Cope members ‘wreak havoc’

2010-12-17 16:30
Thando Tshangela
The National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) has lashed out at the Congress of the People (Cope), accusing the embattled party members of forcing their way into a venue at the festival of youth conference.

The NYDA said in a statement that Cope members stormed the 17th World Festival of Youth and Students conference venue this morning.

“The group of about 500 people forced their way into the venue and used equipment meant for the World Festival. The group has been violent towards delegates attending the World Festival,” said the NYDA.

It accused Cope President Patrick Lekota, Phillip Dexter, Smuts Ngonyama, Nosimo Balindlela, Willie Madisha and Leonard Ramatlakane of failing to “restrain the members from causing violence”.

But Cope spokesperson Phillip Dexter denied the allegations and said they had booked the sports stadium at the Pretoria Events Centre where the NYDA is holding its festival and that unknown people had tried to storm the stadium.

He said they had left the Cope conference because of “violence”.

“This is complete nonsense, there was no such invasion as we had arranged to be in that venue.

Some people arrived and attempted to come into the stadium but the security removed them,” said Dexter.

Cope deputy president Mbhazima Shilowa’s spokesperson, Sipho Ngwema, said Lekota and his supporters left the Cope conference before it concluded at the Heartfelt Arena in Pretoria.

“Lekota left the conference and ran away to hijack other people’s venues,” said Ngwema.

National police spokesperson Captain Dennis Adriao said Gauteng Public Order Police had to first intervene after “two groups at the Cope conference had an altercation and chairs were thrown around” at and secondly at the NYDA conference.

Adriao said: “The second altercation took place when a group of Cope supporters entered the Youth Festival at the Tshwane Events Centre. Some of the attendees at the festival confronted the Cope supporters and police had to intervene and escort the Cope members out of the festival.”

Adriao said no arrests were made and no one was reported injured. “The situation is back to normal and a police presence will continue,” he said.