Sentletse Diakanyo
Sentletse Diakanyo

Cope, one year later

December 16 is Day of Reconciliation for South Africans. A day that signifies a bloody moment in the history of Afrikaners, Zulus and all of us as a nation. The Battle of Blood River, fought at the banks of Ncome River, symbolised an epic moment of mistrust and extraordinary violence between the Afrikaners and the Zulus following the death of Piet Retief at the hands of Zulu Chief Dingane kaSenzangakhona.

One would have naively expected that as a nation we would have made great strides towards building a unified nation which we all imagined at the dawn of democracy. But certain racially-charged political utterances re-establish themselves at every turn and keep reigniting those forceful passions capable of setting the nation on a path of self-destruction. They remind us that ours is an arduous and perilous journey towards a normal society. A society characterised by harmonious relations among all racial groups, together committed to building a prosperous South Africa. This may be an ideal that is not loudly and openly declared by all South Africans but I would want to believe that it is an ideal that we all share and should commit ourselves to.

December 16 2008 marks a momentous occasion in the history of this nation. It was on this day that the Congress of the People (Cope) was born under inauspicious circumstances. Cope was conceived during the repeated rape of the sacred principles of our constitutional democracy by political ruffians who had broken in and invaded the liberation home of the majority of South Africans. The extraordinary political climate that prevailed during that fateful period resulted in this political baby being born prematurely. Like a gazelle that knows it must run for its survival when the sun rises, she too was forced to run before she could learn to crawl because the political dictates of the time necessitated it.

The distressing political events of 2008 have left an indelible stain on our democracy and the challenge is upon us who volunteered our responsibility to nurture this toddler to a brighter future, to be exemplary in our manner of response to internal conflict and other issues that threaten to derail us. Social practitioners do attest that a stable home is crucial during a child’s formative years in order to blossom into a confident and secure adult. When we build this political home, we must be certain that every brick, which represents the hopes and dreams of millions of South Africans, is placed on a firm foundation, not a foundation of sand. What we do today should sustain the continued structural integrity of this political home we seek to build.

A home characterised by domestic violence can never have a positive effect on children who like sponges absorb all the good and bad. The temptation of destructive and factionalist politics should be resisted at every turn as the organisation in its infancy presents opportunities for careerists whose interest is to advance their personal agendas at the expense of unity and growth.

The organisation cannot grow while leadership contests become a divisive obsession instead of a precursor for progress and growth. Cope members should remind those who jockey and lobby each other under the cover of darkness for positions that it will be ordinary members of the organisation who determine the leadership, not backroom manoeuvring. During the election Cope promised voters to reform the current proportional representation-based system to a constituency-based system, thus promoting a direct election of the president of the republic and other public representatives by the people in order that those elected could be held accountable. It is important that such democratic reforms be instituted internally within Cope structures to demonstrate our commitment to the principles they uphold. The nomination and election of national and provincial office-bearers should be in line with these democratic aims.

Cope has since inception been preaching modernity when it has not made a concerted effort to define this “modernity”. That there are former members of the African National Congress in Cope leadership structures is an accident of history and that should not serve as a hurdle to committing itself to ensuring the change it promised the people. The internal governance structures of Cope should not reflect the culture and traditions many of its members did not join to entrench within the organisation. Residues of ANC culture are all too apparent. Cope must rid itself of any trace if it is to become a truly modern political organisation. The words and deeds of its leaders should project modernity to the public and inspire hope and confidence that indeed change is coming.

It is important that as Cope makes incremental strides into the future it does so confident in a distinguishing ideological position. Cope must define what it stands for politically so that its policies and ensuing programme of action can be informed by and speak to that ideology which all members should subscribe to. The kind of South Africa Cope seeks to build should be reflected through our policy positions and in response to issues of global and national interest. Cope cannot and should not maintain political neutrality when the world is torn between capitalism and socialism, when forceful powers from the left and the right seek to assert themselves at the epicentre of economic and political discourse.

