Revitalised Cope is confident it can lure back the voters it lost

The People's choice?: Cope is confident coming into the elections - especially after having secured their best candidates to represent them at local government level.

The People's choice?: Cope is confident coming into the elections - especially after having secured their best candidates to represent them at local government level.

The Congress of the People (Cope) believes it has turned the tide and will perform much better in August’s local elections than it did during the local elections in 2011.

The party launched its election manifesto at the weekend in Limpopo, where it claimed to have welcomed more than 200 “disgruntled” ANC members into its ranks.

Cope’s national spokesperson, Dennis Bloem, said on Monday that the party has rid itself of the factionalism that characterised its leadership over the past few years.

The party, which was formed by disgruntled ANC members after Thabo Mbeki was axed as president, was split between those supporting party leader Mosiuoa Lekota and those backing Mbazima Shilowa, then Cope’s deputy president. To rub salt into its wound, the embattled party lost 23 of its 36 MPs, including Smuts Ngonyama, Juli Kilian and Neville Mompati, to the ANC.

“The divisions in the party contributed to our dismal display in 2011.
We are now working as a unit and we going to perform well this time around,” Bloem said.

Cope has struggled to attract voters since it’s impressive showing in the 2009 elections, in which it managed to win more than a million votes.

Bloem says the party is still relevant and that this is evident in its election manifesto, which speaks to the needs of poor.

“We are confident of winning many wards in Limpopo, Northern Cape and the Free State. People still believe in us,” he said.

In its manifesto, Cope promises to fight corruption and appoint councillors who are “transparent, capable, honest and accountable”. Councillors are expected to take an active role in their communities, and any corruption will result in their removal from office.

The party’s key priority is to eradicate poverty through education. It also promises that, under its leadership, schools will have the necessary resources to function smoothly.  

It also promises to improve service delivery by setting up an independent body in each municipality to deal complaints from residents. That will be coupled with skilled municipal officials appointed in an open, transparent process.

The party believes the youth are the country’s hope for the future, and calls for young people with the necessary skills to pursue a career in politics. It promises support and training so that they are able to contribute to the economic growth of the municipalities.

The party says its structures countrywide are in place for the elections, but it raised concerns about the legitimacy of the Independent Electoral Commission to ensure free and fair elections. “We having doubts about the honesty of the IEC. Every time we must have an eye on them,” Bloem said.

The party is happy with the calibre of the candidates it has chosen to represent it.

The Mail & Guardian reported two weeks ago that the party is trying to flush out “moles” from its ranks before the elections and is requiring its public officials to swear their allegiance to the party to avoid a recurrence of the damaging betrayals similar to those in 2014.

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