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Cope may be dead, but hope lives on

Sipho Hlongwane is a writer and columnist for Daily Maverick. His other work interests also include motoring, music and technology, for which he has some awards. In a previous life, he drove forklift trucks, hosted radio shows, waited tables, and was once bitten by a large monitor lizard on his ankle. It hurt a lot. Arsenal Football Club is his only permanent obsession. He appears in these pages as a political correspondent.

No amount of goodwill can sustain a weak side, and two different teams set out to prove exactly that last week. The first was the Stormers, Super 14 hopefuls who, despite the backing of an entire province of trendy fans, were soundly beaten by the Blue Bulls (curses be). The second one was that political black hole, the Congress of the People.

It was quite sweet actually, like watching a small child arm wrestling a grown man. The frantic exertions of the child may, at times, give the adult pause, but he knows he’s beaten even before his arm inevitably touches the table. The fight is really about salvaging as much pride as possible, from a hopeless situation. And so it was with the Stormers.

Sweetest of all, the Stormers had a ridiculous amount of support. They were all over the Interweb, even managing to score a trending topic on Twitter. I was very touched. But the Stormers didn’t stand a chance, not with all the hopeful, saccharine goodwill poured upon them by myriads of Capetonians. I was reminded a bit of that other doomed vessel of hope and belief, the ill-named Cope.

At least the Stormers didn’t sabotage themselves, and the dreams of thousands, by fighting each other. Cope’s end (let’s just face it – they’re done), the elective conference that became a policy conference that reverted back to an elective conference, the broken chairs, the fisticuffs, the court interdict, the vote of no confidence, all signalled the death of the best shot we had, in recent times, for a truly representative opposition party in South Africa.

You’ve got to hand it to Lekota – it takes something special to fall out with two political parties in quick succession. He must be the starkest example of that old saying: What goes around comes around. I wonder if Zuma or Mantashe indulged their weaker sides and called Lekota just to mock. I know I would have, had I been in their respective positions.

The hopes of thousands of young South Africans lie in sad ruins. These are South Africans who realised that the ANC had abandoned its roots, and had become hijacked by the corrupt and the tenderpreneurs, and had hoped to find a home where the vision of 1994 could be kept alive. I know, because I too was one of these young South Africans. I made my neat little cross next to Mosiuoa Lekota’s shiny face on the ballot paper.

Oh, how foolish I was. How foolish we all were. My first vote gave me a lesson I shan’t forget in a hurry.

Cope now having thoroughly collapsed upon itself, or rent itself asunder, we hopefuls once again find ourselves faced with the Sisyphean task of choosing another political party for which to vote. It is really like being asked to pick something out of a Tata catalogue – there’s not much to choose from, and none of it makes your heart race.

I am sure the Stephen Grooteses and Justice Malalas among us will offer damning analyses of why Cope failed, and though it will be swell and we’ll tsk-tsk at how terrible it all is, it still doesn’t offer solace to those who want something better for their country. Isn’t it about time someone founded a truly post-apartheid party in South Africa? A party based on principles of true non-racialism, non-bourgeoisie-exclusive opposition. A party that, while recognising the problems bequeathed to us by our troubled past, has the immediate and future needs of the people at heart. A party that will truly have the poorest of the poor at heart, and not pay lip-service to that notion. One that will not seek to protect narrow, minority interests, but one that will realise that to benefit the disenfranchised is to benefit all South Africans.

Is it too early for people who didn’t grow up under the burden of apartheid to start new political parties? Is that the problem? Is my generation still too young?

Cope may be dead, but the spirit of hope still lives on in our hearts. And when the time is right, we will act.


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