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Sunday, 13 September 2009 02:00


By  Kevin Williams
There is a road that runs from Ixopo into the hills. These hills are grass-covered and rolling, and they are lovely beyond any singing of it. Alan Paton's words penned in 1947 have sung through English classes taught by left-leaning matrons ever since.

A small bakkie with a massive trailer maneuvered, kicking up dust and the odd unfortunate strelitzia, into the garden of an undistinguished, ramshackle yet pleasant bed and breakfast at the foot of one of these lovely hills. It was April 2009, days before South Africa's fourth democratic elections. The trailer carried two huge identical PVC posters advising the citizens of South Africa to vote for political newcomer The Congress of the People (COPE). From the poster the smiling face of a seasoned politician looked benevolently down at me, while I contemplated the beefy speakers that bookended the propaganda trailer. It had come to rest dangerously close to a struggling row of mielies in the garden.

The driver emerged, hot from his efforts, and was shown to his room.  A little later we watched soccer and had a beer in the B&B lounge. 'So, you're working for COPE', I say. 'No no no, I don't work for COPE', he points out hurriedly. 'I work for the marketing agency that owns the trailer and speakers. COPE is one of our clients. I am not part of COPE', he points out again. 'Everyone is asking me about this COPE and I say to them I am not part of COPE'.  

For the next few crucial pre-election days, the bakkie wound its way through the Midlands, stopping outside Spars and Shoprites in Donnybrook , Bulwer, Deppdale, Ncwadi, Richmond, Cato Ridge and Inchanga to blast at the voters of Kwazulu Natal COPE's pre-recorded message of hope and change, while the genial, articulate, persuasive man in charge of the show amicably continued to distance himself from the party…
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