The day the ANC split

This week has been a particularly long one in South African politics. Former defence minister Mosiuoa Lekota electrified the nation on Wednesday when he signalled his intention to form a “congress” of those disaffected with the African National Congress.

He took aim the party’s youth wing, saying: “Let it be the people of South Africa to choose whether they want to go with the Malemas of this world.”

He insisted that the majority of South Africans would not continue to support the ANC, which had “abandoned principles like equality before the law”.

Lekota also complained that the party was in the grip of tribalism and that it had abandoned the principles of the Freedom Charter.

ANC Youth League president Julius Malema, never one to turn the other cheek, said a day later that Lekota and Mluleki George, who also appeared at Wednesday’s press conference, thought they were “anointed born leaders” and planned on representing “nothing but narrow right-wing opportunism of people who want to express bitterness, self-enrichment and disrespect of organisation principles”.

“Supporters of the ANC will never vote for that party or any other party because if they are angry they just don’t vote at all,” he said.

The leadership of the party were more measured in their response, saying they would continue to “engage” with Lekota — that is, until he didn’t bother to turn up at a scheduled meeting with the party’s national executive committee at Luthuli House on Thursday.

This comes at a difficult time for the ANC, which is still in damage-control mode following the undignified exit of former president Thabo Mbeki.

It will be interesting to see what platform Lekota’s new party will choose to fight the elections in 2009, but this can only be good news for opposition parties.

Call it a splinter or a split, but October 8 will be remembered as the day the once unshakeable edifice of the ANC started to crack.

FULL SPEED AHEAD NOT SO FAST
Mosiuoa Lekota
Love him or hate him, but Mosiuoa Lekota this week irrevocably changed the face of South African politics. He also raised the possibility of a viable opposition party, which in anyone’s book, save perhaps that of the ANC, can only be a good thing.
Butana Khompela
The chairperson of Parliament’s sports portfolio committee, already maligned by many in the sports community, this week took aim at the hallowed Springbok emblem, saying it “divides us” and referring to the “arrogance of white people on the Springbok emblem”. Khompela clearly has not learnt much from his past foot-in-mouth incidences.

Most-read stories

October 2 to 8

1. The downfall of Mbeki: The hidden truth
The political rupture in South Africa is being presented in the outside world as the personal tragedy and humiliation of one man, Thabo Mbeki.

2. Mbeki supporters ‘test waters’ over new party
Supporters of former president Thabo Mbeki, who want to start a new political formation, hope to use outgoing Gauteng Premier Mbhazima Shilowa as the face of the party.

3. The day the ANC split
Former defence minister Mosiuoa Lekota said on Wednesday that “this is probably the parting of the ways” [with the ANC].

4. ANC: Resignations list deliberately released
The Presidency’s announcement last week of Cabinet resignations, including that of Finance Minister Trevor Manuel, was made to collapse markets, African National Congress general secretary Gwede Mantashe said on Wednesday.

5. Prepare for life after Trevor
In relative respite for now, the markets should not think the local roiling is over. By this time next year Finance Minister Trevor Manuel will most likely not be in office.

6. Reds moan about new Cabinet
The complete absence of left-wing leaders in President Kgalema Motlanthe’s Cabinet has heightened fears among ANC president Jacob Zuma’s left-wing supporters that they are being marginalised.

7. Kgalema vs Thabo: Workmanship in wordsmithing
Two strikingly different speeches — one saying goodbye, and the other saying hello. Two moods and two different styles.

8. Lekota serves ‘divorce papers’ on ANC
Former defence minister Mosiuoa Lekota on Wednesday served “divorce papers” on the African National Congress and declared his intention of starting a new political formation to oppose the ANC in the coming elections.

9. ANC: Criticism amounts to notice of resignation
ANC members’ criticism of the party amounted to notice of their resignation, its national executive committee said in reaction on Thursday to a strongly worded letter from former defence minister Mosiuoa Lekota.

10. Mbeki’s toughest test yet
An ageing Nelson Mandela’s voluntary departure from the presidency in 1999 was a great moment.

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Boyd Webb
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