Capping a prolonged power struggle within the country's ruling African National Congress, South African President Thabo Mbeki on Sunday night announced his resignation but denied the charge of interfering with justice in a corruption case to nail his challenger for the top post Jacob Zuma.
In a nationally televised address, President Mbeki told the nation that he had decided to resign after he was asked to do so by the national executive committee of the ruling ANC on Saturday.
In an unemotional and measured tone, he categorically denied that he had interfered in the work of prosecutors. He said that included the painful matter of his former deputy.
Mbeki rejected firmly accusations by some members of the ruling ANC that he and the Cabinet had been responsible for the fraud and corruption prosecution of Zuma.
"Fellow South Africans, since the attainment of our freedom in 1994, we have acted consistently to respect and defend the independence of the judiciary. For this reason, our successive governments have respected all judicial decisions, including those that went against the executive," he said.
The president said the "central approach we adopted has always been to defend the judiciary rather than act in a manner that would have had a negative impact on its work".
"This applies equally to the painful matter relating to the court proceedings of the president of the ANC, Comrade Jacob Zuma. More generally I would like to assure the nation that our successive governments since 1994 have never acted in any manner intended to willfully violate the constitution and the law," he stressed.
Mbeki, 66, stressed that he had "always sought to respect the solemn oath of office of the chief justice and other judges".
"In this context, it is most unfortunate that gratuitous suggestions have been made seeking to impune the integrity of those of us who have been privileged to serve our national executive," President Mbeki said.
He thanked the ANC for giving him an opportunity to serve the people. "I would like to thank the ANC and the nation for having given me the opportunity to serve in public
He highlighted the "vision, principles and values" that guided the ANC. "This is the vision of a South Africa that is democratic, non-racial, non-sexist, and prosperous. A country in which all the people enjoy a better life," he said.
President Mbeki said during his term South Africa had made tremendous progress economically, even though there was a vast gap between the rich and poor.
"This is not the occasion to record the achievements of government. However there are few worth mentioning: They include many of the achievements in the millennium developmental goals, the empowerment of women, the decision to allow us to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup, and our election as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council two years ago," the head of state stressed.
However, Mbeki highlighted the need for greater progress to bridge the economic disparity among the people.
"Despite the economic advances, I would be the first to say that even though we achieved consistent economic growth the fruits of these positive results are still not fully and equitably shared among our people," the President said in his address.