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14 top officials resign in S. Africa

The office of ousted South African President Thabo Mbeki announced Tuesday that his deputy president, 10 Cabinet ministers and three deputy ministers were resigning, an exodus that sent tremors through the markets of Africa's biggest economy and stoked fears of a political crisis.

Most worries were mitigated by afternoon, when the ruling African National Congress announced that several of those who had quit — including Finance Minister Trevor Manuel, who is viewed as a rudder of South Africa's steady economy — did so as a formality and were willing to serve under an interim president to be sworn in Thursday.

The assurances caused the South African rand and stock market to rebound from the drop that followed the announcement that one-third of the Cabinet was leaving. But the resignations underscored the deep schism within the ANC, which asked Mbeki to resign this weekend after a court ruling suggested he had plotted to have his rival, ANC leader Jacob Zuma, charged with corruption.

The ANC had said it was trying to persuade all Cabinet members to stay on. Nine of 10 of the ministers who tendered resignations are ANC members, most viewed as loyal to Mbeki.

At a hastily called news conference Tuesday, ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe insisted that the resignations would not provoke a crisis and that “the process of governance will continue as normal.”

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