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09CAPETOWN33 2009-02-17 09:54:00 UNCLASSIFIED Consulate Cape Town
Cable title:  

COPE IN HOLDING PATTERN IN FACE OF UNCERTAINTIES

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1. (SBU) Summary: The Congress of the People (COPE) has yet
to decide upon a presidential candidate for the election and
increasingly is focusing its efforts on Eastern Cape and
Limpopo, according to party National Spokesman Philip Dexter.
Dexter met with members of the diplomatic corps on February
10 in Cape Town. Saying that the party has been in a
"holding pattern" since its manifesto launch, he conceded
that true campaigning would begin once the election date is
announced. (Note: President Kgalema Motlanthe announced on
February 10 that the election would take place on April 22.
End Note.) He said that there are many uncertainties ahead
of the election, including parts of the country COPE can
expect to perform well in and who will be the face of the
party when "true campaigning" begins. End Summary.



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"We Must Wait and See"


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2. (SBU) COPE National Spokesman Philip Dexter met with
members of the diplomatic corps at an informal luncheon on
February 10 in Cape Town. Dexter told the guests that the
party is focusing its attention now on "winning areas it can
win such as Eastern Cape and Limpopo." He acknowledged that
it is difficult to know where COPE can do well given the lack
of reliable polling. The best polling data he has seen comes
from an "unnamed political party" that projects the African
National Congress (ANC) to win 52 percent of vote. However,
Dexter asserted that the party,s strength in Eastern Cape is
"self-evident" given its well-attended manifesto launch in
Port Elizabeth last month. He projected that the party could
seriously weaken the ANC in the province or could win the
province outright. (Note: His estimation of strength in
Eastern Cape may be optimistic given the ANC,s strength in
the province. See Reftel for more information. End Note.)



3. (SBU) Dexter related that in Limpopo the "ANC has
serious problems." He said that there are fundamental
divisions within ANC branches in the province that should
lead to permanent breaks in coming weeks. He noted, "There
are breaks that are coming. The divorces that will happen in
that province will be messy, but they will come sooner rather
than later." He stated that COPE should do well in the
province because of such turmoil. As for the other
provinces, Dexter noted that "we have all but given up on
KwaZulu Natal." He said that it has been very difficult for
the party to make inroads there. He projected that the party
would do well in Western Cape and Northern Cape, but said
attaining an outright majority in either province would be
"unrealistic." When asked by the French Ambassador whether
COPE would consider coalitions in either province, Dexter
said that "right now the party is looking only to win." He
did say later on at the luncheon that COPE probably would not
consider alliances with the ANC or with the Democratic
Alliance. He noted that an alliance with the ANC would
"kill" COPE and an alliance with the DA would signal that the
party is supporting divisions along racial lines. (Note:
Dexter did not speak to how well COPE could do in any of the
other provinces. End Note.)



4. (SBU) Dexter said the party has yet to decide who will be
its face for the election. He noted, "I can,t imagine that
there will be any surprises so you know it will be either
(COPE President Mosioua) Lekota or (COPE Deputy President
Mbhazima) Shilowa." Dexter said that who emerges as the
presidential candidate will be up to the party,s branches
and that the party probably would announce its presidential
candidate next week. He said former Deputy President
Qcandidate next week. He said former Deputy President
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka would formally declare her allegiance
to COPE "soon," but did not consider her a viable candidate
to be the party,s presidential candidate. He also noted
that there would be more defections in coming weeks by ANC
leaders "whose futures are no longer with the organization."



--------------------------


On the South African Communist Party


--------------------------





5. (SBU) Dexter, once National Treasurer of the South
African Communist Party (SACP) before defecting to COPE,
offered a few comments on the organization. Describing
himself as a Marxist but "not a stupid Marxist," Dexter
described an SACP that is in serious trouble. He noted that
the organization,s claim of having 80,000 members is
completely untrue. SACP has only 12,000 members, according
to figures he collected and collated before he left. He
asked, "How can SACP claim that members are willing to give
their lives to socialism while they are unwilling to pay a
monthly membership fee?" He noted that had SACP left the
alliance and contested elections on its own ahead of the 2006

CAPE TOWN 00000033 002 OF 002


local election, the party would today be a force in South
African politics. However, he said that the decision to stay
in the alliance and support ANC President Jacob Zuma was a
"strategic blunder" because it means the organization is no
longer a "fulcrum of ideas in South Africa."



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Comment


--------------------------





6. (SBU) Dexter,s commentary shows that COPE is in a
holding pattern as it faces uncertainty over how well it will
perform in the election and who will be the party,s
presidential candidate. Several members of the diplomatic
corps remarked in muffled tones that the party seems to have
lost momentum following its manifesto launch and the way COPE
is handling its leadership situation and its campaign thus
far suggest the party has work to do to pick up steam.
Defections from leaders such as Mlambo-Ngcuka and others may
give COPE a boost, but the party,s intention to focus on
pre-selected targets such as Eastern Cape and Limpopo may
make such a boost insufficient to supplant the ANC.
MAYBERRY