By Antony Sguazzin
Oct. 15 (Bloomberg) -- Mbhazima Shilowa, the former premier of South Africa's Gauteng province, has quit the ruling African National Congress, widening a rift that could split the party that toppled apartheid.
``We anticipated it,'' Jessie Duarte, an ANC spokeswoman, said in an interview from her mobile phone today. ``We wish him well.''
Johannesburg's Star newspaper today reported that Shilowa will announce plans for a national congress that could lead to a split in the party ahead of next year's elections. The ANC suspended former party chairman Mosioua Lekota and Mluleki George, a one-time cabinet member, on Oct. 13.
The ANC began to fracture in 2005 when then President Thabo Mbeki dismissed his vice president, Jacob Zuma, amid allegations of corruption. The division widened last December when Zuma wrested control of Africa's oldest liberation movement and won nomination as the ANC's presidential candidate in next year's elections.
Mbeki was ousted as president last month and replaced by deputy ANC president Kgalema Motlanthe after a High Court judge said his government may have influenced prosecutors to charge Zuma with corruption. The judge invalidated charges against Zuma.
Lekota said last week that he and his backers were ``serving divorce papers'' on the ANC. He rejected criticism of the judiciary by party leaders and their allies over Zuma's case and a public claim by 27-year-old ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema that he would ``kill'' for Zuma.
Zuma, addressing union members south of Johannesburg yesterday, said that those who try to split the party are ``charlatans'' and that action would be taken to rid the party of ``factionalism.''
The ANC has ruled since Nelson Mandela became the first black president of South Africa in 1994. The party won almost 70 percent of the 15.6 million votes cast in the last elections in 2004. The Democratic Alliance, its closest rival, won 12 percent.
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