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Cope deputy president Smuts Ngonyama and treasurer-general Mluleki George say the organisation will “rise like a phoenix” and resuscitate itself.
The ANC breakaway party, formed amid much fanfare in December 2008, has slowly disintegrated in the face of a public rift between co-founders Mosiuoa Lekota and Mbhazima Shilowa, factionalism and charges of maladministration of party funds against several senior office-bearers.
George, formerly a close ally of Shilowa, and Ngonyama called a press conference yesterday in a bid to present a united front.
“We are now together in the interest of building a united, cohesive organisation,” Ngonyama said.
There were a number of Cope members who were disillusioned, he added. “This process and message is supposed to cascade to all levels so that people understand… Let bygones be bygones.”
He called on Cope members to return to the beleaguered party.
“Cope will now rise. It will be able to resuscitate itself.
“This is the beginning of the renaissance of the Congress of the People. It is going to rise like a phoenix, especially as we prepare to go to the next national general elections.
“(Cope) was never meant for the dust, it was meant to fly up in the sky,” he said.
A number of Cope leaders have rejoined the ANC – most notably its spokesman, Phillip Dexter, who returned to the ruling party just before its centenary celebrations in January – saying the Lekota-Shilowa leadership didn’t inspire confidence.
Ngonyama said it was difficult to estimate how many Cope supporters had left the party, but George said infighting in the ANC was worse than in Cope and, as a result, deterred Cope dissidents from returning to the ruling party.
“(The ANC) helped us in the process, because even those people who would have loved to go back to the ANC, (with) the infighting that is going on there, they didn’t see a difference between the infighting here (in Cope). So I don’t believe we’ve lost much,” George said.
Shilowa had refused to come back into the fold, George said, instead choosing to pursue legal action against Lekota.
At stake is a dispute over who is the rightful leader of Cope, with both Lekota and Shilowa claiming the position.
Ngonyama said some people had been “impatient because they wanted a strong alternative” to the ANC “right from the beginning”.
On the matter of expelled and suspended members, he said the national executive and national office-bearers were trying to clean up the process.
“Our role is not to expel people forever. (Those) who show remorse are welcome in the organisation,” Ngonyama said.