LEKOTA WINS HIS COURT BATTLE

WHILE Cope president Mosiuoa Lekota is celebrating his latest court victory in the leadership battle with Mbazima Shilowa, a political analyst says fostering unity in the fractured party will be difficult.

WHILE Cope president Mosiuoa Lekota is celebrating his latest court victory in the leadership battle with Mbazima Shilowa, a political analyst says fostering unity in the fractured party will be difficult.

The remarks follow the Johannesburg high court's ruling yesterday that Lekota should be reinstated as the party's president.

Judge Rammaka Mathopa's judgment effectively overturns a vote of no confidence in Lekota and Cope head of communications Phillip Dexter at the party's policy conference on May 28.

"It is a flagrant disregard for the rules of natural justice," Judge Mathopa said. "The way this case has been done has the hallmarks of political nudging and elbowing."

He also ordered the faction supporting Shilowa to refrain from tampering with members representing the party in Parliament and in the provincial legislatures.

He said Shilowa's faction "ambushed" Lekota during the policy conference, which was turned to elective.

Judge Mathopa said Cope's constitution requires that voting be done secretly, but the conference took the resolution through a show of hands.

Political analyst Prince Mashele said achieving unity would be difficult.

"I do not think unity will be attained. It was a decision of the faction led by Mbhazima Shilowa to kick Lekota out of the party and it does not mean that because the court has overturned that decision they will work with the person they wanted to kick out."

Mashele said it could have been possible had Lekota been returned to his position after a politically negotiated settlement.

But Mohau Pheko said unity would depend on how badly Cope wants to survive. If the mistrust is too deep we might see serious cracks in the party," she said.

Dozens of jubilant Lekota supporters left the court for Cope House in Braamfontein, where he addressed them.

"There are no two Copes, there's one Cope," Lekota said. "We will call a meeting with the congress national committee," he said, referring to the party's highest decision-making body.

"There must be no grudges born, no witch-hunting and no driving members who have made mistakes out of the party."

But Dexter said action would be taken against those he claimed had misused millions of rands of party parliamentary funds. Among those accused was Shilowa.

"We are committed to [moving on], while at the same time ensuring accountability for actions that have been taken, particularly in relation to the finances of the party which have yet to be properly accounted for," Dexter said

Lekota appealed to the party to unite and not holding grudges.

Cope spokesperson Onkgopotse Tabane said the party respected the court ruling "though we may believe them (court) to be misguided, especially on matters we believe require a political solution".

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