The ANC, Cosatu and the SA Communist Party are meeting today, in a high-level Tripartite Alliance meeting. Officially, says the SACP, Billy Masethla's comments are not on the agenda, but clearly, they'll be another ghost at an ANC banquet.
Billy Masethla is not an idiot and, as one of the people who swapped sides during Mbeki vs Zuma, he knows what’s what in the world. So for him to tell the Mail & Guardian that the left has too much control, and that there are serious problems with the fact that there are Communist Party members who are cabinet minister as well as ANC National Executive Committee members, that isn’t an act of petulance. The M&G is the paper the ANC loves to hate, and the favourite medium for party bigwigs to talk to one another. The question is this: who is listening?
Masethla isn’t the real problem; the ANC knows that he is voicing the sentiments of other party members, perhaps a big number of them. Blade Nzimande currently has his own tripod; he’s a cabinet minister, a party leader, and a member of the ruling party’s executive committee. That’s got to rankle with members of the rank and file who have been passed over for NEC or government positions. Why should one person have both, when he’s really a member of another party? And how should the ANC really manage this process? The fact that the Higher Education portfolio is not what Nzimande wanted is beside the point, it’s what he’s got, and that’s a damn sight more than most ANC members.
The person who is probably going to have to manage this is Gwede Mantashe. And he has to tread really carefully, because he’s seriously compromised himself. As ANC Secretary-General as well as SACP chairman he can’t just ignore the issue indefinitely. What he will probably try to do is to damp it down, for now by focussing on other agenda issues.
Masethla, on the other hand, will be looking for agreement from within the party, even if obliquely. If he can’t get a high-profile member to speak out he’ll work through the branches, try and stir up some sentiment there and let any feelings on the issue move up the food chain.
Recent attacks by the SACP and Cosatu on the likes of Trevor Manuel won’t hurt Masethla’s chances. There is a lot of pressure from the left for economic policy changes, changes that the ANC (despite its close and long-standing ties with the left) doesn’t even seem to be giving serious consideration. The fact that it has turned personal doesn’t detract from the fact that this is about incompatible doctrine, and when you get right down to it there precious little middle ground between communism and a free market economy.
By Stephen Grootes
(Grootes is EWN reporter, www.ewn.co.za)
Read more: Mail & Guardian