National

Shilowa's Cope faction to support UDM

Genevieve Quintal

More than 800 of Cope's Mbhazima Shilowa's supporters will join the United Democratic Movement, its leader Bantu Holomisa has announced.

More than 800 of Cope's Mbhazima Shilowa's supporters will join the United Democratic Party. (Lisa Skinner)

The United Democratic Party will receive more than 800 of Cope's Mbhazima Shilowa's supporters, its leader Bantu Holomisa announced on Monday.

The delegates representing Congress of the People branches from eight provinces held their own summit in Bloemfontein, after being left out of the party's national congress, he said, reading from a statement written by himself and Shilowa.

"The summit mandated Mr Mbhazima Shilowa to engage with the United Democratic Movement to take the realignment debate forward. The result of the talks between the two delegations was that these branches will support and mobilise for the UDM in the forthcoming general elections," Holomisa said.

The process of integration was underway. However, Shilowa would not be party to the integration for personal reasons.

Shilowa said he supported the integration and would help the UDM with fundraising and campaigning, but he stopped short of announcing his own defection to the party. He said he had an interim interdict against him which he had to attend to.

"The personal reasons are simply because [there is] an interim interdict which I will need to attend to, and I would not want that to impact on this process." He did not elaborate.

"My presence here says two things. Firstly that I'm fully behind the particular process, but secondly that I will be available to assist in this process, be it campaigning, be it fundraising ... I will be doing all of those things and working with them [UDM]," he said.

Court battle
Shilowa said his future in Cope was the same as those 800 members who had been excluded. 

Shilowa has been embroiled in a court battle with Mosiuoa Lekota over who was the rightful leader of Cope. It started when Lekota expelled Shilowa from the party after an internal disciplinary hearing found him guilty of mismanaging the party's parliamentary funds. Shilowa had refused to participate.

On October 18 last year, the high court in Johannesburg ruled that the Cope faction led by Lekota, who was elected party leader during its inaugural congress in Bloemfontein in 2008, was the party's legitimate leader.

Following the ruling, Cope held its national congress in January this year at which Lekota was re-elected. The high Court in Pretoria dismissed a last-minute bid by Shilowa and members aligned to him to stop the party's national elective congress from going ahead.

Holomisa on Monday said the integration between the UDM and the Cope faction had started and a national task team had been set up.

The task team's first job would be to determine whether there were people within Cope who were interested in going to Parliament.

The UDM had until March 12 to hand in its list of candidates for Parliament to the Independent Electoral Commission, he said.

"The deadline for the IEC list is not going to wait for us. The UDM is busy finalising its list."

Holomisa said the party was on course. – Sapa

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