Hint of a Cope-DA merger

COPE RIVALS: Mosiuoa Lekota and Mbhazima Shilowa
COPE RIVALS: Mosiuoa Lekota and Mbhazima Shilowa

THE Congress of the People wants its members to join the DA following the DA's election last week of its first black parliamentary leader, Lindiwe Mazibuko.

Sowetan was reliably informed by insiders in both Cope and the DA that Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota has penned a paper in which he calls for increased cooperation with the DA in the Independent Democrats style.

With floor-crossing laws a thing of the past, the ID last year reached an agreement with the DA that its members could take out dual membership of both parties, allowing ID members of parliament to join the DA caucus without losing their seats.

A DA insider said: "Key people will come over to the DA... The extent of cooperation between Cope and the DA, and the goodwill, is a sign that the future of Cope's verligtes, or enlightened ones, is in the DA, including Lekota."

A Cope official backed the story, saying the party was "toast" now that Mazibuko had been elected, and that it would have no choice but to join the DA.

But Lekota told Sowetan Cope's central national committee wanted cooperation with all opposition parties.

"The decision was that I must lead an initiative to engage in discussion with all opposition parties. I drafted a paper saying we must approach the initiative with open minds ... to have a round table discussion ... including the DA, but not only the DA," Lekota said.

"Some of the people (in Cope) might not have taken kindly to this and they might have distorted it in telling you," Lekota said.

Lekota also faces a December court case against his rival, Mbhazima Shilowa, who is opposed to cooperation with the DA.

Shilowa has been out of action since February when Lekota won an interdict preventing him from describing himself as Cope's president.

Shilowa's application to overturn this interdict should have been heard in August but was postponed to December after Lekota's lawyer fell ill.

If he wins the Shilowa faction of Cope "will never assimilate into the DA", its second deputy president, Zale Madonsela, said.

Madonsela said Lekota had initiated last year's co-operation talks between the DA, ID and Cope.

"The DA and ID continued together when our rift intensified but said they would accommodate Lekota later. We support affirmative action and BEE, which Lekota and the DA don't," Madonsela said.

DA federal chairman James Selfe said he was not aware of any bid by Cope to take out DA membership.