NEWS & ANALYSIS

COPE(S) won't participate in local govt poll - Sipho Ngwema

As interdict granted against Graham McIntosh filling Shilowa's vacated seat in parliament

COURT GRANTS SHILOWA AN ORDER TO HALT LEKOTA FACTION SWEARING IN

The Western Cape High Court granted COPE president Mbhazima Shilowa an interim order which restrains the Speaker of Parliament from filing his seat in the National Assembly.

The Lekota faction, that has purported to act for the organisation in various unlawful and unauthorised actions, forwarded the name of one Graham McIntosh to replace Shilowa as a member of the National Assembly. This was done while all matters of leadership dispute are still pending.

Surprisingly, parliament seemed keen to proceed with the swearing in even though the matter had not been finalised and such was in contravention of its own rules and undertakings. The interim order is another clear indication that the matter of the COPE leadership is still in dispute and the Lekota faction continues to lie unashamedly to the public and itself.

COPE was keen to have the matter of leadership dispute resolved once and for all last week in the Western Cape High Court but the Lekota faction were happy for another delay and for the leadership confusion to continue.

The 66 year-old McIntosh was scheduled to be sworn in last week but the proceedings were delayed following the intervention of COPE legal representatives.

Furthermore, even if hypothetically there was such a vacancy, the exaggerated elevation of this retired former NP senior leader in KZN has always been a source of disunity and discontent in the party. In the early 1990s the Escort farmer whose farm is a subject of land claim was embroiled in dramatic controversy where he allegedly killed about 200 dogs belonging to black hunters.

In addition, despite the fact that he is above retirement age and has served parliament for a long time before, he will be the third whites' only representative emanating from KZN to parliament after Deidre Carter and Graham McKenzie.

The speaker's return date is on Thursday 31 March.

COPE WILL NOT PARITICIPATE WITH LEKOTA IN THE ELECTIONS

Meanwhile, COPE national leadership resolved to neither field candidates nor campaign in the local government elections and reject with contempt the Lekota faction's efforts to abuse a technical reprieve which saw the IEC officially acknowledging only a list recognised by Mosiuoa Lekota.

In 2009 COPE submitted two names to the IEC as contact persons from the organisation. The interim order against Shilowa effectively left Lekota as the only recognised contact person from COPE pending the leadership dispute. It is not true therefore, that the IEC recognises Lekota as the COPE president but acknowledge him as one of the contact persons submitted before the December conference.

Reports from various parts of the nine provinces indicate that Lekota blocked our members from legitimate structures from submitting their lists and even instructed the IEC not to accept any lists where he personally did not have any support. In all cases, he changed the lists and put his supporters on top in the proportional lists with our members left to campaign in the insecure section of ward candidates. In some cases, the Lekota faction has dangled an illusionary carrot to our members in an effort to exploitation their grass root support for the benefit of his members. Lekota has no support nor base in COPE and these elections will expose him beyond doubt.

We cannot allow Lekota to abuse the economic plight to our members and position his supporters to cash in on the toil of hard working COPE activists. We remain resolute in our principle that Lekota is not the elected leader of our organisation and can therefore has no mandate nor should he purport to act on our behalf.

We want to make it abundantly clear that COPE is NOT calling for the boycott of the elections and we encourage our people to isolate the Lekota faction in these elections. There's no Lekota sanctioned candidate that can claim to do to the municipalities that which they could not do to the organisation. There's no leader that has divided his organisation nor led it to be in tatters that can claim to do better for South Africans that which he has dismally failed to do. Lekota is divisive and undemocratic - and therefore cannot be entrusted with leadership.

We urge our members to conduct themselves with honour and dignity in dispensing their rights as responsible voting citizens and put merit first in choosing their local representative. They must vote for the best candidates and distance themselves from Lekota's fraudulent frolics.    

In the meantime, we will focus all our efforts in regaining and salvaging our organisation. We will forge ahead with our members and craft a comprehensive political strategy and programme of action which will shape our future.  

Statement issued by Sipho Ngwema, COPE (S) HEAD of Communications, on behalf of COPE (S), March 29 2011

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