The Congress of the People (COPE) has vowed to use its first Congress National Committee meeting for 2020 to turn its electoral fortunes around. Soon after its inception in 2008, the party experienced a decline in support at the polls fuelled by internal leadership squabbles.

From 30 Members of Parliament in 2009, it now has two MPs with a possibility of the party disappearing into political oblivion if nothing is done. COPE leaders want to use the meeting of the party’s highest decision-making body to arrest the decline and grow its support base.

Launched to much fan-fare in 2008, COPE was touted as an alternative to the governing ANC. But COPE leadership squabbles led to the exodus of key founding members like Mbhazima Shilowa, Smuts Ngonyama and Mluleki George; some of whom returned to the ANC.

The party also recorded dwindling support at every election with a decline of 7% of the votes in 2009 to just less than 1% in 2019. Now there are fears that the party is slowly but surely on its way out of the country’s political arena.

However, COPE secretary-general, Papi Kganare, says their weekend gathering is called, amongst others, to deal with this problem.

“In this meeting, we are going to do our own internal assessment about the state of our party, about the challenges facing our party and steps to renew and rebuild the party. How do we go back and build our presence, how do we link with the voters, how do we talk to the voters to trust us again the way they used to trust? We have been consistent, we will never lie to the voters; we are the only party that is not tainted by corruption.”

After National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise accepted the DA sponsored-motion to initiate proceedings to remove the Public Protector, Kganare says COPE is unyielding on the fate of Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane.

“We also never thought there will be a leader of the Chapter 9 Institution who meddles into the politics of one political party because they are part of a faction in that political party. It’s really unfortunate that as COPE we had our own misgivings when she was appointed, but we gave her the benefit of the doubt. Unfortunately, she has proven time and again that she is not interested in preserving the image of the Public Protector Office; she is more concerned about protecting her faction in the ANC and that’s the reason we are also going to look into how she can be removed.”

On the never-ending crises in some of the country’s state-owned enterprises like Eskom and SAA, Kganare squarely puts the blame on the governing ANC.

“The ANC must take full responsibility for what is happening in all SOEs. It is the ANC which has institutionalised corruption and it is the ANC that appointed cadres into SOEs so that they steal the money and now the country is in trouble because they have stolen the money. The problem of Eskom is not the problem of South Africans, it is the problem of the ANC and the ANC must solve it. The steps which must be taken is that those who looted Eskom, SAA and Prasa must pay, be prosecuted and sent to jail. Unless these two happen, then we must stop talking anti-corruption.”

COPE is however unrelenting on its stand against the ANC’s call to amend Section 25 of the Constitution to allow for the expropriation of land without compensation. It has so far collected almost 300 000 submissions presumably objecting to the amendment of the Constitution.

COPE’s Congress National Committee meeting will end on Sunday with the outcomes of the meeting expected on Monday.