May 25, 2011
Dexter fires first shots in leadership battle
COPE communications chief Phillip Dexter has proposed in a confidential document circulated among party leaders that the Congress of the People should relaunch itself or disband.
Just days after the local government elections, Dexter, who is seen as a close ally of COPE president Mosiuoa Lekota, says the party has failed to live up to its promise to be an alternative to the ANC and has in fact degenerated into "a culture that mimicked the worst found in the ANC".
In a 19-page draft report titled "COPEing with the Crisis in the Congress of the People: Our Responsibility in the National Democratic Revolution", Dexter alleges that party election lists were manipulated in 2009 and 2011.
"Currently, there are mayoral and councillor candidates who are not only inappropriate, but no member of the party can tell anyone how they were selected and by who. It is as if they fell from the sky," writes Dexter.
COPE funds were not only abused in parliament, allegedly by the party's former deputy president, Mbhazima Shilowa, but also by COPE provincial leaders and in the Lekota-controlled party headquarters.
"Funds in the party are not managed well and are routinely abused and while those excesses in Parliament were investigated and followed up in one instance, little to nothing has ever been done about the abuse of funds at provincial level and in the party HQ. There is little to no accountability for funds managed at a national level in the party itself."
COPE is also plagued by cliques that "mobilise people along racial lines", Dexter writes.
"COPE has its own 'Aurora's' [a reference to the unpaid staff of the Aurora mine] where staff are not paid yet those in political offices have their expenses paid, stay in expensive hotels and generally use resources as if they are their own personal ones."
COPE drew only 2.33% of the vote in last week's election and now it faces the "impossible choice" of deciding whether to go into a coalition with the DA or ANC in hung municipal councils.
Dexter warns, however, that the DA "reinforces the patterns of under-development inherited from the apartheid era".
But a COPE insider said COPE's coalition with the DA in several municipalities was already a "fait accompli". Party sources said COPE leaders had flown to Cape Town today for meetings with Helen Zille.
Although Dexter does not call for Lekota's head in his discussion paper, the same source said the paper was the "first shot fired in the leadership contest between Dexter and Lekota".
Lekota yesterday said he did not see Dexter's discussion document as an indication that Dexter wanted to be party president, but added that nobody in COPE would be prevented from contesting elections.
He refused to comment on Dexter's allegations that party lists were drawn up fraudulently, and that COPE headquarters had also "abused" funds.