Congress of the People leader Mosiuoa Lekota. Picture: RUSSELL ROBERTS
Congress of the People leader Mosiuoa Lekota. Picture: RUSSELL ROBERTS

THE Congress of the People’s (COPE’s) sole member in the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature was one of eight other political party members who had defected to the African National Congress (ANC) in KwaZulu-Natal.

They were paraded by the ruling party as the "big fishes" during a Durban press conference on Wednesday.

Lucky Gabela is said to have been to close to the Mbazima Shilowa faction of COPE and was increasingly alienated by the Mosiuoa Lekota faction, which was calling for him to be recalled from his position as the MPL a few months ago.

Mr Gabela’s defection follows those of 19 COPE MPs, including founder Smuts Ngonyama, who left the party to join the ANC.

Mr Gabela was an ANC member and an advisor to former KZN premier (and now Correctional Services Minister) Sbu Ndebele before he joined COPE.

But on Wednesday he was joined by four other COPE leaders in KZN and nationally when he returned to the ANC.

"I have decided to return to the ANC after seeing that there was no peace in COPE. I am not seeking any position and I have not been promised anything. Today I am correcting the mistake I made when I joined COPE, not knowing that I was putting myself into a dictatorship," he said.

The others who joined are Shiraz Omar (a member of COPE’s national council); Vumani Shandu (who was a member of the provincial executive committee (PEC); Chris Msibi (who was COPE’s election co-ordinator in 2009) and Collins Maistry (who was also in the COPE PEC).

The United Democratic Movement’s (UDM’s) PEC member Ian Radebe was also paraded by the ANC and so was Bulelo Sigabi, former deputy chairman of Agang SA and Ethienne de Jager, who was Agang SA’s KwaZulu-Natal organiser.

Sihle Zikalala, ANC provincial secretary, said the exodus from other parties into the ANC was a sign that people still had hope in the ruling party.

"What a better time to welcome such high-profile people to our ranks. We are excited that they are bringing with them thousands of ordinary COPE members who will vote for the ANC in their numbers next week. The COPE, UDM and Agang SA’s time as political parties is over," he said.

He said the ANC was now ready for a decisive victory in KwaZulu-Natal and the party was aiming for 70% of the vote in the province.

"The ANC’s advances in all parts of KwaZulu-Natal seem unstoppable as the last outposts of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) and its newer reincarnation — the National Freedom Party — disappear off the provincial map.

"The ANC’s offensive against the hopelessly outdated IFP began in 2004 when the people’s liberation movement claimed the KZN South Coast. One by one, the formerly IFP-controlled areas fell to the ANC like a house of cards," said Mr Zikalala.