March 16, 2004

Communists may drop ANC poll alliance

The South African Communist Party (SACP) may end its electoral alliance with the ruling African National Congress and contest local polls under its own banner that year, party officials have announced. The SACP's statement marked a new sign of strain within the "tripartite alliance", where President Thabo Mbeki's ANC faces criticism from both the SACP and the powerful COSATU labour federation. SACP spokesman Kaizer Mohau explained that the party was weighing calls from a "significant minority" in its ranks to ditch the alliance for local polls due later that year. The ANC allocated around 60 of its 279 parliamentary seats to SACP members after the national elections in 2004. According to analysts, the possible departure of the tiny party would have little impact on the ANC, which swept to a 70 percent victory in the poll. But alliance divisions are of concern to the ruling party as tensions grow within COSATU, which claims more than twice the membership of the ANC. While saying it would remain allied with the ANC for now, COSATU has increasingly defied the ANC particularly on the issue of Zimbabwe, where COSATU charges Mbeki's government with turning a blind eye to rights abuses and repression of the labour movement. (Rts)

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