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Daily Archives: October 15, 2008

South Africa’s ruling ANC suspends dissident party chiefs

by Aderogba Obisesan*

South Africa's ruling ANC has suspended a former defence chief who threatened to form a breakaway party, officials said yesterday, deepening the split in the party that led the fight against apartheid.
Mosiuoa Lekota, who resigned as defence minister last month, threatened last week to form a new party that could challenge the African National Congress (ANC) in elections next year.
He accused the ANC of abandoning its democratic ideals with the sacking of former president Thabo Mbeki, who was locked in a long-running power struggle with party boss Jacob Zuma.
Zuma unseated Mbeki as party leader last December, in a dramatic upset for the man who succeeded democracy icon Nelson Mandela as South Africa's second president since the end of apartheid in 1994.
Party leaders issued a statement late Monday saying that Lekota and his former deputy Mluleki George had been suspended with immediate effect.
ANC spokesman Jessie Duarte said yesterday that they would also be hauled before a disciplinary committee, which could take further action.
"The National Disciplinary Committee of the ANC will call them (to a meeting) and make a decision," Duarte told SA FM radio.
The ANC was formed in 1912 as a liberation movement.
Speaking at a public function yesterday, Zuma sternly warned that the ANC would "act very decisively to rid the movement of factionalism."
"We would like to warn all who intend to join the campaign to undermine and divide the ANC. We will act very decisively to rid the movement of factionalism. History has been extremely unkind to those who break away from the ANC," he said.
He branded Lekota, George and their allies as "dissidents" whose patterns of behaviour are "charlatan."
Zuma and other party leaders plan to meet today to discuss the suspension and fix a date for the disciplinary hearing, party spokesman Ishmael Mnisi said.
"The ANC will take similar action against any other members who have indicated in words or action their intention to establish a party in opposition to the ANC," the party said in a statement.
Lekota and George are loyal to Mbeki, who was forced by the party to resign as the nation's president on September 20, just months before the end of his term.
Lekota, a former ANC chairman, has since been mobilising support for the splinter group. Mbeki has not made any public comments on the possible split.
Lekota told local television yesterday that he was yet to be formally informed of his suspension.
"I do not believe it… I want to wait until I get a letter from the ANC. The constitution of the ANC says that no member can be punished before you hold a hearing," he said.
The ANC spokesman said Lekota would be formally notified later yesterday.
South Africa's new President Kgalema Motlanthe, the party's deputy leader, has said that no group could pose a serious challenge.
"Even if there was a breakaway party I don't think it could challenge the presently ruling ANC," he recently told a local newspaper.
Talk in South Africa of a split in the ANC has been circulating since its national conference last December when Zuma toppled Mbeki as ANC leader.
Zuma and his allies in the party then ordered Mbeki to step down as president on September 20, after a court ruling implied he had interfered in the prosecution of corruption charges against Zuma.


Mbeki launches bid to save Zimbabwe power-sharing deal

by Fanuel Jongwe*

Former South African president Thabo Mbeki prepared to hold talks yesterday with Zimbabwe's political rivals in a bid to save a flagging power-sharing deal.
The talks were set to begin as Zimbabwe's parliament resumed sitting yesterday afternoon, with President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party in the minority for the first time since independence in 1980.
Parliament will have to consider a constitutional amendment to implement the power-sharing agreement, which allows 84-year-old Mugabe to remain as president while opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai takes the new post of prime minister.
But the entire deal has hit the rocks over disputes about how to split key cabinet posts in a unity government, with Tsvangirai threatening to pull out of the agreement after Mugabe on Saturday claimed the most important ministries for his own party.
The move would leave Mugabe in control of the army, police and other security agencies, and drew sharp condemnation from the European Union, which threatened to impose new sanctions on the regime.
Mbeki, who brokered the deal last month, flew to Harare late Monday in a last-ditch effort to save the agreement that had been hailed as an end to months of deadly political turmoil and a step toward rescuing Zimbabwe from economic ruin.
But hopes for a compromise dimmed Monday as Mugabe swore in his two vice presidents without consulting the Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa, the lead negotiator for ZANU-PF, said in the state-run Herald newspaper that Mugabe remained committed to the talks, but insisted that the only post up for discussion was the finance ministry.
"As far as we are concerned, the only contention is the ministry of finance. We hope the facilitator will come up with fresh ideas," he said.
"The country has been drifting for the past six months. We cannot continue drifting," he added.
Tsvangirai's MDC declined to comment ahead of the talks, but a splinter group led by Arthur Mutambara said they still believed a deal could be reached.
"We are very hopeful that something positive will happen, so we are keeping our fingers crossed," spokesman Edwin Mushoriwa said.
The MDC argues that Mugabe's arrangement violates the spirit of the power-sharing deal, after the opposition party won control of parliament in legislative elections earlier this year.
Tsvangirai also finished ahead of Mugabe in a first round presidential vote in March, but pulled out of a June run-off because of violence against his supporters that the MDC says left at least 100 dead.
So far, the two parties have shown little ability to work together.
Parliament opened on August 26 with lawmakers from the MDC booing and jeering Mugabe, who had previously kept a firm grip on the legislature during his 28 years in power.
While the rival parties are bickering, Zimbabwe's people face a daily struggle to survive against desperate food shortages and the highest inflation in the world, estimated at 231 million percent in July.
Once a regional breadbasket, the United Nations estimates that more than five million people — nearly half the population — need emergency food aid this year.
About 80 percent of the population is unemployed and living under the poverty line of two US dollars per day.