May 19 2008 at 07:59AM
The ANC has rebuffed a call by treasurer-general Mathews Phosa for an early election to replace President Thabo Mbeki's government with the ANC's new guard under Jacob Zuma.
On Sunday, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe described Phosa's appeal as "an individual position".
Phosa's call follows Zuma's rise to power at the Polokwane conference, where Mbeki lost the party presidency.
Mbeki's term as president of the country ends in 2009.
Addressing the SA National Editors Forum during the weekend, Phosa said an early election was the best solution to deal with the frictions within the party.
"We are a year away from an election, and the bringing forward of the date for such an election would make for a speedier, less painful and more productive solution to a number of challenges facing us," he said, stressing that it was not about personalities, but service delivery.
Mantashe said an early exit for Mbeki would not be discussed at today's meeting of the ANC's national working committee (NWC).
"It is an individual view," he said.
"The ANC has a clear position on the matter."
At their recent summit, the ANC and its alliance partners decided Mbeki's rule should not be terminated prematurely.
However, the SA Communist Party brought forward a motion that Mbeki should go.
At the end of the summit, Mantashe told the media that the partners had opted not to blame anyone for the country's problems, but to address them.
Mbeki would not be required to "take an instruction" from the alliance on how to solve the problems, he said.
But the ANC, the alliance and the government would put mechanisms in place to allow consultation on key issues.
It is understood that Tokyo Sexwale, a member of the ANC national executive committee (NEC), expressed concern that as long as Mbeki was the head of state, tensions would remain.
Former Limpopo premier Ngoako Ramatlhodi is apparently also in favour of Mbeki being released early.
On Saturday night, Phosa - who, along with Sexwale and ANC stalwart-turned-businessman Cyril Ramaphosa, was accused of plotting to overthrow Mbeki in 2001 - made clear his desire for Mbeki to leave as soon as possible.
Phosa stressed that the country was crying out for "strong leadership and for leaders to set aside all issues, personal and egotistical, and move forward".
"The leader of the executive has lost the confidence of his party, partly because of the view that he seems to have lost touch with the aspirations of the majority of that part of the electorate who supports the ANC," he said.
"Remedies" to resolve the unhealthy stalemate, said Phosa, included that Mbeki resign, that he is removed "through any number of means" or through the calling of an early election.
"Such a solution will create improved opportunities for delivery following the urgent priorities set at the Polokwane conference," he said.
"It would also speed up institutional transformation and give the voters an earlier opportunity to express their views about alternative political agendas presented to them."
One of the signs of tension was Mbeki's apparent stalling on the appointment of party deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe to his cabinet, as requested by the ANC.
Motlanthe was due to be sworn in as an MP tomorrow, paving his way to the executive.
Motlanthe risked his political reputation by publicly defending Zuma after he was sacked as the country's deputy president following allegations of corruption.
Motlanthe is a former trade unionist who has support across the alliance.
Many in the ANC describe him as an independent thinker who is not afraid to speak his mind.
On Sunday, Mantashe said Motlanthe's deployment was, however, not linked to the current calls on Mbeki to step down.
The issue of his deployment was also not on the agenda for today's NWC meeting, which he said was a regular meeting to prepare for next weekend's NEC meeting.
It is, however, understood that the issue of Motlanthe's position has raised considerable concern among the party leadership and will be brought up at the NEC meeting.