Congress of the People (Cope) has laid criminal charges against the police at Moroka Police Station in Soweto after its permitted closing rally in Chiawelo was broken up by members of the Public Order Policing (POP) unit Saturday afternoon.
According to Cope national spokesperson, Dennis Bloem a large convoy of South African Police Service’ (Saps) vehicles including POP members arrived as party president, Mosiuoa Lekota, was about to address the gathering held at Chiawelo Park Saturday.
After speaking briefly to Cope head of elections, Mzwandile Hleko and Gauteng election party liaison officer, Tom Mofokeng, the cops allegedly ordered the meeting to disperse.
They allegedly threatened to fire teargas and arrest the leadership should the instruction not be obeyed.
Bloem said the officers ignored the permit the party obtained from the events department of the Johannesburg City Parks shown to them. Instead they said they were acting on an instruction to stop the rally because it was illegal.
Lekota told the crowd to disperse to avoid unnecessary loss of life and injury that could result from any police action.
“We were in the middle of our closing rally and president Lekota was taking to the podium to address the crowd when the police came. They refused for the meeting to continue and they refused point blank to say who gave the instruction to disperse us and they told us they just came to executive the instruction,” Bloem said.
The party organized the rally for a last-minute campaign to garner support for Monday’s local government election after the obtained the permit from the City.
“The gathering was not an illegal gathering we got permission to have our closing gathering. We will take this matter up with the IEC,” Bloem said.
Bloem believed Cope was still being targeted by some ANC members since its formation in 2008 as a an ANC breakaway following Polowane national conference.
“This brings suspicion that we are being targeted. Why rallies of other parties are not disrupted or stopped but only those of Cope,” Bloem said.
He claimed that in 2008 soon after Cope’s establishment, a unit was set up by ANC to disrupt the party gatherings towards the 2009 election. There was a concerted campaign to kill Cope from its infancy.
Recently party posters put up daily by Cope Johannesburg mayoral candidate, Colleen Makhubele as part of her election campaign were removed from all street poles in the City.
A Cope driver, Johnny Makume, was hijacked in the West Rand last week as he was busy putting up party posters. He was dropped off on a farm in the area uninjured but his vehicle, posters and a step-ladder were still missing.
During its formation, the party was seen as a threat to the ANC particularly after winning 30 seats in the National Assembly at the 2009 polls. It has since lost almost all with only two MPs left.
It was established as a protest against the ANC recall of Thabo Mbeki.
Its initiators were former ANC national chair and Minister of Defence, Mosioua Lekota and then deputy Defence Minister Mluleki George, former head of the ANC presidency, Smuts Ngonyama, former Gauteng premier, Mbhazima Shilowa and former Cosatu president, Willie Madisha, among others
The party adopted Freedom Charter and believed in the supremacy of the country’s constitution.
An attempt by the ANC to challenge the use of the name Congress of the People was aborted after it the ANC was advice to abort the ligitation as the 1955 gathering of the same name was not an ANC property but a gathering of several organisations.