IT IS daggers drawn between followers of the Congress of the People (Cope) leaders.

The faction aligned to president Mosiuoa Lekota will this week interdict the Mbhazima Shilowa faction from holding its first elective congress, scheduled to take place in Centurion, Pretoria, from May 27 to 30.

"The party is split and four provinces have taken formal decisions not to go to congress," a source in the Lekota faction said.

"In other provinces all the excluded branches have taken the same positions."

The Lekota faction is determined to stop the congress - which they say is weighted in favour of Cope deputy president Shilowa.

The source said KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, Free State, Limpopo, Northern Cape and "many individuals" had urged last weekend's congress national committee (CNC) meeting to postpone the congress. When the CNC did not agree, the provinces announced a boycott.

"If they hold the congress, it won't quorate, but our first prize is the interdict. Then we can clean up the mess of fake branches. If they go ahead and have a congress, there will be another legal challenge," the source said.

The Lekota faction says the list of voting delegates for the congress has been "fabricated", with the bulk being supporters of Shilowa.

Another source claimed that Cope headquarters had only recognised between two and 47percent of branches in the five provinces that allegedly support Lekota.

In Cope each branch is allowed one delegate to congress. A branch can be formed by just 25 people paying a membership fee of R30 each. The Lekota faction accuses the Shilowa faction of setting up hundreds of "ghost branches" of their own supporters in order to get more Shilowa-aligned voting delegates at the congress.

But sources in the Shilowa faction said the CNC went off smoothly, with the majority of provinces agreeing that the congress should proceed.

Only Mpumalanga asked the CNC for a postponement.

"In the end, Lekota has no support," said the source.

General secretary Charlotte Lobe said Cope had carried out a national audit of all branches.

"We received three queries from the Free State. Limpopo also had a query about some of their branches that were disqualified. We have not received any query from Mpumalanga. They only submitted eight branches to be audited," she said.

"It will be incorrect for anyone to even suggest that they have been excluded when the process of queries and objections is still under way," she said.

"It is even worse for Mpumalanga to make those claims because they initially claimed 107 branches but only submitted proof of eight launched branches."

Lobe, who is part of the Shilowa faction, said last week's CNC had agreed that those branches and provinces that passed the audit test were Cope's true structures.

"The congress will proceed as planned," Lobe said.

But on Cope's Facebook page supporters are clearly tiring of the leadership struggle. A statement from a Cape Town branch, posted by Bregje Piper, said: "We encourage new leadership to make themselves available so as to break the current divisive leadership struggle."

And Cope member Zuks Matshaya Mgabile wrote: "Both Mr Lekota and Mr Shilowa should be asked not to stand for the presidency for the division they created in the organisation."

Political analyst Mcebisi Ndletyana said: "The looming interdict does not bode well for Cope's future."