Former defence minister Mosiuoa Lekota on Wednesday served ‘divorce papersâ€ on the African National Congress and declared his intention of starting a new political formation to oppose the ANC in the coming elections.
Lekota addressed a press conference at the studios of 702 Talk Radio in Sandton, Johannesburg, where he outlined plans to put together a ‘congressâ€ in a few weeks where the name and policies of the new party would be decided upon.
This party would contest the elections in 2009 and hopes to draw votes from the ANC, which might threaten the ruling party’s two-thirds majority.
Lekota was flanked by his former deputy minister, Mluleki George, as well as former trade union leader and president of the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) Willy Madisha and representatives of provinces, but no other key leaders were present.
Lekota refused to say whether any other prominent names have aligned themselves with the new formation, stating ‘we don’t need prominent people, we need people and the population of the countryâ€.
The new formation will be formalised once people in all provinces have been consulted, he said.
Former Gauteng premier Mbhazima Shilowa, who resigned in protest to the way former president Thabo Mbeki was ousted, is rumoured to have been approached by the organisers of the party, but he has denied involvement.
In a cagey statement, Lekota said those who share his concerns about the ANC must ‘join in a collective effort to defend our movement and our democracyâ€, rather than saying outright a new party is on the cards.
Lekota would not be drawn into discussing how many votes his new formation is due to attract at the polls next year, but insists that the ‘majorityâ€ of South Africans will not continue to support the ANC that has ‘abandoned principles like equality before the lawâ€.
‘Let it be the people of South Africa to choose whether they want to go with the Malemas of this world,â€ he said, referring to the ANC Youth League’s president, Julius Malema.
When asked about funding for the new political formation and timeframes for when the new formation will start its campaign, he said that those were ‘technical mattersâ€ that will be considered.
He said that ANC president Jacob Zuma was leading his party down the wrong path and that values like the rule of law, internal democracy, respect for institutions as well as peace and security were being shifted aside.
Lekota made public last week an ‘open letterâ€ in which he criticised the ANC.
Mbeki is not part of the formation, Lekota says, because the new party needs to be about ‘principles, not personalitiesâ€.
‘Where is the right of the people of South Africa to vote and choose their president?â€ he asked.
Lekota and George were in the run-up to the ANC’s elective conference in Polokwane one of the most outspoken critics against Zuma and resigned last week in protest of the way Mbeki was recalled as president of the country.
After the party?
Political analyst Xolela Mangcu earlier told 702 that he thought the new party was unlikely to be a political force.
‘It [the party] has to come out of society, not as a splinter from another party. It has to be something that galvanises the people, like the MDC [Movement for Democratic Change in Zimbabwe]. It has to excite the people.”
He also questioned whether the Lekota would be able to have a political life outside of the party.
On the question of the perceived intolerance in the ruling party, he said ‘they [Lekota and others] were the ones that were intolerant under [former] president Thabo Mbeki”.
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 ANC 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