Saturday, December 20, 2008

Leaving Home: COPE Officially Launched in South Africa

Leaving home

MANDY ROSSOUW - Dec 20 2008 06:00

The Shope family is ANC aristocracy. So what is it like to leave the party -- and launch a breakaway? Lyndall Shope-Mafole tells Mandy Rossouw

It is a slightly annoyed Lyndall Shope-Mafole who sits down to catch her breath in the lobby of the President Hotel in Bloem­fontein after the first day of the Congress of the People's (Cope) inaugural conference.

"We didn't start on time," she says with a sigh. "That was always the thing that OR [Tambo] taught us. He was obsessive about timekeeping. It was the only thing that did not go right today; everything else was perfect."

It is shortly before midnight and Shope-Mafole had just returned from the University of the Free State campus in Bloemfontein where the conference is being held.

She's tired but happy. "You know when you're so tired you can't stand up but it is a joyful tiredness?" she asks.

She checks her cellphone. Her mother Gertrude has been trying to get hold of her all day to hear how things went at the conference, but it is too late to call one's 83-year-old mother.

A bottle of Nederburg Cabernet Sauvignon is ordered -- of which she will drink just one glass -- in celebration of a successful start to the conference.

But she is celebrating much more than that. This year Shope-Mafole did something she never dreamed she would do: she left home.

The Shope family was part of the aristocracy in the ANC -- Gertrude was the chief ­representative of the ANC in Lusaka and her father Mark was the representative of the South African Congress of Trade Unions at the World Federation of Trade Unions in Prague.

Home was wherever her parents were needed, so Lyndall spent her childhood in Czechoslovakia, Zambia, Tanzania and Cuba. When she got married to Tebogo Mafole in the Seventies, they spent the first years of their marriage in Cairo (where their first son, Kgotso, was born) and later New York, where he was the ANC representative to the United Nations and she was the ANC youth representative. They later had another son, Sandile. Mafole died in 1998 after their return to South Africa.

She remembers those heady days when they lived in world cities but had to survive on the bare minimum because the ANC did not pay salaries.

"You had to fundraise for the party. And then you had to pay your expenses out of it, but you never took enough because you know you fundraise for the struggle, not for your stomach."

With the struggle over and apartheid defeated, Shope-Mafole became the director general in the department of communications and started her road up the ANC ladder. She was elected to the highest decision-making body, the national executive committee (NEC), at the ANC's 52nd conference in Polokwane last year.

It was in NEC meetings that she started feeling uncomfortable about the ANC's new leadership and the utterances made by senior ANC members and the youth league president, Julius Malema. She started feeling the ANC was not doing what was in the best interest of South Africa any more. Then the leadership decided to strip former president Thabo Mbeki of his position. That is when Shope-Mafole started packing her bags.

"It took me three weeks to draft that letter," she says, referring to the resignation letter she sent to ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe, following the NEC decision.

She did not discuss her plan to leave the ANC with anyone, not even her mother. "I did not want to put anyone in an awkward position. When I told my mother about my decision, I was just telling her, not asking for her input."

It took a long time for Gertrude Shope to accept her daughter's decision, but now that Cope is up and running and former senior ANC people such as Mosiuoa Lekota and Mbhazima Shilowa are involved, she is more at ease, says Shope-Mafole. "She is not worried anymore that it is just me who's being wayward. She understands better now."

After Shope-Mafole sent the letter to Luthuli House, she faxed a copy to Mbeki's wife, Zanele. "Shortly after that he [Mbeki] called me. He said it was obvious that I was in a lot of pain but congratulated me for doing what I thought was right. It meant a lot to me, because if you can just get one or two people who you respect that say they support you, it means a lot."

Although Shope-Mafole has severed all formal ties with the ANC, she still has a cupboard with ANC paraphernalia, T-shirts and caps in her house in Centurion. "It reminds me of all the conferences and the big events. It is part of my heritage, my roots. I will not throw it away. It will mean something to my grandchildren."

The way the ANC has been stumbling from blunder to blunder in the past few weeks, with various court cases against Cope, has not been an easy sight for her. "It hurts. It is like coming out of a bad relationship: you know you have to go but it is not like you stop caring."

On Sunday during a closed session of the Cope conference Shope-Mafole could not hold back the tears. "There was such excitement and unity of purpose in that hall today, it reminded me of the ANC in exile. When the Sisulus came to visit once in Zambia after Walter Sisulu was released, you felt convinced that you would be going home soon and South Africa would be free.

"That was the feeling I had today, about that ANC. There was hope and people were so happy. That is the ANC that I will miss."

