Lekota: This is not our Polokwane
Hlengiwe Mnguni, News24
Cape Town - With just days to go before Cope's first national elective conference, and with reports of infighting rife, Cope president Mosiuoa Lekota is adamant that the conference is not "the Polokwane of Cope" as some commentators have suggested.
"Going to Polokwane... at the time it was not the policy issues that were foremost in the minds of people - it was personalities," Lekota told News24 in an exclusive interview.
"It was about who would become the head of the organisation rather than what policy directions the party would pursue beyond that congress. And I think that is the parallel that people are drawing."
Despite numerous reports to the contrary, Lekota maintains that the congress, starting on May 27, will not be a final battle between him and deputy president Mbhazima Shilowa for the party's presidency.
"It was never that it was my right to be in this position nor can it be my right to continue to be in this position forever," Lekota said.
He said he would accept any outcome from the elective conference as long as it was "not exclusive".
The biggest mistake made by Cope, says Lekota, was going to conference six months before the end of a 24-month deadline set at the party's inaugural conference in December 2008.
But some people in the organisation have accused Lekota and others, including head of policy Smuts Ngonyama and communications manager Phillip Dexter, of trying to derail the party.
"Their definition of Cope readiness for Congress is when they are nominated into certain positions of their choice," read a statement by congress organiser Onkgopotse JJ Tabane in which he also accused "Lekota and his team" of continuing "to speak to the provincial representatives to cut leadership deals for themselves".
Speaking to News24 on Saturday, as a court bid to prevent Cope 's Western Cape congress from getting under way was thrown out, Lekota said although a threatened conference boycott by some factions of the party on the grounds of an unreliable membership data system "would not be in the interests of Cope ", the reasons behind the threats were of more concern to him.
According to Lekota and those who brought the dismissed motion to court, structural problems within branches will mean that a majority of branches might not be represented at the congress and that the outcome could be disputed.
When asked about relations between him and Shilowa, whom he accused of mismanaging party funds recently, Lekota said: "They are fine. They are quite fine."
Cope 'still on course'
Lekota insists that all the turmoil at Cope should not alarm the more than one million people who voted for the party, as Cope was "still on course".
"The reason we are trying to deal with these problems now and eliminate them is we must insist that the organisation must be developed on the foundations that we promised the people the organisation would be founded on," said Lekota.
"No one would want to be a part of something that is not what you believe it should be."
Despite this, Lekota said a Cope split was not likely.
"These are issues that can be resolved," he said.
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