7 Nov 2008

ANC breakway party unveil new name

9:22 am on 7 November 2008

Defectors from South Africa's ruling ANC have announced a new name for their party, hoping to overcome legal and electoral obstacles ahead of next year's general election.

The new grouping, led by a former defence minister and other ANC rebels loyal to ousted President Thabo Mbeki, had intended to register itself as the South African Democratic Congress.

But the Independent Electoral Commission said the name was already registered on its database of political parties.

The African National Congress also launched a legal challenge to prevent the use of that name.

The breakaway group has been renamed the Congress of the People.

A leader of the ANC rebels, Mbhazima Shilowa, unveiled the new name in an address to about 200 supporters on Friday.

Former Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota and other leaders of the new party said at a convention at the weekend that they wanted to be in the government after next year's election. They are expected to launch their party on 16 December.

Mr Lekota was among those who resigned in September in sympathy with Mr Mbeki, who was forced by the ANC to step down as state president.

Mr Mbeki was defeated by Jacob Zuma in a bitter contest for the ANC leadership in 2007 and ousted by the party nine months later after being accused of trying to smear his rival with a corruption case.

Mr Zuma, the front runner to become president after the election, told supporters to be clear when assessing what he called the "breakaways" from the ANC, which has dominated the country's politics since the end of apartheid in 1994.

Mr Mbeki has not linked himself to the breakaway party, but has also said he does not want to be part of the ANC election campaign.