lekota says he is sorry

THE Congress of the People said yesterday that its leader, Mosiua Lekota, had apologised to the party.

THE Congress of the People said yesterday that its leader, Mosiua Lekota, had apologised to the party.

Lekota last week held a press conference at which he accused his deputy, Mbhazima Shilowa, of mismanaging R20million in parliamentary funds.

He also said that a company owned by Cope youth movement leader Malusi Booi was given a R580000 contract to fit Cope's parliamentary offices with expensive carpets, picture frames and leather seats. Lekota also questioned the way this tender was awarded.

But amid much controversy that a fierce leadership battle was threatening to destabilise the party, Cope was adamant yesterday that it was not facing a split.

Briefing the media in Johannesburg yesterday after a two-day congress national committee (CNC) meeting, general secretary Charlotte Lobe quelled speculation that a number of recent public spats between members were a cause for concern that the party was not united.

"In Cope we have only one camp. If there's the existence of some other camps ... it is foreign (to the party leadership)."

Lobe's assertion follows weeks of public disagreements, insults and allegations within the party, the most recent being Lekota's suggestion that Shilowa had mismanaged R20million.

But Lobe said the public allegations were condemned and the matter been smoothed over after Lekota hat apologised.

At the briefing, from which both men were absent despite being in the building, Lobe said "the president is sorry for making those allegations out in public". She said Lekota's calling of a press conference, at which he made the allegations, was an "error of judgment. His apology to the meeting and members of Cope was accepted," Lobe. said

She said no disciplinary action would be taken since a reprimand was enough.

But Lobe would not be drawn on whether the allegations had any merit, saying due process needed to be followed and their validity tested through a parliamentary audit currently under way.

"If anyone is found guilty of mismanagement, such an individual would face the full might of the law."

Lobe said other incidents over the past few weeks had also been "trying ones for Cope".

These included a march by "so-called" Cope youth to the party's head office, a heated "public spat" on radio between spokesman Phillip Dexter and Eastern Cape provincial chairperson Andile Nkhuhlu, and a Cope youth movement insult of a number of leaders. Last week,the youth's chairperson, Anele Mda, accused Lekota of using a "mafia and thug approach" to leadership and behaving like the party's "messiah".

"This has brought the organisation into disrepute and such behaviour will no longer be tolerated," Lobe said.

She said the party also noted the existence of an organisation called Cope 4 Hope.

"The CNC resolved to investigate this organisation and for the duration of the investigation Hennie Kieser of Cope 4 Hope is to be suspended as a member," said Lobe.

She said the so-called audit conducted by Kieser had been rejected as unauthorised as the only audit of branches that had any status was that of senior member Neville Mompati.

Meanwhile, Cope's Youth Movement applauded the maturity that prevailed at the CNC and emphasised that it showed support for the "entire leadership".

In a statement Mda said: "We come out of this weekend's meeting more convinced on the correctness of our decision in Bloemfontein to put the leadership we put in office and the calibre of this leadership."