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Full Name: Dr.Abdul Ruff Colachal
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South African politics: ANC splits


African National Congress (ANC) which is associated with to the South African freedom movement and the struggle of Nobel Peace Laureate Nelson Mandela has split recently in a party conference. The formal launch in Bloemfontein on Dec16 of Congress of the People (Cope), a party of defectors from the governing ANC led by Mosiuoa Lekota, a former defence minister, and Mbhazima Shilowa, an ex-premier of the region around Johannesburg marks a decisive moment in the history of post-apartheid South Africa.  As it confirmed Lekota as its leader, Cope named the former premier of Gauteng province, Mbhazima Shilowa, as its first deputy president. The party also unveiled its latest high profile supporter, the anti-apartheid activist and cleric Allan Boesak, who was given a rapturous welcome by Cope supporters, before telling them that the tide had turned against the ANC. It looks, after 14 years of ANC government there is now a real wind of change in the air.


Cope emerged after Thabo Mbeki resigned as president in September after a power struggle with ANC leader Jacob Zuma. A key development came during last year's ANC conference in Polokwane, when then President Thabo Mbeki lost his fight with Zuma to remain party president. Zuma's supporters went on to force Mbeki loyalists out of key positions of power, and Mbeki was forced to step down as president in September. Furious at losing influence, Mbeki's allies turned on their former comrades.


Many supporters of the new party were unhappy at the way in which Mbeki was forced to step down. Mbeki's presidency - accused of pandering to South Africa's powerful business community by targeting inflation and alienating the trade union movement - could boast of an expanding economy, but not job creation. In a country with soaring levels of unemployment, this hurt those who saw the ANC - Africa's oldest liberation movement - as being a party of the poor. Mbeki battled for five years to sideline the increasingly popular Lekota, who was using his position in government to bolster his reputation for speaking out against injustice. As Mbeki's centralist tendencies and shadowy modus operandi became more and more apparent, the same "left" that has since fallen out with Lekota, appropriated him as their martyr. The wave of ministerial resignations he led shook South Africa as much as Mbeki's axing as president.


In the 18 years since Nelson Mandela was released from jail, the ANC has gone from being one of the most successful liberation movements, with a leader revered around the world, to a deeply divided ANC organization, now led by Jacob Zuma, who has faced charges of corruption and racketeering. Zuma was also in Bloemfontein on Dec16 for a party rally widely seen as an attempt to divert attention from the launch of Cope. People have organized and used ethnic arguments or tribal arguments to garner support in the different regions of the country for these two factions. The delegates were locked in feverish political debates. In its first electoral test earlier this month, the ANC dissidents, now Cope, won 10 of 27 wards in the Western Cape - the province where the ANC has always been least popular.. The Cope members had to stand as independent candidates because of the dispute over the party's name.


A riot gave Philip to the ANC split. Critics say Lekota's shrill cries, warning of the abandonment of the ANC's founding principles under Zuma's stewardship, have not been matched by any acknowledgement that the authoritarian Mbeki may have had a hand in starting the rot. But if his opponents in the ruling party thought that Lekota would just disappear, they failed to account for his outspokenness and ability to make headlines. Three broad reasons are cited for the recent rift:   Personality differences; a left-right split over economic policies; Ethnic divisions. 



There are enough embittered former Mbeki loyalists to make the swings in their favour.  The indications are that Mbeki himself was charting a course within the ANC. The fact that he opted to accede to the ANC's demand that he quit and handed in his resignation suggests that he is not using this moment to drive home divisions so much as to win sympathy by playing party loyalist. Mbeki did, many years ago, in an interview with The Star say that the time would come when the ANC would split into two parties, one of centrists and another to the left. His views then caused a massive stir at the time and Mbeki never repeated this prediction. But it is clearly part of his vision of how South Africa's politics could unfold and mature.


