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South Africa Opposition Party Welcomes Possible ANC Split

South Africa's main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party reportedly says a split in the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party would be good for the country's democracy. The opposition party says it is ever ready to work with the splinter group from the ruling ANC to enhance democracy in South Africa. Archbishop Desmund Tutu also welcomed the potential split in the ANC. saying it would bolster the country's democracy.

These remarks followed threats by supporters of deposed President Thabo Mbeki to defect from the ANC claiming the former president was treated shabbily after he was forced to resign over allegations that he influenced the corruption charges against ANC leader Jacob Zuma.

Professor Shadrack Gutto is a constitutional law expert. From South Africa's capital, Pretoria he tells reporter Peter Clottey that the opposition party's remarks are purely political opportunism.

"I think that it is a sentiment that has been expressed by several analysts looking at the situation, but I don't think they all mean the same thing when they say it is good for democracy. I believe that for the opposition such as the Democratic Alliance, which has been battling to increase its share of the elections and so on and has been battling the ANC since 1994, they (DA) see the weakening of the ANC as something good, and I believe that is what is behind that statement," Gutto pointed out.

He said the opposition Democratic Alliance has not explained the rationale behind its remarks that a split in the ANC is good for South Africa's democracy.

"She (the leader of the DA Helen Zille) doesn't point out how that would be good for South Africa's democracy except that it would reduce the ANC share of the votes and therefore, dominance at local government level and provincial government level and at national level," he said.

Gutto said a splinter party from the ruling ANC could adversely affect the fortunes of the party ahead of next year's elections.

"Potentially it can because one is dealing here with splitting the party because if we take the three persons who have been in the forefront at least openly until yesterday, they have been people who have been in the struggle quite long ago when nobody would have ventured into politics. Some have been detained and imprisoned, some at Robin Island, and therefore they have very strong struggle credentials that people in the ANC cannot just dismiss them as latecomers or as opportunists," Gutto noted.

He said Mbeki loyalists in the ANC are accusing the leaders of hostility towards any dissent.

"They are really accusing the current leadership that was elected in December last year of deviating from the core values and principles of the ANC, but they are really fighting for the soul of the ANC party at this particular moment. So, that is why I'm saying for the opposition the DA it is the weakening of the ANC, but his new party may also eat into some of the opposition party support basis," he said.

Gutto said there seems to be strong indication that unity within the ruling ANC is strained.

"The ANC at this particular moment one can say that the center is not holding, and that there are cracks, very, very serious cracks within the party. And that indeed the group who wants to move out and in the press conference yesterday, they did say that they are serving the ANC divorce papers. And therefore, giving the ANC opportunity to say why they can't go ahead in trying to dissolve the marriage. So, they are saying let the ANC promise them that they are going to mend the fences, and really to be inclusive rather than try to push people out," Gutto pointed out.