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Former ANC Members Formally Apply to Form New South African Political Party

In South Africa, former ruling ANC party members have taken another step toward formalizing a new political party. it would be called COPE, which stands for the Congress of the People. However, the ANC is not taking things lying down. From Johannesburg, VOA reporter Delia Robertson spoke to Joe De Capua about what COPE leaders did Friday.

"They finally launched an application with the Independent Elections Commission to register their party as a legal entity and able to challenge elections. They have been struggling with finding a name for the party because names they've settled on have been either already taken or they have been threatened with legal action by the ruling African National Congress. And in this face, in fact, once again the ANC is threatening to challenge their choice of name in court," she says.

What's wrong with the Congress of the People in the eyes of the ANC? Robertson explains, "It's the use of the word congress. And it's also the name Congress of the People because in 1960, the ANC was part of a group of organizations…that participated in the Congress of the People, which was held in Soweto…and where they adopted the Freedom Charter, which in the 1990s would form the basis almost of South Africa's new constitution."

While the ANC is claiming ownership of the Congress of the People name, other organizations also attended that same Soweto meeting.

The legal battles between the ANC and COPE could continue for months. "I think the ANC would dearly love to continue these battles because it makes it difficult for the party (COPE) to establish itself, to set up organizational structures, to do advertising and all of that sort of thing," she says.

A court could decide the issue one-way or the other. Robertson says that COPE needs to get the matter resolved soon because it wants to participate in upcoming by-elections.