Among their accusations was that the pro-Zuma faction had allowed the ANC's allies in the South African Communist party (SACP) and the unions too much power. Lekota wrote that it was unprecedented for the SACP to hold the most senior offices within the ANC. The dissidents maintained they are true to the ideals of the ANC, which had been taken over by the left. In reply, Zuma's supporters accused the dissidents of being bad losers and political opportunists, who left the ANC because they were denied access to government resources or patronage. From this perspective the division in the ANC is a left-right split, with Zuma supporters on the left and Lekota supporters on the right. In reality, the situation is more complex, with some alleging that tribal differences are at least in part responsible for the divisions. Xhosas, used to holding influence under Mbeki, were said to be angry at being sidelined under president Zuma, who is a Zulu. These were inflammatory statements, more often spoken behind closed doors than openly aired.



Zuma said he was not surprised by the resignation of his former comrades, adding it had been in the air for quite a while. "It is just disappointing that leading people within the ANC are not able to show leadership when they come across difficulties," he said. Others went further, accusing the defectors of preparing to ditch the ANC because it is questioning the conservative economic policies adopted under Mbeki. "Their agenda is to sideline the working class," said Blade Nzimande, secretary general of the SACP.



In the run-up to the launch of the new party a series of events were held. Rallies took place around the country, at which supporters of the new party tore up or burned their ANC membership cards. Lekota spoke at these meetings, where his supporters wore yellow and white T-shirts carrying his image. But the rallies were met with demonstrations by ANC supporters, some of whom chanted: "Kill Shilowa, kill Lekota". Some meetings were attacked, and only police intervention prevented Lekota supporters from being injured. The organizers of the dissident party complained that venues they had wanted to book were denied them.  The ANC condemned the violence and called for calm. But the party also accused the defectors of intolerance for burning ANC emblems.



The breakaway party's formation has been marked by a lengthy and problematic search for a name. Prior to the formation of the Cope, there was a debate on the name of the new party. Cope was the party's third choice. Its first choice - South African National Congress - was challenged by the ANC, which said it was too similar to its own name. Their second choice - South African Democratic Congress - was already registered as a party. The ANC has laid claim to the Congress of the People, since it was the name used for a historic, ANC-sponsored event in 1955. But the High Court ruled earlier this month that the new party could use the name.


 South Africa



English is the most commonly spoken language in official and commercial public life of the Republic of South Africa, a country located at the southern tip of the continent of Africa. To the north of South Africa lie Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Swaziland, while the Kingdom of Lesotho is an independent enclave surrounded by South African territory. Modern human beings have inhabited South Africa for more than 100,000 years. A century and a half after the discovery of the Cape Sea Route, the Dutch East India Company founded a refreshment station at what would become Cape Town in 1652. Cape Town became a British colony in 1806. European settlement expanded during the 1820s as the Boers (original Dutch, Flemish, German and French settlers) and the British 1820 Settlers claimed land in the north and east of the country. After four years of negotiating, the Union of South Africa was created from the Cape and Natal colonies, as well as the republics of Orange Free State and Transvaal, on 31 May 1910. Conflicts arose among the Xhosa, Zulu and Afrikaner groups. However, the discovery of diamonds and later gold triggered the conflict known as the Anglo-Boer War as the Boers and the British fought for the control of the South African mineral wealth.



In 1948, the National Party was elected to power, and intensified the implementation of racial segregation that had begun under Dutch and British colonial rule, and subsequent South African governments since the Union was formed. The Nationalist Government systematised existing segregationist laws, and the system of segregation became known collectively as apartheid. Not surprisingly, this segregation also applied to the wealth acquired during rapid industrialisation of the 1950s, '60s, and '70s. While the White minority enjoyed the highest standard of living in all of Africa, often comparable to First World western nations, the Black majority remained disadvantaged by almost every standard, including income, education, housing, and life expectancy. On 31 May 1961, following a whites-only referendum, the country became a republic and left the Commonwealth. The office of Governor-General was abolished and replaced with the position of State President.

Apartheid became increasingly controversial, leading to widespread sanctions and divestment abroad and growing unrest and oppression within South Africa. A long period of harsh suppression by the government, and at times violent resistance, strikes, marches, protests, and sabotage by bombing and other means, by various anti-apartheid movements, most notably the African National Congress (ANC), followed. In the late 1970s, South Africa began a program of nuclear weapons, and in the following decade it produced six deliverable nuclear weapons. However, SA is a major weapons merchant in the world today.

