Ido Lekota and Sapa

Ido Lekota and Sapa

The Congress of the People, whose leaders say they will not make false promises to win elections, will have to cultivate "a new image" distinct from the ANC if they are to make a lasting impression, analysts say.

Cope, launched in Bloemfontein yesterday, surprised political observers by electing two hitherto politically unknown women members - Lynda Odendaal and Deidre Carter - to the top leadership structure with co-founder Mosiuoa "Terror" Lekota, who was elected the party's first president.

Mbhazima Shilowa, the party's first deputy president, told foreign and local journalists that the party would not go to any lengths to get votes.

"We are not hunting for votes on false promises and then later the people get angry with us," Shilowa said. "We say a promise made is a promise kept."

Political analyst Tinyiko Maluleke, who attended the party's launch, said Cope's biggest challenge was "to create for itself an identity outside the ANC".

Failure to do that would see the party suffer under the shadow of the ANC, he said.

Maluleke was also sceptical about Cope's bid to be a broad-based nonracial party that could take on the ANC.

"If you are talking about a broad-based nonracial party - it is the ANC," Maluleke said.

He pointed out that ANC had "many whites who lost their lives as its members".

Maluleke said these issues could be Cope's Achilles heel come election time next year.

Political analyst Lesiba Tefo, who also attended the launch, agreed that Cope had to stop hanging from ANC's coat-tails.

Tefo criticised Cope leaders such as Lekota for continuing to use the names of ANC leaders such as former president Nelson Mandela and ANC leader Oliver Tambo to enhance their political credibility.

He said the party should rather use the names of South African heroes such as the Soshangane, the Tsonga king, Sekhukhune, the king of the Bapedi, and other struggle heroes such as Steve Biko who fought against colonialism and apartheid.

Lyndall Mafole-Shope, Cope's new head of international relations, said the party's leadership used the names of Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo "as South African leaders that we look up to".

Newly elected treasurer Hilda Ndude, a former MP turned businesswoman, said members of Cope who had served with the ANC had learnt from their mistakes while in the ANC and "don't want to repeat the same mistakes".

Ndude said South Africa had lost its credibility because of the ANC's "mistakes" and "the kind of leadership elected in Polokwane".