Monday, February 23, 2009



The Editor,
The Times Newspaper
Feb 23, 2009

Dandala seen as a leader with values in stark contrast to those of Jacob Zuma


THE Congress of the People’s selection of Methodist bishop Mvume Dandala as its presidential candidate in the forthcoming general election appears to have caused fresh divisions within the newly formed party.

Those in the party who lobbied for Dandala’s nomination saw the move as a masterstroke because, they believed, it would resolve the power struggle said to exist between Cope’s co-founders, Mosiuoa Lekota and Mbhazima Shilowa.

As a clergyman, Dandala is seen as a leader who represents values that are in stark contrast to those of ANC leader and presidential frontrunner Jacob Zuma — whose moral standing is in doubt among many voters.

Moreover, unlike Lekota and Shilowa, Dandala has no old political baggage to deal with. He has never played an active role in party politics and government .

Sound as their reasoning might have been, Dandala’s backers seem to have been insensitive to Lekota’s political ambitions — they used the strength of party membership numbers in Eastern Cape to impose the bishop.

This has led to unfortunate accusations of “ethnicism” in the newly formed party, with some saying that Dandala was chosen because of his Eastern Cape origin.

Leadership contests in political parties are a legitimate democratic practice.

But, as a new player in the political arena, Cope needs to act quickly to ensure that its leadership battle does not degenerate into a conflict that weakens its election campaign.

The party ought to caution those of its leaders and activists who are crying foul not to use ethnicity as the basis of their opposition to Dandala’s candidature.

It is that kind of politics that has brought strife to many African states in the past five decades.