Mar 17, 2012

Eight days in September - The removal of Thabo Mbeki, by Frank Chikane

Product Description:
A riveting, behind-the-scenes account of the removal of Thabo Mbeki as President of South Africa, which examines the build-up to events, describes the details of those seven days in September 2008 and explores Mbeki's legacy. "Seven days in September" refers to the seven-day period in September 2008 when Thabo Mbeki was removed from office as the President of South Africa. At the time, Frank Chikane was Secretary of Cabinet and Head (Director-General) of the Presidency and in that capacity he was responsible for managing the transition from Mbeki to Kgalema Motlanthe and then on to Jacob Zuma. He thus had a front row seat to the unfolding drama and was one of very few insiders to be party to the transition in such a unique way. In July 2010 Chikane published a series of articles with Independent Newspapers that came to be known as the "Chikane Files". These form the basis of some of the content of this book (about a quarter of the book's total contents), which Chikane says he feels compelled to tell from his perspective in an effort to provide an insider's account of this key historical period.

Author: Frank Chikane
Publisher: Picador Africa
ISBN: 9781770102217

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The following extract from the book is provided courtesy of Pan Macmillan SA
(sourced from

It was after midnight of Friday, 19 September 2008 – to be precise, just before 1.00 a.m. on Saturday – when the first text messages began to come through: ‘the NEC has decided to recall Mbeki as president of the country’.

(Note: NEC is the National Executive Committee of the African National Congress ANC)

Another said that ANC officials had been appointed to visit Mbeki immediately, that night, to inform him of the NEC decision.

Other text messages kept coming from NEC members in Esselen Park celebrating that they had won and that Mbeki was to be removed or else expressing concern over the consequences of the NEC decision.

Some text messages came from journalists who wanted more information and responses.

Yet others came from concerned ANC members who were not at Esselen Park and some came from concerned South Africans.

If you monitored cyberspace during those early hours of that fateful day you could have written a prize-winning drama. This cyberspace record would have given us the totality of what happened and the feelings of those involved.

Earlier on that critical Friday, reports emanated from the meeting telling of tough debates, lasting into the early hours of Saturday morning.

The voices of reason which pleaded that Mbeki be allowed to complete his term, perhaps bringing the election date forward, were drowned out by the angry voices of the night. Even the proposal that he should be allowed a month or so to complete some of his critical commitments of state was shot down.

Among these commitments was a United Nations (UN) meeting the following week to consider the Millennium Development Goals.

Another was the African Diaspora Conference, scheduled for 7–10 October 2008, which would bring together African leaders on the continent and those in the Diaspora, in line with an African Union (AU) resolution.

The Permanent Representatives Committee (PRC) of the AU meeting scheduled for 24 September 2008 to prepare for the Africa Diaspora Conference was also postponed.

In the end, the ngoko (‘now!’) chorus won the day.

Calls also began to come through from Mbeki’s advisers asking what they should do.

Advocate Mojanku Gumbi, the president’s legal adviser, was among the first to call and we discussed what the presidency needed to do. Her second call concerned a message from the staff at Mahlamba Ndlopfu, saying that they had been asked to wake the president as a delegation from the ANC was coming to inform him about the NEC decision.

Presumably the thinking was – as a matter of courtesy – that he should learn about the decision from the party, not from the media or third parties, but we believed he should not be woken.

Advocate Gumbi and I would be at Mahlamba Ndlopfu early in the morning to inform him about the impending visit. We instructed the staff accordingly and made arrangements with the ANC to send their delegation at about 9.00 a.m., by which time we thought the president would be ready to start his day.

Advocate Gumbi and I agreed that she (together with the legal unit in the presidency) would review all the legal issues related to the decision and advise how the government would handle the matter – a procedure dependent on the nature of the decision, which we would only hear officially from the delegation later that morning.

At the forefront of our thinking was how to preserve Mbeki’s legacy, particularly his African Renaissance vision and programme, his extensive attempts to end conflicts on the African continent and create the peace necessary for its development, and his leadership in the development of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM).

There was also the AU project of bringing together African leaders on the continent and those in the diaspora, a project close to Mbeki’s heart. Nothing should be done to affect negatively this legacy, which no one could take away from Mbeki.

The next conversation, covering much the same ground, was with Trevor Fowler, the chief operations officer and accounting officer in the presidency, who was my second-in-command.

Fowler, who had been a member of parliament and a speaker of the Gauteng Provincial Legislature for a number of years, focused on what needed to be done in relation to the executive and parliament.

We agreed on several possible ways of handling the situation, which we would discuss with the president when we met him.

At about 3.30 a.m. we completed our preparations for the events that would unfold later in the day.

The above extract was provided courtesy of Pan Macmillan South Africa.

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About the author:
Frank Chikane  is currently a Pastor of the Apostolic Faith Mission of SA (AFM) in Naledi, Soweto, the President of the AFM International, and is involved in business, including offering an advisory service to companies that do business on the African continent.