At its birth late last year, some pundits thought South Africa’s Congress of the People (COPE) might even draw enough support to prevent the ruling ANC winning a majority in next week’s election.

copeSince then the splinter group of disgruntled senior ANC figures has seen its prospects ebb to the point that the only question is whether the ANC will win the two-thirds of seats in parliament it needs to change the constitution at will.

Estimates of COPE’s support range from five to 20 percent, according to a Nomura report. Its failure to gain more backing shows how difficult it has been to set up a party in just a few months on a shoe-string budget, analysts say.

Its opponent is the formidable and well-funded grassroots political machine that is the African National Congress (ANC), the movement that won the decades-long struggle against white minority rule.

Africa’s biggest economy is teetering on the brink of its first recession for 17 years, but COPE has struggled to win over poor black voters.Many complain bitterly about the ANC’s failure to deliver on the promises of jobs, homes and better lives it made at the end of apartheid in 1994, but few contemplate political change.

“I’m not so sure about COPE,” said Vuyo Tsotso, who lives in a metal shack with no water or electricity in a shanty town near Johannesburg and makes about 10 rand a day selling scrap wiring.

“I don’t think they care about us. I don’t think they’re going to give us the houses and jobs the ANC will,” he said.


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