The South African ruling party's decision to suspend a
former defense minister for threatening to form a breakaway opposition party
ahead of next year's general elections has reportedly plunged the party deeper
into instability. The African National Congress (ANC) Monday night decided to suspend
Mosiuoa Lekota after the former minister met with a leading member of the
party, which Lekota described as unable to bridge differences.
party's National Working Committee reportedly said it would also suspend other
dissidents who support Lekota's view, adding that it would not allow its
structures to be used for purposes of undermining and betraying the
organization. Lekota has accused the ANC of betraying its principles and said
followers of ANC leader Jacob Zuma have hijacked the ruling party.
South African political
analyst Somadoda Fikeni tells reporter Peter Clottey from the capital, Pretoria
that the visible divisions within the ANC have gone well beyond dissent.
"This move was expected. The
ANC is trying to assert its discipline, but is quite cautious not to expel
Lekota at this stage so that there is still recourse for reconciliation. And it
is quite a dilemma for the ANC because many of its members in different
branches, which they didn't expect to follow Lekota, seem to be following him.
And this in itself has caused a bit of panic -- hence the more reconciliatory
stance from the ANC, as well as trying to persuade Bazi Mshilowa, the premier
of South Africa's richest province, who resigned in the wake of Mbeki's
resignation or being recalled from his position," Fikeni noted.
said the visible divisions within the rank and file of the ruling ANC party
could potentially hurt the party.
"I do think that the kinds
of deep divisions and bitterness within the ANC have gone beyond a mere fact of
dissent, which is an indication of vibrant democracy and debate within a party
into a factionalism which is indicating that there would be a breakaway group
that would form a party," he said.
Fikeni said the chances of
healing the deep-seated divisions within the ANC are slim.
"I don't think there is any
room left now. The public spats and the bitter exchanges do indicate that the
breakaway is inevitable. It is a matter of time after the convention itself
that you would have a new party being announced, and besides the background to
this split is the kinds of divisions that have been plaguing the ANC since the
expulsion of Jacob Zuma in 2005 from government. And as such, these divisions
were not attended to, so they festered into factionalism of a very deep kind,
manifesting themselves in the provinces, in the local municipalities, and in
different congresses that are linked to the ANC. So at this stage, it is
unlikely that you would have any magic of trying to reverse that trend," Fikeni
He said efforts by the
leader of the ruling party to call upon deposed President Thabo Mbeki to help
with the ANC efforts in next April's general election might not have an impact
on healing the party.
"It came a little too late
because after savage attacks from the ANC Youth League and from the alliance partners,
no one seems to have come to Mbeki's rescue," he said.
political observers meanwhile say a splinter group would represent the biggest
split in the formerly monolithic ruling ANC, Africa's oldest political party,
in 50 years. But they add that a new
group would be able to struggle to secure enough funding and get organized
ahead of next year's general elections.