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Breakaway ANC Faction to Form New South African Party

The new South African Democratic Congress will be led by a former defense minister Mosioua Lekota and former Mbhazima Shilowa, supporters of former President Thabo Mbeki. During Saturday and Sunday’s national ANC conference, Lekota and Shilowa led 6,400 party delegates in a rebellion against the ruling party.

The new party is expected to contest elections, due in the first half of 2009, and leaders of the new group said that they wanted to be in the government after next year’s polls.

“We have decided on this name (South African Democratic Congress) and we are busy registering the name … it embraces all the people of South Africa,” party spokesman Mbulelo Ncedana said, according to Reuters.

A split has emerged in the ANC after Jacob Zuma — Mbeki’s former deputy who has faced corruption claims and other controversies — roundly defeated his former mentor for the party’s leadership post in December 2007. Mbeki’s nine-year tenure as president was cut short after the ANC ordered him to quit amid a struggle among ANC supporters over Zuma and Mbeki and allegations that Mbeki tried to smear his rival.

Mbeki announced his resignation in September 2007. He has not been formally linked to the new party.

In a news conference, Shilowa denied reports that Mbeki was a silent partner in the new party’s negotiations, but expressed his respect for the former leader.

“Thabo Mbeki, just like former leaders of the ANC, is not our enemy. Some, if not many, of the people who go with us revere Thabo Mbeki,” Shilowa said, according to the Los Angeles Times.

New party members said during the weekend’s contentious convention they are frustrated with the ANC’s recent leadership.

“Dissidents repeatedly described the party they once loved as now being authoritarian, hypocritical and corrupt,” the New York Times reported. “Leaders at the convention predicted a stream to defections — and victory for their group in elections next year.”

Since the end of apartheid in South Africa, the ANC has won all three elections with decided support. Shilowa said he hopes his party will continue to build support but also projected its creation will be the start of similar efforts to destabilize the ANC on both local and national levels.

“We are starting on the basis that we want to become the next government, in the provinces and nationally,” he told reporters.

Opposition party leader Helen Zille, head of the Democratic Alliance, said, “The once proud liberation movement has lost its way,” and hinted that a broad anti-ANC coalition was possible, the New York Times reported.

Still, Zuma expressed no anxiety over political contention. The party leader told supporters in Soweto that the new party may come with strong ties to the opposition.

“Even before the divorce has concluded they have now announced that they will be getting married to the Democratic Alliance and other opposition parties to form a coalition,” he said, according to the Times.

“The ANC is still the party it was in the old days,” Zuma told the rally, according to the BBC. “We are going to win the upcoming election with an overwhelming majority, as we have done in previous years.”

How much power the new party will amass is yet to be seen, but its creation is already beginning to change the political discourse of the country with both the ANC and the new SADC saying they are prepared for candid debates until next year’s election.

“We are ready for a debate,” Zuma said. “Not to debate anger, to debate issues,” he said, according to Bloomberg news.

Shilowa told reporters the SADC will be launched Monday and formally established on Dec. 16 in Bloemfontein, where the ANC was formed in 1912.

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