History of COPE
The Congress of the People (COPE) was born out of the need for proper, non-racial, non-sexist and democratic governance.
The announcement of the Party’s formation was made in Sandton on 1 November 2008, followed by a Innaugural Congress in Bloemfontein on 16 December 2008. Some of the founding Members of the Party came from other political parties, including high-profile Politicians, Premiers and Ministers. Others were ordinary Citizens who realised the need for change in the political landscape in South Africa.
In September 2008, the then President of South Africa was compelled to tender his resignation by the ruling party’s National Executive Committee. The ruling party then abused its majority in the National Assembly to recall the President of the Country. The legislative authority became forced to adopt a decision that affected the entire country, but which had been taken by a handful of people. This flagrant abuse of power sparked resignations by Ministers, Deputy Ministers and Members of Parliament who could not, in good conscience, stand idly by.
Other frustrations in the South African environment of the time included:
- The suspension of National Police Commissioner Jackie Selebi, as the National Prosecuting Authority announced in January 2008 he would be charged with corruption and defeating the ends of justice
- A wave of xenophobic violence that swept the country in May 2008
- The dismissal of corruption charges against Jacob Zuma, with the judge citing political interference in the machinery of the state
- The suspension of the National Director of Public Prosecutions, Vusi Pikoli, seemingly due to his involvement in the charging of Jackie Selebi and the chairperson of the ANC, Jacob Zuma
- The release on medical parole of convicted fraudster Schabir Shaik, who was found to have a generally corrupt relationship with Zuma
South Africans were fast becoming disillusioned with the ruling party and were beginning to look for an alternative to the ruling party. Following the 2009 National Elections, COPE received the third-most votes in the Country. After having been in existence for only four months, the Party managed to draw 1.3-million votes (7.6% of the total vote).
The success of the Party prompted a concerted attack on the integrity of the Party, including leadership battles fought in court. Finally, in October 2013, Judge Watt-Pringle ruled that Mosiuoa Lekota was the legitimate President of the Congress of the People.
The ruling sparked renewed interest and faith in the Party. Within a week of the judgment being delivered, the National and Provincial offices were inundated with requests for membership. The Party remained active behind the scenes and prepared branches to be ready to go to conference as soon as the legal challenges were resolved. Following highly successful Regional and Provincial Congresss in all 9 Provinces, the first National Congress was held in Boksburg from 10-12 January 2014.