency and deputy president of the African National Congress (ANC), Kgalema Motlanthe, has been elected President of South Africa, a position he will hold until the country’s next elections in 2009.
Thabo Mbeki resigned as President on Sunday after being asked to do so by the ANC’s national executive committee.
Motlanthe will now proceed to Tuynhuys in Cape Town, were he will be sworn in as President of the Republic. He is then expected to announce his deputy and new Cabinet.
Chief Justice Pius Langa announced in the National Assembly in Cape Town on Thursday that Motlanthe had won an outright majority of votes following a secret ballot by Members of Parliament to emerge as the third post-apartheid President of the country.
“In terms of item 6 of part A, schedule A of the Constitution, I declare the honourable Kgalema Motlanthe duly elected President of the Republic of South Africa,” Langa announced.
The ANC had nominated its deputy president for the position, while the Democratic Alliance had nominated its candidate Joe Seremane. Motlanthe earned 269 votes, while Seremane got 50 votes. A total of 41 ballot papers were spoilt.
In July, Motlanthe was appointed minister in the Presidency, taking over some of former Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka’s responsibilities.
In December, he was elected deputy president of the ANC at its 52nd National Conference in Polokwane, having served as the party’s secretary-general since 1997.
According to the ANC, Motlanthe was born into a working class family in Alexandra, Johannesburg on 19 July 1949, growing up in Alexandra before moving to Soweto.
In the 1970s, while working for the Johannesburg City Council, he was recruited into the ANC’s armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe, where he formed part of a unit tasked with recruitment.
The unit was later instructed to transform its function to sabotage. While some members of the unit left the country, Motlanthe and Stan Nkosi remained in the country to establish this function. Their unit was also involved in smuggling MK soldiers in and out of the country via Swaziland.
On 14 April 1976, Motlanthe and Nkosi were arrested and kept in detention at John Vorster Square in Johannesburg for 11 months. In 1977, Motlanthe was found guilty of three charges under the Terrorism Act and sentenced to an effective 10 years’ imprisonment on Robben Island.
After his release in 1987, tasked with strengthening the country’s labour union movement, Motlanthe worked for the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), and in 1992 was elected secretary-general of the union.
He was instrumental in negotiating a deal for mineworkers under which their wage increases would be pegged to productivity at a time when the gold price was low and the industry was closing marginal mines. This deal helped to avert massive retrenchments in the sector.
Motlanthe was also involved in the establishment of the Mineworkers Investment Company (MIC), which was wholly owned by the Mineworkers Investment Trust, with seed capital of R3-million. This has proven to be one of the best examples of effective economic empowerment in the country.
While in NUM he served on the Miners’ International Federation, and was involved in exchange programmes with the United Mineworkers of Australia.
When the ANC was unbanned in 1990, Motlanthe was put in charge of re-establishing the legal structures of the organisation in the Gauteng region, and was elected its first chairperson.