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By Brian Sokutu

Senior Print Journalist

‘Resistance’ within Cope a recipe for yet another political disaster

We have seen the danger in a leadership resembling autocracy and playing favourites.

Irvin Jim and Mosiuoa Lekota – among South African political heavies – may be ideologically poles apart, but share common traits.

As general secretary of the country’s biggest trade union, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa), Jim is a known advocate of socialism.

He maintains this an answer to South Africa’s socioeconomic challenges.

Lekota is a nationalist leader who earned his political stripes from Robben Island, in the United Democratic Front and in the ANC, president of the Congress of the People (Cope) – a party which emerged as the third-largest after the 2009 elections, to later find itself on the fringes of political power.

ALSO READ: New twist in dispute over removal of Cope official

While the two leaders are neither political contemporaries nor comrades, they share similar traits – arrogance and contempt for the constitutions of their respective organisations.

Jim’s disregard of the recent ruling of the Johannesburg Labour Court, which ordered that Numsa’s 11th national congress not go ahead until it adhered to its own constitution, by reinstating its second deputy president Ruth Ntlokotse and several other illegally suspended union leaders, represents a defiance for the rule of law and utter disdain for the worker collective.

Lekota’s autocratic style of leadership has this week fuelled tensions within Cope, leading to four Gauteng regions calling for the stepping aside of the party president.

His likely resistance to the call can only spell doom for the embattled organisation, a recipe for yet another political disaster.

With University of South Africa political science professor Dirk Kotze describing Cope as becoming “a fringe party”, Lekota has been embroiled in yet another divisive controversy – unconstitutionally supporting the removal of councillor Ndzipho Khalipa from Ekurhuleni metropolitan council, who has been replaced by his ally, Thomas Mofokeng.

READ MORE: Is this the end of Cope?

“There is now no future for Cope. I think the Lekota leadership has made the party lose any sense of relevance for most people,” said Kotze.

A leadership paralysis caused by infighting is the least problem Cope needs right now, if Lekota wants the party to return to its glory days of 2008 and 2009.

As we have observed over years, failure to take everyone on board on key issues in decision-making structures – guided by organisational adherence to constitutional principles or resolutions, often leads to powerful individuals walking out of parties.

They take with them a huge number of like-minded supporters – further weakening organisations.

In the case of Jim and Lekota, we have seen the danger in a leadership resembling autocracy and playing favourites – breeding lackeys and praise singers who go with the flow.

In most cases, such individuals are motivated by the personal gains of office – power, influence and money.

Empires the size of Numsa or Cope – built over years by the sweat and blood of members – easily crumble in a matter of days if the centre fails to hold.

ALSO READ: Cope refutes claims that senior ANC leaders, including Mbeki, behind party formation

Unions and political parties should not be turned into platforms for leaders to deliver sermons, with members accepting the preaching without question or scrutiny.

The essence of a thriving democracy in any organisation is to allow for more views, freedom of speech and diversity of opinions, without fear of being muzzled, isolated or purged by those at the top.

There should be no room for arrogance or contempt for constitutions, or rule of law. Bad leadership traits.