Cope hangs on by its fingernails

2010-12-12 14:49

The leadership squabbles, financial woes, auditing of last-minute branches, court cases and disciplinary hearings are all an indication of how the Congress of the People (Cope) will tackle its national congress in Pretoria on Wednesday.

This week’s conference is not ­likely to be very different from the one in May which ended in chaos.
After more than six months, the South Gauteng High Court on ­Friday drove the final nail into the coffin of the May congress.

Cope deputy president Mbhazima Shilowa lost his application for ­condonation and reinstatement of appeal and he must now bear the legal costs of nearly R1 million.

Tardiness in sticking to court time frames and procedures and poor preparation by his legal team invoked two judges’ displeasure.

Shilowa’s spokesperson, Sipho Ngwema, yesterday said the judgment was inconsequential and did not add anything. “In fact, Mr Shilowa is still very excited about the congress,” Ngwema said.

Shilowa had some good news on Thursday when his disciplinary hearing for alleged financial mismanagement was postponed until February.

This meant that he escaped possible suspension or expulsion from the party.

The hearing was postponed because Sarah Christie, the woman ­appointed by Cope to chair Shilowa’s disciplinary case, needs to first determine whether the party’s office-bearers acted in accordance with the party’s constitution when they instituted disciplinary action against Shilowa.

Thozamile Botha, a Cope MP who was appointed as the party’s chief whip in Parliament after Shilowa’s sacking, said on Thursday that the postponement of Shilowa’s hearing did not mean it would be disregarded if he were to become an office-bearer at the upcoming congress. That is if Christie decides the hearing should continue at all.

Christie said she would make her decision known via email on Friday, but by yesterday there was still no announcement.

Apart from the leadership squabbles, there was also the issue of branch readiness and participation, acting general secretary Deidre Carter said yesterday.

The branch audit was submitted to Cope only on Friday, owing to continued cash-flow problems that affected payment to ProGroup, a non-governmental organisation that ­undertook the branch audit on behalf of Cope.

The congress is scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday at the Heartfelt Arena in Pretoria.

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