NNESBURG (AFP) - Eleven key members of South Africa's cabinet have resigned following President Thabo Mbeki's decision to step down under pressure from his party, the presidency said Tuesday.
Widely respected Finance Minister Trevor Manuel, seen by investors as vital to the country's stable economy and impressive growth, is one of the ministers who handed in his resignation.
But Manuel's spokesman also made it clear that he was ready to serve the new administration.
"All the ministers have expressed their availability to assist the incoming administration in the hand-over process and any other assistance that might be sought from them."
Eleven cabinet members including Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, who spearheaded a turnaround of the country's AIDS policies, and Local Government Minister Sydney Mufamadi, a key negotiator in the Zimbabwe crisis, will step down.
The others include: Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota, Minister in the Presidency, Essop Pahad, Intelligence Minister Ronnie Kasrils, Correctional Services Minister Nconde Balfour, Public Enterprises Minister Alec Erwin, Science Minister Mosibudi Mangena, Public Works Minister Thoko Didiza and Administration Minister Geraldine Fraser Moloketi.
The deputy ministers for foreign affairs, Aziz Pahad, finance Jabu Moleketi and correctional services Loretta Jacobus will also leave their posts.
These cabinet members occupied some of the most important portfolios in the 31-member cabinet, which includes the president and his deputy.
Their decision to step down comes after Mbeki bowed to pressure from the ANC to tender his resignation in what the opposition has termed the settling of political scores.
Mbeki is believed to have asked cabinet members to stay put in the interests of stability, and analysts had said the country would not face a crisis if the transition was well managed and government ministers did not abandon ship.
ANC Treasurer General Mathews Phosa said Sunday that the party was not planning to oust Mbeki loyalists in cabinet, and wanted them to stay in place.
"No, we want them to stay. We are very happy if they stay and we do these things together. We really want stability and we want them to stay."
Zuma said the decision to recall Mbeki had been "one of the most difficult decisions" taken by the ANC national executive in the party's history.
Meanwhile, South African lawmakers rubberstamped President Thabo Mbeki's resignation Tuesday, as he attempts to mend his bruised reputation from charges he interfered in the prosecution of rival Jacob Zuma.
The ANC-dominated parliament voted overwhelmingly in favour of effecting Mbeki's resignation from Thursday, Sept 25, with only 10 votes against the motion.
African National Congress Deputy Chief Kgalema Motlanthe was named as the party's candidate to take over as head of state. Parliament will on Thursday vote on his election, and he will be sworn in later in the day.
Mbeki attempted to salvage his reputation in the Constitutional Court, as he challenged a court ruling, which he says cost him his job as president.
In a Sept 12 ruling, judge Chris Nicholson dismissed a corruption case against Mbeki's political rival Jacob Zuma, hinting that Mbeki had interfered in the decision to prosecute his foe.
"It is unfair and unjust for me to be judged and condemned on the basis of the findings in the Zuma matter," said Mbeki in his application. "The interests of justice, in my respectful submission would demand that the matter be rectified," he added.
"These adverse findings have led to my being recalled by my political party, the ANC " a request I have acceded to as a committed and loyal member of the ANC for the past 52 years," Mbeki said.
"I fear that if not rectified, I might suffer further prejudice," he added. The court ruling that was to prove Mbeki's final downfall found that the executive might have interfered in the decision to prosecute the ANC chief. "I am not convinced that the applicant (Zuma) was incorrect in averring political meddling in his prosecution," said Nicholson.
He was ruling on an application by the state to strike out sections of an affidavit filed by Zuma's legal team that insinuated political interference in the decision to charge him.
Mbeki had been increasingly at loggerheads with his party, which split into two camps behind him and Zuma, after deciding to run for a third term as party president at a crunch ANC conference in December last year.
Zuma toppled him as chief at the conference, and is the frontrunner to be president after elections in April 2009.
The ruling throwing out corruption charges against Zuma led to a week of heavy political debate, and a lengthy meeting by the ANC executive who decided on Saturday to "recall" Mbeki in the interests of party unity.
When announcing his resignation in a live address on Sunday, Mbeki denied he had " compromised the right of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to decide whom it should prosecute and not prosecute."
Following Mbeki's resignation, Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Minister in the Presidency Essop Pahad, and Science Minister Mosibudi Mangena have also tendered their resignations.
Motlanthe, who will take over from Thursday as president, is considered a key ANC strategist who has appealed to supporters of both Mbeki and the outgoing president's rival Jacob Zuma.