Should the ANC be worried?

December 16, 2008

There was jubilation, defiance and a sense of history in the making in this farming community this week when some 4,000 South Africans gathered to lay the groundwork for what may be a seismic shift in the political landscape.

It is too early to say whether the birth of the Congress of the People will be the political equivalent of an earthquake or a minor tremor. But there is no denying that the new political party caught the nation’s attention with the inaugural conference in Bloemfontein.

Delegates sang anti-apartheid anthems, danced and denounced the ruling African National Congress. Many had recently defected from the ANC, which has ruled since the end of apartheid in 1994. Some admitted they had fallen out of favour with the party after new leader Jacob Zuma took over a year ago.

The COPE faithful speak of a need to save the country from Zuma, who is the frontrunner to become the country’s next president after the general election in 2009. They believe he will reverse the gains made under Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki, ousted as president by the ANC in September.

“We cannot allow a man like Zuma to take power. This would be a disaster for our country,” Joseph Mabunda, a COPE supporter from Bloemfontein said on Tuesday after the new party named its leadership team and outlined its programme for the 2009 election.

COPE’s leader is former defence minister Mosiuoa Lekota. Many South Africans refer to him as “Terror,” a nickname picked up on the soccer pitch decades ago. It is said he was an accomplished though aggressive player, and his supporters believe he can rekindle that magic against Zuma.

COPE supporters were buoyed by recent by-election victories – their candidates took slightly less than a third of the seats in contention. On Tuesday, delegates carried a mock ANC coffin outside the conference hall.

But the ANC is fighting back and remains very confident.
The ruling party, unlike its new rival, can count on a formidable political machine and healthy campaign coffers.

“You can hang that in a museum next year” says an ANC supporter, pointing at the COPE media credential badge hanging around my neck. “Nobody will beat us.”

What do you think of COPE’s chances?

12 comments

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

It will really be an odd day in SA (not unnecessarily sad), if the ANC should lose to COPE.

Hopefully for the first time in SA will a formidable black opposition party, face the ANC in parlament. Up until now, it has been a rather one sided affair. The safety-net of not becoming another Zim, should only then kick into action.

In 5 years time will we then only be able to see what the differnce was/is between the MDC and COPE, South Africa and Zimbabwe and, most importantly Zuma and Mugabe?

Fanie van Deventer
South Africa

Posted by Fanie van Deventer | Report as abusive

This is ZUMA time. South-Africa does not need another political party. Mbeki gave his best when he was president. What Mbeki and his puppets can again offer… Zuma is Hope and Mbeki means FIASCO ( Failure and misery )for South-African people. What kind of reforms( social, economical …) Mbeki brought about south-african people during his presidency? NOTHING… In short, let Zuma help South-african people….. We need President Zuma.

Posted by pay | Report as abusive

Well COPE are a pretty haphazard reply to a democracy overssen by a powerful hegemony. They don’t seem to have published a constitution as yet and have no real policies other than a promise to fulfill the status quo of 1994.

Jacob Zuma, at times seems quite inept but at least promises much leftist reform, which South Africans are so badly in need of. However whether his promised reforms will be carried out remains to be seen.

At the end of the day at least the hegemony has been dimantled somewhat and we are about to see a true participatory democracy emerge in the Rainbow Nation.

Posted by William | Report as abusive

As far as I understand South African politics a bit, being a foreigner living here for a couple of years, the ANC shouldn’t be worried winning the next elections. But they should be “worried” by the fact that they will lose the absolute majority in parliament.

South Africa, though, must cheer about that, and it is to hope that COPE and the DA will be able to take as much voters to their sides as to bring the majority of the ANC back to less then 50%.

In my view the chances for COPE are that they will appeal mostly to the higher educated and business people, not at least because the lack the systems and resources to reach the rural areas. Nonetheless COPE will grab a substantive share of the vote.

Last comment from my side, partly as a reaction to the previous two posts, is that Zuma as President and his leftist “loans” he has to pay off, will be devastating for attrackting foreign capital. And hence bringing back crime and bring forth some prosperity.

Posted by Harry | Report as abusive

Hopefully COPE will reduce ANC’s almost 70% majority to at least 50% and less.

If that is achieved by COPE, it will be a first step in the direction of a real democratic society in South Africa!

Posted by Niel | Report as abusive

The time has come for our country to show the world what the word democracy really means.
We can ill afford the corrupt ANC and their lackies that have proven to everyone that you don’t need a brain to be a leader of the ANC! Just think of Showerhead-Zuma and that brainless idiot of a Julius Malema. (Do I have to say more?)
With COPE on the rise the days are numbered for the ANC to do as they please, even the DA is making inroads into previously ANC areas (Thank GOD for waking up some of the black people in this country that don’t really vote because they beblieve in any particular leader but rather because they wear Black, green and yellow.)
We need black people to start thinking about their future and the future leaders they will vote into power. The ANC is a party full of promises and NO delivery. It’s time to GO for the ANC and time to rise for COPE. Hand in hand with the DA, COPE can really begin to change our bleak political landscape. At last, there is hope for South Africa!

Posted by Erno van Dyk | Report as abusive

After all is said and done I strongly think that COPE no matter the number it will pull during the next general and provincial election, it will make a political landscape more exciting, for the first time after 14 years of the democratic election South Africans will have a true chose, rather than having only ANC.

I was disappointed to read of COPE supporters carrying a mock ANC coffin. The main reason given for the break away was that ANC was no longer democratic. While there is COPE’s democratic pretence straight out of the window!

No doubt there are many ANC supporters who would happily carry a mock COPE coffin, any day.

There is as much chance for both ANC and COPE to have a competent leader like Mandela or have an incompetent and undemocratic one. In a working democracy the electorate would vote on the basis of the best party to rule the country and not the blind party loyalties of the mock coffin mob. Worse still the mock coffin mobs are not contend with mock coffins, they want to shed blood! So both ANC and COPE must be careful that SA is not thrust back into the dark days of black on black violence of the 1970s!

Posted by W Mukori | Report as abusive

I visited Cape-Town and Durban for my honeymoon and was really impressed with SA. However i think COPE is needed at this point to provide real choice to the south-african people. They may not win the elections but the calibre of former ANC big-wigs there will ensure that THE ANC IS KEPT ON ITS TOES…..this is the major victory for the people. Competition brings out the ingenuity and raises the thinking facaulty of all parties. However i hope ZUMA does not go the African way where competetion brings out the BEAST IN US! (FELA ANIKULAPO-KUTI)

Posted by Gbolly Joshua | Report as abusive

The first thing I do every morning is opening the newspaper, going straight to page 5 (Politics) and hoping that another good guy is moving over to COPE from the ANC. But, on the other hand, I am always a bit scared that it might be one of the bad guys, who could defecate the new party.

Posted by Ernest | Report as abusive

The thing I am afraid of happening with COPE is this: that they will achieve good election results in the Western and Eastern Cape, and that SA politics will split on tribal lines because of that. COPE may then be seen as predominantly Xhosa and ANC as Zulu. This will immediately discourage Xhosa voters from supporting the ANC and Zulus supporting COPE because it may be seen as disloyal.

Posted by dcp | Report as abusive

I’m a South African living in America. I fear that if the ANC wins, it will be disastrous for South Africa. What has happened there? Are they practising racism in reverse? I had a tough time there being married to a man of Irish decent – being a so called “coloured”. My family still lives there. Where is the input from the “coloured people”? Do they have any representation? S.A. is so multi-culturally diverse and do not see that diversity in it’s government. Please prove me right or wrong.

Posted by Emi | Report as abusive