The criticism being flung at COPE is that they are not a political party with clear policies or plans and that they are stealing the freedom charter and ideologies from the ANC. But I, for one, don’t really have a problem with this. I supported the ANC and voted for them when I believed in their principles and what they stood for. I believed that the ANC would make a good government and serve the interests of the South African people. I believed that they were the best party to take our new democracy and help it grow and function.
And this last while, especially during Thabo Mbeki‘s term as president, I became more and more disillusioned with the corruption and self-serving mentality of the ANC leadership. I didn’t change my mind about what they stood for, I changed my mind about whether they could and would do what they stood for. What terrified me was what happened at Polokwane. I felt so strongly that Mr I took a Shower was SA’s answer to George Bush; a populist puppet with grass roots support who would be used by the others to further their own political aims and aspirations. And I felt depressed and gloomy and started listening to my friends and colleagues talk about leaving. I watched some leave, and others who had already left do the "I told you so" and it felt like they were right. Big Friendly and I had more than one "where would we go" conversation.
So when Shikota announced their break away from the ANC, and their intention to form a party in competition for voters in the up coming election, the last thing I was worried about was that these guys came from an ANC ideology and would ‘steal’ the policies and standpoints of the ANC. That’s the whole point. The ANC has changed. It has become a bitchy, complaining, name calling group, who seem to leap from mistake to cover-up in the same sentence. They struggle to keep their members and leaders on the straight and narrow; whether it’s charges of corruption or drunken driving or abuse of power or being friends with crooks or accepting expensive gifts or saying outrageous and inciting things.
I think that COPE shouldn’t be under any obligation to come up with something new and original. I like that they promise old ANC values without the corruption, secrecy and disregard for the law. I like the fact that members of the ANC have thought long and hard before resigning and joining forces with COPE. And I like how they are doing it, with grace and dignity and excellent speeches. These are strongly contrasted with the rhetoric of Zuma and his pals which is borderline threatening, paranoid and ugly. And so familiar. Just like the old Nationalists!
Today I read on News 24 that SACP and ANC stalwart Stephanie Kemp has also resigned and joined forces with COPE. I must admit, I’d never heard of her before. But here is a piece of her speech that I think is worth repeating.
"Over several years… I watched and listened with increasing dismay as discussion, debate and party work, were replaced by a systematic campaign of vilification. This became increasingly strident in stirring up hatred toward the national democratic revolution in general, and the ANC / State President in particular. Not once did I hear comrade Blade Nzimande, nor comrade [Jacob] Zuma, caution members or those outside [against] creating an increasingly worrying climate of division and hatred, setting comrade against comrade.
The question has to be raised – what interests have been served by the ascendancy of the Zuma leadership at Polokwane that has closed down hard fought for democratic space and threatens peace and stability. My political beliefs and values were forged and tempered by stalwarts of the struggle who are no longer alive. This party that has taken control of the ANC, is not the party of Joe Slovo, Alex la Guma, Yusuf Dadoo or Chris Hani. No doubt many comrades, like me, find it difficult to turn our backs on the devotion we feel for the movement which sacrificed much in the struggle for the liberation of our country and its people.
I hope comrades will look objectively at the concrete situation and regroup in the newly formed Congress of the People which has promised a return to the values necessary for taking our country forward."
I’ve said it before. I am not sure who I will vote for, but I am optimistic and buoyed up by the possibility of change.