COPE five return to ‘flawed’ ANC fold

FORMER COPE MPs officially welcomed by the Eastern Cape ANC yesterday acknowledged their new political home was not perfect and had its fair share of “flaws and problems”.

However, they said problems in the ruling party structures were nothing compared with the “crippling problems” engulfing COPE.

Yesterday five former COPE MPs – chief whip Thozamile Botha, former ANC national spokesman Smuts Ngonyama, Zola Mlenzana, Phumelele Ntshiqela and Nonkululeko Gcume – were officially welcomed back into the ANC at a short ceremony at the party’s provincial headquarters in King William’s Town.

Their defections follow continuous internal power squabbles that have forced more than 30 COPE senior members including MPs, MPLs and councillors to jump ship in the past three months.

Many have returned to the ruling ANC, a party they left in 2008 following the removal of Thabo Mbeki as president of South Africa.

Many had supported a failed bid to have Mbeki re-elected for a third term as ANC president in the party’s watershed Polokwane conference in 2007.

Addressing the crowd that had came to welcome his group, Botha – who was the first democratic provincial administration head – accused his former party of not having a desire to solve internal conflicts.

“We have never shied away from saying there are problems within the ANC, but we are saying there are worse problems where we are coming from.

“We thought we would be able to resolve those problems, but we found there were no strong structures designed to resolve those problems within COPE.

“That is why when we looked at the ANC. We said despite all the problems it is faced with, it has a history of resolving even the most difficult of problems through its strong structures,” said Botha, who emphasised it was not his intention “to bash” COPE.

Ngonyama said: “Our experience in COPE has been quite an experience and we are still going to tell that story one day. The situation has become untenable, we tried everything to resolve problems within but there was never any space given.

“COPE ceased to be the congress of the people and it became the congress of a person. Imagine if COPE had won the elections in 2009, what could have been the situation of South Africa today, when COPE could not even manage itself.” —