Shilowa seeks to roll back Lekota's gains

Sipho Ngwema says faction is going to court to take back the party


COPE president Mbhazima Shilowa has thrown a spanner in the works of the Lekota faction's LGE campaign after he filed an urgent counter application in the Gauteng South High Court (SGHC).

A buoyant Shilowa, who was recently boosted by a Western Cape High Court (WCHC) order which effectively restrained the Lekota faction from filling his parliamentary position, has also enjoined the IEC.

Whilst Shilowa does not seek an immediate relief from the electoral body, he has asked the court to settle the protracted COPE leadership battle, once and for all. Although the Lekota faction preposterously claims there have been ten court decisions, a number that includes their sought after postponements, to date there has been four court decisions. These are:

  • The suspension of COPE national leadership elections at the May congress at the behest of Mosiuoa Lekota;
  • The setting aside a motion of no confidence against Lekota and Dexter, at the same conference; (both by SGHC)
  • The restoration of Shilowa and Lolo Mashiane, as chief whip and administrative whip respectively, and Lekota as a parliamentary leader (WCHC).

COPE hopes the current matter before the SGHC, which the organisation will join alongside Shilowa, will settle the leadership dispute once and for all. In terms of Shilowa's latest counter application, he has urged the court to:

  • Declare that, in terms of article 2.9 of COPE's Constitution, as adopted on 16 December 2008 in Bloemfontein ("the 2008 Constitution"), the term of office of the 2008 leadership approved on 16 December 2008 ended on 16 December 2010.
  • Furthermore, and in any event, declaring the members of the Lekota faction not to be members of the Congress National Committee ("CNC") of COPE.
  • Declaring that the 2008 Constitution was validly amended by the National Congress on 30 May 2010 to provide for a National Congress quorum of 50% plus one, instead of two-thirds of the membership of the Congress.
  • Furthermore, and in any event, declaring that the National Congress which convened at Heartfelt, Pretoria, from 15 to 17 December 2010, was duly constituted, and that the decisions taken there on 17 December 2010 are valid and binding.
  • Declaring that the CNC of COPE, as constituted by the National Congress which convened at Heartfelt from 15 to 17 December 2010, in terms of COPE's Constitution of 16 December 2008, as amended by the National Congress on 28 to 30 May 2010 and by the National Congress 15 to 17 December 2010 is the lawful CNC of COPE.
  • Declaring that the CNC referred to in the preceding paragraph and its lawfully appointed representatives are entitled to liaise with the Electoral Commission and all other organs of state, including representative organs of state, such as, but not restricted to, municipal councils, provincial legislatures and Parliament, in general, and to represent COPE's interests in the forthcoming elections and regarding the identity and status of COPE's representatives of such representative organs of state, and to substitute the names of COPE's leadership with the Electoral Commission in accordance with this order.
  • Declaring that Mbhazima Shilowa is COPE's lawful President and its Parliamentary leader.
  • Declaring that Lekota has ceased to be COPE's President with effect from 16 December 2010, and, consequently, is not COPE's Parliamentary leader.
  • Declaring that the purported suspension and subsequent expulsions of the representatives of COPE as set out in the resolution taken at the meeting held by persons who unlawfully hold themselves out to be the CNC on 22 January 2011 and of any other representatives suspended or expelled pursuant to such resolution, is unlawful and invalid.
  • Declaring that the expulsion of Mbhazima Shilowa as a member of COPE on 8 February 2011 is unlawful and invalid.
  • Declaring that all the disciplinary hearings conducted since November 2010 under the chairpersonship of Sarah Christie and Gerald Jacobs respectively were unlawful and invalid, and that the findings reached and recommendations made pursuant to such hearings are of no force and effect.
  • Interdicting and restraining the Lekota faction, with immediate effect, from:
    • Holding any public office on behalf of COPE.
    • Holding media or public conferences or issuing press statements on behalf of COPE and alleging or purporting or holding out to be office bearers or representatives of COPE.
    • Conducting communication between the party and official government or public structures other than through the Acting General Secretary elected at the national Congress held at Heartfelt.
    • Submitting party name lists to institutions of governance, such as the Electoral Commission, on behalf of COPE.
    • Holding caucuses, including legislative caucuses, in the absence of or in conflict with the necessary party resolutions, directives or sanction.
    • Undermining the structures of COPE by creating or maintaining parallel structures and interacting with government and public institutions or any other entity in the name of COPE as the national leadership of COPE.
    • Establishing offices in any of the provinces in the name of COPE.
    • Issuing or causing instructions to be issued in any form to any of COPE's bankers, concerning any of COPE's bank accounts.
    • Concluding agreements on behalf of or in the name of COPE.
    • Conducting unauthorised investigations in respect of and intimidating COPE staff.
    • Conducting disciplinary proceedings against any member of COPE.
    • Taking any steps, directly or indirectly, that have the effect of preventing COPE's members or office bearers from gaining access to and carrying on the business of COPE at any of COPE's offices.
    • Using any premises, facilities or equipment belonging to COPE.

Meanwhile, COPE in the Free State, a neutral province in the current leadership contest, has also lodged an urgent court application against the Lekota faction in Bloemfontein. Lekota has sought to restrain the province from expelling three members of the faction for allegations of corruption amounting to about R3m. Subsequent to his unsuccessful interventions to save his supporters; he purported to have disbanded the democratically elected provincial leadership.

Interestingly, this is a second attempt at dissolving the province. In the first instance he nullified the provincial elections after his supporters lost. They were thrashed again in the second contest.

These are the unfortunate frolics that have driven fine impartial leaders, like Neville Mompati, who recently left owing to the Lekota faction's desperate antics. COPE will continue to distance itself from the ultra conservative right-wing politics of the Lekota faction and their election campaign.

We remain resolute that with the absence of the bona fide leaders and activists of the organisation, the Lekota faction will be exposed baseless livelihood seekers who are bent on using our people for their security of tenure. Come May 18 the Lekota faction will have nothing to show the people of South Africa.

We remain committed to the dream of a modern progressive alternative that has the interest of the rainbow nation at heart. We continue to urge our members to isolate the Lekota faction in the elections and vote for more deserving candidates.

Statement issued by Sipho Ngwema on behalf of COPE(S), April 12 2011

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