Politics

Cope cuts the red wire and the ticking has stopped – for now

By Andy Rice 27 May 2010

Like an underpaid doctor at the Charlotte Maxeke Hospital, Cope has stitched together a deal that is really a plaster over a gushing wound. But it may hold for this weekend’s conference. If it goes ahead. There are a lot of “ifs” around Cope at the moment.

The big issue at the Congress of the People’s leadership meeting at Cope House in Braamfontein on Wednesday was whether the conference should be postponed or not. If it went ahead, Mosiuoa Lekota knew he would lose to Mbhazima Shilowa, whose people have been going around making sure Lekota’s people don’t get accreditation and just don’t vote. (We may have mentioned before, a few times, that at these things he who controls accreditation, wins. – Ed)

So Lekota went public with his frustration, but, as both men learnt their craft in the ANC, couldn’t quite come out and say it. Instead he said it would be undemocratic to have the conference now. And he came to this meeting with a few cards left to play. If Shilowa had forced through the conference, and it seems he had the votes on Cope’s congress national committee to do so, Lekota could have gone to court, or just left.

Either of those would have been embarrassing. But the other option for Lekota would have been to let Shilowa have his conference, and then get a judge to rule it null and void. Because you see, there’s still the name and branding of the party, not to mention its money, to fight for. Shilowa could make a fist of things by winning a conference without Lekota, but if Lekota walked away with the name, well, things would be more difficult for him.

So he offered a compromise. There will now be a re-evaluation of who gets to come to conference. In other words, he’s given up some of his control of accreditation. But only some. And we don’t know yet if it’s enough for Lekota to have a fighting chance.

But it was a strange day at Cope’s offices. Part of the afternoon was hugely surreal. There was the emergence of Lekota from the meeting just after lunch. As he disappeared into his office, a group of journalists stormed the room. Yes, really, they wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. Then the Youth Movement tried to have a press conference. They started by passing around a statement they’d emailed to everyone the day before, and apologised for having the press conference a day late. They were trying to fob us off then. And we weren’t having it. One by one journalists left the room. Conspicuously.

For those who feel Cope is a creation of the media, it was a hugely ironic moment.

Then there was the brief emergence of various other non-entities, still giving interviews way above their pay grades. You probably won’t read or hear any of those, because they don’t matter.

All in all, this is a party primed to come apart at the seams. And it’s going to take more that a sticking plaster to sew it back together again. Or a few compromises.

We’ve said it before: Cope was created around its leaders’ animosity towards the Zuma faction that swooped into power during the Polokwane conference, not around genuinely different ideas. It’s been run by politicians that were unable to do much when they had all the power and money that comes with controlling the government. Their chances of successfully running the party without that power and money are just about zero.

By Stephen Grootes

(Grootes is an Eyewitness News reporter)

Photo: REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

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