Cope faces its first acid test in 41 by-elections

Anna Majavu

Anna Majavu

The stage is set for a bruising battle in 41 by-elections in five provinces today as the Congress of the People faces its first test at the polls.

While voters go to the polls in the Western Cape, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Free State and Northern Cape, the ANC's legal challenge to Cope's name was to be heard in the Pretoria high court this morning.

ANC spokesman Jessie Duarte, pictured, told Sowetan that the ANC would bring a second and separate urgent application in the Constitutional Court (Concourt) this morning to overturn yesterday's electoral court ruling.

The electoral court upheld the Independent Electoral Commission's decision not to allow 12 ANC Western Cape candidates to participate in today's election.

The 12 candidates missed the deadline for registration last week.

By-elections in their wards will go ahead without them today, but if the Concourt rules in the ANC's favour, elections in these 12 wards might have to be held again.

In the meantime, Cope, which yesterday announced that it has 428000 paid-up members, could win the 12 former ANC strongholds. But the fledgling party, which will be officially launched next week, is also having difficulty convincing people to vote for its candidates, who are mostly former ANC ward councillors.

In Langa, about 6000 residents of the Joe Slovo informal settlement are embroiled in a lengthy dispute with the ANC, which wants to move them to Delft - about 20km away.

During the door-to- door electioneering on Sunday, some residents told the Cope candidate Xolile Gophe, who was the ANC councillor until recently, that they would not vote for him.

"You were on the side of the ANC a month ago, but suddenly you are now wearing another cap," several people reportedly said.