Cope tussle: Combat by press release

Both sides in the war dividing the Congress of the People (Cope) say they will obey the courts, but while the supporters of Mosiuoa Lekota, the reinstated party president, welcomed the court’s ruling that he was unfairly ousted, the supporters of his rival, Mbhazima Shilowa, say they are looking at a possible appeal against it.

For the moment, however, the legal manoeuvring has given way to combat by press release. “Justice has been served,” said the Lekota camp. “By ruling that an unrepresentative, rigged meeting did not have the right to arrogate powers to itself to serve a narrow, factional agenda, the court has ensured that members of Cope alone in their entirety have the right to elect or recall their leaders though upholding the constitution of the party.”

The Shilowites said they believe that Cope needs to find political solutions to its problems and that no Cope member will gain the confidence of the people by rushing to the courts to intervene, no matter how aggrieved he may feel he is.

“While Cope respects its members’ right to appeal to the courts,” the Shilowa faction said, “history has shown that no political authority can be exercised in any other way other than the hard slog of winning the hearts and minds of ordinary people in the branches where the work of Cope to improve the lives of our people is happening every day.”

The Lekota faction agrees. Phillip Dexter, the head of communications, who was reinstated in the same court judgement that put his boss back in office, said in a statement on Monday: “Political issues should, as a rule, be dealt with in political structures.”

But he added: “When those structures cease to function as they should, the courts may be the only remedy.”

Political disputes
When political disputes arise in a party, over issues, leadership or any other matter, these are traditionally debated and then decided upon by a majority vote or by consensus, Dexter agreed, “But for that to happen, structures that deal with these issues must be democratic, transparent, act fairly, foster unity and be accountable,” he said.

“Sadly, in Cope, except for the CNC [congress national committee] and branches, no structures have been elected. They are all run by appointees, often self-appointed leaders at that. Some congresses have taken place, such as in the Gauteng regions and province, the Cape Town metro region and the Western Cape province.

“The outcomes of these conferences, however, have been widely disputed; not all branches were represented, the voting and other democratic processes were dubious and there was great uncertainty about who paid for the costs. In addition, violence has been used on more than one occasion to force a particular outcome of congress.”

The Shilowite putting out that side’s press statements, Onkgopotse JJ Tabane, who was nominated for head of communications at the aborted elective congress a week ago, has also become victim of a sharp press release.

Andies Keun, the leader of the Pretoria branch of the party, said in a statement he put out that Tabane continues to make statements and speak to the media claiming to represent the Congress of the People.

“For the record, Tabane is not, nor has he ever been, a spokesperson of the party. Tabane is, or was, an adviser to Cope Parliamentary leader, Mvume Dandala.

“Any press release or statement Tabane makes therefore has no status and the media are requested to ignore such.” — I-Net Bridge

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Michael Hamlyn
Michael Hamlyn works from Cape Town. Late middle age journalist
Advertisting

‘Frustrated’ police resort to force

Regulation uncertainty leaves slap-happy police and soldiers to decide when people should or shouldn’t be allowed on the streets

Mail & Guardian needs your help

Our job is to help give you the information we all need to participate in building this country, while holding those in power to account. But now the power to help us keep doing that is in your hands

Press Releases

New energy mix on the cards

REI4P already has and will continue to yield thousands of employment opportunities

The online value of executive education in a Covid-19 world

Executive education courses further develop the skills of leaders in the workplace

Sisa Ntshona urges everyone to stay home, and consider travelling later

Sisa Ntshona has urged everyone to limit their movements in line with government’s request

SAB Zenzele’s special AGM postponed until further notice

An arrangement has been announced for shareholders and retailers to receive a 77.5% cash payout

20th Edition of the National Teaching Awards

Teachers are seldom recognised but they are indispensable to the country's education system

Awards affirm the vital work that teachers do

Government is committed to empowering South Africa’s teachers with skills, knowledge and techniques for a changing world

SAB Zenzele special AGM rescheduled to March 25 2020

New voting arrangements are being made to safeguard the health of shareholders