By its very nature a congress is intended to be a democratic gathering of people, who come together to make mutual decisions and to take mutual positions. So when you hear that a congress, which is intended to bring together and represent the aspirations of the people, is in fact not doing things democratically, you begin to question your own political faith.

You see, there are three types of politicians in this world, the most prevalent kind being the diplomats (aka the party people), who are very adept at looking good and being amiable and smoozhing, boozing and cruising the cocktail party scene and as such they are the perfect people to entertain important guests and partners, but not very useful in any other respect.

The second kind and somewhat less prevalent are the bureaucrats (aka the gatekeepers); who occupy positions of responsibility and leadership and decide who gets to participate and who gets to benefit from opportunities

The third and final kind and the least prevalent are the technocrats (aka the political avatars) who are able to do any job function within the political party and are able to train others to do their job functions. The other types of politicians also refer to these people as technical experts.

Now I have spent my entire adult life as a technocrat. I don’t wear tuxedos unless I have to; I don’t hold political offices unless I have to — and in general I exude a sense of conceited imperiousness which conveys to the minions that I am a political avatar; capable of doing anything — that nothing is impossible.

But the majority of people in politics, and indeed who participate in congresses, are either diplomats or bureaucrats. The diplomats think these congresses are just another jol opportunity and the bureaucrats, well let’s just say that they have an “interest” in being there.

So it has come to pass that Shikota has become the National Convention has become SADECO has become the Congress of the People and now has become Cope; and while I think that the freshest flavours of summer are definitely on the Cope side of life, it is also true that you can’t beat the feeling of the real thing … brrrrr … ANC.

And so we have this situation of expediency; first the issue about the convention delegates, then the palaver about the name, next the issue of the provincial structures and now the story about the branches. Add all of this to an interim unelected convention leadership, who have now been sort of elected to stay on, and it starts to look and sound like a shambolic clothing factory shop with tamashe on every aisle.

I’m all for people starting their own political parties as forms of private enterprise, just don’t solicit donations and don’t take funding from the state. But, if you want to do politics like the Raj and the Prince do in KZN, then you are going to have to get your ducks in a row.

From what I have seen, the headline Cope people are bureaucrats and diplomats; variously big names and gatekeepers who have a limited sort of corporate affairs approach to things. And while Cope on the ground bears no resemblance to the MDM/UDF, and while Cope up in the air sounds just like the DA/ID, it is clear that Cope hopes to capitalise on the ANC’s gains over the last 22 years and hopes to be able to propose solutions to the public.

It is at this point that the pseudo-machiavellian nature of WesKaap Politieke is seen in the Cope saga for the first time where, apart from talking the DA/ID line, Cope plans to practice the DA/ID’s alternative policy circus method as well.

And then it occurs to Cope that diplomats and bureaucrats don’t know anything about politics. They know about pouring scorn on the achievements of others, pouring poison into the ears of others, building fragile pay-as-you-go cabals, cliques and coteries, and of course about aggregating as much tacit influence and gate-keeping power as they can hold in their grubby paws; but not so much about politics.

So Cope reaches out to the technocrats and technical experts and says that they will have a two tier leadership with those elected by the party on the one hand, and on the other hand those appointed by the leadership to do the technical work … just like the DA.

And while I have a great many friends who have Coped out of the ANC, and while I think that the run on the ANC’s membership, which I started, has been better than the purge which would have come in May 2009, I do not think that there is any mileage in Phillip Dexter trying to become another Ryan Coetzee, nor do I think that Cope needs to adopt the very centralised and very undemocratic internal protocols of the DA.

It is my most unhappy task of reviewing the manifestos and policy briefs of all of the parties in next year’s elections. I have decided to focus on the 12 largest parties and to invite all of the smaller parties to participate at their discretion. While Cope is not one of the 12 largest parties as it has no seats in the National Assembly, it is clear that we will have to review their policies as well.

However, given that the ANC is moving towards a Neo-Marxist position of balancing human development with free enterprise, what room is left for any of the other parties, touting theoretical opportunity, by whatever means?

Cope must transform itself from the Tribe of Shikota into a truly democratic political party. The DA’s model is the last thing it should follow, because Cope does not have anyone like the DA’s Federal Council Chairman who can hold it all together for them in an impartial non-bureaucratic manner. Tensions over status and the continual jockeying for positions, will make for an interesting personality-cult war.

However none of these things add any value to an election campaign and, if Cope has no aces other than the media’s disenchantment with JZ, then they are trapped in the 20-30% bubble, which means that the DA/ID/UDM/IFP are the big losers to Cope.

And yet, if the five of these parties are to be believed, they all care about South Africa, but not enough it seems to form a single political party and consolidate their positions in a positive way (ie without bashing the ANC), thus enabling them to achieve the 50-65%, which they are capable of achieving.



Avishkar Govender

Avishkar Govender is the Chief Political Officer of MicroGene.

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