I will stay on until party’s next elective conference, says Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota

Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota. Picture: File

Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota. Picture: File

Published Sep 1, 2022


Tshwarelo Hunter Mogakane

Pretoria - Cope president Mosiuoa “Terror” Lekota has rejected his suspension by a faction led by his deputy Willie Madisha, saying he would stay on until the party’s next elective conference in 2023 because he can’t be removed by “three individuals walking the streets”.

In a media briefing marred by a scuffle between Lekota’s supporters and detractors who sought to stop it, the former Defence Minister also denied claims that he was corrupt.

Instead, he challenged Madisha and other accusers to produce evidence of corruption against him.

Flanked by four of his allies at the Birchwood Hotel in Boksburg, Lekota said he called the press briefing in response to calls from the public and members of Cope for him to clarify his suspension, announced by Madisha on Monday.

The 74-year-old party leader has been accused of sowing divisions in the party and not being physically fit to run Cope as he recently underwent surgery for prostate cancer.

“No individual who is not acting as part of the congress national committee can dismiss me. The only structure is the committee that must make such a decision in a sitting. I cannot be suspended by three individuals walking the streets,” said Lekota.

He insisted that he was fit to run Cope and was also willing to stand in next year’s internal party elections should members ask him to do so.

“The provisions of the constitution is that I may serve as a president for two terms. At the end of that term, it is up to the party to decide the direction. There is nothing that prevents me from making myself available if the party wants me,” he said.

Lekota extended a challenge to the faction accusing him of corruption, saying they should produce the evidence.

“I am not going to the grave; I’m sorry. Generally, when someone is said to be corrupt they have stolen public funds or funds from the party. I challenge any individual who can bring evidence to tell a judge that on this date I took money from the party and gave it to this person.

“I am proud that I am not corrupt. I don’t want to be identified with thieves and I will not allow anyone to do that,” Lekota said, adding that doctors had given him a clean bill of health.

Cope national chairperson Teboho Loate compared Lekota’s suspension to that of ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule. “It’s like Ace Magashule being suspended and then turning around to suspend his president (Cyril Ramaphosa),” said Loate.

Loate was referring to a meeting held in Bloemfontein three weeks back, where the disputed leadership of Cope filled the vacancies of secretary-general and deputy secretary-general.

At that meeting it was also decided that Madisha, national spokesperson Dennis Bloem and secretary for elections Mzwandile Nhleko be suspended.

Yesterday, Loate said the three were suspended on August 26, which prompted Madisha to compose a media statement about Lekota’s suspension “in an attempt to save his own skin”.

During yesterday’s press briefing, three people wearing Cope regalia stormed into the building and demanded that Lekota stop what he was doing as he had no right to speak on behalf of the party.

A scuffle ensued in which fists were exchanged, with one member seen running out of the building clasping a shoe in his hand.

Police had to be called to manage the showdown. Nonetheless, Lekota was able to continue addressing the briefing. Madisha could not be reached for comment.

However, in response to the scuffle, Bloem told Newsroom Afrika that Lekota was the one dividing the party.

“What Lekota is doing will leave a split in the party. If he had listened to our advice it would not have gone this far, but he went to Bloemfontein with a group of his friends made up of 17 people, where they decided to suspend people.

“The people they suspended are the ones working the ground. We are on the ground and they are parading as leaders. We established provincial interim structures in eight provinces. We will be launching another one in Limpopo,” said Bloem.

Cope is an ANC breakaway party formed by Lekota and other senior members of the ruling party such as Mbhazima Shilowa and Mluleki George.

Known as “Shikota”, the party was formed in protest against the 2007 election of Jacob Zuma as ANC president.

Two years down the line its presidential candidate, Reverend Mvume Dandala, resigned in protest over the leadership tussles between Lekota and Shilowa.

This resulted in Shilowa being expelled from the party. Party leaders aligned to Shilowa were eventually purged in 2014.

Yesterday, Shilowa told his Twitter followers that Lekota was a monarch.

“My president just confirmed he is a monarch. Ready to serve if members want him to,” wrote Shilowa.

Factional battles are not new in South Africa politics. In recent years, parties such as the PAC, Azapo, ANC, DA and National Freedom Party have been marred by factionalism and infighting. This has resulted in splinter groups or parallel structures.

Pretoria News