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Unity Within South Africa’s Ruling Party Questioned


Some Supporters of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) party are urging more dialogue to heal the party from divisions that they say could potentially hurt the party in the future. This comes after the leadership of the party and its left-wing allies reportedly said Sunday that they had overcome cracks, which emerged over calls for state President Thabo Mbeki to quit after he was accused of failing to tackle problems facing his administration. The ANC rejected the calls saying President Mbeki was not to blame for all the problems in the country. Adams Habib is a South African political analyst. From Johannesburg, he tells reporter Peter Clottey that there seems to be deep divisions within the ANC than the party wants to publicly admit.

“I don’t think we should be surprised. I think it’s worthwhile bearing in mind that the ANC alliance is unlikely to want to rock the boat so close to an election. Remember, we are about a year away from formal elections and from a new party. So, I think what they have resolved is that let Thabo Mbeki continue to try and resolve the problems as far as they emerge, but to really concentrate on winning this election and then governing from 2009,” Habib noted.

He said there are still divisions within the ruling ANC party.

“I think for now, the main division within the ANC lies within, I think, predominantly Mbeki and predominantly Jacob Zuma camp. We are likely to see that division predominate until the 2009 election. I think there is sufficiently enough within the Zuma camp to unite them. There is enough consensus on at least generic policy to be able to allow them to coalesce as a coherent unit, at least until 2009,” he said.

Habib said the divisions within the Zuma camp would unravel after the general election.

“The divisions within the Zuma camp would begin to emerge after the 2009 election when the imperatives of governance are going to force them to make detailed choices. But for now, the divisions are between the Mbeki and Zuma camp, and that division, I think that they would try to downplay for at least the next 12 months in part because we are moving to an election period, and they do not want to get detracted around this question,” Habib pointed out.

He said there seems to be a unifying factor around some of the problems facing the country.

“There has been sufficient consensus around issues like the food crisis and how to address that. They rejected by the way … the eskom increases, which government is on record as supporting. They have urgently asked the government to intervene in the SABC (South African Broadcasting Corporation) board crisis. So, all of these things suggest that for now the divisions with the Mbeki and Zuma camps continue to dominate even though the alliance would like to play it down,” he said.

Habib said the ruling party and its allies would rally around Chairman Zuma in his possible corruption trial in August.

“There are a couple of quick things that the alliance decided that they want to do. I think what they made very clear is that they are going to back Jacob Zuma for the presidency and they would be supporting him in his court case. And so we are likely in August to see a coherent alliance response to Jacob Zuma’s court case in that period. In the coming weeks there has to be some intervention to address the crisis in the SABC and to address the electricity crisis. The crisis in the SABC, the electricity crisis and the implications of that and the pending mass actions around the food crisis that COSATU (Congress of South African Trade Unions) has called, of all of that could really elevate and heighten the tension in the country. But it is unlikely to derail the alliance or bring the divisions to a boiling point now,” Habib pointed out.

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