'Cope in financial blues after polls'

FINANCIAL constraints and persistent power struggles have engulfed Cope, with party insiders saying it is battling to pay millions of rands owed to creditors.

Insiders said the party was in such dire financial straits that it was no longer able to pay its office workers.

"Pretty soon [Cope president] Terror Lekota won't have money to pay his own salary. That is why he wants to go to Parliament.

"He has failed to raise a single million rands though businessmen in the Afrikaner community have made lots of pledges. They love his ability to speak the language but had neither voted for the party nor poured funds into it."

Party spokesperson Phillip Dexter told Sowetan yesterday that the ANC splinter party hads "some outstanding debts but cannot be described as being in financial difficulties".

"There are no major problems. What we have are a few outstanding debts from the elections but we are paying those," Dexter said.

"The bills have nothing to do with posters or T-shirts, they are bills to PR companies and the likes and it's not a substantial amount.

"All those bills will be paid, some of them are due now and others will be due in the next few months, so it's not a financial crisis," Dexter said.

Top spin doctors Onkgopotse JJ Tabane and former Scorpions chief of communications Sipho Ngwema, who were never paid by Cope, have also jumped ship, leaving the party's communication strategy in disarray.

Tabane is expected to return as researcher and media strategist for Reverend Mvume Dandala, Cope's leader in Parliament.

With a claimed membership of more than 550000 compared with the 621000 members of the ANC, Cope should be regarded as major political player.

At R30 a membership card a year, the party should be sitting on R16,5million in membership fees alone. But insiders say the party has no capacity to collect these membership fees.

Dexter claims Cope only recognises paid-up membership.