Just in case the shenanigans of the early days of the Congress of the People (Cope) - when its leaders were at each other’s throats over the party’s leadership - are being missed, AgangSA has pretty much filled the gap.
The only difference is that the fight for the leadership does not involve anyone known to the public. Cope leaders Mbhazima Shilowa and Mosiuoa Lekota were prominent national citizens, so at least we knew who was trying to tear the throat from whom. In contrast, AgangSA MP Andries Tlouamma styles himself as the party president, parliamentary leader and heir to Mamphela Ramphele who was booted out the party in June. Ramphele had started the party as the great hope of the (black) middle classes for integrity and accountability in government. That is another story.
The only problem is Mike Tshishonga - the party’s other MP - has already been recognised by parliament as the parliamentary leader. He also claims to be the president of the party. When Ramphele was suspended as president on June 29 - pending a disciplinary hearing - Tlouamma, then called the deputy president, made the announcement that the decision had been taken by a national executive committee meeting in Alexandra, Johannesburg. Ramphele quietly withdrew from politics thereafter.
Tlouamma has issued a letter last week indicating that Tshishonga must face a disciplinary hearing for bringing the party into disrepute. One of the charges involves his involvement in a BEE deal (see Noseweek 177 article) where he personally got about a R3 million payout from Resilient. “It is all so silly,” said Tshishonga yesterday.
He said that it was customary each year for President Jacob Zuma to meet the party leaders of all the parliamentary parties. He first received an invitation for a one-on-one meeting with Jacob Zuma, but Tlouamma had intervened and he was, instead, now meeting the president.
Meanwhile Tshishonga does not recognise the legality of his disciplinary hearing, so he is bringing an urgent interdict at the Western Cape High Court to declare it illegal.
The party is in a financial mess, Tshishonga admits. He has been standing up to Tlouamma, he claims, who wants to use party constituency allowances - provided by the taxpayer - to pay for legal actions taken by the party to get Ramphele out of the party. “I refused... we can’t use that money.” Ramphele had tried to reconstitute the national executive committee but this was overturned in court. That meant that Tshishonga and Tlouamma went to parliament instead of people loyal to Ramphele, who had already decided that she did not want to go to parliament herself.
According to Tshishonga, during the election campaign Ramphele (“who was not good with money management”) built up party debts to the tune of R13 million which is owed to “an array” of creditors. He said the party was busy negotiating deals with the creditors. There would be little point in liquidating the party - which could lead to the party losing its two-seat representation in parliament - because the creditors would not be getting their money back.
Tlouamma says Tshishonga was bringing the party into disrepute, but Tshishonga says that Tlouamma just wants to put one of his mates in his seat in parliament. He also wants to get the extra “party leader” allowance, currently paid to Tshishonga.
The fun continues on the opposition benches. One suspects that what happened to Cope will be the fate of AgangSA. Unlike Cope - which did not disappear altogether at the last election - AgangSA is most unlikely to return in 2019. It may disappear before then.
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