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New S. Africa party officially launches

Dec. 15, 2008 at 5:45 PM

BLOEMFONTEIN, South Africa, Dec. 15 (UPI) -- The founders of a major new South African opposition political party said Monday they are officially launching the Congress of the People, or COPE.

Founding members include former officials of the ruling African National Congress, Africa's oldest liberation movement, which COPE leaders say has been led astray by its president Jacob Zuma, the Voice of America reported Monday.

Former South African Defense Minister Mosiuoa Lekota joined 4,000 COPE supporters in Bloemfontein, South Africa, saying the new party must strengthen democracy and look to unseat politicians who seek to remain in power forever.

"No party owns voters," Lekota said. "Therefore, we can neither prevent other parties from persuading our members or supporters to vote for them, nor be prevented from canvassing our ideas among voters of any other political party."

VOA said Lekota accused ANC members of intimidating COPE supporters and trying to prevent them from holding rallies, while Zuma, speaking in Eastern Cape, said he was confident of an ANC victory in elections next year.

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