The Congress of the People (COPE) – a splinter group from the ruling African National Congress (ANC) – was officially launched in December 2008 in the Free State.
The drastic change came about when the recall of former President Thabo Mbeki spurred senior leaders of the ANC to pull away in protest and call for a National Convention.
Former Gauteng premier Mbhazima Shilowa, former ANC chairperson and Defence Minister Mosioua Lekota and Lekota’s former Deputy Mluleki George spear-headed the call. They were later joined by Charlotte Lobe who resigned from the ANC’s powerful National Executive Committee (NEC).
Former President Thabo Mbeki in 2008 distanced himself from plans to form a breakaway party. The ANC said that Mbeki had written to party president Zuma to inform him he was not involved in the move initiated by Lekota and Shilowa.
During COPE’s first electoral contest in the 2009 general elections, the party won just above 7.42% of the vote, which entitled it to 30 seats in the National Assembly.
Cleric Mvume Dandala was announced as its presidential candidate in 2009.
By the time the 2011 local elections approached, the party was plagued by multiple defections; and leadership squabbles. In that poll, COPE managed to win 807 099 votes or 2.33% support.
The party had its first mayor Jan Julies installed in the Karoo Hoogland local council (Northern Cape) on 31 May 2011 as part of a coalition pact reached with the DA after the 2011 elections.
The party won 31% of the vote in the municipality compared to the DA’s 21% in the 2011 poll. The local council comprises the towns of Sutherland, Williston and Fraserburg.
The party however became a spent force by the time it contested the 2014 general elections, winning just 0.67% of the popular mandate and 3 seats.