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Cablegate: Congress of the People (Cope) Struggles in Kwazulu Natal

VZCZCXRO6745
RR RUEHBZ RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHDU #0069/01 3261502
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 211502Z NOV 08
FM AMCONSUL DURBAN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1361
INFO RUCNSAD/SADC COLLECTIVE
RUEHDU/AMCONSUL DURBAN 0734

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 DURBAN 000069

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

FOR AF/S, INR

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV SF
SUBJECT: CONGRESS OF THE PEOPLE (COPE) STRUGGLES IN KWAZULU NATAL

REF: A) DURBAN 66; B) PRETORIA 2407

DURBAN 00000069 001.2 OF 002


(U) This cable is Sensitive But Unclassified (SBU). Not for
Internet Distribution.

1. (SBU) Summary: The Congress of the People (COPE) is finding
it difficult to establish a presence in KwaZula Natal (KZN).
Only a few lower-ranking ANC members have publicly declared
their support for COPE in KZN, and support from senior ANC
leaders is so far elusive. Worse still, an apparent coup for
COPE from an endorsement by a revered ANC leader turned to an
embarrassment, when the leader subsequently denied the
endorsement. Even those senior ANC members in KZN faithful to
former President Mbeki have so far been reluctant to shift
allegiance to COPE, due largely to party unity in the province,
under the leadership of ANC Provincial Chairman Dr. Zweli
Mkhize. The situation might change, however, with the finalizing
of ANC lists for provincial parliament seats. End summary.

Appeal Limited

2. (SBU) So far in KwaZulu Natal province, only lower-level ANC
officials have left the ANC to join the new COPE party led by
former National Chairman of the ANC Mosioua Lekota and former
Premier of Gauteng Mbazima Shilowa. These include Phillip
Mhlongo and Nhlanhla Buthelezi, who were staunch Thabo Mbeki
supporters before the December 2007 ANC National Conference in
Polokwane. No senior ANC leader in the province has declared
support for the new party. The ANC Provincial Secretary Senzo
Mchunu is reported to have declared KZN a "no-go area" for the
new party.

Intimidation Tactics

3. (SBU) Mosiuoa Lekota visited the province in mid-November,
and was met by angry ANC members who tried to block his meetings
with his supporters in Chatsworth and Verulam. The situation in
Verulam became violent as ANC members aggressively disrupted the
COPE meeting and intimidated attendees, and police had to
intervene to calm the situation. Another planned appearance by
Lekota at the University of KwaZulu Natal was called off at
short notice, and COPE accused the ANC of putting pressure on
the university to cancel the meeting. Comment: Space for free
political activity by ANC members in KZN is not as open as it is
in other provinces. Political intolerance and violence continues
to be a factor in KZN, and the ANC seem to be allowing its
members to intimidate COPE members and supporters in the
province by disrupting their meetings. ANC local leaders such as
councilors were reportedly involved in the disruptions of COPE
meetings, although the ANC officially denied involvement. End
comment.

Failed "Coup"

4. (SBU) Lekota met on November 13 with Professor Fatima Meer, a
stalwart of the ANC and a personal friend of Nelson Mandela.
After the meeting, Lekota told the press that Meer had endorsed
the new party. This could have been a major coup for COPE in
Jacob Zuma's home province. However, the ANC acted quickly and
Prof. Meer on November 16 denied Lekota's claim and issued a
statement -- uncharacteristically, read to the press by her
brother rather than by Meer herself -- denying that she had
joined COPE and recommitting herself to the ANC. This put Lekota
in the awkward position of having to apologize for claiming that
Prof. Meer had endorsed COPE. For COPE, this was a serious
set-back and an embarrassment.

Comment

5. (SBU) COPE's failure to establish a presence in KZN, despite
strong efforts, is due mainly the ANC's unified support for Zuma
in the province. ANC Provincial Chairman Dr. Zweli Mkhize is an
effective leader who has worked hard to unify the party since
taking over leadership from Premier Sibusiso Ndebele. He is seen
as a voice of reason and conciliation in a province where
tempers are high amid talk of the new break-away party and
promises from some pro-Zuma senior ANC leaders to make KZN a
"no-go area" for COPE. Strong cooperation between Dr. Mkhize and
Premier Ndebele (who is a known Mbeki supporter) is another
factor that has kept the ANC united and is making it difficult
for COPE to make inroads in the province, among senior leaders
and rank-and-file members.

6. (SBU) Minister of Agriculture and Environmental Affairs and
former provincial spokesperson of the ANC, Mr. Mtholephi
Mthimkhulu, and former Deputy Provincial Secretary and current
chairman of the portfolio committee on local government and
traditional affairs Mr. Mbuso Kubheka, both strong Mbeki
supporters pre-Polokwane, have been expected to resign from the
ANC to join COPE, according to Consulate contacts, but they have
so far not made a move. This might change as the ANC list

DURBAN 00000069 002.2 OF 002


process starts. Those provincial ANC leaders in the province who
supported Mbeki at the Polokwane conference are likely to be
excluded from the list of members of parliament of provincial
legislatures for 2009 general elections, and at that point may
decide to shift their allegiance to COPE.
DERDERIAN

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