THE knives are out for Cope president Mosiuoa Lekota with party members planning to oust him even before the party's elective conference scheduled for 2011.
Cope members are already looking beyond Lekota, with party co-deputy president Mbhazima Shilowa favoured to take over.
A senior Cope official said some of the party's potential funders, including former ANC luminaries, "have adopted a wait and see attitude". They will not fund the party unless Lekota is ousted and replaced by Shilowa.
A Cope leader said Shilowa's backers are planning to use Parliament as a "launchpad" to present him as an alternative to Lekota.
The party is more organised in Parliament with most of its resources thrown into establishing a "war room" that will see it challenge the DA's position as the official opposition, said the official.
Sowetan has learnt that Lekota is also at loggerheads with Charlotte Lobe, the general secretary, who was supposed to build the party with him, and is now disillusioned.
Advertising agencies that handled Cope's election and media strategy have pulled out and are demanding payment.
An insider told us "that is why press releases are now a hit-and-miss affair".
"Sometimes journalists get them, sometimes they don't."
Another Cope official told Sowetan the plot to unseat Lekota started before the April 22 elections.
"But when he refused to make way for Shilowa, the business sector proposed the name of Mvume Dandala, saying Lekota was tainted.
"We have travelled across the country and businesspeople are prepared to pledge but they say Cope will not go far unless we get rid of Lekota."
Even Cope moles in the ANC have refused to leave the ruling party in protest at Lekota's leadership style, the source said.
Sowetan has also learnt that when Cope gathered to choose its presidential candidate ahead of the elections, Lekota only won two provinces - KwaZulu-Natal and Free State - while Dandala won seven.
Cope spokesperson Phillip Dexter said only an elective conference, which is scheduled for 2011, can remove Lekota from his position.