In 1990 the National Party government took the first step towards negotiating itself out of power when it lifted the ban on the African National Congress and other left-wing political organisations, and released Nelson Mandela from prison after twenty-seven years' incarceration on a sabotage sentence. Apartheid legislation was gradually removed from the statute books, and South Africa also destroyed its nuclear arsenal and acceded to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The first multi-racial elections were held in 1994, which the ANC won by an overwhelming majority. It has been in power ever since. 


Since 2004, the country has had many thousands of popular protests. South Africa has three capital cities: Cape Town, the largest of the three, is the legislative capital; Pretoria is the administrative capital; and Bloemfontein is the judicial capital.   Current South African politics are dominated by the African National Congress (ANC), which received 69.7% of the vote during the last 2004 general election and 66.3% of the vote in the 2006 municipal election. The current President of South Africa is Kgalema Motlanthe, who replaced Thabo Mbeki on 25 September 2008. Mbeki succeeded former President Nelson Mandela in 1999, and was re-elected for a second five year term in 2004, but announced his resignation on 20 September 2008. The main challenger to the rule of the ANC is the Democratic Alliance party, which received 12.4% of the vote in the 2004 election and 14.8% in the 2006 election. 



The African National Congress (ANC) has been South Africa's governing party, supported by its tripartite alliance with the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and the South African Communist Party (SACP), since the establishment of majority rule in May 1994. It defines itself as a "disciplined force of the left". It has been the ruling party of post-apartheid South Africa on the national level since 1994. It gained support in the 1999 elections, and further increased its majority in 2004. The ANC deems itself as a social democratic force of national liberation in the post-apartheid era; it officially defines its umbrella agenda as the National Democratic Revolution, and is a member of the Socialist International. It also sets forth the redressing of socioeconomic differences stemming from colonial- and apartheid-era policies which discriminated against non-whites, such as land, housing and job distributions, as a central focus of ANC policy. In December 1991 the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA) was held with the aim of establishing an interim government. However a few months later in June 1992 the Boipatong massacre occurred and all negotiations crumbled as the ANC pulled out.



The African National Congress represented the main opposition to the government during apartheid and therefore they played a major role in resolving the conflict through participating in the peacemaking and peace-building processes. Initially intelligence agents of the National Party met in secret with ANC leaders, including Nelson Mandela to judge whether conflict resolution was possible. During its days in exile, the ANC was often criticized by western governments who shared the South African government's characterization of the group as a terrorist organization. The ANC's willingness to ally with Communists was also the subject of both foreign and domestic criticism. A Pentagon report of the late 1980s described the ANC as "a major terrorist organization".



The ruling ANC has been heavily criticized for awarding large state contracts, involving tens of billions of Rands, to its party funding vehicle, Chancellor House. At times, the decision to award the contract was made by the same state employees who sit on the ANC fundraising committee. The ANC was also criticized for the setting up of a formal scheme whereby businessmen and members of the public could buy 'face time' with various government ministers, with the costs ranging R3 000 to R7 000 for an individual and R12 500 to R60 000 for businesses. After allegations of corruption, the ANC decided to merge the Scorpions with the Police by June 2008, reducing their power. The ANC has also been accused of using government and civil society to fight its political battles against opposition parties such as the Democratic Alliance.



The result of these negotiations was an interim constitution that meant the transition from apartheid to democracy was a constitutional continuation and that the rule of law and state sovereignty remained in tact during the transition, which was vital for stability within the country. A date was set for the first democratic elections on the 26th April 1994.The ANC won 62.5% of the votes and has been in power ever since. Te ANC has ruled South Africa since the end of white minority rule 14 years ago.



Outspoken Lekota: wind of change?


The Cope's president, Mosiuoa Lekota, speaking in Bloemfontein has said at the movement's formal launch that the Cope was the "party of the future" and it will offer a home to all of the country's racial groups. "The history of South Africa will never be the same again, he said, ours shall be a truly non-racial party that will provide a true home to all South Africans irrespective of race, class or gender."  Lekota had served in an Mbeki administration since 1999, and for that he was made to pay heavily. Much like former ANC secretary-general Cyril Ramaphosa (sidelined by Mbeki 12 years ago), Lekota has the remarkable ability to come across to many in the South African electorate as a "conviction politician".


