Pretoria - Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota bounded into the electoral centre in Tshwane on Thursday as the party gained its first 108 councillors from the votes verified so far in the local government elections.
"Comrade, comrade," beamed Lekota, as he walked into the centre, shaking hands and hugging people who recognised him.
Lekota was once chairperson of the ANC and in a sequence of events which included him complaining about offensive language on party T-shirts and being booed at the party's last elective conference, his association with that party came to an abrupt end in 2008.
He, former Gauteng premier Mbhazima Shilowa and deputy defence minister Mluleki George left the ANC to form Congress of the People and in a blaze of glory gained 30 seats in Parliament in the national elections of 2009.
A series of court challenges and counter court challenges between Lekota and Shilowa overshadowed any other communication from the party and finally, Shilowa was expelled by a court order in February.
Shilowa has since challenged Lekota's presidency and said he would not vote in this election and hoped other Cope supporters would "isolate" the party.
In a statement commenting on the gains Cope had made in its first local government election, its head of elections Ndzipo Kalipo said the party expected to secure at least 6% of council seats.
According to IEC results, based on 72% of the votes having been captured and verified, Cope had 2.5% of the vote nationally at 14:41.