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South Africa: ANC Dissidents On the Verge of a Party Split

Highlights – Dissidents of the ruling African National Congress held a two-day convention to discuss steps for creating a new party, the Congress of the People – The party will be made official in December 2008, and listed on the 2009 elections ballot – Recent divisions, due to a number of personal, economic, and tribal differences, will likely stir up more violent unrest in the months leading up to the elections Over the weekend of November 1, 2008, seven thousand delegates and supporters of the newly created “Congress of the People” gathered in Johannesburg, South Africa, to discuss their new party platform for the upcoming 2009 elections. The large number of supporters came from like-minded former members and delegates of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), led by its current President and projected South African President, Jacob Zuma. In the 18 years since Nelson Mandela was released from prison, the ANC has shifted from being one of the most successful liberation movements, led by former President Thabo Mbeki, to a deeply divided organization. A number of incidents have led to the current split, the key development being when then President 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 coerced into stepping down as president in September 2008 (Previous Report). As a result, Mbeki allies – upset with the significant loss of influence and new leftist direction of the party – have consolidated enough support to run on their own ticket in 2009. However, the challenging threat to the ANC has already caused much tension, as protests outside the convention earlier this month turned violent. With the official announcement of the new “Congress of the People” party next month, we anticipate an increase in political protests and violent outbreaks in the near to mid-term. Three Reasons for the Party Split Dissidents, led by former premier of the areas surrounding Johannesburg, Mbhazima Shilowa, and former Defense Minister Mosiuoa Lekota, have broken with the ANC over three broad reasons: • Personality differences • A left-wing split over economic policies • Tribal divisions Economic policy differences leading to the break from the party have been the strongest and most widely supported argument. Chiefly, Lekota supporters accuse the pro-Zuma faction of having allowed ANC’s allies in the South African Communist Party (SACP) and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) too much power. According to a statement by Lekota, it is unprecedented for the SACP to hold the most senior offices within the ANC. In reply, Zuma supporters accused the dissidents of being “bad losers” and “political opportunists,” who most likely left the ANC because they had been denied access to government resources or patronage. Moreover, SACP members have said that the new party’s agenda is meant to “sideline the working class.” Tribal differences and personality clashes have also been among the top reasons listed for the rift. The Xhosas tribe, used to holding influence under Mbeki, are said to be angry at being sidelined under Zuma, who is a Zulu. Fueling the differences, Cosatu members called Shilowa a “whisky-drinking egoist” and further defamed his leadership by publicly associating him as an attendee of “expensive, elitist, cigar-smoking clubs.” Violent Political Unrest Increases In the run-up to the launch of the new party a series of events are being held, some of which have turned violent. Rallies have taken place in several South African cities at which Congress of the People supporters have torn up or burned ANC membership cards. However, rallies have been met with

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