In the midst of corruption and the perversion of justice, poor service delivery and entrenched poverty, neutrality is not an option. Cope has to take a stance. When society is held under siege by violent criminals, the youth ravaged by the pandemic of HIV/Aids, when homes are led by orphans and their hope permanently deferred, neutrality is not an option. When our education system fails to become the tree of knowledge whose fruits should nourish society, when our capable and talented youth are marginalised and not absorbed into the mainstream economy, neutrality is not an option. Cope must take a position because the many of us expect it to stand for the best in society.

When Cope stands before the court of public opinion, when those who elected them pass judgment, they must be able to stand tall and proclaim that they stood for something, that they stood for good when evil prevailed and corrupted the fabric of our society. Cope must be able to defend our ideological positions according to the principles and values that define who we are as a nation and who we ought to be as a country.

When Cope celebrates its one-year anniversary, those of us with an interest in its success must remind it why it was formed and what needs to be done to realise those noble ideals. Our country can only prosper when we have a viable alternative.

  • Kit

    Whilst I can understand that Cope don’t want to fall into the ‘yapping dog’ trap of the DA, having a pointless and loud opinion even on trivialities, it is almost invisible and inaudible. Perhaps this is indirectly a good thing, although it is rare for an infant not to cry, but eventually they will have to find a mature political voice and learn to make it heard.

    Still very young. There is a high infant mortality for political parties; and stunted growth for most of the rest. Cope will have to make a strong break with the tradition of the likes of the UDM and ID. Can they survive their infant years and, better yet, mature into something that one can take seriously as a political contender?

    At the moment the best option for a real opposition looks like the leftist alliance partners if that lovey-kissy relationship ever shatters. The historical patterns of new-old nation states lends some support to the hypothesis that the leftists will prove to be the first real contenders to the liberators. To become this contender, Cope will have to forge a new road and don’t yet appear to have anything approaching the will nor the support to do so.

  • Blip

    The DA is a perfectly viable 50 year old non-racial alternative. Cope should merge with it and submerge their petty “I want to be king of the castle or else I’ll sulk” personality cultism.

  • ian shaw

    COPE?? What is that? Not even ancient history. Do you ever hear from them? What do they do? Well, they only sit in Parliament, keep quiet and enjoy their MP perks, like all others.

  • MLH

    I seriously considered voting for Cope for a moment, then decided to watch it awhile before committing. It needs, I think, some serious maturity.
    Right now, I’m seriously considering joining the SACP! I am so impressed that that entire conference managed to agree on something and ‘kick against the pricks’ (comes directly from the Bible, so contain your horror at what you assume is a slur). One of the least likeable facts about our voting majority is their loyalty to people who do things they know are wrong and harmful.
    If the SACP would only have the gumption to move away from the tripart’heid’ alliance, I think they’d have far more going for them! Apart from communism, which I don’t think really helps their case either…

  • Moodiela

    Sentletse, it’s you again daydreaming? Ag shame, you’ll never stop hallucinating. Cope is a joke man! DON’T YOU GET IT? A party created out of anger, hatred and political jealousy can never be expected to blossom fully and flourish. Cope in the first place claims to be the custodian of democracy and the constitution while its formation was undemocratic. Your leadership was unconstitutionally and undemocratically handpicked and now you want us to believe your raves and rantings. Come on, wake up and smell the caffeine material man. Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones. Until you begin to practice what you preach, you’ll remain irrelevant and silent MPs who are just enjoying fringe benefits in parliament while the people you misled to vote for you languish in cacophony and quagmire in the downtrodden shanties, shacks, townships, squatter camps, ghettos and villages throughout the length and breadth of our beautiful land. No matter how many times you try to repeat your hatred and lies about the ANC, the masses of our people will continue to teach you a lifetime lesson that you are political imbeciles who do not have any ideology that you believe in. You claim to despise the ANC but you copy everything the ANC does. December 16 2008 is indeed a shameful day to the democratic principles we stand for as freedom loving South Africans. Swallow your empty pride and repent political fakes. Shame on you.

