A breakaway faction of South Africa’s is ruling ANC on Sunday accused the party of mounting a campaign of intimidation against its supporters. Public servants have been threatened with dismissal if they offered support for the new Congress of the People (COPE), its interim chairman, Mosiuoa Lekota, said.

COPE was formed two months ago by ANC defectors loyal to former South African President Thabo Mbeki and says it will challenge the ANC, now led Mbeki’s rival Jacob Zuma, at national elections next year.”Intimidation and paralising fear is now gripping sections of our society,” Lekota told delegates at a conference.

He compared it to the repression which prevailed under the apartheid system of racial segregation.”Public servants now talk in whispers when they discuss COPE. They report that they risk their jobs if they are seen to befriend us. Tales of spying on each other, as under apartheid, on who attends COPE meetings, abound.”

Lekota is a former defence  minister who quit his post and the ruling party after Mbeki was ousted as South Africa’s president earlier this year over charges that he interfered in a criminal case against Zuma. He accused ANC leaders of inciting hatred against COPE.

“Songs threatening or encouraging the hatred of and the killing of COPE leaders have been composed and are sung at meetings,” Lekota said.


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