Don't sell COPE's soul to the DA - Malusi Booi

Youth Movement's general secretary responds to Phillip Dexter's critique

On Friday Politicsweb published an article (see here) by the party's head of communications, Phillip Dexter , criticising the recent document (here) of the COPE Youth Movement. Below is a response by the Youth Movement's secretary general Malusi Booi. Dexter's original remarks are in normal text. Booi's follow in bold.

Response to Phillip Dexter by Malusi Booi on his remarks on the youth document:

PD: 1. The manner in which the document was leaked to the media (see here) has been very unfortunate and the conduct of the leadership of the Youth Movement is very damaging for the party. Why the document could not be given to us as the leadership of the party shows the level of ill-discipline and disrespect the supporters of this document have for the leadership and for the party.

MB: This is a side show remark - there must be no leaks but whether the document is out there or not the issues raised are not therefore illegitimate.

COPE is not a secret organization - the over emphasis on things remaining in the ranks cannot be applicable to the world of modern technology and fast paced communications. The document was emailed to our structures all over the country - to believe that it was going to remain in wraps is simply naïve.

Secondly the document was meant for our youth structures - if it was given to the leadership prematurely it was going to be dismissed as an unrepresentative document. So the timing for its release to the leadership is a decision we stand by and will do so again in the future - we cannot release unprocessed documents to the leadership so that that can be used against our positions.

PD: 2. Having said that, the many good points that the paper makes, (incidentally, none of them are new issues), are undermined by the clearly factionalist and sectarian character of the document and its facile and unscientific analysis of the weaknesses of the party.

MB: There is nothing factional about the document. It has criticized all areas of COPE. There is no evidence advanced by Mr Dexter that this document serves one over another faction. Phillip's assertion that because none of these issues are new therefore they are not important to raise should be a grave concern to the party at large. With this Phillip clearly suggests that continuous failure by the leadership should be left to run the party to the ground because they are old.

The facts are there for everyone to see, COPE is far weaker today than it was a year ago today and therefore to dismiss the Youth Movement document as factionalist, unscientifically analysed etc. shows the character of our leadership, "burying their heads in the sand while Rome burns down".

PD: 3. To claim that bringing some officials to work full-time at the HQ selectively criticises the officials, leaving out the fact that others also serve as MPs and MPLs, not least of the interim leader of the YM herself. If the criticism applies to some officials, it applies to all. In any case, there are not enough resources to implement this proposal and that has been the only reason for it not being implemented.

MB: The document does say ‘resources must be found to make sure the proposal happens' so there is no basis to criticize it  over that point. The point to be made is that the arrangements where the critical areas are headed by people who are also Members of Parliament is the cause for the inefficiency of those departments mentioned. Mr Dexter must address that head on and not hide behind the issue of resources.

In fact, Phillip's point about no resources to implement the Youth Movement's proposal contradicts the very argument he is attempting to advance. The party's Treasurer General is an MP, the Policy head is also an MP and the Head of Communications in parliament as well and, in our view this is suicidal for a young party that needs funds to run effectively, a policy conference to clearly articulate its position on a numbers of bread and butter issues that affect our people and also needs a funded communications plan to crisply communicate the party's messages.

PD: 4. No analysis of the performance of the officials and staff currently at HQ has been made. There are two full-time officials and at least 6 staff employed there. Each department surely needs to be assessed.

MB: Such an analysis is actually the work of the CNC. The document analyses the overall output of those officials which is equally to a shambolic administration. This cannot be fudged by Mr Dexter by diverting attention to 6 junior staff at head office tasked with minion tasks. All the people referred to are junior officials who have no ultimate responsibility to build this party. The Youth Movement agrees with Mr Dexter that each department surely needs to be assessed, and for this very reason that we have a leadership that tells people about the things that should be done and they don't do them is proof that our document is on point.

