COPE on track to catch up

Bongani Bara
Bongani Bara

They come from different political parties but these campaign managers have one thing in common – they are all after your vote. Reporters THULANI GQIRANA and MKHULULI NDAMASE take a closer look at the people who are likely to come knocking on your doorstep.

FOR the next two months, COPE’s head of elections Bongani Bara, 44, will live, breathe, eat and dream of posters, pamphlets, door-to-door visits and billboards as the party tries to catch up on its delayed campaign.

A practising doctor in Port St Johns and an MPL for COPE in the Bhisho legislature, Bara had been a member of the ANC for 20 years before crossing over to COPE in 2008. He was elected as COPE’s provincial head of elections at its provincial congress in Butterworth in January.

Having started off as the chairman of an interim structure in Port St Johns, he was elected as the OR Tambo regional secretary in 2010.

The next year, the married father of three was elected as the provincial secretary of the party at a conference held by a faction aligned to party president Mosiuoa Lekota, while a group aligned to Mbhazima Shilowa elected someone else. He said the party had had to play catch-up in the Eastern Cape as its campaign was stalled by leadership infighting as well as an accident involving a truck carrying its posters and pamphlets.

“We have had our problems, but they do not affect our province seriously.

“We are establishing election committee structures at all levels. We have placed billboards in some of the more urban towns, including Grahamstown, Port Elizabeth and East London, but we have another programme for distribution in some other areas including Butterworth, Dutywa, Ngcobo and Bhizana.”

He said in most regions in the province, the party had already started with door-to-door walkabout campaigns.

“Though we don’t have most of our posters and T-shirts, we needed to start with the visibility campaigns. We will continue to do workshops in the province on electoral and political education, and have teams that will be crisscrossing the province for the sake of visibility.”
Bara said COPE also understood that it needed to attract back voters who had been disillusioned with the party’s lengthy leadership row in recent years.

“We have a responsibility to explain what went wrong to them. Most of them are under the impression that COPE had leadership battles.
“The war was between an individual and an organisation, it was Shilowa vs COPE, it was never Lekota vs Shilowa. So we now have that responsibility to reassure the voters that we have managed to overcome all those problems,” he said yesterday.

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