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Cablegate: Allan Boesak Joins Cope

VZCZCXRO0921
PP RUEHDU RUEHJO
DE RUEHTN #0248 3541502
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 191502Z DEC 08
FM AMCONSUL CAPE TOWN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2901
INFO RUEHSA/AMEMBASSY PRETORIA 6258
RUEHJO/AMCONSUL JOHANNESBURG 2070
RUEHDU/AMCONSUL DURBAN 3209

UNCLAS CAPE TOWN 000248

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KDEM SF
SUBJECT: ALLAN BOESAK JOINS COPE

REFTEL: PRETORIA 02736

1. (U) On December 16, former anti-apartheid cleric Allan Boesak
joined the Congress of the People (COPE) at its founding conference
in Bloemfontein. Boesak, who was at the forefront of peaceful
resistance to apartheid, has had a colorful career. He first rose to
prominence in the 1980's as a cleric and a leader of the
anti-apartheid United Democratic Front. In 1982, Boesak persuaded
members of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches to declare
apartheid a heresy and to suspend membership of the white South
African churches. He served as president of the Alliance from 1982
to 1991. In 1983, Boesak helped organize the United Democratic Front
(UDF), a multiracial association of groups opposed to apartheid, and
in 1984 he and others organized a boycott of the national elections.
Boesak was arrested a number of times for his participation in
demonstrations, and his movements and speech were restricted.

2. (U) After the fall of apartheid in the early 1990s, Boesak
became active in the ANC and was appointed leader of the ANC in the
Western Cape. At this time he started the Foundation for Peace and
Justice (FPJ), an organization designed to help victims of
apartheid. He raised funds for his foundation from the Swedish
International Development Agency, Denmark's Dan Church Aid and the
Church of Norway. In 1994, he was accused of misappropriating money
donated to the charity. The allegations forced SA to withdraw his
nomination as ambassador to the United Nations. In 1999, Boesak was
found guilty of stealing more than R1.5 million from the FPJ and was
sentenced to six years in prison, despite the ANC conducting its own
enquiry which cleared him. He was released on parole in 2001 after
serving only two years of his sentence.

3. (U) After being released from prison, Boesak continued to enjoy
considerable support from the ANC of which he remained a member. The
late Justice Minister, Dullah Omar, once gave him a hero's welcome
and dismissed his offence as "struggle accounting" done in the name
of the liberation movement. In 2005, South African President Thabo
Mbeki pardoned Boesak, a move which some political parties called a
travesty of justice and led to speculation that the pardon was
purely politically motivated.

4. (U) By July 2008, Boesak had fallen out with the ANC. He accused
the party of entrenching racial hatred instead of preaching
tolerance. In a public address in Cape Town, he said the party had
brought back the hated system of racial categorization and said
affirmative action had, in some cases, taken on new forms of racial
exclusion, throwing overboard the solidarity forged through years of
struggle.

5. (U) Comment: Boesak's emergence as a member of Cope has resulted
in a mud- slinging match between the ANC and Cope. The ANC has
labeled Boesak a has-been who tried to sell his services to the
highest bidder, while Cope has stated that such conduct was not
unexpected from the ANC. Boesak enjoys a large following among the
colored people in the Western Cape and if Cope wishes to make
inroads into this community it must have a representative with whom
the people can identify. Cope must however, guard against being
labeled as a party where outcasts from other political parties are
welcomed. It remains to be seen whether Boesak's controversial past
will have a negative impact on the newly formed party. End comment.

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