South Africa’s top law enforcement official has accused three of the countries most powerful businessmen of plotting to oust President Thabo Mbeki.
Safety and Security Minister Steve Tshwete said the government was investigating plots to remove Mbeki from power.
The investigation focused on Cyril Ramaphosa, Mathews Phosa and Tokyo Sexwale. All three are senior members of the ruling African National Congress who have been known to harbour ambitions to be president.
All have recently left government and become powerful businessmen.
Phosa said the accusation insulted South Africans’ intelligence.
In a TV interview, Mbeki said some businessmen were secretly funding challengers within the ANC.
"It’s a conspiratorial thing," Mbeki said "The best way of dealing with the matter is to have open debate about everything, including the presidency. Because once you start a conspiratorial thing, you are implanting a destructive process."
Ramaphosa, who helped lead the negotiations that ended apartheid, was once considered Mbeki’s top rival for the presidency. He retired as secretary-general of the ANC to run several powerful businesses.
Phosa was premier of the Mpumalanga province before going into business. Sexwale had been imprisoned for 13 years on Robben Island by the apartheid regime. After the end of white minority rule in 1994, he became premier of Gauteng, the province that includes Johannesburg. He, too, left politics for business.