COPE, ANC and the legal wranglings (1)

I must say that all the legal wrangling between Shikota (COPE) and the ANC is more ridiculous and protracted than a soapie these days. After a highly successful National Convention, the new “ANC splinter” party was prevented by the old liberation movement from using the first name proposed: South African National Congress. I can see the logic here somewhat since SANC does look a lot like ANC and it was a lazy name choice in any event. Besides, the ANC-aligned civic organisation is called SANCO, which looks even more like SANC. It therefore makes sense for the ANC to set their lawyers at Shikota for proposed name no 1, since it would cause confusion eventually. However, I am not entirely sure that the voters would confuse the two so much as it would just confuse the general public discourse outside of election season. You don’t believe me? Humour me and keep reading.

Consider all those poor future students (aka learners) sitting in a history class or later a lecture on SA politics. They would have to negotiate their way through African National Congress (ANC), South African National Students Congress (SANSCO) which then became South African Students Congress (SASCO), South African National Civic Organisation (SANCO) none of which are supposed to be confused with the non-political player, South African Computer Olympiad (SACO). That makes ANC … SANSCO …. SASCO … SANCO … SACO. This is all well and good for those of us alive today because we can keep track if we are South Africans and SA residents older than 25. Many of us lived this history. But imagine those who are a few months old right now. It would be a right old nightmare to have to remember that SACO and SANC are not “Congress-aligned”.

Having said that, maybe that was part of the point for Shikota. The fact of the matter is that SANC, if that name had been allowed, would have conjured up the very connections to the liberation struggle that SANC/SADC/COPE as names also evoke. In other words, Shikota is not just any new party. It is one formed by people who also have a Congress-alligned past and contribution, among other things. This is why the ANC is so livid and willing to have the Lobe-Shikota express entangled in legal battles until kingdom come. Or some other such.

Yes, the ANC does hog a huge part of the left in this country. The remaining left (PAC and AZAPO) is so splintered that they don’t even contest this hogging of the entire left legacy by the ANC. However, when some of their own (Lyndall-Shope, Ngonyama, Jack, etc) all fortify the Lobe-Shikota express, and do so without letting go of claims to the same anti-apartheid struggle that they gave their lives to, the ANC has a serious contender for the first time. If I were the ANC and trying to secure power, and to ensure that everybody else in the political landscape remained my poorer cousin, I’d also want the new formation to look like a bunch of “reactionaries”. You just cannot let reactionaries use your history and claim your victories, if you are a comrade worth your salt. Legacies are worth defending, comrades.

And therein lies the crunch. Fact of the matter is: the Lobe-Shikota Express is a mass of comrades, so because the reactionary talk (or cockroach or snake talk bandied about) doesn’t stick, you have to try something else. I would bet that very few people even within the newly conservative ANC believe Terror is a counter-reactionary. Zuma, Malema, Nzimande, Vavi and the whole lot can foam at the mouth as much as they want. But Terror Lekota as a counter-revolutionary? Please! This insults the South African public beyond measure. It is as ridiculous as all this war talk targetting those who disagree with Malema’s big brothers coming out of one side of the mouth, while “we are a movement that values debate” comes out of the other. Forked tongue anyone?

Further fact of the matter is: COPE could very well run off with many of the disgruntled ANC voters (and some members). They are a very real threat. They have the same history individually that their new adversaries, former comrades have. And since the ANC clearly does not have a new campaign for the next elections, then they are going to keep on trading on the past and pulling at our heart strings. Now COPE could do the same if they wanted.

Suddenly, for the first time, the ANC vote could be split. No matter what then ANC says, it is fighting for survival and to maintain its dominance in the hearts and voting hands of most South Africans. Legacy goes with language, symbols and names.

So, the new organisation chose another name. Alas, that too was not to be.

The second name choice: South African Democratic Congress (SADEC), was just plain weird to me. Not only does it have the Sadeco connotations, which I would imagine lefties people would very clearly not want to be associated with (given the IFP roots and connections), but it also makes a person think of the bizzare Southern African Development Community (SADC). Believe me, given the mess in the region (Swaziland’s crazy king, Zimbabwe’s dictator, SA’s recalled presidents and bloodhound youth leaders) is the worst possible choice for a new political party. Everybody calls SADC “sah-de-c”. The ANC did not even need to bother contesting that one because people would definitely be confused in conversation about which sah-de-c was in question. There was a lovely hidden gift for the ANC in this second name. In fact, if Dr Ziba Jiyane (ex-chairperson of IFP and founder of Sadeco), and Lekota (ex-chairperson of ANC and founder of COPE) joined forces, the ANC would not need to label Shikota anything. They’d just have to say to most voters: “friends of IFP” and the voters would stay with the ANC or stay away.

And now comes COPE short for Congress of the People, with weird symbols that make sense only when explained. Also COPE is a pretty lame acronym since it makes me think of being overwhelmed and just managing to put one foot infront of the other. Coping is not what we need in this country right now. We need some vibrancy.

But the ANC has served papers on the group again claiming that only it is entitled to claim the legacy of the Congress of the People in Kliptown which came up with the Freedom Charter. The latest saga is so bizzare as to merit its very own post.

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Posted on 18 November 2008, in Southern African politics and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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