Source: Mail & Guardian Online
Web Address:

A new congress born in Africa


The ANC is finally starting to take the newly launched Congress of the People seriously. At its national executive committee meeting this week it discussed internal research showing that Cope has the potential to pull between 9% and 11% of the vote in national elections next year and that the ANC could lose its two-thirds majority.

Cope was formally launched as a party only this week. An NEC member told the Mail & Guardian that after hearing the forecast it dawned on the ANC that “we [the ANC] are the ones keeping Cope in the news”.

The internal survey also showed that the ANC’s share of the vote might drop below 60%, weakening the party’s absolute hold over government. This fall in support comes despite ANC president Jacob Zuma hitting the campaign trail three months earlier than expected.

The NEC member said the ANC has decided to drop its court appeals against rulings in Cope’s favour over the party’s name and against the recent by-elections in the Western Cape.

Some ANC leaders fear that if the party continues to engage Cope in court battles and public attacks the latter’s electoral support could rise above 11%. Cope has succeeded in transforming itself from a protest movement for disgruntled supporters of former president Thabo Mbeki into a political party with a vision and a support base.

About 4 000 delegates gathered in Bloemfontein in bright yellow Cope T-shirts earlier this week, kickstarting the campaign for what will be the most fiercely contested election campaign since 1994.


Cope’s top leaders are its president, Mosiuoa “Terror” Lekota, his two deputies, Mbhazima Shilowa and Lynda Odendaal, secretary general Charlotte Lobe, her deputy, Deirdre Carter and treasurer Hilda Ndude.

The rest of the leaders in the 30-strong national committee represent a mix of good and bad, old and new. They include:

Former Eastern Cape premier Nosimo Balindlela, known for her disastrous management of the province;

Former New National Party member of the Gauteng legislature Julie Killian;

Former deputy president of the Pan Africanist Congress Mofihli Dikotsi;

Zarina Ebrahim, the niece of Jacob Zuma’s confidant and ANC NEC member Ebrahim Ebrahim;

Former ANC secretary in the Northern Cape Neville Mompati;

Girly Pikoli, wife of fired NPA boss Vusi Pikoli.

How it will forge unity among such an ideologically disparate group remains to be seen.

Also in the national committee is struggle stalwart and convicted fraudster Allan Boesak. If he secures the Western Cape for Cope he will be rewarded with the premiership of the province.

Conference mood

The ANC’s national congress in Polokwane last year, which led to the birth of Cope, had as its signature Zuma’s trademark song, Umshini wami.

Cope delegates preferred a wider range of less bellicose songs, such as the newly composed This Cope doesn’t have a shower (a reference to Zuma’s testimony in his rape trial), this Cope doesn’t have a machine gun. Other songs included We’re standing here, we’re not moving, we just want Terror and Lekota open the way for us to go and vote.

Former president Thabo Mbeki and Finance Minister Trevor Manuel also had songs dedicated to them.

There was a noticeable absence of African diplomats at the Cope conference, while diplomats from Germany, Canada, France and the United Kingdom attended.

A diplomat from a central African country told the M&G that many African embassies wanted to be at the conference but did not want to “irk” the ANC.


Cope will focus its attention on four provinces -- the Eastern Cape, Limpopo, Free State and North West -- which it believes it can win outright.

In the Western Cape, Northern Cape and Gauteng the party concedes it will be able to take power only as part of a coalition government. Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal are staunch ANC-supporting provinces where Cope is not expected to make much ground.

The most Cope’s leaders will say on the party’s possible election performance is that they “want to win the elections and be the new government”.


The most significant policy change Cope advocates is the direct election of South Africa’s president, premiers and mayors.

The party also wants the National Council of Provinces, affectionately called “Shady Pines”, to make way for a new legislative body that would incorporate MPs elected both in a first-past-the-post system and on a proportional representation ticket.

On the economy, Cope would allow the rand to weaken to increase the international competitiveness of local manufactured products. Such a move would also have the effect of deterring South Africans from investing their money abroad, which the party hopes would lead to greater investment in the domestic economy.

The manufacturing industry would also benefit from conditional government support from government, such as lower interest rates and tariff protection. Companies that did not become successful exporters would put their state support in jeopardy.

Cope acknowledges that black economic empowerment has created racial tensions along class lines -- between “have-nots” and “have-lots”.

On crime, a major policy proposal is the strengthening of the relationship between the community and the police and measures to boost police morale. Further gun amnesties are proposed, well as a campaign about the “sacredness of life”.

Cope foresees that South Africa might have to rethink its role as an international peacekeeper.

