South Africa’s former defence minister, Mosiuoa Lekota, and other African National Congress officials are expected to announce the formation of a breakaway party, a radio report said on Wednesday.
The officials, loyal to Thabo Mbeki who was forced to resign as South African president last month by the executive of the ANC, is scheduled to make an announcement at 10am, said Talk Radio 702.
Mbeki’s resignation at the climax of a political struggle with ANC leader Jacob Zuma marked the biggest political upheaval in the party’s history.
Creation of a breakaway party would create political uncertainty that would unsettle investors in Africa’s biggest economy.
Speculation has been growing about a possible split despite efforts by new President Kgalema Motlanthe and other ANC leaders to dismiss such talk.
Any new party could be hard pressed to win voters and funding ahead of an election due in April, in a country where the ANC has dominated political life since the end of apartheid in 1994.
Zuma has said Mbeki would be asked to help campaign at next year’s election, in an apparent attempt at reconciliation.
Zuma, widely expected to become president after the general election, was quoted as telling a meeting of black businessmen on Tuesday that any breakaway party would have no alternative policies to offer and could not last.
“You can’t believe in the ANC and its policies so deeply, and then form an organisation that repeats the same policies, that would be funny,” he said.
“If it happens it could be the anger and die down very quickly. When people are shocked, angry, quickly reacting, you could say ‘I’d better go away’.”
“What kind of alternative policies could you put across alternate to the ANC, that would challenge the ANC? I don’t think so, but I’m not saying it can’t happen.”
However, if people did that, Zuma said, “You would be stranded if you were in the ANC, you could be in cold and in the snow, and then say, I better go back home.”
Zuma said the African National Congress had in its history gone through a lot of similar experiences — such as opposition that arose within its ranks to taking up an armed struggle.
It had always succeeded in getting through them, he said.
The party deposed Mbeki over allegations of political interference in a corruption case involving Zuma.
Lekota, who resigned as defence minister after Mbeki’s removal, has accused the ANC of stifling dissent and flouting the rule of law. – Reuters