Appointed premier of the Free State province under President Nelson Mandela, Lekota was then removed by Mbeki, the de-facto head of state.  Despite recent accusations that he is detached from the masses, Lekota was at the heart of this mass internal resistance as a key member and the face of the United Democratic Front, a coalition of liberation movements, civil society and religious groups. He served four years in prison for treason, on top of six years in jail on Robben Island a decade before.

Lekota, on the surface an Mbeki loyalist, had become an outspoken critic of the more populist Zuma - an arch Mbeki enemy. After sustained criticisms about his rule while the party used to keeping its dirty linen indoors, when Mosiuoa Lekota was heckled from the stage at the African National Congress conference in Polokwane last December, it marked the end of a complicated journey from liberation hero to party pariah.  Less than a year later, Lekota, 60, is now the leader of a new, breakaway party, the Congress of the People (Cope), which is to stand against the ANC in elections next year. "Terror" Lekota - so named for his prowess on the football field - spent the turbulent of the 1980s fighting in South Africa's trenches, prior to the legalization of the ANC.

Removed from the provincial premiership, Lekota was put to pasture as chair of the ineffectual council of provinces in the country's legislature, but bounced back in 1999 with the defence portfolio in cabinet - a poisoned chalice according to Gumede. He was able to keep his nose clean as a disastrous 1999 arms deal went horribly wrong, but he made some ill-judged remarks about how HIV infections affecting the country's armed forces were being overstated. He also had to contend with some rogue elements in South Africa's peacekeeping forces in Burundi. But it was when, true to form, he began publicly to question the moral character of Jacob Zuma - facing charges of rape and corruption but still intent on leading the ANC and the country - that his popularity with the anti-Mbeki faction in the party really began to wane.




 Defence Minister Terror Lekota has led the drive to start a new party in opposition to the Zuma-led ANC. Many see the launch as a key moment that signals the growth and development of South Africa's young democracy. Many historians look back on that decade as representing the final push against apartheid, when the country's townships were burning and the fight against racial segregation was taken right to the government, rather than being fought from the United Nations, Lusaka, Washington or London.



The rumours have been swirling. But one major challenge for the new party is to distance itself from Mbeki, and not appear like a group of embittered losers from last year's ANC national conference in Polokwane, where Zuma defeated Mbeki in a leadership contest. Lekota has ruled out any reconciliation with the ANC and said that expanding the economy would be the linchpin of Cope's electoral campaign. "We need to fight joblessness and grow our economy, he said, our approach is stability, hard work and growth." In the early days of South Africa's first democratic administration, Lekota clashed quite publicly with Mbeki. The hostility almost equaled that being directed at his boss - then president and party head Thabo Mbeki - who was soon to be axed from his party position and replaced with his nemesis, Jacob Zuma. Zuma's boisterous allies - the Congress of South African Trade Unions and the South African Communist Party - have portrayed him as a disciple of Mbeki's aloof style of leadership.


ANC chief Zuma says that only the ANC can deliver true unity and prosperity in South Africa. Zuma must be all-to-aware of the danger of selling out to the left at the expense of the booming black middle classes who are highly influential stake-holders in the party. Perhaps the key matter is whether or not the Zuma-led ANC decides to plot a fresh economic policy path which would suggest it has sold out to its left allies in Cosatu and the SACP. Such a move would raise the prospect of a genuine as opposed to personality-based cleavage. But that moment of ideological cleavage is still some way down the line.  Cope has more than 400,000 members and is in a position to make serious inroads into ANC dominance. The ANC has around 650,000 paid-up members.


The Congress of the People could present real opposition to the African National Congress for the first time. It now poses the first serious challenge to the ANC since it came to power 14 years ago. Cope will officially challenge the governing party in national elections due next year. What no-one can yet predict is how much support the new party will win, or how fundamentally it might transform the country's politics. At the very least, the new party - and a possible alliance with other opposition groups - will make next year's elections far more interesting than the ANC landslide which had been inevitable, although that may still be the outcome. Speculation is indeed enthralling.


Yours Sincerely,


Columnist & Independent Researcher in World Affairs,

The only Indian to have gone through entire India

South Asia.

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