Tutu threatens to boycott South Africa polls over ANC infighting

Other News Materials 5 October 2008 19:51 (UTC +04:00)

Two weeks after former South African president Thabo Mbeki was forced by his party to resign, his ouster continued to make waves Sunday, with respected Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu threatening to boycott upcoming general elections over the move, dpa reported.

"I would be sufficiently unhappy not to vote," the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and renowned anti-apartheid activist told the Sunday Times, South Africa's biggest selling newspaper, in an interview.

Mbeki stepped down on September 21 at the demand of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) following a court ruling inferring he meddled in the prosecution of ANC leader Jacob Zuma.

ANC deputy leader Kgalema Motlanthe was elected by parliament to succeed Mbeki until general elections slated for April or May.

Tutu slammed the party's decision to issue Mbeki with his marching papers six months before the end of his presidency as "unnecessary" and vengeful.

The 76-year-old clergyman and former post-Apartheid truth commission chairman said he would not participate in the election unless there were attempts at healing the divisions within the ANC between Zuma and Mbeki loyalists.

Although Motlanthe and Zuma have both called for party members to put aside their differences, disgruntled Mbeki loyalists and the pro-Zuma ANC leadership are still at each other's throats.

Analysts say the bickering could hurt the party come the elections, either in terms of possible voter apathy or reduced support for the popular former liberation movement.

A group of Mbeki loyalists within the ANC are reportedly planning to launch a rival party that could siphon away some votes.

Tutu said he would welcome a new party, provided that it was seen as a viable alternative to the ANC. Sixteen parties are represented in the 400-seat National Assembly, but the ANC has a more-than-two- thirds majority.

"We don't have anything like that just now and that's probably not such a good thing," he said.

So far the ANC has scoffed at the idea of a breakaway party, proposed names for which, according to newspaper reports, include the ANC Democratic Front, ANC Plus and the Real ANC.

Names linked to the proposed party include former Gauteng premier Mbhazima Shilowa and former defence minister Mosiuoa Lekota. dpa cb bve