This, it says, is because the South African National Defence Force does not have the capacity to check the influx of immigrants into South Africa and serve African Union and United Nations peacekeeping forces.

An unexpected deputy

On the morning of the much-awaited announcement of the new leadership of the Congress of the People (Cope) Lynda Odendaal was sorting out the international guests attending the conference.

A journalist walked up to her and asked her whether she knew her name had been put forward to become the second deputy president of the party. She said no, and meant it.

Earlier in the day another conference-goer asked her whether she was the big surprise announcement that had been rumoured at the conference.

“If I’m the surprise I would be just as surprised,” she said.

Later that morning party secretary general Charlotte Lobe told Odendaal that the interim party leaders had unanimously appointed her as Cope’s second deputy president alongside former Gauteng premier Mbhazima Shilowa. Odendaal and deputy secretary general Deirdre Carter, from KwaZulu-Natal, were the two surprise choices for the top-level leadership of the party.

Cope was vocal about its need for diversity among its leadership and put out word at its inaugural conference in Bloemfontein that the party needed a woman who was not traditionally from the ANC and who would appeal to minority groups.

But does Odendaal feel she was chosen as a token?

“If I thought that’s what it is about I wouldn’t be here. I don’t believe in tokenism for women. I think it is an insult when we achieve goals and people think it is tokenism.”

After being informed of her appointment, Odendaal immediately resigned from her job as chief executive officer at Network Support Solutions, a Sandton-based information technology company, clients of which include Telkom, Sasol and Sun International. “There is already a succession plan in place, so it was not such a big deal that I left,” she told the Mail & Guardian.

She became a volunteer for Cope after seeing one of the party founders, Terror Lekota, on television announcing his divorce from the ANC. “I was sitting in my office and heard him speak about some issues that people were too afraid to verbalise. I thought deeply and found out more about policies and became a volunteer.”

Odendaal helped the party to set up information systems such as emails for the leaders, as well as the new website,, and called on her business contacts to help with office furniture and equipment for the party.

She admits that she is “new to politics”, but vows to be a quick learner.

After she completed an executive programme at the Gordon Institute of Business Science with ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe earlier this year, Odendaal sent her membership application to the ANC. She didn’t hear back or receive a membership card. “If I’m a member of the ANC, I’m resigning now,” she said.

In 2004, the first time she voted in the democratic South Africa, Odendaal voted for the United Democratic Movement. “I always go for the underdog,” she said.

Her job specifications as second deputy president still need to be fine-tuned, but Odendaal sees her role as helping to develop party structures and provide management expertise.

The party is scheduled to launch its election manifesto in Port Elizabeth on January 24.

The voices in support

Alinah Soaisa (45), unemployed, Botshabelo, Free State

I joined because what they’re saying is what I want to hear. They encourage young people to stay away from drugs and prioritise education. I have always supported Mosioua Lekota and Charlotte Lobe, so I was happy when I watched the announcement of the new leadership. I was a card-carrying member of the ANC in Botshabelo but I was not active in politics.

Matloa Matlhora (32), student, Thabazimbi, Limpopo

I was a South African Communist Party member until I joined Cope. I’m happy that we now have solid policy documents and the national leadership to take us to next year’s elections. Cope created hope that our voices will be heard -- we’re involved in deciding how the party should be run.

Kerileng Cwaile (25), unemployed, Kimberley, Northern Cape

I chose Cope because I want it to reduce the power of the ANC. I’m excited about Cope policies because they are planning to accelerate skills development and maybe young people like myself will benefit from that. I have now recruited 366 ANC members from my branch and my family has also joined Cope.

Haseline van Vught (44), data capturer, Uitenhage, Eastern Cape

I listened to [Terror] Lekota’s speech the first day that he spoke about this and I thought: “This man put money aside. He put his life at risk to reach out to us.” We have our dignity and we have our values. The Cope policies are significant. If you look at the leadership you will see that they believe in equality in terms of race and gender. The people who belong to Cope are disciplined and treat one another with respect. I have never belonged to the ANC. I was part of the Independent Democrats but left because there was too much infighting.

Paul Hujl (24), economics student,
Grahamstown, Eastern Cape

The Freedom Charter is a good instrument but the ANC has not implemented it properly. I have always been a fan of Terror [Lekota] -- he has never been a yes-man, he is a man of integrity. He put his life in danger for this and I decided to follow him. Cope must transform the country, which we pretend is people-focused but is not. Then we will see a change from the barbaric and archaic practices of the ANC. I made a conscious decision not to vote in the previous national election because no party appealed to me.

Source: Mail & Guardian Online
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