/ 23 October 2009

In Cope and the Council of Churches we trust

The Congress of the People (Cope) has been accused of trying to snuggle up to the South African Council of Churches (SACC) after the ANC’s apparent cold-shouldering of the religious body.

The SACC recently took a hard stance against formally aligning itself with the ANC and was said to have been marginalised by the ruling party in favour of the National Interfaith Leaders’ Council because of that.

Cope met the SACC in Pretoria last week in what both the church council and Cope said was merely a formal introduction of the two. But some within the SACC saw the meeting as Cope’s way of trying to seduce the council, the Mail & Guardian has learned.

”The unspoken message they were sending to us is that ‘if you have been dumped by the ANC, we are here for you’,” said an SACC staffer who attended the meeting, but wanted to remain anonymous. ”We used the words ‘we don’t want to go to bed with you’.”

Cope president Mosiuoa Lekota led his party’s delegation to the meeting and has dismissed any insinuation that his party tried to cosy up to the council. ”We reject with contempt any suggestion that we wanted to occupy the space left by the ANC because we have never regarded them [the SACC] as an agent of any political formation,” said Lekota. He said the two parties reflected on the needs of the South African people during the meeting.

SACC president Tinyiko Maluleke said there was nothing untoward about the meeting. ”They did not say or do anything to suggest that they wanted to cosy up to us. There is no one to replace because we have never been in an alliance with any political party.”

Maluleke said the SACC regarded political parties as an important vehicle for the fulfilment of the political and social aspirations of South Africans and that the high number of people who voted in April was an indication that voters invested hope and trust in political parties.