Cope 'gives South Africa hope'

Question: You initially said you were not interested in joining Cope - what made you change your mind?

Question: You initially said you were not interested in joining Cope - what made you change your mind?

Answer: I initially said I was not interested in joining any political party. I was at a point where I thought I had tried my best and made my contribution and that now was the time to give attention to academic work. I joined Cope because suddenly here came a political party that represented something that South African politics had forgotten - something that gave real hope to people and created an undeniable wave of excitement that we last saw when Nelson Mandela came out of prison.

Q: But you said your initial rejection of Cope was principled, so what happened to change that principled objection?

A: The Cope leaders answered all my critical questions and convinced me that they could offer South Africans more. For the past decade I have raised critical questions about the way our democracy was going and they said "you have told us what is wrong so come and help us make things right". They also asked me if I really believed that what I was doing in the small hall of the church was the most I could do for the larger public of South Africa. And that was a fair challenge.

Q: There is a perception that Cope is a modified ANC that now dwells on issues of morality and respect for the Constitution. Beyond this, what has Cope to offer the majority who remain poor and unemployed?

A: You will find that most parties, except the DA which remains connected to privilege, have similar policies. But what Cope offers is not just a continuation of the past 15 years' policies, which has been responsible for the growing gap between rich and poor. ANC policies have been pro-capitalist and there has not been a fundamental change post-Polokwane. Ask yourself what is it that makes Mr Zuma say, when he speaks to bankers, that he gives them his word that nothing will change in terms of policies?

Then you listen to Zwelinzima Vavi and it is almost as if you are listening to two different parties. Cope is upfront. We want a social democracy with a responsibility on the private and public sector to pursue in a very determined way the policies of justice and equity.

Cope believes that if we do not pursue policies in which government works hand in hand with the private sector to create sustainable jobs and develop the rural areas, then all we do is give people more of the same. The ANC says they will enlarge the social grant, but all this does is create more dependency on welfare. We want to link the grant to job creation to enhance people's dignity and give them the opportunity to do better in life. That is the difference between an economy that puts people first and profits second, and an economy where profits come first.

Q: Jacob Zuma sometimes threatens to "out" people who he hints were more involved in alleged arms deal-related corruption than he, but so far he has not actually exposed them. He has been criticised for this. You have accused the ANC of keeping silent while you wrongly went to jail. Is there any reason why you cannot out them now?

A: There will come a time when I mention the names of people who did profit from the money that came in 1988 when the UDF was banned, the money I went to jail for. The people who received that money, high up in the ANC know that. Zuma is threatening that if you take him to court, he will expose them. I am not doing that. I have been to prison. I cannot threaten anyone and I only raise it because it is a matter of honour and integrity. I am not using this as a stick to beat anyone to try to escape from appearing in court like Zuma.

Q: Analysts suggest that Cope is losing popularity because of the mixed messages you give on affirmative action and coalitions?

A: In the beginning maybe when Cope was trying to formulate policy - but now we are clear about affirmative action and coalitions and people are beginning to understand it more and more. On the issue of coalitions Dr Dandala came out clearly. My experience is that Cope is increasing in popularity on the ground - our popularity far outstrips our capacity to meet those expectations.

Q: Do you think Cope should form an alliance with the ANC if the need arises?

A: If necessary we will look for coalitions with parties who share our values and who have similar policies. The ANC does not at all share our values. In Western Cape clearly we will not go into a coalition with the ANC. There are a number of political parties in this province. I do not mention the DA. We will sit around the table and make those decisions when the time comes. It is not just about policy, but about personalities too - coalitions only work when coalition partners regard each other with respect.

Q: How will you convince voters that even though the pre-Polokwane ANC, from which Cope has drawn its leadership base, was in charge for those 15 years, Cope will be different?

A: When Cope first started it was all ex-ANC. Now it is a broad mix of people who came from other political parties and a lot of people who came from situations where they would not support any party at all, like the old activists who were disgruntled and had withdrawn. I left the ANC more than 10 years ago, nobody can say I left the ANC yesterday. Cope is much, much more than Shilowa and Lekota.