UNDER SIEGE COPE PUTS ON BRAVE FACE

DESPITE the internal ructions facing Cope, leaders say the party's first elective congress will take place at the end of this month.

DESPITE the internal ructions facing Cope, leaders say the party's first elective congress will take place at the end of this month.

Cope general secretary Charlotte Lobe acknowledged that there were internal problems in the party but these would not keep the party from having the conference.

Lobe said the conference, scheduled for May 27 to 30, was an opportunity for the party to redefine itself and the role it should play in the political future of South Africa.

Lobe admitted that factions within the party related to issues such as, for example, the leadership style of Cope president Mosiuoa Lekota and his deputy Mbhazima Shilowa.

Lekota and Shilowa are set to contest for the party's presidency. Cope's youth wing has already confirmed Shilowa as their preferred candidate.

Doubts have been raised about whether the conference will take place, with some members questioning the legitimacy of branches formed as part of the build-up to the conference.

Yesterday Lobe said 2360 branches had been provisionally audited with the final audit expected by Monday.

She said she was confident that at least 2600 voting delegates would attend the conference. These would include representatives from structures such as Cope's youth and women's wings.

On Cope's scenario Lobe said she believed that the party must be "a social democratic party that believes in an interventionist state".

She also said such a state should avoid becoming a "nanny state" by adopting policies that encourage human development rather than welfarism.

Lobe admitted that the consensus-based leadership style adopted by Cope had created tensions even among the party's leadership.

Commenting on the recent revelations about alleged misappropriation of parliamentary funds by Mbhazima, Lobe said the Cope leadership would wait for an audit report that was expected to be completed by the end of the month.

"The central national committee is not saying the allegations are valid or not," she said.

"We will wait for the due process to be completed. If it is found that there was indeed misappropriation of funds then the necessary action will be taken."

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