Cope gets off ground

Mosiuoa Lekota formally launched the Congress of the People (Cope) yesterday with a promise to serve South Africans better than the ANC and said the ruling party's response to its new rival smacked of apartheid era intimidation.

Mosiuoa Lekota formally launched the Congress of the People (Cope) yesterday with a promise to serve South Africans better than the ANC and said the ruling party's response to its new rival smacked of apartheid era intimidation.

"Intimidation and paralysing fear are now gripping sections of our society - fear that is identical to that of the John Vorster and PW Botha eras," he told about 3500 delegates sporting yellow T-shirts in Bloemfontein.

Lekota said the ruling party was carrying out a witch-hunt on former colleagues.

"Men and women with whom we worked and shared jokes now have to look the other way when we chance on each other along the corridors of state buildings. They risk their jobs if they are seen to befriend us."

Singing, cries of "Amandla" and calls to secure votes for Cope in next year's elections rang out at the launch, with former Independent Democrats deputy leader Simon Grindrod declaring: "The train is now leaving the station and every South African should get on to it.

"Your job is to go back to your constituency and prepare for voting."

Lekota quoted the line from Irish poet William Butler Yeats poem, Easter 1916: "A terrible beauty is being born".

He said the new party would bring voters who had lost faith in democracy since 1994 back to the polls for next year's elections.

"Where many had lost the energy to go and register to vote, they declare that they are now on the comeback trail," he said.

The birth of the new party has sent a message to the outside world that South Africa would not become a one-party democracy, he said.

"What doubts had begun to develop on the prospects of South African democracy, have now been overtaken by a cautious optimism and confidence that here, unlike in many other countries, exists a resilience sufficient to sustain the momentum of our promised future."

Mbhazima Shilowa, who chaired the Bloemfontein meeting, urged delegates to work hard to earn the support of all South Africans ahead of the 2009 elections. - Sapa

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