South Africa's ruling
party has suspended a former chairman who is threatening to form a breakaway
group. The African National Congress, or ANC, has announced the suspension of
Mosiuoa Lekota, a former South African defense minister, late Monday. ANC chief
Jacob Zuma says the party will not tolerate members who promote factionalism,
warning that "history has been unkind" to those who left the party.
Lekota is a supporter of former South African President Thabo Mbeki, who was
forced to resign this month under pressure from ANC leaders and Zuma
supporters. Lekota announced last Wednesday that he and his supporters were
"serving divorce papers" on the ANC and warned of a possible split in
the party. Lekota accused the ANC leadership of promoting tribalism and turning
their backs on democratic traditions.
Tensions within the ANC have been high for months because of the political
conflict between Zuma and former president Mbeki. The rivalry goes back to
2005, when Mr. Mbeki fired Zuma as South Africa's deputy president because of a
corruption scandal. Zuma later defeated Mr. Mbeki in the ANC's leadership
election last year. Then, party leaders successfully pressured Mr. Mbeki to
Zuma and his supporters acted after a judge
accused Mr. Mbeki of interfering in the corruption case against Zuma. The judge
also dismissed the charges against Zuma on technical grounds. The move could
clear the way for Zuma to serve as South Africa's president if the ANC wins
elections next April as expected. However, it remains unclear whether the
National Prosecuting Authority will re-file corruption charges against Zuma.
those closely watching developments within the ANC is Helen Zille, head of the
opposition Democratic Alliance Party or DA. From Cape Town, she spoke to VOA
English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the divisions within
South Africa's ruling party and the criticisms made by former party chairman Mosiuoa
"For South African
democracy, it is a positive set of developments. It is very important that we
don't have one, all-powerful, ruling party with centralized control. And that
is why the breaking up of the ANC is important in the development of our
democracy," she said.
In a statement, Zille said,
"We share Mosiuoa Lekota's rejection of resurgent tribalism in the ANC." She
explains to VOA.
"What I mean by that is that
the Zulu people are tending to support Mr. Jacob Zuma and Xhosa speaking people
are tending to oppose…Zuma. And that is a resurgence of more an ethnic
solidarity than we've had before," she said.
Asked whether she's happy to
see a split in the ruling party, the leader of the DA said, "I go from the
point of departure what is best for South Africa. And the biggest risk to an
emerging democracy that is trying to come out of a period of authoritarian rule
is single party domination."
Zille said that such a
situation has existed in neighboring Zimbabwe, which has led to the collapse of
that country's economy. "We want a multi-party democracy in South Africa. We
want part to be able to change hands through the ballot box and we're in the
process, in fact, of establishing a multi-party systems here."
She said that Lekota is
indeed in the process of forming a breakaway opposition party, but adds that
won't affect the Democratic Alliance. "He's trying to be more ANC than the ANC.
He's not going to appeal to opposition voters. He's going to appeal to
disaffected ANC voters. I think over the next five years, we will come together
and we will establish one broad-based non-racial party that stands for the open
opportunity-driven society instead of the closed patronage-driven society of
the ANC," she said.
she form an alliance with Lekota? She said, "We're committed to forming
coalitions after the elections (in April) with every party that we can to keep
the ANC below 50 percent of the vote and ensuring that they don't govern