  • marthie meyer


    The 16th of December, is a day where the women of South Africa celebrate their great grandmothers for filling the guns with powder and singing, “We shall overcome!!”

  • Nakedi

    You have the temerity to blame COPE’s problems on former ANC people.

    It is like a cancer of a deadly kind, these former ANC people.

    You simply donot want to accept that the premise for COPE’s formationwas shaky right from the beginning.What do they stand for?

    No wonder the party will be swallowed by DA in no time.

    The more i listen to some of COPE’s pronouncements the more i respect DA,at least they stand for something!

    Have an ideology,screwed as it may be, but have one.

  • Mothibi Phosa

    Sentletse, your anti-ANC rantings and hallucinations would have been appropriate on 10 December 2008.

    Now you should be giving us a post-mortem or perhaps a rational analysis of what Cope has achieved so far.

    Your still-born party is nowhere to be seen on the political landscape. It’s indeed tragic that the mickey-mouse party only surfaces during joint press conferences with DA.

    As we said before the elections, Cope was a project to fast-track some of your leaders to the pig trough and to ensure others were guaranteed a lease on tender life by Cope. Otherwise, the political have-beens would be nonentities had it not been for the advent of Cope.

    It’s a matter of time before this ersatz DA, policy-less and ideology-free party gets swallowed by DA.

    As I’ve stated before, it’s the Left or the Pan-Africanist and Black Consciousness formations that can pose some serious threat to the ANC hegemony.

    Cope should do some serious self-introspection. In 2014 there won’t be exaggerated, hyped-up, staggered and stage-managed resignations from the ANC. The media hype and good will is no more…

    Sentletse, you’ve every right to associate with whichever party but you, JJ Tabane and Khaya Dlanga are simply wasting your brains in Cope! Maybe you shouldn’t have nailed you colours to the mast like you’ve done. It must be awkward to return to the real world!

  • http://hardtalk Siphiwo Siphiwo

    One year later of what?

    power struggles?
    forked tounges?
    no elections?
    no branches?


  • robi

    Sentletse Diakanyo writes “Our country can only prosper when we have a viable alternative.” I’ve a lot of optimism that by the next general election all of COPE’s problems will be ironed out and COPE will become that viable alternative.

    Unelected leaders:
    Eventually COPE will hold proper internal elections and their leaders will be democratically endorsed by the membership.

    Disreputable public figures:
    Boesak has gone. Peter Marais is long gone. A few more dodgy characters to go, and COPE will have nobody to be embarrassed by.

    Is being formulated in detail, based on the Freedom Charter and the Constitution of SA and the principles of Social Democracy.

    Kit’s fears of “Infant mortality” are unfounded, and Ian Shaw’s comment is plain wrong. COPE activists are forming new branches across the country all the time. The stats aren’t available
    but I suspect that in the past six months COPE has formed more new branches across the country than ALL other parties put together. Just compare activity in campus elections and on FaceBook.

    Sorry “Blip”, but sadly race is still an issue for South African voters, and the DA has hit it’s ceiling. COPE as a black dominated multiracial party is the only hope of becoming a viable alternative.

  • Peter Win

    Siphiwo – true none of that. Also (as a non-Cope supporter) no corruption, blue-light buffoons, false promises of delivery, illegal actions, overnight millionaires either…

    So if you want to vote for corruption, keep on doing what you’re doing…

  • Zwide

    Not chief Dingane, king Dingane, king ok…please

  • Lebohang

    Cope….what Cope? Celebration…..celebrating what?

  • mandla

    In astrology, which I dont believe in, there’s always the RIGHT TIME, THE RIGHT MAN and the right alignment of the celestial bodies.

    Even JESUS Christ was born at the right place, right time with the RIGHT STAR over Bethlehem.

    All these things didnt happen for COPE.

  • jj

    excellent exposition broer. keep the faith

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