The Constitution will be ”fearlessly defended” and the rule of law upheld by a Cope government, said the party’s election manifesto launched in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
Congress of the People president Mosioua Lekota called on supporters to ”rise to the challenge of the defence of our national Constitution”, which is the basis of all laws in South Africa.
”We must deepen our democracy by demonstrating loyalty and respect for the principles and values enshrined in our Constitution,” he said at the Isaac Wolfson stadium at KwaZakhele.
Lekota proposed an overhaul of the electoral system, which would allow the people to be in control of affecting the change they desired.
”This is the very basic tenet of democracy. Our call therefore is a change of the electoral system wherein you the people can directly elect mayors of your towns and cities, premiers of your provinces and the president of your country,” he said.
About 30 000 people packed the stadium to listen to the leaders of the party formed by ANC members who took issue with the party’s recall of former president Thabo Mbeki and his subsequent resignation last year.
Part of the party’s plan for a new electoral system was to ensure that the leadership elected by the people could then only be removed from office by the people according to a ”clearly defined” constitutional process.
Lekota lashed out at those questioning the integrity of the courts, calling on all South Africans to defend the independence of the country’s judiciary.
”Judicial authority is vested in the courts. They are independent and subject only to the Constitution. The time has come that all South Africans live up to this constitutional decree and be prepared to defend it.
”None of us should be allowed to question verdicts of our courts without the proper ‘evidentiary’ foundation and in a manner that undermines the authority and dignity of the judiciary,” he said.
He raised the red flag on possible violations of the principle of equality before the law, saying that they were ”visible on the horizon”.
”Inequality before the law, that’s what apartheid was about. Today, threats to the violation of the right of equality before the law are visible on the horizon. But because the consequences [of apartheid] remain vivid in our collective memory we cannot and will not allow our country to recede and sink into the quagmire of its well known outcome.”
The party’s manifesto said an anti-poverty strategy would be announced in the first six months after the elections as well as an ”integrated social security system” guaranteeing social grants currently being received by children, the elderly and people with
It also planned to establish a ”Women’s Development Fund to focus on assisting women to engage in productive economic activity”.
Focus on education would include ”introducing a new formula to fund universities and to reform Setas and the NSFAS [National Student Financial Aid Scheme] to ensure the development of relevant skills needed by our economy.”
On preserving the environment, Cope said there is a need to ”encourage organic farming and other natural methods of production that do not harm the environment,” and to also ”utilise natural gas, solar wind hydro and sea as sources of cleaner power generation”.
On the economy, it said it would revise existing legislation relating to corporate insolvency to help companies in distress. That would include setting up a ”stabilisation fund” to save the economy and protect jobs.
Cope’s proposal to combat crime includes setting up specialised units to deal with priority crimes and re-instating the Scorpions in line with the resolutions of the Khampepe Judicial Commission.
It also proposed fast-tracking the process of integrating the criminal justice system as a whole to increase cooperation among the various levels of the system.
The manifesto was launched as a ”new agenda for change and hope for all” and the appetite for change among supporters in the crowd was mammoth and rancorous.
”We want change, we are saying no to corruption,” said Gogo Nakadiyana.
She had been a member of the ANC for the past 30 years but has thrown her lot in with Cope because she did not like the way the ANC had changed.
Another Cope supporter who declined to give his name as he was still an ANC councillor said he supported Cope because it was ”disciplined”.
”Cope is more like the ANC that my father joined.”
He said Cope stood for human values, discipline and integrity, and these were things ”long neglected by the ANC”.
The sister of Steve Biko, Nobandile, was introdcued to the crowd. She said concerns about Cope being too inexperienced to run the country do not bother her.
”We are inexperienced in corruption. We are inexperienced in uttering embarrassing statements,” she said.
Eliza Nyezwa — a 56-year-old woman who had been a member of the ANC all her life — said she now wants to be part of the change.
”I have been voting for the ANC for all these years but nothing has been changing … they keep breaking their promises. Maybe an opposition like Cope can make the ANC go back to those promises” she said.
She preferred Cope because ”its values and its leadership had their roots in the ANC she knew as a young woman”. – Sapa