The case of Cope and Willie Madisha’s beard

The case of Cope and Willie Madisha’s beard
MP and former deputy leader of Cope Willie Madisha. (Photo: Lerato Maduna / Gallo Images)

The party’s leadership battles have taken the shine off the once popular leader’s once stylish, shiny beard.

They say it’s cold outside the ANC. But if the coarse, unkempt state of embattled Congress of the People’s deputy president and MP Willie Madisha’s beard is anything to go by, then I guess it’s even safer to add: “It’s crispy dry outside the ANC.”

Madisha, who was suspended by party president Mosiuoa Lekota in 2022, after he had earlier suspended Lekota, was axed by Cope this week for what the party says were “unauthorised actions”.

But with Cope’s culture of suspensions and countersuspensions, it may just be a matter of time before Madisha unexpels himself and expels Lekota in turn. That’s just how Cope rolls, isn’t it?

The seed for this behaviour was planted back in the early days when Lekota and former security guard turned union leader turned premier, a man once known as Sam but later renamed Mbhazima Shilowa, fought over the reins of the party

In the end Shilowa chose to walk away after a bruising battle with Lekota.

With Lekota’s unyielding resolve to hold on to power and get rid of challengers, it might be advisable to rename the party ­Congress of the Person after the man from Kroonstad.

It remains unclear whether it’s the stress of the ongoing factional battles that saw him expelled by one of the warring Cope factions this week that has taken the shine off Madisha’s once celebrated beard.

Or perhaps, after losing all the perks of being in the ANC tripartite alliance leadership, he could no longer afford the expensive oils, lotions, gels and specialised pampering that kept his facial hair in tip-top condition.

Read more in Daily Maverick: ANC cadres couldn’t tolerate the competent load shedding man, so they fired him

Those in the know say that, back in the day, when the man was a member of the SACP’s Central Committee and president of Cosatu, his beard made women comrades so weak at the knees that they struggled to toyi-toyi in his presence.

Apparently this popularity made his fellow comrades envious, to the point where some plotted to have his beard shaved while he slept. Those in the know whispered that the plan was the brainchild of one comrade who had read the Afrikaans short story “Rooi­koos Willemse Is Soek”, in which a bunch of rugby-mad boere conspired to paint a drunk red-haired supporter completely black while he was out cold.

In its short life the party has surpassed the chaotic management standards of even the most notorious taxi associations.

The conspiracy against Rooikoos went according to plan. But the one against Madisha, like many ANC alliance-conceived plans, never materialised. Another case of poor service delivery, I guess.

Bags full of trouble

Madisha’s political career has been in freefall since he was expelled from the South African Democratic Teachers Union, the SACP and Cosatu back in 2008.

He had allegedly been caught red-handed doing what politicians have become notoriously good at – failing to account for funds.

Madisha was found guilty of bringing the SACP into disrepute after he failed to disclose or account for a R500,000 alleged donation to the party by Malawian businessman Charles Modise.

The generous donor had grumbled to the party’s head honchos when his good deed was not acknowledged.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Forfeit and forget – suddenly no cadres can remember currying favour with the Guptas

Modise claimed he had given the loot to Madisha in black plastic bags. Who donates such a generous amount like he’s transporting illicit cigarettes from Beitbridge?

Anyway, Madisha claimed he had taken the cash in the boot of his car to SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande, who swore that he never received the moolah or the black plastic bags.

Madisha later found a political home in Lekota’s stokvel, um, political party. But it seems his journey there has ended as well following the announcement of his axing.

Madisha’s axing is perhaps further proof that Cope is just not coping. The party leadership has been warring since its founding 14 years ago.

To add to the ensuing confusion about who exactly isn’t suspended or axed from the party’s leadership structures, Cope’s KZN branch, reacting to the announcement of Madisha’s sacking, alleged that the party is “a distinguished political party committed to promoting democracy, equality and good governance”.

It is not clear which Cope, or which of its factions, they were referring to as being distinguished and committed to promoting democracy and good governance, when the shenanigans in the party’s leadership structures suggest it is antidemocratic.

In its short life the party has surpassed the chaotic management standards of even the most notorious taxi associations.

In decades to come, political science students will use Cope as a perfect case study of how not to run a political party, or any organisation for that matter.

With the imminent imploding of the party, maybe the likes of Madisha should consider a career as consultants specialising in advising political parties on how to destroy themselves.

If this is the end of Madisha’s political career, he may even try his hand at modelling and become the face of some of those cosmetics brands for bearded men. DM

Mr Styles is the former president of the Organisation for Stylish People of South Africa (Osposa). He is against anything and anyone unstylish.

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R29.


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