Anna Majavu, Joel Avni and Frank Maponya

Anna Majavu, Joel Avni and Frank Maponya

Despite the desperate moves by the ANC leadership to bring about stability and unity, the first cracks showing that the party was headed for a split emerged yesterday.

After firing President Thabo Mbeki last week and the subsequent resignation of several cabinet ministers, the party is now faced with the discontent and threats of a splinter group involving some top officials.

Yesterday Mbeki supporters in Limpopo confirmed that they belonged to an organisation called the ANC Activists Consultative Forum (ANCACF).

The objective, said the Mbeki supporters, was to form a new party that would challenge the ANC in the coming election. The new party is expected to be made public by the end of this week.

A founder member, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the forum was up and running and had held meetings in several parts of the province.

He also claimed that meetings had already been held in Gauteng, North West and Eastern Cape.

Other provinces are expected to follow suit. In Cape Town a group that organised a pro-Mbeki march to Parliament is believed to be involved in the formation of the new party.

The source said they believed that only a party formed by people who understood the traditions of the ANC could effectively challenge the ruling party.

He said members of the forum were aware that such an initiative would face obstacles such as character assassination campaigns and the vilification of its leaders and possible threats to the lives of members of the new formation.

"We have, therefore, resolved to put our personal fears and interests aside in order to launch the people's party," said the source.

Joe Maswanganyi, the provincial secretary of the ANC, yesterday chose to reserve his comments "until the new party came out into the open".

ANC general secretary Gwede Mantashe on Tuesday said the ANC was aware of the rumours about a new party. He also said it was people's democratic right to form political parties.

In another display of the raging divisions within the party, the Western Cape's two factions of the ANC ran parallel provincial conferences.

A faction led by well-known Mbeki supporter and ANC MP Lerumo Kalako held its meeting in a rundown Langa community hall.

This was in opposition to another conference run by outgoing Western Cape chairman Mcebisi Skwatsha a few kilometres away at the plush Cape Town Conference Centre.