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23 Oct 2008 17:35
Expect African National Congress (ANC) members to quit in “big numbers” in support of a breakaway party, suspended ANC veteran Mosiuoa Lekota said on Thursday.
“The people will form their own party,” said Lekota in reply to a question on whether he was openly saying a new opposition party would be formed.
He was attending a public meeting at Orange Farm outside Vereeniging.
Lekota said he knew for certain there were ANC members about to resign in “big numbers” in support of his movement.
Only a few hundred supporters of his plans to hold a national convention in Bloemfontein on November 2 showed up at Thursday’s meeting. Organisers had said beforehand that about 4 000 people were expected to attend.
The convention will discuss the formation of a new political party.
Lekota said he also expected some opposition parties to attend the convention but did not elaborate.
He blamed the low turnout on Thursday on supporters of ANC leader Jacob Zuma trying to disrupt the meeting and who chanted “Kill Lekota” earlier in the day.
“I said to my people, ‘Don’t panic.’ I was invited here by the people of Orange Farm. These people have been bused in from Soweto,” said Lekota, who was dressed in a dark suit and yellow shirt.
He preached tolerance, saying his supporters should not retaliate. “If they say you are dogs, don’t call them dogs ... Those of you who were in the ANC and have T-shirts of the ANC, you must not burn them.”
Many in the audience wore yellow T-shirts imprinted with Lekota’s photograph and the words “South African National Congress”. The back of the T-shirts sported the words “Ready to govern and save South Africa from tyranny”.
Lekota urged his supporters to exercise restraint towards their opponents.
“We must not allow throwing stones; don’t throw stones back. If they go and burn someone’s house, don’t go and burn their house,” he said. “We must protect the rights of other political formations and parties. We must protect the right to hold meetings, to talk to people.”
Lekota warned of “dangerous elements” in the ANC and referred to ANC Youth League president Julius Malema, who in the past said he was willing to kill for Zuma.
Zuma supporters outside Thursday’s meeting, who were prevented by the police from entering the premises, chanted “Kill Lekota”. The group carried posters announcing Zuma’s visit to Soweto on November 2—the same day of Lekota’s convention—and sang the ANC president’s trademark song Umshini Wami.
Ousted Congress of South African Trade Unions president Willie Madisha said the protesters had been organised to disrupt the public meeting and cause violence.
“Unless something is done, we are going to get involved in very serious violence in this country. We have got to say that this is wrong. We cannot allow this type of thing,” said Madisha.
Lekota supporters carried posters with slogans such as “Bring back ANC from warlords”, “Malema a danger to democracy” and “We are not dogs, we only hate crime and corruption”.
At least 30 posters with pictures of Zuma had been put up on the fence outside the venue.
Ally Mosina (30), who attended the Lekota meeting, said he did not mind the Zuma posters, because South Africa was a multiparty democracy.
“This is not about Terror Lekota,” said Mosina. “It’s about us, as sober-minded comrades who want to defend the gains we’ve made. We want to defend the Constitution.”
The main reason for anger at the ANC leadership elected at Polokwane in December was their decision to remove former president Thabo Mbeki from office, Mosina added.
“That decision was taken over a bottle of whisky and a few cigars ... they should have consulted the ANC branches. It is not a shebeen that they are running here.”
Lekota was among a string of Cabinet ministers who resigned out of loyalty to Mbeki when the ANC national executive committee decided to axe the president.
He has criticised the new ANC leadership for deviating from ANC policies and suggesting a political solution to the fraud and corruption charges Zuma faced.
Zuma supporter Wilfred Malapane said Lekota was a “fat cat” who wanted to hold on to power.
“They think we are stupid. To hell with them, they are not welcome here,” said Malapane. “They always want to be in power, they always want to remain fat cats, they are trying to destroy the ANC.”
Madisha, Shilowa and former defence minister Mluleki George have thrown their weight behind Lekota, who is expected to launch a new party on December 16.—Sapa
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