Ousted Congress of the People (Cope) leader Mbhazima Shilowa is seen outside the High Court in Johannesburg on Tuesday, 9 July 2013 in the continuing battle with Mosiuoa Lekota over the party's leadership. Picture: Werner Beukes/SAPA

Johannesburg - Disputed Cope leader Mbhazima Shilowa and his comrades will return to court to push for their reinstatement into the party’s highest national body, its national committee.

Shilowa said yesterday that papers had been filed with the Johannesburg High Court this week.

Last week, Judge AJ Watt-Pringle handed down judgment in Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota’s favour in a court battle to determine the legal leadership of Cope, ordering Shilowa to pay costs.

Lekota was reinstated as the legitimate president of Cope in accordance with the outcome of the party’s 2008 December inaugural conference in Bloemfontein. The judge further ruled that all provincial leaders appointed prior to the inaugural conference were also legitimate.

“In terms of the ruling of the judge, he said that people who are still members - whether it’s Hilda Ndude or Mbulelo Ncedana - if they were part of the leadership elected in Bloemfontein, they must be reinstated, even those leaders Lekota doesn’t want,” Shilowa said.

The ruling came after a near four-year battle over leadership of the party, but Shilowa warned that Cope members would “have to fight” for democracy within the party.

Lekota apparently convened a council meeting in Joburg last weekend without inviting members from Shilowa’s faction, sparking anger. If he does this again, senior leaders who have been reinstated say, they will instruct their lawyers to charge Lekota for being in contempt of court.

Cope MP Hilda Ndude, who was reinstated in a separate case, and will therefore not be part of Shilowa’s court action, confirmed she was not invited or informed about last weekend’s committee meeting.

“Lekota is just defying the courts. He claims to be a democrat. One of the founding principles of Cope was respect for the South African constitution and the judiciary. But he only accepts the judgments when it suits him,” she said.

Cope MPL in the Gauteng legislature, Ndzipho Kalipa, again called for a political solution to the row.

“Those individuals, those warring leaders (Lekota and Shilowa), need to realise it’s important to solve this fight and preserve the interests of the members and those who voted for Cope. There’s a crisis of people acting without authority.”

Lekota said: “Shilowa and his friends are free to do as they see fit.”

He referred further queries to his attorney, Amish Kika.

Kika disputed the interpretation of the ruling by Shilowa’s faction.

He said the judge had ruled that Cope members co-opted on to the committee by Lekota were the legitimate leadership of the party.

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Sunday Independent