ANC splinter group to launch new party

November 2nd, 2008 - 5:17 am ICT by IANS  

Johannesburg, Nov 2 (DPA) A breakaway group of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) said Saturday evening that it aims to launch a new political party in Bloemfontein in December.Former Gauteng premier Mbhazima Shilowa made the announcement at the conclusion of the ANC breakaway congress in Johannesburg, during which speakers accused the former liberation movement of reviving the “terrible legacy” of apartheid.

“I stand here today on behalf of this preparatory committee to say not only do we intend to tackle it (the ANC), we intend to win the next election,” Shilowa said to loud applause from around 5,000 delegates from around the country.

A name for the party would selected Sunday after input from provincial representatives, he said, according to a report by the South African news agency Sapa.

He joked that it could be called “Shikoleki”, a cobble of his name, that of former ANC chairman and defence minister Terror Lekota and former deputy defence minister Mluleki George who have been at the forefront of the dissident group.

“Let’s go out, let’s mobilise,” said Shilowa, who resigned as premier of Gauteng to throw his weight behind the movement after saying he was unhappy with the way former president Thabo Mbeki had been treated when removed as president by the party.

This was after ANC president Jacob Zuma’s corruption case was set aside and the judgment questioned the “inappropriately” close relationship between Mbeki and the National Prosecuting Authority.

Earlier, the breakaway group leader, former ANC chairman and ex-defence minister Mosiuoa Lekota, accused the party of reviving the conditions once seen under apartheid.

Lekota charged that the 96-year-old party had come to resemble the racist white regime that preceded it.

The corruption, disregard for the rule of law and divisiveness that characterised the apartheid regime was again the order of the day, he warned.

“The threat the nation faces is that we will see the reaffirming of the important elements of this terrible legacy (of apartheid) under new masters.”

The firebrand former ANC stalwart is one of a number of senior party members who have resigned from the party in order to form the rival party to be formally launched Dec 16.

Disgruntled ANC members and former members travelled from across the country to attend the convention, which is styled on the 1955 Kliptown Congress, at which the Freedom Charter, the ANC’s constitution, was drafted.

The ANC has been visibly rattled by the split. ANC youth members have tried to disrupt previous “Shikota” meetings in recent weeks but there were no spoilers at Saturday’s convention, held in Sandton business district.

The mood was festive with delegates waving tiny South African flags surging to their feet regularly to sing songs in defiance of the ANC, put to old ANC melodies.

The new party is targeting middle-class voters turned off by what they see as the populist slide of the party under Zuma.

Zuma’s youth supporters have vowed “to kill” to defend their leader from allegations of corruption while the female wing of the ANC has labelled party rebels “dogs”.

Many South Africans also disagreed with the ANC’s decision in September to axe Thabo Mbeki as president over a court inference of state interference in Zuma’s corruption case. His ouster was seen as an unnecessary settling of scores.

While the ANC is still expected to easily win the elections slated for April, the new party is seen as likely to dent the party’s more-than-two-thirds parliamentary majority.

Several opposition parties were present Sandton Saturday to witness the fragmentation of the ANC.

“People have come to new insights. That has to be welcomed,” the leader of the main opposition Democratic Alliance Helen Zille praised.

Stephen Banies, a father of four from Western Cape province, who renounced his ANC membership two weeks ago, said he did so for “a very simple reason. There is no use giving someone a drivers license if he’s blind”.

Zuma’s lack of formal education and his myriad attempts to stave off his trial on corruption charges were some of the factors that made him unfit to lead, he said.

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