Political party COPE has been forced to close its headquarters in Kempton Park, due to financial constraints which have left it unable to pay the office rental and the salaries of the staff members based there.
News24 has seen a termination of service letter, dated October 29, which was handed out to employees based at its office in Gauteng.
According to the letter, the Congress Executive Committee resolved to close the head office from November 1 and, in addition, would also be retrenching the small staff contingent.
“The reason for the closure is because the party’s income has been reduced and consequently cannot afford to pay the office rental and salaries of staff based at this office,” the letter read.
A source within COPE confirmed the authenticity of the letter, signed by the secretary-general Diratsagae Alfred Kganare.
According to the source, employees at the head office were informed that the office would be closed and that their contracts would be terminated.
There was further talk about the possibility that staff would be given an option to move to the new headquarters in Cape Town, but this did not materialise in writing, nor was it part of the termination letter.
COPE leader Mosiuoa Lekota also confirmed the contents of the termination letter to News24, adding that the party was facing serious financial constraints.
He did not want to discuss the matter, as party leadership would be meeting soon to address the issue.
COPE spokesperson Dennis Bloem told News24 that, following the decision to close the head office, plans were afoot to open smaller satellite offices.
Bloem said the party would first look at opening these offices in Gauteng, Free State and the Northern Cape, before turning their attention to the rest of the provinces.
On the issue of staff retrenchments, Bloem said a decision had been taken to give employees based at the Kempton Park offices the option to move to Cape Town.
“I don’t know what is the content of the letter [termination letter], but that was our decision in the CEC that they must get an option. It is for them to decide,” Bloem said.
If this offer was turned down, these staff members would be first in line for employment once the satellite offices were up and running, he said.
COPE’s website has also since been suspended, but Bloem said this was not due to the party’s financial issues, adding that payments for the website were up to date.
He said there had been problems with the administrator, which led to the suspension of the website last week. This issue was being attended to, Bloem said.
COPE was formed in 2008 after former ANC leaders Mosiuoa Lekota, Mbhazima Shilowa and Mluleki George broke away from the ANC.
In the 2009 general elections, COPE amassed more than 1.3 million votes, scoring 30 seats in Parliament. The party took a severe knock in support the following election, in 2014, only managing to get 123,235 votes. This translated into three seats.
This downward spiral continued in the 2019 general elections when the party only managed to win 47,461 votes, giving them a mere two seats in Parliament.
Despite losing traction in the political landscape, COPE entered into an alliance with the DA and other smaller parties to unseat the ANC in Tshwane, Johannesburg and Nelson Mandela Bay in the 2016 municipal elections.