Talk of Cope split 'a smokescreen'
Cape Town - Talk of a split in the Congress of the People (Cope) before a national conference in Pretoria this week is a "smokescreen" by supporters of party president Mosiuoa Lekota, a spokesperson for the party said on Sunday.
Sipho Ngwema said the call for the split had received a "lukewarm" reception from Cope's branches in eight of the nine provinces.
"This thing is supported in Limpopo, but all the other provinces have shown doubts," Ngwema told Sapa.
"They want the blessings of the party to go ahead with the split, but the real issue is about resources.
"Mr Lekota's supporters want to keep their seats in Parliament.
"They want access to the money the party gets from Parliament and the IEC (Independent Electoral Commission).
"They want some sort of insurance for themselves."
Ngwema said party deputy president Mbhazima Shilowa was adamant that the conference would go ahead.
The latest smokescreen
"They (Lekota's supporters) always come up with excuses to derail the conference.
"This is the latest smokescreen.
"We are adamant this conference will take place.
"If they want to go and start something else again they can do it.
"They are in the minority in terms of their views."
A report in the Sunday Independent said Cope was set to discuss a formal "split" on Tuesday on the eve of its fourth attempt to hold an elective congress.
This came as Shilowa formally rejected a suggestion for a "neat split" along the lines of the Zimbabwean opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), given Cope's apparent inability to overcome paralysing leadership battles.
Shilowa said the "desperate plea" for a parting of ways carried the blessing of Lekota.
Cope spokesperson Phillip Dexter, a Lekota supporter, said the issue was discussed at a meeting of the party's Congress Working Committee on Friday.
Cope is scheduled to hold its first elective conference in three days' time, two years after its founding conference in Bloemfontein.
According to the Sunday Independent, party members claimed that the venue, Heartfelt Arena in Pretoria, had not been paid for, nor had transport or accommodation of the more than 2 000 delegates expected to attend the event.
Delegates to the conference will have to pay attendance fees ranging from R400 for a branch delegate to R2 500 for elected leaders.
In addition, discussion documents on party policy, which are expected to be debated at the conference, had apparently not been circulated to the branches.
On Sunday, Phillip Dexter released a statement saying that he believed Shilowa had been preparing for a split in the party since June.
"We in Cope have gotten used to Shilowa's tall tales, but this new one takes the cake."
He said the only thing hampering congress preparations was a lack of finances.
"The Congress will go ahead, under a tree if necessary."
No Cope member is afraid of a democratic process.
"But certainly it is now clear that the values Mr Shilowa espouses, his long distance from the truth, his willingness to blame everyone else but himself for the state of affairs of the party, his continued willingness to attack the party and its president and his failure as a leader to take responsibility for what he has himself done, mean that he has in essence already split from the party."