Cope demands oath of loyalty to discover would-be deserters

In an unprecedented move, the Congress of the People (Cope) has set out to flush out “moles and spies” from its ranks before the August 3 local government elections. 

During the May 7 2014 general elections, the party suffered an electoral blow when many of its key MPs appeared on the ANC’s list of parliamentary candidates on the eve of the elections. They included Juli Kilian, Nick Koornhof and Leonard Ramatlakane.

A similar thing occurred in several provinces and at other levels of governance, most notably in the Northern Cape, where the Democratic Alliance snatched the mantle of official opposition from Cope.

Cope is now coercing all its public representatives to submit a sworn affidavit that they will not make themselves available to other political parties.

In a recent internal memorandum, under the heading, Implementation of Section 19.4 of the Party Constitution, the party’s general secretary, Lyndall Shope-Mafole, tells them that they must swear that they do not belong to any political party other than Cope, that “I’m not on the list of any political party, and I’m not running as an independent candidate in the 2016 local government elections”.

The letter further states “the failure to submit the affidavit will assume that you do not comply with our constitution and, therefore, will cease to be a member of the party”.

The party also refers to the recent Constitutional Court ruling on the Nkandla matter, “where the issue of honour, oaths and integrity took centre stage”.

“Our experience has taught us that not all people are honorable. We have seen that, in spite of our known adherence to the Constitution and support for the right of people to freely choose their political home, some people stay in our party to perform tasks for other parties.”

It adds that some of its public representatives “stay in the party pretending to be genuine members and only leave when they have either derived maximum benefit from, or done maximum damage to the party, or both”.

In 2014, Cope’s national chairperson, Pakes Dikgetsi, who is also the sole member of the party in the Northern Cape legislature, penned a hard-hitting statement describing his fellow defectors as “moles and spies who were planted into the party”. 

“They waited for their last pay cheque,” he said.

A former Sol Plaatje municipality mayor, Keitumetse Mthukwane, expressed surprise at what she described as “paranoia and threats by Cope leaders”.

“We defected to the party and helped build it since its enthusiastic formation in 2008. “What kind of party communicates its decisions to its councillors through email, without confirming if we indeed received the notice? Don’t they have our addresses?”

She is one of five proportional councillors representing the party in the Northern Cape’s biggest municipality.

“Fred Wyngaardt [the provincial leader] replaced a dedicated councillor and has not even attended meetings. People of Galeshewe are fed up and won’t stand for Cope. No party is guaranteed to win seats in council without the crucial Galeshewe vote.

“Cope can’t force us to submit affidavits. They are not beholden to us as people,” she added. Asked for comment, the party’s spokesperson, Dennis Bloem, said only his senior leaders could comment on this matter.

Shope-Mafole did not deny the existence of the memo, which the Mail & Guardian has seen, but wouldn’t answer detailed questions about the matter.

“I trust that all party leaders and public representatives, and indeed all members of the party, will exercise this long overdue duty of cleaning our party with diligence and the requisite sensitivity” is all she did say.

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