ANC Gauteng deputy secretary Humphrey Mmemezi, Cope Gauteng organiser Simo Ngwangwa and Minister of Arts and Culture Paul Mashatile at Boksburg rally during which some Cope members joined the ANC. Photo: Tiro Ramatlhatse, The Star

COPE’s regional leadership in Ekurhuleni says its move to the ANC has “rippled the party in the area, with 22 out of 26 branches having chosen to defect.

The former COPE leader in Ekurhuleni, Zingisile Mathiso, spoke for the defecting senior COPE committee members shortly before he replaced his old party T-shirt with an ANC one at an event held at the Ramaphosa informal settlement near Boksburg on Monday.

The Gauteng leader of the ANC, Paul Mashatile, welcomed the former COPE regional committee and ordinary members to their “home” – the ANC.

Hundreds had arrived wearing COPE T-shirts bearing election messages. Later, they swopped the T-shirts for ANC ones before joining in the celebratory singing with ruling party members.

Mathiso said the group’s move to join the ANC was well -considered and had been done in consultation with branches.

“It was decided by 22 out of 26 branches of COPE in Ekurhuleni that the regional structure be dissolved. This means that we have collapsed COPE in Ekurhuleni,” Mathiso said.

“We had more than 3 000 members in the region, and now, with so many branches having decided to follow to the ANC, a significant portion of that membership is now with the ANC.”

Mathiso told Mashatile, who was accompanied by Ekurhuleni mayor Mondli Gungubele and ANC Gauteng deputy provincial secretary Humphrey Mmemezi, to expect more COPE members to defect to the ruling party.

“This is just the beginning. In three to four days the same thing happening today will be seen across the province.”

Welcoming the new ANC members, Mashatile said they were “truly welcome to (their) home, the ANC”.

“The ANC is your home, as many of you were here before joining COPE, and so you are not strangers. Don’t have issues over who takes what seat, and let’s be united by the purpose of serving the people,” he said.

“Join us in the next 16 days as we go out to campaign door-to-door and house-to-house to ensure the ANC’s overwhelming victory. Let’s go out and tell people to vote for the ANC so that we can work out with them to solve their problems.”

Mashatile added that after Monday’s event, COPE had suffered a huge blow in Ekurhuleni. “I’m told that there are no more COPE branches in Ekurhuleni. It means that if you see someone saying they’re from a COPE branch, then it would only mean that they’re starting something from the beginning,” he said.

Also present at the event was former Gauteng COPE leader John Ngcebetsha, who rejoined the ANC last month.

With him were other influential COPE leaders including the son of former COPE parliamentary leader Mvume Dandala, Hlomla; Lunga Kepe, a former COPE national executive committee member; and communication specialist Onkgopotse JJ Tabane.

While COPE seems to be weakening in Ekurhuleni, the party, described as a “failed project” marred by infighting, has recently welcomed six ward councillors from the ANC and the DA in the region.

COPE’s national elections manager, Nzipho Kalipa, who is from Ekurhuleni, has denied claims that his party had been severely weakened by on Monday’s defections in the region.

“I don’t know which branches they are referring to, because we have been doing door-to-doors in the area and I can confirm that COPE and its branches are intact in Ekurhuleni,” he said.

Some of the people who had left COPE were under investigation for embezzlement of funds, he added.

“The irony here is that all the people who are going to the ANC are those supporting (rival COPE leader) Mbhazima Shilowa. Those are some of the people we are investigating and considering legal actions against,” Kalipa said.

“Those people were useless in COPE and will be useless in the ANC.” - The Star