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Vol 49 No 4

Published 15th February 2008

South Africa

Divided House in Cape Town

Policy splits deepen within the governing ANC as Thabo Mbeki starts his last full year as the country's President

Pomp, ceremony, fashion parades and backslapping are the usual accompaniments to the state-of-the-nation address with which President Thabo Mbeki opens a session of South Africa's parliament. This time, on 8 February, the mood was sombre and the subsequent party, where journalists, diplomats and politicians once smooched late into the night, was cancelled. Several sobering national crises would have made that inappropriate. There might even have been a power-cut. Since African National Congress members rejected Mbeki as leader of the ANC at its national conference in December, it has seemed that the conflicting demands of Mbeki's and Jacob Zuma's supporters could paralyse the government, especially if economic conditions deteriorate. The ANC contains two centres of power, one around Zuma as head of the party, the other around Mbeki as head of state and government.

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