Page last updated at 17:27 GMT, Saturday, 24 January 2009

New SA party promises reforms

Cope leader Mosioua Lekota (2008 picture)
Leader Mosioua Lekota wants directly elected mayors and premiers

A breakaway party from South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC) has pledged electoral reform in a manifesto ahead of this year's ballot.

Congress Of The People (Cope), formed after the ousting of former president Thabo Mbeki, said it wanted all premiers and mayors publicly elected.

The manifesto was launched in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape, by the party's leader Mosioua Lekota.

He also promised tough anti-crime measures and help for the poor.

'Basic tenet'

During his speech Mr Lekota made no mention of the African National Congress, the party he - and most of his supporters - left late last year, the BBC's correspondent Jonah Fisher reported.

The formation of Cope is being widely seen as the most significant development in South African politics since the end of apartheid, our correspondent said.

Ex-South African President Thabo Mbeki
The ANC sacked Thabo Mbeki last year after a power struggle in the party

South Africa's election is expected to take place in April or May. The ANC has ruled the country since the end of apartheid in 1994.

While Cope is not expected to win, it could drastically cut the ANC's majority enough to prevent it automatically forming a government, our correspondent said.

Cope's manifesto also included plans for a stabilisation fund to help protect companies affected by the global financial crisis.

The party was formed after last year's ANC conference in Polokwane, when then President Thabo Mbeki lost his fight with Jacob Zuma to remain party president.

Mr Zuma's supporters went on to force Mbeki loyalists out of key positions of power, and Mr Mbeki was forced to step down as president in September.

Cope's registration has been delayed because the name it had initially chosen, the South African National Congress, was challenged by the ANC, while the second choice name - the South African Democratic Congress - had already been taken by another party.

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