We'll try again, says Lekota
Johannesburg - The Congress of the People would again try to hold a national elective congress at some stage in the future, said party president Mosiuoa Lekota on Friday.
"The Congress of the People failed to take place as planned," Lekota told journalists in Johannesburg after the party's second attempt at an elective conference turned violent in Pretoria.
Nevertheless he said: "The Congress of the People in its present state remains in place and the leadership continues its work and in the near future will go on to hold an authentic first national congress of the Congress of the People."
Cope's second attempt at holding an elective conference in 2010 was aborted after violence erupted between supporters of Lekota and his first deputy president, Mbhazima Shilowa.
The leadership battle between the two has seen the party embroiled in mud-slinging matches and political contests since the formation of the ANC breakaway group in 2008.
Earlier, the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) complained that Cope members had stormed the festival's venue.
"The group of about 500 people forced their way into the venue and used equipment meant for the World Festival," the NYDA said, adding that the police had to be called in to control the situation.
Its chairperson, Andile Lungisa, accused Cope of abusing the festival to get publicity.
"We condemn this type of opportunistic behaviour in the strongest terms," he said.
'Free for all exploded'
Cope spokesperson Philip Dexter said their congress did not happen because of "disputes around the delegates' forms" and "huge administrative" problems.
"We just were unable to start because of incidents of violence."
Lekota elaborated on the violence to Johannesburg journalists, saying that early on Friday morning some members of the congress' national committee and some members of parliament "stormed" those who were being registered and "roughed" them up, shredding registration records.
"A general free for all exploded."
Lekota said that one of the resolutions going forward would be that the working committee would receive recommendations of members who should be expelled for participating in the disruptions and who put the party in "disrepute through assault of delegates".
Asked if Shilowa would be included in this list, Lekota replied that if he was found to be one of these people he would be recommended for expulsion.
Discussing how some members landed up at the youth festival, Lekota said this happened after their original venue organisers told them they had 30 minutes to vacate the premises on Friday.
He said Cope leadership was meant to meet at the Pretoria Showgrounds "very temporarily"; but that an encounter with some young people from the NYDA that were "very boisterous - verging on aggression", "soured the atmosphere".
Coming back to the issue of trying again to hold a national congress, Lekota said that constitutionally the party had a right to give it another go.
"The constitution of Cope is silent on what happens if congress does not happen. It is silent on what should be done. It does not say that the congress (of the people) ceases to exist."
He said the congress could not be considered to have even begun.
"For congress to start there should have been as an opening an adoption of credentials."
Asked what kind of timeline the party was looking at for when it would make its next attempt at a congress, Lekota said: "We would like to have a congress fairly fast".
He said the party would still need to go to provinces and see what the wishes of what its members would be, as well as decide how to use its "little resources".
"The building of an organisation can never be a one-day wonder," said Lekota.