Lekota betrayed me and I won't back down: axed Joburg speaker Makhubele

SARA president Colleen Makhubele, who has been axed from her Johannesburg speaker post and from COPE. Picture :Freddy Mavunda © Business Day
Cllr Colleen Makhubele 4 SARA president Colleen Makhubele, who has been axed from her Johannesburg speaker post and from COPE. Picture :Freddy Mavunda © Business Day
Image: Freddy Mavunda

Axed former Johannesburg speaker Colleen Makhubele expressed shock at COPE's decision to the fire her from the party, claiming its leadership had been aware of the formation of South African Rainbow Alliance.

COPE terminated Makhubele's membership on Monday, thus removing her from her top job in Johannesburg's municipal council where she was speaker. The move followed her appearance on SARA posters, an amalgamation of smaller parties such as the NFP, the Independent Civic Movement, AARM and churches — that seek to jointly contest next year’s elections.

According to the posters that emerged at the weekend, Makhubele will be the alliance’s presidential candidate.

COPE national chair Teboho Loate distanced the party from SARA, saying Makhubele's move to join another organisation led to her dismissal as it was in breach of the party's constitution.

However, Makhubele revealed that her former party was acting with disingenuity, having allegedly been part of the think-tank and process that led to the formation of the alliance.

“COPE was a part of the discussions that led to the formation of SARA, which began as early as August this year. We started meeting various parties, more than what we have now — parties like the PAC, APC and AIC which have since fallen off. We decided to formalise the structure in September and agreed to form one vehicle that we could contest through. Each party was given an opportunity to consult with its structures and party leaders and consolidate a way forward. 

“Most of them came back, including COPE's president [Mosiuoa] Lekota, confirming the go-ahead and we have the footage and recordings to prove this as we have been filming the discussions. When parties came back with the green light, we identified as the 'super pact' then — but have since rebranded to the rainbow alliance because we wanted to dissociate it from the “super seven” pact parties at local government level.

“Lekota has been part of the process from day one and has gone as far as calling various party presidents to recruit them to the alliance. Last week we were in an engagement with him recruiting a pastor to assist our alliance.”

The former speaker said she had been betrayed by her once-trusted ally and lamented the manner in which the news of her firing was delivered to her.

“Everybody is literally shocked at the decision to fire me. We were all seated here waiting for Lekota to attend our weekly Monday meeting to chart the way forward for the week and for voter registration weekend — lo and behold, we received phone calls to say I've been axed. I've not spoken to them, I was not engaged — despite COPE being very much part of SARA's formation.”

Comment from neither Lekota nor COPE communicators had been obtained at the time of publication and will be added to this story once received. 

Makhubele stuck to her decision to lead the small party alliance.

“Whether I get fired for it, whether I get labelled a liar for it — whatever anybody wants to say about it — I am not going to back down. This is what happens when women come forth to lead. I did not join anything; this is an alliance. We are all in our own parties serving our own councils. All of those things are lies to tarnish SARA — all because we are a capable alliance led by a woman who is causing a very serious threat to the political landscape of this country.

“All sorts of lies are being spread — not just within COPE but outside as well. I sympathise with my coalition partners, and I understand where they are coming from, but they've got it wrong — I was terminated, fired — I didn't leave the party.”

Makhubele said it was shocking to have Lekota abscond the SARA weekly meeting citing ill-health only to appear at a press conference and firing her.

“I found out I was dismissed through reporters calling me. I had to digest the news, understand how I am fired, get clarity on the grounds of my dismissal, which turned out to be the fact that I 'joined' another party.”

Makhubele said she has chosen to not contest her termination because “it is clearly not worth it”. She instead has her sights set on ensuring that the alliance is compliant with the electoral commission.

“We have started with the IEC process and submissions have been made to get us registered, we don't know how long it will take but we will wait for it to unfold. "

Unlike the multiparty charter grouping — which includes the DA, Action SA, IFP, FF Plus, among others — which will maintain their individual party presence on the ballot only to combine votes later — Makhubele says parties in the new formation will not appear individually.

“Parties in the coalition will not register and pay the IEC to contest. Just because you are a political party doesn't mean you automatically appear on the ballot. There is a fee to be paid, between R2m and R2.5m, — so they will not register to be on the ballot. They will be campaigning under one banner and will tell their members that when they get to the ballot box, they must vote SARA.”

Makhubele said it was the same model the ANC uses with Cosatu and the South African Communist Party — they are alliance partners which consolidate to vote ANC.