Congress of the People (COPE), founded by famous soccer player and ex-Minister of Defense Terror Lekota, is threatening to overthrow ANC's single-handed grip on South Africa.
"The leader of a breakaway party explains his bid to halt tribalism and white flight
The former defence minister who is set to smash the mould of South African politics by breaking away from the African National Congress (ANC) and founding a new party will welcome whites, Indians and other minorities into its leadership.
In an interview with The Sunday Times, Mosiuoa "Terror" Lekota, 60, vowed to make a clean break with the past through a party that will be pro-business, free from the rhetoric of Marxism and determined to end the "white flight" that drains talent from South Africa.
The country is estimated to have lost more than 800,000 whites since 1995, many of them disillusioned by violent crime and a government that discriminates against them.Would he put a stop to white flight?
"Absolutely," Lekota promised. "We must. It's not just that we want their skills. It's important that all South Africans feel wanted here. It's their home, too.
"It's vital that whites, coloureds [those of mixed race] and Indians all feel that they can participate effectively and be elected to leadership positions."
In his first major newspaper interview since he resigned from the cabinet last month, Lekota said he was determined to defeat Jacob Zuma, the ANC president, who until last week seemed a shoo-in as the country's next leader after elections due in the spring.
"I don't want to attack the man personally," Lekota said. "Let's just say I worked with him for a long time and I know that he's absolutely not an appropriate person to be president of South Africa."
Lekota, who acquired the nickname "Terror" from his days as a tearaway striker on the football pitch, revealed that his new party will be called the South African National Congress, that it will hold a national convention in the next few weeks and that he is prepared to form a coalition with the liberal and largely white opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, to form a government.
"It would be unavoidable. We just can't give this country to Zuma and his friends," Lekota said. He added that he would lead a crackdown on crime and corruption, which are often cited by the 41% of whites who say they are thinking of leaving.
The present ANC leadership harks back to an era when Africans were oppressed, Lekota argued. "But we're not oppressed now. We're all equal. South Africa belongs to all who live here."
We spoke at his government house in Pretoria as he prepared to move out, surrounded by packing cases and giant stuffed animal heads hanging from every wall. Lekota, an incongruous figure in football shorts and vest (he had been doing his morning exercises) said support for his new party was pouring in.
"People are flooding to us everywhere. Huge numbers of ANC branches are coming over to us. Okay, Zuma will probably win KwaZulu-Natal [his home state]. Right now he could probably win a few other provinces, too, but even there the situation is changing rapidly."
Despite his own impeccably radical past – he spent nearly 14 years in prison under apartheid rule – Lekota recognises a new post-racial South Africa that is affronted by Zuma's naked tribalism and the assumption by his supporters that it is their turn to rule South Africa after three leaders who hailed from the rival Xhosa grouping.
There are reports that the Zulu chiefs have warned that, if they are cheated out of having a Zulu president, they will "send in the buses", which means buses full of men with spears, intent on wreaking havoc.
Lekota's lip curls. "Is that democracy? Are people going to be killed if they don't vote for Zuma? And where does this idea come from that Zuma is born to be president simply because he's a Zulu? The ANC never elected people on such a basis before."
Lekota couples this with a recognition that the newly emergent black middle class finds Zuma's antics off-putting. "There's a large black middle class now and if Zuma thinks he can win such people over by singing and dancing on street corners, he's making a big mistake."
Lekota said that he had confronted Zuma over his tribalism. "I asked him, how can you allow your followers to wear T-shirts saying '100% Zulu-boy'? He said it was nothing to do with him, that he hadn't ordered it. But he allowed it.
"Then they changed it to "100% JZ", but that's pure personality cult. The ANC is supposed to be a party of principles. You owe your loyalty to the party, not to an individual."
Hugely popular among the ANC's grassroots, Lekota is confident that there will be large-scale defections to his party in the coming weeks. He is also contemptuous of the empty socialist rhetoric spouted by senior ANC figures allied to Zuma, such as Blade Nzi-mande, the Communist leader, who says: "We must build socialism and build it now."
Lekota said: "I asked him, how would you do that in practice? There is no answer. It's quite impossible. The countries that were communist have all changed and now we know both that corruption and inequality were always there and that the majority of the population wanted to overthrow those systems. So why should we try to copy that? The fact is we live in a free market economy and have to do our best to help our people within that framework."
Lekota's antipathy to Zuma may spring from their sharply opposed personalities. Lekota is devoid of arrogance or pomposity. A Catholic, he is happily married to Cynthia and has four children, in contrast to the scandal-prone Zuma, who has been married four times and is said to have fathered at least 18.
As a student protester, Lekota was expelled from university, arrested and jailed. His time on Robben Island, he said, "was when I really grew up". It was his long discussions with the ANC leaders Nelson Mandela and the late Walter Sisulu that "really helped me to mature".
It also bred racial tolerance. "I'd never really been comfortable with a stress on race. Growing up as a Catholic I'd worked too closely with so many white priests and nuns to be antiwhite. The ANC's nonracial philosophy made immediate sense to me."
When prime minister of his native Free State, Lekota won the hearts of Afrikaner farmers. While still a cabinet minister he spoke about "the wonderful contribution white liberals have made to this country".
He added: "We really need people like you, so please stay. Please don't go. The liberal contribution to South African life is far from over."
Now he is poised to blow apart the ANC, and with it South Africa's tired political certainties.
— Elected chairman of the ANC in 1997, Mosiuoa Lekota became defence minister in 1999
— He resigned last month after President Thabo Mbeki was ousted by Jacob Zuma's supporters
— Expelled from the ANC last week, he is launching a new party
I'm a South African who left in 1979 and returned to work there on a contract in 2006. I was shocked and astonished at the naked corruption and the culture of entitlement that thives. Let's hope "Terror" will be exactly that to the affluent ANC cronies who hide smugly behind their "revolution".
David, Toronto, Canada
If Lekota wins and puts into does what he has promised,Then we will be back at home in South-Africa once again.He has my vote, even if I have to fly home to cast it.
Quinton L. Karshagen, New-Haven,VT, USA
Lekota is our hero. No more Communist style leadership. He will restore power to the people. We want transparency, public accountability, less crime, save the sorpions. Health, education, justice & equality for all. Public engagement & a constitutional conference. Stop the brain drain.
Joe, Pretoria, South Africa
Finally a South African politician who is speaking sense and the genuine language of democracy and equality. I am tired of hearing of young white Soth Africans who have grown up in a so called democracy yet once leaving school find there is no place for them in their own country.
as a young South African citizen i respect the ANC and i know that we are now free in a democracy because of the ANC, but having said that i think many things are wrong within this gigantic movement today and as a young man i also respect the bold move by comrade Terror and others. viva Terror viva
Mafled, Polokwane- Turfloop, South Africa
Lekota sounds just like Mandela and Nyerere for his acceptance of whites and other non-blacks as fellow citizens and as fellow Africans. That's the kind of leader Africa, and not just South Africa, desperately needs on a continent mired in corruption and torn by tribalism and ethnic strife.
Mkulima , Allendale, USA
Very exciting and hopeful for South Africa, and not just for whites. I hope that Lekota makes a lasting effect on South Africa.
Bill, Tacoma, USA"
(Times Online, Oct.19, 2008)
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