WikiLeaks cable nails Cope
Rival Congress of the People (Cope) leaders Mosiuoa Lekota and Mbhazima Shilowa “both have massive egos” and “want nothing more than to be president of South Africa”.
This is according to a leaked diplomatic cable from the US embassy in Pretoria, obtained exclusively by City Press.
The cable – one of 250?000 leaked to WikiLeaks and not yet public – quotes Cope’s former spokesperson and Lekota’s personal assistant, Dr Tseliso Phomane, as saying: “Shilowa’s people are smart, but they are also ruthless. They will see to it that Lekota is pushed aside and that Shilowa is positioned to be the leader of the party.”
Phomane, who is no longer actively involved in the party, has described the cable as a “fabrication” and a “bundle of lies and inconsistencies”.
The power struggle between the two leaders reached new heights last week when Cope’s elective conference ended in a shambles, with Shilowa claiming victory amid rumours that he and Lekota nearly came to blows.
The cable, written by an unnamed US embassy political officer, is dated September 2 2009 and purports to record a meeting between embassy staff and Phomane in August last year.
But Phomane says he only met the Americans on three formal occasions: at the Cope launch, at a dinner where Lekota was hosted by the US ambassador, and at a meeting at the US embassy attended by Lekota and Cope’s former parliamentary leader, Mvume Dandala.
Phomane expressed shock after reading a copy of the cable sent to him. He suggested there was a “scheme” to discredit him and “fabricate a picture that seeks to paint a view of how the Americans view Cope, its leaders or their idea of Cope”.
The cable, titled “Lekota personal assistant warns ‘watch out for Shilowa’”, details US embassy efforts to gain a deeper insight into the “continued political infighting that has plagued the party since it appointed Dandala as its presidential candidate over Lekota”.
The US embassy official concludes that “ongoing political infighting in Cope may not be entirely bad” as it “could rid the organisation of several big egos”.
It continued: “Shilowa and his allies may be ‘ruthless’, but Gauteng was probably governed more effectively than the defence ministry was under Lekota.”
Cope spokesperson Phillip Dexter said: “The comments – if they are Phomane’s – are his personal view and do not reflect the view of the party.”
Elizabeth Kennedy Trudeau, a US embassy spokesperson, said the cables comprised “day-to-day reporting from US embassies around the world to Washington and are not public statements or public policy”.