December 16, 2008 / 10:09 AM / in 9 years

FACTBOX: South Africa's Lekota leads breakaway party

(Reuters) - Former South African defense minister Mosiuoa “Terror” Lekota was named on Tuesday as leader of the new Congress of the People (COPE) party, a breakaway faction of the ruling ANC.

Here are some details about Lekota:

* A close ally of former President Thabo Mbeki, Lekota served as defense minister between 1999 and 2008. He quit in protest at Mbeki’s ousting and has since attacked ANC leaders for betraying the party’s values and stifling dissent.

* Lekota served as ANC chairman for 10 years until 2007 but was voted off the National Executive Committee after repeated criticism of ANC leader Jacob Zuma, who defeated Mbeki to win the party leadership a year ago.

* The new party, the Congress of the People (COPE), was formed two months ago by ANC defectors loyal to Mbeki and plans to contest the general election next year. It poses the biggest challenge to the ANC since the end of apartheid in 1994.

* Nicknamed “Terror” for his fearsome skills on the soccer pitch as a young man, Lekota was the eldest of seven children in a working class family. He is a keen cyclist. Lekota, who turned 60 in August, suffered a heart attack in 2005.

* Lekota worked as a student activist during the 1970s. He was jailed for six years on Robben Island, where he met ANC leaders. After release in 1982 he joined the liberation struggle but was arrested again and charged with high treason. He was held for more than four years before being acquitted in 1989.

* After the un-banning of the ANC, Lekota worked as the chairman of regional party branches before he was elected onto the National Executive Committee in 1991. At the end of October, Lekota resigned from the African National Congress.

Sources: Reuters/ANC website

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