Cope is calm and confident

2009-11-07 14:24

It is almost a year since Cope was formed. What have been the party’s biggest achievements?

We have established our structures, the Cope brand, fought and performed well in the elections and are winning by-elections regularly. We have taken up concrete issues and the ruling party has begun to try to implement our policies.

What have been the biggest challenges facing the party and how have they been addressed?

Limited resources, interim structures and a hostile media. We have stepped up fund-raising, we are launching branches across the country and preparing for our conferences. We have worked hard on building relationships with the media.

Cope is said to be ravaged by infighting and tribalism. Allan Boesak said this in a statement he released after his resignation. Simon Grindrod made the same point some time ago and so did Lynda Odendaal. What is your take on this?

There is definitely no tribalism. As a young, democratic party we expect robust debate on all issues, including leadership. There is no evidence to back up these claims. It is rather the case of a common discourse among disillusioned people. There are challenges in Cope, but these will be addressed by doing political work and not throwing in the towel.

Cope’s problems of infighting appear similar to those of the ANC. How will the party be an alternative to the ruling party if these problems persist?

We do not have the kind of factionalism that you see in the ruling party. Nobody has ever been purged from Cope.

What do you make of calls for an early conference to avoid internal strife and allow members to elect their leaders?

These calls are simply unrealistic. We cannot have a conference until the branches, regions and provinces are launched.

To have interim structures elect leaders would be profoundly undemocratic and people who make such calls have questionable motives.

With challenges such as the lack of visibility on debates in Parliament and capacity in legislatures, how will Cope perform in the 2011 general elections?

We are visible in all debates in Parliament and many outside Parliament.

The party does not have structures and clear policy formulation guidelines. This has led to arguments that Cope has no identity and is struggling to differentiate itself from the ANC. When will the process to establish these imperatives be concluded?

We have policies on virtually every area of society adopted at the conference in Bloemfontein and are constantly updating them. They are available to whoever wants to see them. We have long ago differentiated ourselves from other political parties on macro-economic policy, on the Constitution, on electoral reform, on energy, on industrial strategy, on public administration, on healthcare, on education and in many other areas. The mere fact that everyone is constantly debating Cope – whether positively or negatively – shows that we have a distinct identity.

What about Allan Boesak’s resignation? Did he make the right decision?

No, he did not. He should have stayed in the party to help build it.

Mosiuoa Lekota complained that Cope leaders in Parliament were not heard or visible on key issues. Why does the party in Parliament not perform to the president’s satisfaction? He also spoke about working together with other opposition parties. So far it seems some leaders of Cope are reluctant to do this.

There are no leaders of Cope reluctant to work with other parties that share our values, vision and policies. The president was doing what he should: exhorting MPs, MPLs and councillors to work harder. He was generalising. There is not a single key issue that we do not comment on.

There is also a view that Cope does not have a clear procedure to formulate policy. An example of this was when Willie Madisha took a particular position regarding labour brokers when in actual fact the party had not discussed the matter. Is that the case?

That is not true. We have a policy structure and the central national committee and central working committee lead between conferences on policy matters. The labour brokers issue required a quick response. Nothing in the paper is inconsistent with Cope policies.

When Cope was formed, there was a lot of hope and hype among ordinary citizens. This seems to have worn off. What is your take?

It has not worn off but the euphoria has died down to normal or ordinary political work and enthusiasm. Come elections and the mood will swing up again. That is the nature of politics in a democracy.

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