Diary of a frustrated Cope coverer

2010-12-16 00:00

NALINI NAIDOO is among the media trying to cover Cope’s elective congress in Pretoria. Here are her impressions.

Tuesday, December 14:

Arrive in Pretoria to register as a media delegate for the Cope elective congress. No details as yet from organisers. Have to contact both factions to get clarity. Mosiuoa Lekota faction are incommunicado, all their cellphones are off. Manage to get someone from the Mbhazima Shilowa faction, who says they’ll be at the venue tomorrow at 10 am to register.

Spend the evening socialising with delegates from the International Youth Festival, which is also happening in Pretoria. Delegates from Cuba, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka and other countries staying in the same hotel. Flattered when asked if I am also a delegate, until I realise that those asking are as old or older than I am. Criteria to get in must be having a youthful spirit.


Wednesday, December 15:

Arrive at the Heartfelt Centre at 9.30 am — no one there apart from a heavy phalanx of security guards. Meet fellow journo from Jo’burg media. We’re told to go to KleinKaap Guesthouse in Centurion several kilometres away to register. Proceed in the indicated direction and get lost. Eventually find the place because of the number of buses parked outside. Media registration is a breeze and finished in less than five minutes.

Not the same for Cope members, who are still waiting to be let into the registration room. Meet frustrated KZN Cope delegates, Phillip Mhlongo and party. It is now 11.15 am and Mhlongo says the accreditation committee is still locked in a meeting. It is going to be a long day.

Mingle with delegates, most seem to be Shilowa supporters — an early indication of the way the voting may go, that is if we reach that stage.

By midday get back to the conference venue, a few more cars and a few more people wandering about. Spot Lekota supporter and Cope spokesperson Phillip Dexter, who appears in an upbeat mood that media registration is going smoothly.

Journos agree it is going to be a long day and possibly long night as well. Learn that police reinforcements are expected in the evening, worried about the plastic chairs in the venue. However, I’m from KZN so have mastered chair-diving skills. Feel safe as well as surrounded by the military, the venue is right next to the SANDF army college. The last Cope conference ended in physical fights among members.

It is now lunch-time, not a delegate in sight. It is going to be an afternoon of waiting.

It seems the delay in the registration process was because of a dispute over information in the database.

There are different versions of the story depending on which faction you speak to. According to Shilowa supporters, the Lekota faction, who were tasked with sorting out the registration, had allegedly loaded names onto the database that had not been verified.

The Lekota side say a memo went out asking branches to send details of delegates. These were captured to make registration easier and they were going to be checked during registration as each delegate has to come with their ID book.

Whatever the case, there is a complete break down in trust. The result is that the entire registration process has to start from scratch. This could run late into the night considering there are close to 2 000 delegates to register.

Nobody is sure whether the election will take place in the dead of night or on Reconciliation Day today.

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