A conversation with Themba Godi is like taking a long hard look into the soul of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC), the party he left to found his own, the African People's Convention (APC).

A conversation with Themba Godi is like taking a long hard look into the soul of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC), the party he left to found his own, the African People's Convention (APC).

His floor-crossing is more meaningful than just playing musical chairs with letters of the alphabet, he says. The PAC is dead and not even the legacy of founding figurehead Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe can resurrect it.

Godi says about leaving the party: "The PAC had ceased to be an embodiment of the historic mission for which it was formed. It had stagnated and reached a point where it could no longer grow and provide the alternative it was meant to."

Godi does not think his departure and the continued ructions that have since seen Sobukwe's party torn into Mphahlele-ka Plaatjie factions is tantamount to undoing the work of the professor.

No, he says, the PAC's problems began way before this: "Its troubles started immediately after the banning. There's been a long history of decline and the man who was able to stop it in 1969 was John Nyathi Pokela."

Expulsions were the order of the day, Godi says.

"In exile the PAC would have died too. Were it not for the Tanzanians, it could have gone to the dogs."

From the time of the 1978 Arusha conference where Potlako Leballo, who led the PAC until 1979, expelled certain key members and the subsequent killing of David Sibeko, "from there the PAC never recovered".

"Even the coming of Pokela," says Godi before trailing off, was like, he shrugs, "water off a duck's back. The damage had already been done.

"When it was unbanned, it came up," he continues, but adds that the death of Zeph Mothopeng, the man who took over in 1984 and Japtha Masemola, for whom he has a lot of respect, and the departure of Dikgang Moseneke, now Deputy Chief Justice, "it slumped again". Other people, such as Willie Seriti, now a judge, found the militarism in the party too much for them, and left.

Those who remained were the chaff: "Most of the people in there had poor records of discipline in the party. By the time I left, it was clear that there was nothing one could do, I had actually become the enemy inside the organisation. I felt it was better to leave."

He jumped ship, he says, in order "to save the legacy of Sobukwe and Mothopeng".

His APC, with its current 20000-strong membership, learns a lot from the giants of the PAC: "From where I stand, the ideological line of the PAC, there's nothing wrong with it. It informs our current thinking. The APC is Africanist, socialist - primarily because these views are correct."

The PAC, "the vehicle that was to be the torchbearer of this, had become incapable of carrying out this mission".

Godi says he still believes in the correctness of the PAC stance.

But who did he take along into the APC? "Definitely not PAC members."

Right now the majority of APC members were not PAC members, he says. "We are not like Sopa, who raided Azapo for membership."

He does not think it would have made sense for these parties on the left to form a coherent voice against the ruling party.

Godi grew up in the rural areas, "Matsavane," he enunciates.

There was no overt political activity around him, he says. "Whatever political thinking that happened came as a result of what I generated as a high school student."

It was in his matric year, 1983, that his political ideas took shape. He read stories about Zanu-PF in Zimbabwe and Swapo in Namibia but was taken aback at the famine of political information in his village.

He was worried that in their apathy the folks back home and their ilk, would sit and do nothing; "not [become] involved in the struggle, but after liberation they'd want to stake their claim for a share of the spoils".

He then set up the Front for the Liberation of Azania, "trying to mobilise people in the rural areas".

When he came to Johannesburg to visit his father, who worked at the Sandton testing station, he'd take up odd jobs in the garden of the chief licensing officer. With the money, he bought books on politics that he'd devour on the bus back to Limpopo.

It was on one such excursion that he decided the PAC was the party for him. When he went to Turfloop to read for a degree in teaching - majoring in history - he met people who introduced him to the organisation.

An A-student who had plans to study medicine, his love for the party made him volunteer to work for the PAC as national organiser, "from 2000 until 2004 when I went to Parliament".

To keep him, the party that had its phone lines cut and registered for elections in cold hard cash, paid him the salary he earned as a teacher.

The highest point of the PAC, says the man in the APC, was in the early 1960s, "when the PAC was more popular than the ANC".

He knows the politics of the party like the back of his hand. He talks about epochs in the organisation - like when Leballo sold out his comrades to the Swazi authorities "telling [King] Sobhuza they wanted to overthrow his government".

His APC is a viable, credible and progressive alternative that will not betray the revolution, he says. It is a party "steeped in the values and traditions of the libe- ration, of people-centredness".

Godi does other sterling work as head of the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) in parliament. His work at Scopa tells him people "need to make it second nature to comply with rules".

He's been given all the leeway, he says, all the support he needed in his job.

To this day he reads Lenin, Mao, Marx ...

What do you do for fun?

"I don't have that time."

In five years the APC would be the second largest party in the country, a critical party in the politics of the land, he says: "I am not a bourgeoisie politician who would just talk."

He admires people such as Sobukwe, (Patrice) Lumumba, (Thomas) Sankara who put the nation above personal interest.

The APC can offer "our people a credible and progressive alternative".

"We're confident we'd be able to deliver where the PAC and Azapo have failed," says Godi.

"If we fail, let history be the judge."