Cablegate: Bios for Cope's Newly Elected Leadership

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1. (U) The newly elected leaders of the Congress of the
People (COPE) bring a wide range of experiences to their
positions within South Africa's newest opposition party.
With the exception of Deputy President Lynda Odendaal, a
political novice who was seemingly chosen out of "nowhere,"
most of the other leaders were expected to play some sort of
senior role in the new party. Below are short biographies of
COPE's leaders. End Summary.

2. (U) President Mosiuoa Lekota was former national chairman
in the African National Congress (ANC) before he lost his
seat at Polokwane earlier this year. Lekota became involved
in student politics and the Black Consciousness Movement
during his days at the University of the North, which
ultimately landed him an eight-year prison sentence at Robben
Island. Upon his release in 1982 he joined the United
Democratic Front, where he played a key role organizing
students and activists across South Africa. He was later
sentenced for additional prison time during the Delmas
Treason Trial. Following the ANC's unbanning, Lekota served
as the premier of the Free State and served as ANC national
chairman from 1997 to 2007. He joined the Cabinet as Defense
Minister in 1999 and resigned from his position following the
ANC's decision to recall former President Thabo Mbeki in
September 2008. Following his resignation, Lekota became a
vocal critic of the Jacob Zuma-led ANC and held a national
convention on November 1 to explore the possibility of a new
political party. He subsequently formed a new party and will
serve as COPE's first leader. Lekota is an animated speaker
in public as well as in private. He claims COPE will focus
on protecting the Constitution, de-politicizing the civil
service, and upholding free market economic policies. Lekota
in 2005 suffered a heart attack, but he continues to enjoy
South African red wine.

3. (U) First Deputy President Mbhazima "Sam" Shilowa was
former premier of Gauteng before deciding to resign following
the ANC's decision to recall Mbeki. Shilowa has a long
history of involvement in the ANC, but is more firmly rooted
in the labor movement. He joined the Transport and General
Workers' Union in the early 1980s and later served as its
vice-president and president. He helped form the Congress of
South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and became its general
secretary in 1993. He was elected to the ANC's national
executive committee in 1997 and was appointed premier of
Gauteng in 1999. He assisted Lekota in holding the national
convention on November 1. Despite some press reports to the
contrary, Shilowa seems comfortable as COPE's "number two."
He jokingly referred to Lekota as "Shikota" (a hybrid,
popular term referring to both Shilowa and Lekota) at COPE's
inaugural conference in Bloemfontein. He has reportedly been
out front leading the party's efforts to attract other ANC
members to COPE.

4. (U) Second Deputy President Lynda Odendaal is a political
newcomer who is "making her political debut" with COPE. A
successful businesswoman and entrepreneur, Odendaal was born
in Eastern Cape but now lives in Gauteng. At age 21 she
became a single mother and has said, "I was not born with a
silver spoon in my mouth." Over time, she has become a
recognized name in the computer industry, but was so
unassuming at COPE's inaugural conference in Bloemfontein
Qunassuming at COPE's inaugural conference in Bloemfontein
that Poloff sat beside her during some of the party's
speeches without knowing who she was. Despite her low
profile, Lekota has promised that her "profile will be
built." Her business acumen has been lauded by prominent
technology journalists such as's Christelle Du
Toit; Odendaal resigned from her company upon assuming her
role in COPE. Political analysts and journalists speculate
she was selected as a deputy because she can attract the same
demographic that supports Democratic Alliance leader Helen

5. (U) Secretary General Charlotte Lobe resigned from the
ANC earlier this year despite serving on the ruling party's
national executive committee. Before her resignation, Lobe
also served a provincial secretary of the Free State and had
previously served as spokesperson for the ANC's Women's
League. She opted to leave the ANC in protest of how the new
ANC leadership was handling the organization; last year she

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heavily favored having Mbeki serve a third term as ANC
President. She was the first woman to join COPE and has been
the face of the party whenever it has announced registration
figures or party platforms.

6. (U) Deputy Secretary General Deirdre Carter is a
political newcomer who joined COPE in KwaZulu Natal. She has
reportedly been active attracting support for the new party
in the Pietermaritzburg area. She has described herself as
an "ordinary South African mother of two." Pundits speculate
Carter was selected along with Odendaal to attract white,
female voters to the party.

7. (U) Treasurer Hilda Ndude in the 1990s served in the
ANC's Western Cape executive. She left her position in the
party in 1998 to go into business because "we had done what
we set out to do." However, she has since decided she would
be "failing the nation" if she did not get involved again.
Ndude is a former United Democratic Front activist from the
Western Cape.

8. (U) International Affairs Chairperson Lyndall
Shope-Mafole is daughter of struggle veteran Gertrude Shope.
Shope-Mafole is familiar with international affairs because
she was once the deputy chair and secretary for international
affairs in the ANC Youth League. She was elected to the
ANC's national executive committee in Polokwane, but resigned
her position shortly after Lekota held the national

9. (U) Head of Policy Chief Smuts Ngonyama served on the
ANC's executive from 1994 until he lost his seat at
Polokwane. He is a long-time ally of Mbeki, serving as ANC
spokesperson during much of the former President's tenure,
and is helping to launch the Thabo Mbeki Leadership
Institute. Ngonyama reportedly was seeking to become COPE's
national chairperson, but failed to attain the post when the
draft constitution did not provide for such a slot in the
party's structure.

10. (U) National Organizer Mluleki George is long-time ally
of Lekota and was one of the first ANC leaders to resign with
the former Defense Minister following the recall of Mbeki.
George served as Deputy Defense Minister under Lekota, but
following his resignation from Cabinet began rallying support
for the new political party in Eastern Cape -- the province
with the largest number of COPE members so far.

11. (U) Elections Convener Mlungisi Hlongwane is a former
president of the South African National Civic Organization.
A long-time ANC member, he resigned from the ruling party in
November 2008.

12. (U) Media Division Chief Phillip Dexter is a former
anti-apartheid activist who has served in Parliament, COSATU,
and the South African Communist Party (SACP). He was ousted
from SACP for criticizing, what he termed, Blade Nzimande's
"Stalinist approach" and for supporting Willie Madisha during
the organization's "missing money saga." Dexter is known to
work all hours of the day and is well-connected in Western

13. (U) Zahira Ebrahim will head a position vaguely
described as involving sectors. She is the daughter of Pan
Africanist Congress veteran Gora Ebrahim and niece of Zuma
ally Ebrahim Ebrahim. She came into light as a guest speaker
at the national convention when she passionately expressed
concerns over where the country was headed.


14. (U) By choosing its leadership team by consensus, COPE
avoided the type of political infighting that would have
crippled the organization from the start. However, it
Qcrippled the organization from the start. However, it
remains unclear how well the team will work together or
whether other senior leaders from the ANC who may defect
later on will have positions in the party.

© Scoop Media

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