Death threats against dissident ANC members in South Africa

The split in South Africa's ruling African National Congress took an increasingly nasty turn Thursday, with supporters of the biggest faction loyal to party leader Jacob Zuma threatening to kill dissidents planning to form a rival party, reported dpa.

A group of Zuma supporters demonstrated outside a hall in a township south of Johannesburg where former ANC chairman and splinter faction leader Mosiuoa Lekota was due to address a rally.

"Kill Shilowa, kill Lekota," they were quoted by SAPA news agency as chanting.

Mbhazima Shilowa, the popular former premier of Gauteng province, where Johannesburg and Pretoria are situated, is the other face of the group of breakaway ANC members that plan to launch a rival party to challenge elections scheduled for next year.

The ANC's decision to demand that Thabo Mbeki resign as president in September has deepened the divide within the party between Mbeki and Zuma camps.

Former defence minister Lekota was one of 10 ministers and deputy ministers who quit government in protest over Mbeki's axing.

Lekota and Shilowa have accused the Zuma leadership of the ANC of betraying the party's ideals of non-racialism and respect for the rule of law.

Zuma supporters are often seen in tee-shirts vaunting him as a "100 per cent Zuluboy". The ANC has also been calling for a state corruption case against Zuma to be abandoned "in the public interest."

The ANC has dismissed their complaints as mere sour grapes but has been visibly rattled by images of thousands of people flocking to hear Lekota and Shilowa speak at rallies across the country.

In recent days, the rhetoric has become increasingly sinister, with senior ANC members accusing the dissidents of being "traitors" and "dogs."

The new party, which is to be officially launched on December 16, is deemed no match for the powerful ANC, but political analysts say it could take enough votes to rob the party of its more-than-two- thirds majority in parliament.

The ANC would need a two-thirds majority if it wanted to pass a constitutional amendment protecting Zuma from prosecution if, as expected, he becomes president. Until now, the ANC has remained mum on whether it would consider such a move.

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