/ 21 April 2009

The M&G election guide: Cope

As part of the Democracy 2009 series, the Mail & Guardian presents the guide for the elections

Congress of the People

Mosiuoa Lekota
Cope president
Mosiuoa Lekota has serious struggle credentials. The president of Cope was an organiser of the South African Students’ Organisation (Saso) in the 1970s, did time on Robben Island from 1974 to 1982 and was again held in the Delmas Treason Trial. He is also a founding member of the United Democratic Front, founded in 1983 to advance the cause of the ANC when the struggle movement was banned in South Africa.

But with all this, Lekota’s leadership credibility is tempered by his role in former president Thabo Mbeki’s administration as one of his closest allies. The former defence minister’s opinions and those of Cope are continually criticised and linked to some of the ANC’s failings in government.

Lekota is hailed across the country as the first person who has publicly challenged the ANC. But what’s getting the votes is Lekota’s ability to appeal across the racial divide, and creating excitement around politics once again.

Mvumelwano Dandala
Presidential candidate

Mvumelwano ‘Mvume” Dandala might not have been the most high profile of choices for the new party’s presidential candidate. But he’s far from new to politics.

The former bishop of the Methodist Church in Southern Africa, Dandala is one of the priests who fought apartheid through his ministry. His reputation as a morally upright man has piqued the interest of those who believe that moral erosion has been setting in since the start of democracy. Dandala advocates both strong morals and religion — the two things that critics say could alienate non-believers or voters from different religions.

He is determined to stay away from mudslinging either by not responding to attacks by opponents or responding in what his supporters call a dignified manner. Dandala lacks the aggression that has become part of politics. Opponents have called him a hired leader, but analysts describe Dandala as honest, trustworthy and highly skilled.

Plans and promises

Create decent jobs
M&G says: It’s not clear what a decent job is. Some politicians believe that a contract job that pays a decent salary is a decent job; labour federations say it’s secure, permanent work.

Introduce a new formula to fund and to reform sector education and training authorities
M&G says: Good to hear about accountability and skills empowerment but what’s the alternative?

Obama-style stabilisation fund to save jobs by helping companies to survive the economic crisis
M&G says: Maybe. But companies assisted financially need to keep jobs, which has not been the case with parastatals such as SAA.

Bring back the Scorpions
M&G says: Without a majority in Parliament, this cannot be done.

Compulsory community watches for every voting district
M&G says: Nice idea. But information and training will be crucial to avoid mob attacks that have resulted in the deaths of some suspects, sometimes innocent people.

Police training must be specialised
M&G says: Easy to implement; means reinstating family violence, child abuse and sexual offences units that were closed.

Improve conditions for health workers
M&G says: A no-brainer. But what’s the plan?

Increase public education about lifestyle diseases
M&G says: This has been done; it’s a new approach that’s needed.

Improve the living conditions of people and address issues of sanitation and clean water
M&G says: Service delivery is an obvious problem; how to make it better is what’s really going to shift things.

Public representatives elected directly to improve accountability, including the president
M&G says: Given that people vote for the face and not the party, it makes sense. But voter education would be massive.

Improve the quality of education in township schools
M&G says: A noble and crucial idea that needs massive investment and complete government buy-in.