Cope’s leadership surprises

2008-12-16 00:00

The Congress of the People (Cope) pulled a few tricks out of the bag when announcing its new leaders on the last day of its launch at the University of Free State yesterday.

As expected, the former Western Cape ANC chairman, clergyman Alan Boesak, joined the party, butnot as one of its deputy presidents. This distinction went to a white Gauteng entrepreneur, Lynda Odendaal.

Another complete surprise was the appointment of Deidre Carter, a white Pietermaritzburg woman, to the position of deputy secretary-general.

Mosiuoa Lekota retained his position as president. The other deputy presidency went to Mbhazima Shilowa. Lekota had announced earlier that there would be two deputy presidents and it is believed that this was to accommodate Boesak.

The party’s secretary-general is Charlotte Lobe; treasurer-general is Hilda Ndude; head of policy is Smuts Ngonyama; national organiser is Mluleki George; head of communications is Phillip Dexter; and head of international affairs is Lyndall Shope-Mafole.

Apparently getting the right mix of leaders dominated much of the discussion over the three days. The aim was to show that Cope is more than a breakaway party from the ANC. A need was also seen to accommodate the many people who became involved in the party after the Sandton national convention. Odendaal and Carter represent this grouping.

Lekota said he is not the party’s presidential candidate for the forthcoming national elections. “For the moment I am the face to the party. We are still in discussions on what team do we think will take the party forward and what combination of members of our organisation will be best,” he added.

With leadership battles taking their toll on South African politics, the Cope front-runners all emphasise that they are there to serve.

Shilowa, in introducing Boesak to the gathering, said: “Those of us who came out first did not come here to carve positions for ourselves. We realised there was a crying need to gather as many leaders out there as we can to lead us.

He said the task assigned to him after the national convention was that of recruitment.

Boesak said that when it became known that he was joining Cope, he was asked: “What position are you going to take?”.

“I have not asked what position I will have and I will not ask what you will promise me once Cope gets into government. I am here to serve,” he said.

KZN leader Nhlanhla Buthelezi said as this was not an elective conference, they had to work out a grouping that would take the party forward. He said the provinces were involved in discussions and came up with a list of leaders that they all agreed upon.

Lekota said inclusivity was an overriding consideration when deciding on the leadership of the party. Closing the congress, Lekota said, “The history of South Africa will never be the same again.”

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