Former Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota and former Premier of Gauteng, Mbhazima Shilowa, convened a "National Conference" in Sandton, Johannesburg on 31 October 2008, deciding that a new political party should be formed. This followed the resignation of President Thabo Mbeki in September 2008. The Congress of the People was launched on 16 December 2008 in Bloemfontein. The name was chosen to echo the Congress of the People in 1955 during which the Freedom Charter was adopted by the ANC and other parties.
A leadership battle has dogged the party in recent years, after Lekota expelled Shilowa in 2011 for allegedly mismanaging the party's parliamentary funds. The South Gauteng High Court ruled in October 2013 that Lekota was the rightful leader of the party.
Source: (congressofthepeople.org.za and Sapa)
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Mosiuoa Lekota first earned his nickname "Terror" on the soccer field at St Francis College in Marianhill, KwaZulu-Natal, where he got his matric in 1966. The Free State-born student proved just what a 'terror' he was when he was expelled from his Law Studies at the University of the North in 1970 because of his SRC and SASO activities. This was the beginning of a distinguished political career, as his dogged adherence to his ideals secured him an eight-year jail sentence on Robben Island.
On his release he picked up the struggle again by becoming the Publicity Secretary of the United Democratic Front, only to be detained and sentenced again in what became known as the Delmas Treason Trial. In 1989 the Appeal Court reviewed his sentence and he was released.
After 1990 he became the ANC convenor in Southern Natal, an ANC organiser in the Free State, a member of the ANC Executive Committee and its National Working Committee and ANC Chief of Intelligence. In 1992 he became the Secretary of the ANC Election Committee and - as a result of his organisational abilities - he was appointed Premier of the Free State after democratic elections in 1994. In 1996 he was appointed as chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, before serving as Defence Minister from 1999 to 2008.
In 2008 Mosiuoa Lekota stunned South Africa when he announced that he was "serving divorce papers" on the ANC to become one of the founder members of the Congress of the People.