Cape Town — As speculation of an imminent split in the ANC grew yesterday following an angry exchange between two senior leaders in the party, analysts said a “breakaway” party would be good for democracy in South Africa.
Speculation about a split was rampant after former defence minister Mosiuoa Lekota wrote an open lettter to ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe saying he no longer recognises the ANC, whose practices have become dangerous to democracy. He accused ANC leaders of pushing the party away from its traditional principles and practices.
A key concern expressed by Lekota was the ANC’s bid to find a political solution to Jacob Zuma’s legal battles, which Lekota said shows disrespect for the rule of law.
Senior ANC national executive council member and head of policy Jeff Radebe responded with an attack on Lekota, accusing him of “giving notice” that he and others are set to leave the party.
Mantashe accused Lekota of lacking discipline, saying ANC members should not engage in factional activities. Lekota retorted that he has a democratic right to raise the issues.
Their exchange has been interpreted as the strongest indication yet of the possibility of a new party.
Lekota and his former deputy, Mluleki George, are rumoured to be drumming up support among ANC members.
An SMS yesterday called for support for an Interim African National Congress-Democratic Front (ANC-DF), urging people to “be part of the great historical move”.
While Lekota was vague as to whether he intends being part of a movement towards starting a breakaway party, he said he will “reflect” on the ANC’s responses.
Political analyst Daniel Silk hailed talk of a possible new party as a healthy development, saying it is time South Africa moves away from the domination of a single party.
Analyst Zubeida Jaffer said she believes Lekota would be the man to lead a new party.
However, veteran politician Frederik Van Zyl Slabbert said he believes a breakaway party is “highly unlikely”. He said any new party would need “huge amounts of money” and he believes it would be short-lived.
He said the current tensions in the ANC are all about the fight for power. “This fight does not resonate with the grassroots supporters of the ANC. This is a democracy not high on public accountability.”
Cosatu general-secretary Zwelinzima Vavi has said there is “no doubt” Lekota is preparing for a full split.
In a radio interview yesterday, Lekota would not confirm that he is in the process of seeking support for a new party. “At the present moment I am busy with a process which will help to focus us and to correct the situation. I have been a member of the ANC for 31 years and it is not easy to say I am going to go somewhere else, but if it appeared untenable, I would have to weigh that in as well,” he said.
Speaking of his decision to write the letter, he said: “[O]ver some considerable time … I had this growing sense that we were increasingly unable to deal with issues we should have been able to deal with and nip in the bud.
“That feeling … has taken more alarming proportions. There has been a systematic hounding out and purging of those who held the view that Comrade Thabo Mbeki should continue as president of the ANC.”