/ 20 November 2008

Cope refuses ANC’s demand for name change

The Congress of the People (Cope) has refused an ANC demand to stop using its new name, the ANC's attorney said on Thursday.

The Congress of the People (Cope) has refused an African National Congress (ANC) demand to stop using its new name, the ANC’s attorney said on Thursday.

”We received a refusal today, about 10 minutes ago,” said senior patent attorney Chris Job.

In response, the ANC might launch a second round of litigation next week.

Earlier this week, the ANC asked for an undertaking in writing by November 20 from Cope not to use the name.

The ruling party served legal papers on Mosiuoa Lekota’s party on Monday, arguing that the ANC enjoyed a right to the name.

The Congress of the People was a ”seminal, historical event” in 1955 organised by the ANC and its congress alliance partners, which led to the adoption of the Freedom Charter, said ANC spokesperson Carl Niehaus.

A letter from the ANC stated: ”We believe we enjoy common law in and to the name Congress of the People.”

The ANC is also concerned about the fact that ”in many political circles, the ANC is commonly referred to as the Congress of the People”.

The Nguni translation of the ANC is ”khongolese”, which means congress.

”The consequence of this is that there will be serious confusion,” said Niehaus.

The ANC requested Cope to ”stop using the name, withdraw the trademark applications that have been made [and] cease from registering their section 21 company under that name”.

The letter asked Cope for an undertaking in writing that it would not use the name or any similar names and that no promotional or advertising material bear the name.

The ANC ”requests delivery of all material in their possession for destruction”.

”If they do not abide by this we will be entitled to institute urgent high court proceedings,” said Niehaus.

Lekota was among a string of Cabinet ministers who resigned out of loyalty to former president Thabo Mbeki, who was removed from office by the national executive committee of the ANC in September.

Since then, Lekota, alongside his former deputy defence minister, Mluleki George, and former Gauteng premier Mbhazima Shilowa, has announced the creation of the breakaway party to be launched on December 16.

The new organisation has struggled to find an appropriate name.

First, it seemed to call itself the South African National Congress but abandoned that name after it became clear that the African National Congress would object to a name similar to its own.

It then announced that its name was the South African Democratic Congress, but was forced to go back to the drawing board when it discovered that a party of that name had already been registered with the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).

The ANC has also lodged a complaint with the IEC about the use of the name Cope. The IEC is yet to decide whether it will cause confusion among voters.

A Cope spokesperson was not immediately available to comment.

Meanwhile, the ANC’s application against the breakaway party’s initial choice to be named the South African National Convention was postponed indefinitely in the Pretoria High Court.

Job said on both sides affidavits and answering affidavits had not been filed yet.

He said the matter may eventually become moot.

ANC spokesperson Jessie Duarte said the party had anticipated the indefinite postponement, but this did not mean the case was off the court roll. — Sapa