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South Africa to Get New Political Party

About 6,000 delegates at a national convention in South Africa have resolved to establish a new political party next month. But as VOA's Delia Robertson reports from the convention, the name of the new party will only be known next week.

The co-convenor of the convention and former premier of Gauteng Province, Mbhazima Shilowa received thunderous applause when he announced the decision.

"So we are no more debating whether or not there shall be a new political formation," Shilowa said. "We have taken that decision. "We are no more debating whether or not we are going to launch that party. We are going to launch it on the 16th [of December] in the Free State."

As other speakers before him noted, Shilowa said many delegates who resigned from the ruling African National Congress to join the new movement have paid a price for doing so.

"Many of you too have taken a conscious decision that says we are leaving the African national congress," Shilowa said. "Some of you have done it at great cost to yourselves - insults, vilification, name calling, disruption of your meetings, threats - but you said we have taken a decision, we have joined [the ANC] freely, we are going to leave freely, the constitution allows us to do so."

Organizers of the event had planned for four-thousand delegates, but demand was so high they registered more than six thousand. And despite their appeals that people should not arrive without a confirmed registration, thousands more came anyway, forcing organizers to set up large outdoor television screens in a sports stadium to accommodate the overflow.

Late Saturday, many of those were partying and celebrating in the streets of nearby suburbs.

The conference was billed as an event in support of democracy and most speakers referred to examples of how they see the ruling ANC subverting the institutions of democracy for personal gain. Even so, organizers urged delegates not to get bogged down with resentment and anger and instead focus on how they can change things in the future.

But it was clear they know it is the ANC they will have defeat in future elections, and Shilowa assured them it is possible.

"There are those who have said, a liberation movement as powerful as the African national congress cannot be taken on, I stand here today on behalf of this preparatory committee, to say not only do we intend to tackle it, we intend to win the next elections," Shilowa said.

But many analysts say Shilowa was being too ambitious - that it is most unlikely the new party will win the election next year. But they say it is clear this new party has the potential to become the ANC's most serious opponent.