Lekota et al have much to Cope with from the ANC

The Congress of the People has an apt acronym in Cope.

The Congress of the People has an apt acronym in Cope.

To cope means to contend with or against. It might also mean to successfully deal with or handle or manage a situation.

It seems that this is just what Cope, the new party that vows to replace the ANC, has been doing - cope with hostility.

First the Mosiuoa Lekota-Mbhazima Shilowa-led grouping had to abandon calling itself the South African National Congress because it sounded too much like the African National Congress.

It then chose the South African Democratic Congress but was forced to go back to the drawing board when it discovered that a party of that name had already been registered with the IEC.

Eventually Cope was to become the alternative name, but not without a hostile glare from an ANC already peeved by the mass exodus of its rank-and-file.

But it is the ANC's objection to the name Congress of the People that tickles my fancy. It argues that the Congress of the People in 1955 in Kliptown was "where the Freedom Charter was adopted after ANC volunteers - together with volunteers from the South African Indian Congress, the Congress of Democrats and the Coloured People's Congress - had collected and collated the views of thousands of South Africans".

The historic congress indeed inspired the adoption of the Freedom Charter as the ANC's guiding document pre- and post-apartheid.

But I stick my neck out.

The Freedom Charter was never an ANC document, given this history. It can therefore not claim brand exclusivity, either to "congress" or "Congress of the People".

Now the circus over the name will play itself out in court as the ANC demands the leaders of the new party "hand over its ownership".

Also, I detect some hypocrisy as these shenanigans unfold in these interesting times.

A few years ago Bantu Holomisa, one of my favourite politicians, was kicked out of the ANC because he dared to speak his mind. He duly formed the United Democratic Movement (UDM) amid cries that it would not last a day.

But that's not the point.

I ask myself in hindsight, why was there no outcry when Holomisa launched his UDM. I did not hear anyone say the UDM sounded too close for comfort to the United Democratic Front (UDF), the erstwhile internal wing of the then banned ANC in the mid-80s.

In fact, I can even take it further in history.

Was there any outcry when Robert Sobukwe led a faction from the ANC in 1959 to later launch the Pan Africanist Congress? (PAC).

Question is: why is it so galling today when poor Shilowa and Lekota want to continue upholding the tradition of the congress movement?

It is only six months to the next election, when Cope intends to prove its mettle. In the meantime I predict a lot of coping, what with mounting pressure and growing antipathy.

All I can say is good luck and good coping.