Lekota rebels have support

2008-10-08 00:00

Cape Town — There is sufficient financial and political backing for Mosiuoa Lekota’s rebellion against the ANC to make the establishment of a new party viable.

This emerged from extensive inquiries by Beeld yesterday, a day on which the country was once again abuzz with high drama.

Reliable sources said some business leaders, including at least two prominent mine owners, were still involved in discussions with Lekota supporters in Johannesburg.

Financial support has been pledged on condition of a proper breakaway from the main party.

One of the mine owners has close ties with members of former president Thabo Mbeki’s cabinet, and the names of various other role-players are also known to Beeld.

Lekota is apparently very serious about forming a new party, but could just be the temporary lightning deflector himself, rather than the eventual leader.

Lekota shook the country yesterday morning with his strong references to a new party, but did not go as far as to actually announce it.

Although the ANC yesterday followed a conciliatory route by way of Dr Mathews Phosa, Lekota’s statements that he has “ordered the divorce papers” and that “it could be the parting of ways” pointed to an imminent split.

The potential defectors believe their strongest support would come from the Eastern and Northern Cape as well as Gauteng.

It is said the new party will be formed only on the day the election date is announced, to enable parliamentarians to join the new party without losing their financial benefits.

According to a source who attended the meeting, the group behind yesterday’s announcement met at the Emperor’s Palace Hotel outside Johannesburg on Tuesday evening. A conference for political leaders to review public accounts is under way at the hotel.

Opposition politicians had also been invited to the meeting, which carried on past midnight.

Willie Madisha, former Cosatu leader, apparently also attended the meeting, where it was said that a number of Cosatu members had already pledged support for a new party.

It was also said that Madisha and others had visited former president Nelson Mandela, who was supportive of the idea.

On behalf of Mandela, Professor Jakes Gerwel denied Madiba’s involvement, saying that the claims were “absolutely untrue”.

“Madiba has definitely not been contacted and has made no comments in this regard,” Gerwel said.

Other well-known people were also reluctant to support Lekota’s plan.

According to Thabo Mbeki’s inner circle, Mbeki is not involved in the plans and is instead focusing on moving to his new home in Johannesburg, and will only consider becoming involved in politics in a while.

His deputy, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, is also not part of Lekota’s group. She is studying further.

Smuts Ngonyama, former head of the ANC presidency, said he could not at this stage say whether he would join Lekota’s initiative. “I’m still thinking about it.”

Western Cape cleric Dr Allan Boesak sees the developments as an internal conflict and thinks the ANC should rather be opposed from outside.

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