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Tensions Threaten to Split South African Ruling Party

  • Delia Robertson

In South Africa, divisions within the ruling ANC Party appear to be growing worse; and there's a possibility some members may break away and form their own political party.

After a high level meeting Monday, the ANC released a statement criticizing those who "defy" party decisions or "engage in factional activity." Party divisions have been growing between supporters of ANC leader Jacob Zuma, who's expected to run for president next year, and former South African president Thabo Mbeki, who was asked recently by the party to step down.

VOA reporter Delia Robertson is following developments. From Johannesburg, she spoke to English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the ANC meeting between former ANC chairman Mosiuoa Lekota and party treasurer Mathews Phosa.

"Mr. Lekota has been roundly criticizing the current ANC leadership of late. He came out last week and said that he's serving divorce papers on the ANC, saying he intends to call a national consultative conference because the current leaders of the ANC have completely slipped away from the principles of the organization's founding document, the Freedom Charter, and also the national constitution. Mr. Phosa responded by saying, well, perhaps the marriage isn't quite irretrievably broken down and so the meeting," she says.

Asked about the chance of a breakaway party being formed, Robertson says, "It's looking more and more likely. In fact, if you look at the statement that was made by the ANC following the meeting where…they made it clear that people, who are members of the ANC, must stick to what the ANC says once it makes decisions and so on. And should not be…basically criticizing the party in public and all of that sort of thing. It sounds to me that there hasn't been a great meeting of the minds today during that meeting. That some of the issues Mr. Lekota has still stand."

About a week ago, Lekota issued a public letter to the ANC outlining his criticisms, including abandoning the party's core principles.

"He is referring to the principles that are expressed in the founding document. Things like equality before the law… In a press briefing last week, Mr. Lekota said with respect to that particular clause that he has serious problems with the ANC National Executive Committee calling for a political resolution to the corruption case against Mr. Zuma. Although that case is now in abeyance, it hasn't quite gone away yet. And he's saying…you can't do that. If you want a political solution in one case, then surely anybody has a right to a political solution." Zuma's corruption case is on hold due to a legal technicality.

She says that Lekota said people should respect the judicial system and go through the trial process. "If they're found not guilty, well and good. If they're found guilty, then they accept the consequences of that," she says.

Robertson says while there are sharp differences between Zuma and Mbeki supporters, others have also been concerned by harsh statements coming from some ANC officials. Some examples she gives include "the president of the ANC Youth League calling on its members to kill for Zuma. And statements from other members of the organization saying there will be no other president excepting Mr. Zuma." Others have strongly criticized the courts and judges.