South Africa's former defence minister Mosiuoa "Terror" Lekota was named president of a breakaway faction of the ruling ANC at the official launch of the new party today. "The people have decided to elect Mosiuoa Lekota as our leader," announced a Congress of the People (Cope) official at a press conference in Bloemfontein in central South Africa. The former premier of the country's richest province Gauteng, Mbhazima Shilowa, was named deputy along with businesswoman Linda Odendaal.
The party, made up of disgruntled former members of the African National Congress (ANC) is positioning itself as a modern party of the future that is racially inclusive as discontent with the ANC has grown in past years. "What kind of country do you want to live in the future?" Mr Lekota said in his first address as president, adding that South Africa was facing a leadership crisis. "This country was running short, was suffering from a crisis of leadership, and at this conference in the interactions of our delegates and our fellow citizens we hear about concerns for the moral decay in our body politic."
The former ANC leaders jumped ship after the party forced former President Thabo Mbeki to resign after months of discontent over the path the party was taking under the leadership of controversial party chief Jacob Zuma. Bloemfontein in the Free State province is also the birthplace of the ANC. "Today it becomes the birthplace of our country's first modern political party. This is the Congress of the People which we launch today here in Bloemfontein," Mr Lekota said.
"We, the Congress of the People, will hold hands with all South Africans to defend the values that define us as a nation," said Mr Lekota, saying the party would emerge as "a force to be reckoned with". "We must not rest on our laurels." He outlined many of the parties policies including a dramatic turnaround in affirmative action policies which he said "will not be based on race". "Ours shall be a truly non-racial party which shall provide a home and voice to all South Africans irrespective of race, class or gender."