South Africa: ANC in panic mode?

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Ruling African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa has been unsettled by a massive civil society conference, where plans to set up a new political party comprised of trade unions was mooted.

Reports say that a new party that plans to challenge the ANC would be modeled along the lines of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), the main opposition party in Zimbabwe, which was formed from labour bodies.

The revelation comes at the heels of waves of crippling industrial action led by the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), which has over 2 million members.

And after increasing speculations that a conference organised over the weekend by Treatment Action Campaign (a civil society group with uneasy relations with ANC) and COSATU was an attempt to create an alternative centre to the latter’s alliance with the ruling party, ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe has told the media that the meeting was a joke.

Mantashe is quoted saying: “We noted that the ANC, the SACP and SANCO were not invited, positioning the conference as an alternative block to the (tripartite) alliance,” .

According to reports, Mantashe insisted the ANC had not been thrown into panic mode although he hinted that the ruling party views the conference as an attempt to remove it from power, adding that those who helped fund the ANC’s anti-apartheid struggle were the ones lining up to fund any new effort to oust the party from power.

He said: “The funding of divisions of liberation forces is funded by those who supported them originally. This funding is normally directed to organs of civil society with an aim of forming opposition parties.”

But COSATU Secretary General, Zwelinzima Vavi, on Tuesday distanced himself from the alleged plot to form a new party.

“I honestly don’t know what informs this paranoia on the part of the leadership. COSATU went with the overwhelming majority of the people who participated, very clear that we are not going there to form a workers’ party or a new left-wing party or whatever,”

“Reading the statement of the ANC, I must say it’s rather shocking, inconsistent, incoherent (and) reflective of something that is not anywhere close to what COSATU’s intentions were in convening the civil society conference,” he said in a statement.

During the 2000 presidential polls in Zimbabwe, the powerful Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union led by the then Secretary General, Morgan Tsvangirai, came close to unseating President Mugabe after the union transformed itself into a political party, MDC.

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