PD: 5. The paper does not take in to account that a key base for the party should be where there are resources - Parliament. The weaknesses of the party in Parliament need to be analysed, from the slowness in recruiting and appointing staff, to the completely unworkable and inefficient deployment of MPs, to the performance of some of the MPs. Instead, the paper creates the impression that all the weaknesses in the party are concentrated in the top leadership of the party.

MB: There is a whole section dedicated to the weakness of the party in parliament. Dexter needs to read that section closely to realize that huge criticism is levelled at the party in parliament. There was no intention to reveal blow by blow account of the failures there - the reality is the document lays a basis for the kind of introspection that the likes of Dexter as MPs need to make in order to chart a way forward.

PD: 6. The weaknesses of the YM and its leadership are not even given mention in the document, let alone serious consideration. Since its formation the YM has been racked with problems, many of the relating to the behaviour and conduct of the interim leadership. Almost all criticisms and suggestions to remedy these problems have been met with arrogance, petulance and immaturity, rather than constructive engagement. The resignations of so many youth leaders and members is surely testament to the problems the structure has. The lack of self-criticism of the drafters of the document is breathtaking. That those who are part of the illness afflicting the party seek to suggest that they are the cure is quite ludicrous.

MB: This document is not an annual report of the YM it is an assessment of COPE‘s mother body - there are realms of analysis made about the weaknesses of the youth movement. It is not serious to suggest that the document does not point a finger at the youth. More criticism is welcome however from all COPE members. This will not detract from the many areas of analysis of the collapse of the mother body pointed out by the document.

PD: 7. The argument that the current leadership of COPE, the only leadership elected by a conference, should stand down and be replaced by an unelected group of individuals is tantamount to dissolving the party. One cannot even begin to understand the logic or the motive for this suggestion, unless dissolution is the objective.

MB: The CNC has failed dismally, it remaining in office until MAY will add no value to the party. It was itself not elected by anyone nothing stops it from appointing a smaller committee whose sole job is to convene the conference. This is an expression of a motion of no confidence in the party and nothing complex. But as it has become customary - the leadership chooses to see it as recklessness and not an opportunity to reflect on their dismal failure.

PD: 8. If this is the suggestion to resolve COPE's issues, surely this applies more so to the YM itself.

MB: It may well be. But the difference is that the YM is not denying that there are huge problems. The CWC‘s characterization of the genuine problems raised so far has been to call the document destructive and part of a disinformation: This is the cardinal difference.

PD: 9. The tone of the document and the statement made to the media, accusing the leadership of the party for being agents of imperialism is one that cannot be left unchallenged. This serious charge must be proven or withdrawn with a public apology.

MB: COPE must take responsibility for not consulting enough on the issues of coalition with the DA. Even Mr George is quoted as saying that there is no mandate to pursue alliance politics in the manner that we have seen the likes of Phillip Dexter steering it. Rushing to press conferences with the DA without canvassing positions. So to jump to a demand for an apology is not going to wash with the youth. We will agitate against a knee jerk alliance with the DA until conference. We are not bound by undemocratic decisions that may end up selling the soul of COPE to the DA. The leadership must get used to the idea that the youth will not merely follow suit without being engaged. Reference to imperialism must be understood in that context. No apology is necessary whatsoever.

PD: 10. In summary, this document is populist and the serious suggestions to deal with the challenges the party faces are lost in the rhetoric. While all COPE members are entitled to their views, these views must be subjected to vigorous criticism. To substitute anarchy for the current weaknesses in the party will only increase divisions, make the party weaker and will play in to the hands of our opponents.

MB: There is nothing populist in the document. It is amongst the most honest critiques of COPE ever to be produced. The CNC is yet to produce a document like that to guide COPE members in understanding even our performance at the polls let alone the shambles that have become of our organization. There is little or no rhetoric but a focused section by section analysis of many issues that are facing COPE. There is nothing in the document per se that plays into they hands of opponents it is the actual disorganization and lack of leadership that the first year has seen that is the real trouble with COPE.

Malusi Booi is the General Secretary of the COPE Youth Movement

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