BELEAGUERED Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota has offered to step down as party president.
His suggestion is aimed at resolving the raging leadership clash between him and his deputy Mbhazima Shilowa.
Yesterday Lekota defied a decision at the weekend by the party congress to pass a motion of no confidence in him and arrived at the party's headquarters.
Lekota then told journalists that he would convene a congress national committee (CNC) meeting to resolve the leadership squabble.
He suggested a way out of the political crisis would include the removal of both himself and Shilowa (whom the congress selected as caretaker president) and the election of a caretaker president.
This raised speculation that the party's leader in Parliament, Mvume Dandala, could be caretaker president until September.
Lekota's suspension followed his application for a court interdict stopping the weekend gathering from holding a leadership election.
The court ruled that the election must be held in September.
But the party's Shilowa-led CNC has rejected Lekota's overtures.
Instead the CNC announced yesterday afternoon that it had served Lekota and his ally, Phillip Dexter, with papers informing them they were no longer part of the party leadership.
Lekota was given 48 hours to vacate his office.
The CNC also announced that it had served Lekota's legal representative with papers challenging the court ruling on the interdict.
"Following the numerous developments around the Cope national congress over the weekend and the instruction given to the leadership to challenge the court interdict granted in favour of the former president - our legal team has now served Mr Lekota's legal team with a notice for an urgent appeal at the Johannesburg high court," Cope spokesperson Sipho Ngwema said.
"Furthermore, Mr Lekota and Mr Dexter were served with letters officially by the general secretary which informed them about the weekend's national congress vote of no confidence in them.
"They have subsequently been removed as president and head of communications, respectively. Subsequently, their membership of the CNC has also been withdrawn. This means they are no longer members of any national leadership structure of the organisation," Ngwema said.
"The former president is expected to vacate his office within 48 hours."