South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC) is dismissing reports that the new splinter group loyal to deposed President Thabo Mbeki would pose a significant challenge to the party in next year's general elections. This comes after the dissidents met over the weekend, vowing to defeat the ANC in next year's elections. The dissidents added that the ruling party is abusing power and could usher in a new era of apartheid-style rule. Former defense minister and leader of the splinter group, Mosiuoa Lekota, warned that the ANC appeared set on interfering in state institutions and enriching its leaders as white minority governments had done during apartheid. But the leader of the ruling ANC, Jacob Zuma, rejected the accusation and called for a debate with the splinter grouping. He insisted that the dissidents are upset at losing influence since he took control of the party from President Mbeki.

From Pretoria, South African political analyst Somadoda Fikeni tells reporter Peter Clottey that there is mixed reaction towards the splinter group's new party formation.

"I do think that we do have diverse opinion. Those who are with the ANC mainstream are very unhappy. They feel betrayed that you would have a breakaway group, and they think that things could have been resolved within the ANC. But a number outside the ANC, including the opposition parties, have actually welcomed this because they think it will for the first time manage to challenge seriously ANC's perceived political hegemony, and as such in terms of coalition building, they do think that they could even manage to get some of the provinces away from the ANC come next year's election," Fikeni pointed out.

He said the impact of the splinter group on the chances of the ruling ANC in the next general election are not easily recognizable.

"I do think that one, it's too early to tell. But certainly if it is well positioned, it would excite the politics within the country where contestation in itself will become serious and no party will take the constituency for granted. And the second part is the debate issue. They are coming up with the issue of values, morality, and ethics of leadership corruption issues, which means up and about and above ordinary bread and butter issues -- issues of service delivery," he said.

Fikeni said the splinter group would soon be challenging the leader of the ruling ANC over allegations of corruption leveled against him.

"You may actually have the issues of values the issues of protection of constitution coming up. And this is actually aimed more at the case that the president of the ANC, Jacob Zuma, is still facing, the one of fraud. And it is also aiming at some of the leaders who had some political cases or fraud, cases that they were facing. That is the reason why the issue of value is coming up now," Fikeni noted.

He said the chances of the splinter group upsetting the ruling party's parliamentary majority are slim.

"I don't necessarily think that ANC's parliamentary majority, which allows it to rule, will necessarily be upset or reversed because here is the oldest liberation movement in the continent coming with a lot of history and a lot of tradition. So many people are still attached to it. But what is going to happen is that ANC's two-thirds majority may actually be shaken to an extent that provinces such as the Western Cape or Northern Cape might be taken by the opposition coalition parties. And some of the provinces like the Eastern Cape or Gauteng, you might have a serious opposition presence, which may keep a watchdog eye on the ANC itself," he said.

Meanwhile, the rebellion by Mbeki loyalists, ousted by the ANC in September, has thrown the traditionally united party into disarray and stoked fears of rising instability in Africa's richest economy. Lekota, seen as one of Mbeki's most faithful ministers, resigned from cabinet five weeks ago in sympathy with his former boss, and has been organizing the framework of a new political party since then.

Allegations that Mbeki used the graft case to try to derail Zuma's political ambitions were at the heart of the ANC's decision to push the former South African leader from office.

Mbeki's ouster exposed deep divisions within the party, leading to the breakaway movement, which says it will challenge the ANC in next year's elections.