Zille: I want ANC split

(BBC) The leader of South Africa’s official opposition, Helen Zille, says she would welcome a split in the ruling African National Congress party.

She was responding to former Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota’s threat on Wednesday to form new party.

‘We’re seeing a non-racial alignment… on the basis of principles and that’s a very good thing,’ she told the BBC.

But ANC leader Jacob Zuma said a new party would be no threat to the ruling party in polls due next year.

‘This splinter party will never be a real threat. Here we are talking about a party that has not been formed as yet and if it were to be formed, it will have very little time to mobilise support before the elections,’ South Africa’s Witness newspaper quotes him as saying.

Mr Lekota is a close ally of former South African President Thabo Mbeki who was forced to step down last month.

The governing party is divided between supporters of Mr Mbeki and Jacob Zuma, who won a bitter party contest to become ANC leader last year.

Ms Zille, who heads the Democratic Alliance, said if Mr Lekota did form a new party it would not threaten her party, which believes in ‘the supremacy of the constitution and the rule of law and due process’.

‘In the end there will be a convergence of all of those parties like ourselves who believe in that vision and that future,’ she told the BBC’s Network Africa programme.

‘A breakaway faction from the ANC would be very good for democracy here in South Africa. We desperately need an honest, uncorrupted alternative.’

Asked if she would join forces with Mr Lekota, Ms Zille said that she would work with all parties “opposed to power abuse”.

‘We will do that with Mr Lekota’s party if he decides to establish it,’ she said.

Mr Lekota, known as ‘Terror’ because of his prowess on the football field, is a former ANC chairman and resigned after Mr Mbeki stepped down.

On Wednesday, he said that a conference would be held in the next few weeks where a decision may be taken to split from the ANC.

Earlier this week, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Archbishop Desmond Tutu said it would be good for South Africa to have a viable opposition party.