shilowa bids to lead cope

CONGRESS of the People deputy president Mbhazima Shilowa yesterday upped the tempo of the party's leadership contest when he launched his campaign for its presidency.

CONGRESS of the People deputy president Mbhazima Shilowa yesterday upped the tempo of the party's leadership contest when he launched his campaign for its presidency.

Shilowa launched his campaign in Mthatha, Eastern Cape, while his rival, Mosiuoa Lekota, addressed a rally at nearby Cofimvaba.

Shilowa told the crowd: "Today is a special day for me because once again Cope has redefined the politics of South Africa. There is no party in this country that has categorically said to its members: the flag has officially been dropped and any person with ability to race can now run."

Lekota took a swipe at Shilowa, saying he did not have money and would not collect money from the poor to run a presidential campaign.

"I am not going to go out of my way campaigning for the position. I am prepared to serve the people regardless of the position," Lekota said.

On Saturday Shilowa told Sowetan that he was available for nomination despite the cloud hanging over him following allegations of misappropriation of parliamentary funds as the party's accounting officer.

PriceWaterhouseCoopers have been asked to do the audit.

"I am available because I am confident that I will not be fingered in the report," Shilowa said.

But yesterday's peaceful events in Eastern Cape were in sharp contrast to events in Gauteng on Saturday. Violence broke out between supporters of Lekota and Shilowa during a provincial conference, leading to some of the delegates being hospitalised. Lekota's supporters accused Shilowa's backers - including Cope general secretary Charlotte Lobe - of trying to load the conference in his favour.

Earlier Lekota supporters heckled Shilowa, who gave a keynote address.

Shilowa told the delegates that the party's first national elective conference would go ahead and that a unified Cope would emerge.

Yesterday Lekota supporters said they did not recognise the newly elected Gauteng leadership. "We are going to ask the congress working committee on Monday to decide on this matter.

The general secretary - who is a supporter of Shilowa - is both (a) player and referee in this conference," one disgruntled member said.

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