Cope man double-crosses to ANC

Before the Congress of the People’s head of elections, Mlungisi Hlongwane, announced his resignation this week, he had received notification that the party was going to conduct an inquiry into his failure to carry out an effective election campaign.

He had been cutting a lonely figure for about three weeks after Cope decided to sideline him. “His heart was just not with the party,” Cope spokesperson Sipho Ngwema said.

He confirmed that the party had intended conducting the inquiry after the elections and that expulsion could have been the outcome.

Cope alleged that instead of coming up with an original strategy for selling the party to the voter, Hlongwane brought “a carbon copy of the ANC’s elections manual” for the new party to use.

Ngwema said the ANC’s document was thrown out and Cope had to start drafting a new campaign strategy document.

Cope’s first deputy president, Mbhazima Shilowa, took over the election campaign from Hlongwane a month ago, roping in former South African Tourism chief executive officer Mooketsi Mosola as election manager to help jump start the party’s campaign.

Other allegations against Hlongwane are that he was sowing divisions in the organisation when he did not agree with decisions taken by the party.

Cope said he had orchestrated the protest by some members of the party’s youth wing outside the Emperor’s Palace conference centre, where Reverend Mvume Dandala was introduced to the media as Cope’s presidential candidate.

Hlongwane has limped back to the ANC, announcing his defection at a press conference held under a tree in Primedia’s parking lot this week after Radio 702 backtracked on its decision to host and broadcast the conference, saying it was not a matter of national interest.

Key to his reasons for leaving Cope was tribalism, he said, complaining that the party was led by “a select group of Xhosa-speaking leaders” who want to advance the interest of their own Xhosa allies within Cope.

He also complained about elitism and the manipulation of candidate lists for elections. The appointment of Dandala as the party’s presidential candidate was the result of the weight Xhosas are throwing around in Cope, he said.

Flanked by the ANC’s head of policy, Jeff Radebe; national spokesperson Jessie Duarte; campaign manager Fikile Mbalula; and Gauteng ANC chairperson David Makhura, Hlongwane apologised to the ruling party for the way in which he had left it last year, saying he allowed the mistakes of a few individuals to influence his decision.

“In politics, strangely enough, the best way to play your cards is to lay them face upwards on the table,” he said on Thursday, quoting HG Wells.

He assured the ANC that “quite a number” of its former members who had defected to Cope would return to the ruling party. “There are many, black and white, who have either joined Cope or expressed their support for Cope that share my disappointment.”

The former president of the South African National Civic Organisation (Sanco), Hlongwane spent just over four months in the party he had promised to support with “all resources and the entire Sanco membership”—a promise on which he did not deliver. Sanco remains a strong ally of the ANC and its presence is evident at most of the ruling party’s campaign rallies.

Mmanaledi Mataboge

Mmanaledi Mataboge

Mmanaledi Mataboge is the Mail & Guardian's political editor. Raised in a rural village, she later studied journalism in a township where she fell in love with the medium of radio. This former radio presenter and producer previously worked as a senior politics reporter for the Mail & Guardian, and writes on politics, government, and anything that gives the disadvantaged, poor, and the oppressed a voice. Read more from Mmanaledi Mataboge

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