The South African Communist Party (SACP) is inherently contradictory. Its congress this week will decide whether it can finally face those contradictions or will continue to support its class rival, the ANC. By GREG NICOLSON.
In a bygone era, magazine covers were important. The SACP on Tuesday made sure to highlight the difference between the communist and ANC publications after the 1994 elections. The ’94 April vote led to President Nelson Mandela’s election, over 20 years ago. The SACP’s mag led with, “A luta continua!” The ANC’s official publication announced, “Free at Last!”
The divergent editorial positions were highlighted in the SACP’s political report, presented to the party’s 14th national congress on Tuesday by General Secretary Blade Nzimande, to highlight how the SACP and ANC differed in their approaches to democracy and governance. The communists said the struggle must continue while the ANC sold “real change”.
That’s the SACP’s recollection of events. On Tuesday Nzimande attacked President Jacob Zuma’s second term as president and criticised the influence of the Gupta family over the state. The communists, who have long criticised the country’s policy direction while remaining aligned to the ruling party and allowing its leaders to serve in ANC cabinets, will this week decide how they should interact with the ANC and whether they want to contest elections independently.
Nzimande went in on the Guptas. “The Guptas are not an answer to monopoly capital. They are two sides of the same coin,” he said. “We never fought the struggle to liberate this country to hand over our economy to a family known as the Guptas and call that liberation. Actually, it’s an affront. It’s a very serious affront to our revolution.”
He claimed the SACP has been fighting minority capital since the party’s 1921 formation.
“In many parts of the world, if the information like the ones coming out of the emails [would come out] some people would be in jail by now. But nothing is happening. Where is that going to end? Now it’s brazen. It’s brazen, the state capture, and we can’t only blame the Guptas. We must also blame those collaborating with the Guptas.”
Nzimande cited the robberies at institutions like the National Prosecuting Authority and the office of the chief justice. “Do we have a state? We must be self-critical. Do we have a state? Then what is to be done?” He said no one is talking about empowering the working class as conversations revolved around enriching the black elite.
That goes to the heart of the SACP’s view of what has happened since 1994. The political report outlined history often presented by the left. After South Africa achieved political freedom, and racist laws were changed, there was a call for a socialist-bent second radical phase of the transition. But the Soviet Union had collapsed and the United States dominated global politics, leading to neoliberal policies being adopted across the world, including in South Africa. That meant structural transformation issues could not be addressed, argued the SACP’s political document.
But Nzimande’s political report failed to address why the communists remained in the alliance despite recognising their agenda had been rejected and it jumped quickly to an analysis of Zuma’s term. The SACP said it supported Zuma because it was sidelined in the alliance and the 2007 ANC Polokwane conference resolved to make the ANC, rather than the presidency, the centre of power.
That commitment was betrayed, the communists claimed. “There has been a betrayal. Our trust has been broken and we must learn a lesson as the SACP,” said Nzimande. He said those supporting Zuma at the Polokwane conference formed “perhaps an unholy alliance”. The political report lists a number of achievements under Zuma’s first administration, but it hardly dealt with its leaders’ defence of the president while allegations against Zuma emerged, such as Nkandla, or why it backed someone already implicated in issues of corruption relating to the arms deal.
“The fifth democratic administration, and particularly since December 2015, has seen the dramatic disruption of the pre-existing, but always unstable, post-Polokwane relative correlation of forces within the ANC and government,” said the SACP political report. “Essentially this has been the result of a more determined, more reckless, but relatively well co-ordinated and well-resourced drive by a networked parasitic-patronage faction connected to the narrow BEE tendency and actively supported from the highest echelons of the ANC and state.”
The report also said, “It is an open secret, admitted by itself, that our leading alliance partner, the ANC, is threatened with serious decline, buffeted as it is by factionalism, moneyed patronage networks, and corporate capture. The internal crises affecting the ANC have begun to impact on its electoral performance, with a very steep decline in support, much of it due to a voter stayaway in many of our core mass bases. If the current trajectory is not reversed, the ANC is unlikely to pass the 50% mark in the general elections scheduled for 2019.”
It continued: “Much, but not all, of this popular decline is related to the almost daily revelation of scandals involving highly placed ANC politicians in government and particularly those who have been entangled within the notorious Gupta empire, including the president’s own family. The phenomenon of ‘state capture’ of critical and sensitive state organs and state-owned enterprises by a web of parasitic capitalists has created a parallel, shadow state, or even, as some leading academics have argued, a ‘silent coup’. Unfortunately, the perversions of parasitic-patronage networks are not confined to the national sphere alone. In many localities, moneyed factions gate-keep over ANC branch participation, and actively rig membership audits.”
What can the SACP do about it? We’ve heard the criticism of the ANC before. The report clearly articulates problems within the ruling party, which a number of SACP leaders represent in government. That conflict of interest is the central problem. The SACP wants a stronger role within the alliance and is considering contesting elections independently, on which this conference will make a decision. It will also ask whether party leaders should serve as leaders in ANC governments.
“We will not push the ANC off the cliff, but nor will we allow the SACP to be pulled off the cliff by those in the ANC whose greed and recklessness are carrying the ANC, and indeed our country, headlong towards the edge,” said the political report.
The SACP realises the current alliance formation doesn’t assist its agenda and has aligned itself to those opposing Zuma’s chosen ANC successor, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. Gauteng Premier David Makhura spoke at the party’s event on Monday, which was attended by former President Kgalema Motlanthe. Former President Thabo Mbeki was invited, which, considering the SACP’s criticism of his policies, was ironic. Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, Dlamini-Zuma’s opponent in the ANC election race, will address the SACP on Wednesday.
For years the SACP has criticised the ANC government’s policies while its leaders take Cabinet positions and refuse to distance themselves from the party that has betrayed them. The communists knew about the problems when they decided on a different magazine cover in 1994. The SACP national congress will determine whether the SACP is finally ready to act on its ideology, which will determine whether the party is ready to confront its inherent contradictions. DM
Photo: Minister of Higher Education Dr Blade Nzimande moderates the Competition, Inequality and Inclusive growth plenary sessionat the 4th BRICS International Competition Conference held in Durban 10-13 November 2015, at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli Convention Centre (Durban ICC), 13/11/2015. Siyasanga Mbambani