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ANC splinter group names priest in presidential race

February 21, 2009|Reuters

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA — South Africa's new COPE party, seen as the first challenge to the ruling ANC, has chosen a Methodist bishop, the Rev. Mvume Dandala, as its presidential candidate in the April elections.

Congress of the People, or COPE, formed in December by dissidents from the ruling African National Congress, said Friday that Dandala had been nominated by party structures across South Africa.

The April 22 parliamentary elections are expected to be the most closely contested since apartheid ended in 1994.

The ANC, in power since then, is expected to win and make party leader Jacob Zuma president, despite a renewed graft case that has dogged him for years. But COPE has vowed to break its dominance.

Dandala, 57, could appeal to voters who have grown tired of corruption scandals in the ANC and of the party's record on crime, poverty and the AIDS epidemic. Church leaders have influence in Africa.

"South Africa needs an honest, trustworthy and highly skilled leader," COPE said in a statement.

Dandala played a role mediating an end to violence in the lead-up to democracy in South Africa. He was also involved in peace talks in Kenya last year after postelection violence.

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