South Africa

Reporter’s notebook: cutting the cake with communists

By Greg Nicolson 6 August 2012

The South African Communist Party celebrated its 91st birthday on Sunday with its usual line-up of pro-Zuma speakers in Johannesburg. Secretary General Blade Nzimande cut the cake, sipped the champagne and berated all his foes. By GREG NICOLSON.

Blade Nzimande was the last speaker to take the stage. Behind, a hammer and sickle banner was dwarfed by the Johannesburg City Hall’s wall of organ pipes. In front, two red birthday cakes were surrounded by bottles of cheap champagne.

In his red bucket hat, Nzimande drew cheers and applause from the hall as he attacked the enemies of the SACP and anyone who threatened Jacob Zuma’s second term as ANC president. 

He started by pointing out that the party’s detractors continue to say it has lost relevance, yet the fact they’re devoting time to analysing the party shows how relevant it still is. He took a sip of water and continued to depart from his prepared speech, extolling the virtues of the communists and lambasting a list of critics.

“Those who write about us saying we want more money must speak of themselves… We have been in the trenches since 1921,” he said. That was long before it took on former President FW de Klerk, who recently warned the communists could usher in the dangerous policies of the USSR.

Nzimande listed SACP members who died fighting apartheid and retorted, “FW de Klerk should hang his head in shame rather than tell us what to do as communists today… FW de Klerk must shut up!”

Having roused the crowd, he turned on the civil society organisations taking the government to court to ensure service delivery. He said Section27, which took the government to court to provide textbooks in Limpopo, “sleeps in court” and is “behaving like a colonial school inspector telling us what to do”.

“Going to court is not going to transform our country,” said Nzimande, the higher education minister. “Going to court is not going to change our education. The courts are not going to deliver textbooks. The courts will simply say the textbooks are not delivered and then what? If as government we don’t have capacity to deliver, sorry the court can rule a million times, there is no capacity.”

He said “professional cynics” are determined to prove the country cannot proceed. “Those who pretend to be judges, who is judging them?”

“They” are the liberal academic and foreign-funded NGOs that hate on the government’s performance and use their verbose language to criticise the SACP’s relations with the ANC, said Nzimande. (This was before he used the sentence: “Sections of this comprador bourgeoisie has also shown a propensity towards lumpenisation.”)

Nzimande continued the communist’s attack on tenders as he blamed the Limpopo textbook delivery scandal on the “tenderisation” of the state. “The publication of textbooks and their procurement (direct from the publishers and without rent-seeking intermediaries) should be a centralised function. Instead, what we have is a system of rent-seeking go-betweens, suppliers of suppliers of suppliers, working with syndicates within our provincial line departments.”

His answer? A state-owned publishing company. “Publishers themselves are making a killing from government, apart from unilaterally deciding who must write books for education and public consumption. We must use this unfortunate textbook fiasco to transform the publishing industry itself, whose core still remains that built by the National Party and the apartheid regime!”

Nzimande is a close ally of Zuma, and it’s no surprise he wants to solve the textbooks fiasco by transforming the publishing industry rather than firing Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, which would be a headache for the president ahead of the ANC’s December elective conference in Mangaung.

Nzimande has clearly aligned the SACP with Zuma and members showed their support on Sunday. After a leader held up two fingers on the stage the peace salutes spread through the crowd. The secretary general crossed his arms, the Orlando Pirates sign. Gauteng Provincial Secretary Jacob Mamabolo cleared the confusion by saying the two fingers were a second-term salute, not the Kaizer Chiefs sign.

The day’s speakers were all aligned to Zuma – Jeff Radebe representing the ANC, Cosatu President Sdumo Dlamini and Young Communist League National Secretary Buti Manamela.

Speaking before Nzimande, Manamela said tripartite alliance members who associate with the Friends of the Youth League (FYL) should be expelled. The FYL represents the cause of Julius Malema and his executive who were expelled or suspended. 

“We cannot have such friends. Friends who behave in that manner can only be categorised as enemies, and we must treat them as such. If you associate with the enemies of the movement, you must also be regarded as an enemy,” said Manamela.

As the communist leaders cut their birthday cake and sipped champagne, a YCL member sat outside on the Town Hall steps looking at the row of Mercedes and BMWs. He said Nzimande mentioned all the right things—the need to fight corruption and tenderpreneurs, the SACP’s role in political education of the ANC and the need to create a socialist economy.

“But they drive these fancy cars,” said the YCL member, not wanting to be named. He added that education, employment and health remain in crisis while the perception is that SACP leaders have sacrificed their revolutionary platform for spots in government. As he was talking, Nzimande’s wife walked past and waited for her husband in their 7-series BMW. DM

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Photo: Nzimande cuts the SACP birthday cake with Communist Party leaders (Greg Nicolson/Daily Maverick)


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