Mluleki George declares support for Lekota
IN A desperate bid to rebuild itself, the fractured Cope has gone to the extent of inviting disillusioned members who left the party to rejoin.
Cope leaders yesterday admitted that owing to internal wrangles, the party has failed voters and that it needed to rebuild to win back their confidence.
This emerged at a press conference held in Parliament, where Cope's founding member Mluleki George and 11 other leaders declared their support for party president Mosiuoa Lekota. Some of them were previously linked to a faction led by the party's expelled deputy president Mbhazima Shilowa.
To beef up membership and quell apprehension by existing members, George said the party would be holding general meetings across the country. "With all this nonsense, this stupid infighting, the organisation has been bleeding. Our biggest challenge now is going to convince the voters because I must say we disappointed them badly," he said.
"It's a matter of going to the people to say give us a last chance, because we have messed up."
Cope acting deputy president Smuts Ngonyama said the move by George and other members of the leadership had been in the interests of stabilising the ailing party.
Other members included member of the Gauteng legislature Clara Motau and axed administrative whip Lolo Mashiane.
"Cope, like any other living thing, is bound to go through the challenges we are faced with," Ngonyama said, adding that other Cope members who had become disillusioned were also expected to return.
Ngonyama said even those who had been dismissed or suspended would be welcomed back if they showed remorse. However, those who faced criminal charges would need to have their day in court.
This included claims against former treasurer Hilda Ndude, who allegedly embezzled over R1-million from the party's coffers.
George said members were now steadfast in their resolve to "rescue" Cope with the purpose of being a formidable opponent at the general elections in two years' time.
"The road to the survival of Cope will not be guaranteed by the courts of law. The guarantors of the future of Cope are its members and a united leadership," said George. "It is high time that we should take one step back in order to take a jump forward."
Last month, the Constitutional Court upheld Lekota's dismissal of Shilowa as a leader of the party.
He has subsequently approached the Johannesburg High Court in a further attempt to have his axing deemed unconstitutional.
George and a number of other senior members, who have now jumped ship to back Lekota, were co-applicants in challenging their dismissals and suspensions.
Lekota, who was not present at the briefing, was in Johannesburg to meet with lawyers to remove their names from court papers.
"He is in a consultation process, including the process regarding Mr George and others who were part and parcel of the affidavit. They have now abandoned it," said Ngonyama.
Shilowa has rubbished George's somersault and described it as a "joke". "It must be a joke of the year when a Cope MP defects to his own organisation," said Zale Madonsela in a statement issued on behalf of "office bearers".
"It is unfortunate that when individuals become apprehensive about their future in the 2014 listings they abandon principles."