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South Africa Ruling Party Leader Calls For Unity Amid Potential Split

The leader of South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC) is calling for unity among the party's rank and file after several members loyal to deposed President Thabo Mbeki resigned. Some political analysts see Jacob Zuma's unity call as a last attempt to reconcile the party after visible divisions within the party threatens to split the party. The ANC also denied a report that some of its senior officials may push for an early general election aiming to undermine plans by Mbeki loyalists to form a breakaway group.

Some observers say although the ANC still enjoys political mileage from its fight against apartheid, some South Africans have become increasingly frustrated with party power struggles that have reportedly overshadowed the crucial issues of poverty and crime.

From the capital, Pretoria, political analyst Somadoda Fikeni tells reporter Peter Clottey that the splinter group has set up November possibly to come up with a new political party.

"It was a speech by ANC President Jacob Zuma where he was trying to reassure people and also trying to discourage those who want to leave the ANC. But this morning, the ANC also held a press conference where they were outlining what essentially would be the process for their preparation for election, but also discouraging people from leaving. But on the other side, we hear more and more names of leaders of the provinces and leaders in the region resigning to join the effort of Lekota and the convention that they are planning for the second of November," Fikeni noted.

He said it would be a Herculean task to heal the deep rift that is almost certain to divide the ruling ANC party.

"It seems to be too late now from the exchange of words and from the fact that people are resigning to join this party. It doesn't look like there is much room for reconciliation because some of the leaders have been suspended. They would be facing disciplinary actions, and I'm sure to pre-empt that, they simply resign," he said.

Fikeni said the possible new splinter group from the ANC might want to show they are more in tune with the core values of the ruling party.

"Definitely, how they have positioned themselves, they claim that it is the current leadership of the ANC that has deviated from the ANC values and traditions and the master blueprint, Duetchman, which is the freedom charter. Therefore, I think the battle in the next election between the breakaway and the existing leadership of the ANC would be for the custodianship of the ANC history and traditions, and trying to say who is more authentic. But in terms of policy or ideology, I don't think they would differ," Fikeni pointed out.

He said the leadership of the ANC didn't anticipate the ensuing rebellion after President Thabo Mbeki was forced to resign.

"Certainly this has stunned the ANC. They never calculated on this when they actually recalled President Thabo Mbeki that you would have such a widespread rebellion, and as such they are still seeing more and more people leaving. And I can imagine that some of the people, who would be left out of the least processes and some of those who might feel they might not have a future because they supported Mbeki may actually pre-empt that process by simply leaving the party," he said.

Fikeni said although the ANC is facing a possible split, it might still win next year's general election.

"So, the ANC is a shaken party at the moment. But it is still a very strong party that stands to win the next election. The question is whether they will still maintain their 70 or 69 percent win come next year's elections," Fikeni pointed out.