South Africa - Motlanthe, Seeking Presidency In His Own Right

Kgalema Motlanthe has already had a taste of what it is like to be president of South Africa. Now, at 63, he wants another shot.
Born in Alexandra, a township in the north of Johannesburg, Motlanthe was catapulted to power in September 2008 when the ANC unceremoniously booted out Thabo Mbeki from the top job.

Acting in a caretaker role, Motlanthe assumed custody of the nation for less than a year until Jacob Zuma -- who ousted Mbeki as head of the African National Congress -- was elected.

Five years on since that act of political regicide, Motlanthe wants to prove he is something more than a seat warmer.

At the party's five-yearly conference being held this week, he is the man who wants to oust Zuma as ANC leader, and by extension, as president of the country.

Yet his campaign has been more of a love tap than a full frontal assault.
For months ahead of the conference Motlanthe said little about his campaign, except to say he was "agonising" over a possible run.

Even when three ANC branches backed his nomination, Motlanthe left it up to his spokesman to announce that he was in the race.

That may be a sign of the man, often described as a consensus builder who treads softly and respects party unity.

Coming from a poor working class background, he grew up in a house which he has described as "just one big room".

He attended an Anglican missionary school, one of the few places were a black child could be assured of a basic education under the apartheid regime.

It was a formative experience.

"I was an altar boy for many, many years and I think that is really what shaped one's life," he told interviewer Padraig O'Malley in 1992.

"At one point I thought I was going to become a priest actually."
Instead he played top-level soccer and worked for the Johannesburg Council, where he became involved with Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing of the ANC.

His chief task was to take recruits out of the country for training, including to Swaziland where he first met Zuma.

But when the anti-apartheid struggle deepened in the late 1970s and Umkhonto we Sizwe turned to sabotage Motlanthe's life changed drastically.

"In 1976 April, that is two months before the uprisings in Soweto, I was arrested and charged on the Terrorism Act and sentenced to a term of imprisonment of fifteen years," Motlanthe recounted in the interview.

He was charged with furthering the aims of a banned organisation, possession of explosives (TNT) and having undergone training for sabotage.

He said his years at the Robben Island prison "were the most enriching of my life, we were a community of people who ranged from the totally illiterate to people who could very easily have been professors at universities."

"We were able to read, we read all the material that came our way, took an interest in the lives of people even in the remotest corners of this world. To me those years gave meaning to life."

While giving meaning, the strains of being away from his family may have cost him his marriage.
South Africa 6177288782770547682

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