8 October 2008,ANC South Africa's former defence minister, Mosiuoa Lekota held a press conference at 702 radio stations studio's in Johannesburg to discuss the future of the ruling ANC. Picture. Steve Lawrence 02

Cape Town - Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota will eat his hat if his party loses support at the polls next Wednesday.

Lekota is determinedly upbeat about his party’s chances at the polls which he says will bring back the same numbers to Parliament as after the 2009 elections.

“If anyone can buy me a hat, I will eat it if we get less than in the past elections,” Lekota said on Tuesday.

Faced with a series of defections after the surprise appearance of three senior Cope MPs on the ANC election candidates list last month, Lekota dismissed those signalling their intentions to leave as “losers”.

Many who were now leaving were also not fully paid-up members, a pre-requisite for standing for office, he pointed out.

“Cope cannot be built on big names belonging to glory days. Young people build the party rank and file,” Lekota said.

Formed in 2008 largely by ANC members dissatisfied over the twists and turns at the 2007 Polokwane ANC national conference, at which Thabo Mbeki’s bid for a third term as party president was defeated and Jacob Zuma was elected into the top party post, Cope has battled internal leadership disputes almost from the word go.

In the 2009 elections, Cope received more than 1.3 million votes, making it the third-biggest party in Parliament with 37 seats, and the opposition in at least four provinces.

For this year’s elections, analysts, almost without fail, have predicted the implosion of Cope due to the impact of leadership battles, a lacklustre campaign and organisational weaknesses.

Political Bureau