Cope: new party has lots of members, but can they bring out voters?

2008-12-14 00:00

Even before the official launch of the new political party, Congress of the People (Cope), it has already signed up more than 400 000 members.

Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota said they were astounded by the response.

He said that when the ANC went to its Polokwane conference, it had a membership of just over 600 000.

He said history will prove the time is right in South Africa for a party that strives to deepen democratic values.

However, the question uppermost in many minds is whether these members will galvanise voters to vote for the party. This is because although the ANC’s paid up membership is 600 000, the party manages to pull millions of votes during the elections.

Among the 3 400 delegates on the first day of the launch of Cope at the University of Free State there was an upbeat mood. Clearly money has been no object and delegates have exclaimed on the slickness of the proceedings. An army of volunteers ensured a smooth registration process, hassle-free accommodation arrangements and meal vouchers for the entire three days of the congress. Groups of journalists were given their own relationship manager to consult if they had any queries.

The first day of the congress was low key, with not much singing or toyi-toyiing outside the venue. Inside the hall delegates from the different provinces rose in spontaneous songs.

One grouping sang in Zulu, “Cope does not have a shower”, a reference to ANC president Jacob Zuma’s court testimony that he had a shower after sex with an HIV-positive woman. Cope interim deputy chairman Mbhanzima Shilowa, warned delegates not to sing songs that insult politicians.

Lekota said they are emphasising to their members the need for discipline and this includes being punctual and being careful about the types of songs they sing.

“We want to cultivate a political culture around the organisation which will make everyone very proud. In terms of our behaviour relative to other parties, we want to provide the norms and standards that would encourage members of society to feel they should respect political leaders because they behave in an exemplary fashion,” he added.

In his political report at the start of the congress, Lekota raised concerns about intimidation of Cope members.

He likened the intimidation and “paralysing fear” to the situation that existed in the John Vorster and P.W. Botha eras.

“Public servants now talk in whispers when they discuss Cope. Men and women with whom we worked and shared jokes now have to look the other way when we chance upon each other, along corridors of state buildings. And they explain when we meet elsewhere that they risk their jobs if they are seen to befriend us.”

Lekota said there are tales of people spying on each other and rumour-mongering. Hate speech prevails, he added, and public meetings of Cope are regularly violently disrupted by people dressed in the ruling party’s paraphernalia.

He cited the rumour of a “war in the relationship” between himself and his deputy, Shilowa, saying, “We caught one of the smses and know where this is coming from and what they are up to”.

Both Lekota and Shilowa pointed to the mix of delegates at the conference, saying Cope has a chance of cultivating a party that practises true non-racialism.

Lekota said chapters of the party have sprung up in several overseas countries. In an echo of former president Thabo Mbeki, whose speeches often carried the words of Irish poet William Butler Yeats, Lekota said, “ … as Yeats once declared, ‘a terrible beauty is born’.”

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.