SACP: Stop factionalism or kiss the movement goodbye
- Greg Nicolson
- South Africa
- 28 Aug 2016 09:03 (South Africa)
The South African Communist Party on Sunday expressed grave concern over the future of the ANC-led Alliance, saying the ruling party must tackle factionalism or risk the future of party and country. Its answer: The ANC needs to hold a non-elective consultative conference, like the Morogoro conference of 1969, with leaders of society who can be trusted. By GREG NICOLSON.
SACP Secretary-General Blade Nzimande said the ANC Youth League’s call for the party to hold an early national elective conference was “entirely factional” and would hasten the decline of the ANC. Instead, the SACP recommended a non-elective consultative conference be held in advance of an elective congress in December 2017.
Nzimande was speaking in Ekurhuleni on Sunday following a meeting of the SACP's congress central committee (CCC). The party reflected on the ANC’s loss of support in the local government elections, alliance factionalism, and the Hawks’ investigation into Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.
“I think it’s time we say, ‘Let’s grow up and outgrow factionalism,’” said Nzimande. “It feels like we are 10 years ago once again,” he said, referring to the battle between then-president Thabo Mbeki and his deputy Jacob Zuma. “We can’t just be going through this all the time. A way must be found.”
The SACP said an ANC non-elective conference should aim at unifying the party and alliance and reflect on individual and collective mistakes. Implying that the communists don’t trust ANC leaders to organise a fair event, they suggested all provinces should send an equal number of delegates to avoid accreditation disputes, and said alliance partners, veterans of the movement and “other progressive forces” such as the South African Council of Churches should play a role.
“Agreement should be reached, if possible, on the transition to a new leadership, and, at the very least, mechanisms to ensure that the December 2017 conference will not be characterised by a shoot-out between winner-takes-all mutually exclusive slates. Regardless of the winning slate, such an outcome will simply accelerate the decline of the ANC,” said the CCC statement regarding factionalism.
The winner would inherit an empty shell, said Nzimande:
“I can tell you if we can't find an answer to it we can kiss our movement goodbye.”
The SACP also condemned the “politically motivated harassment” of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, calling the Hawks’ investigation into the SARS investigative unit established under his watch a “flimsy concoction without the slightest basis in law”.
Nzimande noted the Hawks claim earlier this year that Gordhan wasn’t a suspect, only to turn around and look to charging him immediately after the local government elections.
“The current harassment of Comrade Gordhan bears an uncanny resemblance to those events,” the party noted on the similarities between the case against Gordhan and that against Zuma as deputy president, “where judicial processes are used and abused for political ends.
“If they’ve got something against the minister of finance they must handle it in a more forthright manner,” said Nzimande.
While there have been calls for Zuma to intervene either through speaking to the Hawks and Gordhan or taking action against Hawks leaders, Nzimande did not offer a solution on how the case should be handled.
The SACP said the Hawks’ investigation was a pretext to removing Gordhan, something the minister has reportedly told Treasury staffers, to weaken his office’s fight against corruption and state capture. The SACP asked what the SARS unit had uncovered that has led to desperate attempts to incapacitate the organisation.
While tax records are confidential, it noted reports that the SARS investigation involved the cigarette industry and tobacco player Carnilinx, owned by Italian Adriano Mazzotti.
Mazzotti donated money for the EFF’s Independent Electoral Commission registration fees in 2014, which suggested he had ties to ANC Youth League members before Julius Malema was expelled from the ANC, the SACP suggested. He has said he is being investigated by SARS. The party was reluctant to say it, but its focus on Mazzotti suggests it believes he could be linked to someone either senior or close to ANC leaders who would benefit from SARS desisting such investigations.
“The elections should be a wake up call,” said Nzimande on the ANC.
The SACP statement added:
“Growing numbers of South Africans are tired of being taken for granted. They believe that ANC formal structures are increasingly inward-looking, pre-occupied with factional battles and money politics. They believe that the conduct of ANC politicians is often arrogant and aloof.”
Putting Zuma forward in the election campaign played into opposition strategies, it added, allowing opposition parties to focus on national ANC leadership rather than local government policy.
The ANC’s national executive committee has taken collective responsibility for the loss in electoral support and noted what it believes it needs to change. The SACP said while the ANC acknowledged the challenges – the growing distance from communities, gate-keeping, factionalism, state-based campaigning, winner-takes-all results, personality and money politics – they’ve heard it all before.
“If we are to be honest, the jury is out as to whether there is the internal capacity to carry forward such a revitalisation,” said the SACP. That’s probably why the party recommended that the ANC hold a “consultative conference” in the tradition of the 1969 ANC Morogoro conference, held during one of the most troubling times for the liberation movement, the ANC and its allies.
The SACP said it wasn’t its place to say whether Zuma should resign in the wake of the election results. But amid reports that communist ministers could lose their posts in Cabinet, it questioned the president’s prerogative to make such decisions.
“The [ANC] NEC must develop a collective consciousness to arrive at collective decisions,” said SACP Deputy General Secretary Jeremy Cronin.
It was a clear call to challenge factionalism and what’s seen as Zuma’s biased use of power. If there was any doubt as to who the SACP were challenging, Second Deputy General Secretary Solly Mapaila ended the press conference by questioning why ANC leaders continuously condemned factionalism but haven’t warned a widely reported prominent ANC faction: The Premier League. DM
Photo: SACP General Secretary Blade Nzimande speaks at the party press conference on issues of ANC factionalism and charges against Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, Sunday 28 August 2016. (Greg Nicolson)