President Jacob Zuma. Picture: MICHAEL BRATT
President Jacob Zuma. Picture: MICHAEL BRATT

A NEW political party is being registered, sparking speculation that African National Congress (ANC) leaders are preparing to break away from the ruling party should they not succeed in changing its leadership next month.

A notice was published in the Government Gazette last month, announcing the formation of the South African National Congress (SANC). A government official, who asked not to be named, said on Monday that talk of the SANC was rife in the North West.

The new party is associated with a group that called itself "forces of change", and is opposed to President Jacob Zuma’s re-election as ANC leader.

The group wants Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe to be the next ANC president. In the event that Mr Zuma defeats him, it hopes the party will be launched ahead of the 2014 elections.

The choice of the name is likely to set the new party on a collision course with the ANC, which previously fought attempts to use its symbols and heritage.

ANC spokesman Keith Khoza said on Monday that he was aware of the registration of the new party, but did not know who its founders were. He said the ANC would file an objection to the name with the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).

IEC spokeswoman Kate Bapela said on Monday it had not yet received an application for the registration of the SANC.

There are concerns in the ANC that groups defeated at its elective conference next month may form regional splinter parties to contest the 2014 elections. The Northern Cape, North West, Limpopo and Free State are considered susceptible to breakaway parties.

MPs and MPLs who end up on the losing side at the ANC conference may feel insecure that the party will not redeploy them to the positions on which their livelihoods depend, and may seek new political homes.

Some of the leaders on the losing side at the ANC’s last elective conference broke away to form the Congress of the People (COPE), which won 7% of the vote in the 2009 elections. The ANC lost its two-thirds parliamentary majority — required to change the constitution — mainly because of COPE’s formation.