South African Communist Party Deputy General Secretary Solly Mapaila said the SACP had “full confidence” in President Cyril Ramaphosa, who delivered an “excellent” State of the Nation address on 13 February 2020. But the SACP’s support for Ramaphosa was not “unconditional” — it hinged on whether he stayed the course of honest leadership.
“Like we did have confidence in President Zuma, but when he deviated, we criticised him. The same in President Ramaphosa, but if he deviates, we will criticise him — that’s the long and short of it.”
Mapaila sat down with Daily Maverick for an impromptu conversation after addressing the Cape Town Press Club on 14 February.
An uMkhonto weSizwe veteran, Mapaila operated outside South Africa before 1994. He became Deputy General Secretary in 2012.
He was pleased with the government’s response to the youth unemployment crisis, which includes investment into the TVET sector by building more colleges and increasing the course offerings at those colleges.
Regarding Eskom, Mapaila felt it should remain the primary entity on energy in the country, but he was in favour of the government’s plans to source power from renewable energy resources.
These plans include purchasing supplementary power from existing wind and solar plants.
His sentiments on the SAA/SA Express Business Rescue process, however, were negative. He felt the processes followed by business rescue practitioners were effectively “killing the entity”:
“We (the SACP) think it’s a reckless posture and they’ve even undermined the guidelines regarding the law governing the Business Rescue process. For example, you are supposed to develop a report and share it with the shareholders; they don’t do that. Before they even present the report, they start taking drastic actions, cutting routes and so forth.”
He was “extremely angry” about worker retrenchments at SAA, saying there was “no consideration” for workers’ wellbeing.
More so, Mapaila asserted that if SAA collapses, it would result in major job losses in companies and industries linked to the national airline.
“There are companies that rely on the viability of SAA. It is therefore important that it must be protected.”
In response to the hour-long disruption by members of the EFF during the SONA, he condemned the attack on Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, calling it “unnecessary abuse”.
“We reject the racial slurs and undertones against him,’ said Mapaila on behalf of the SACP.
SONA proceedings were briefly suspended on Thursday after members of the EFF including leader Julius Malema and former spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi demanded that apartheid-era president FW De Klerk be removed from the National Assembly and for President Cyril Ramaphosa to fire Gordhan.
The EFF blamed Gordhan for the failure of the country’s state-owned enterprises (SOE), namely Eskom and SAA and referred to him by his second name “Jamnadas” a common tactic used by the party on Twitter in order to label Gordhan an outsider.
Mapaila affirmed that Gordhan was not to blame for the poor state of the SOEs:
“(The EFF) blames him on things that he literally would not have had power or influence on. He’s not the one that plunged Eskom into crisis. Eskom was plunged into crisis by first, underinvestment by government and second, by corruption and poor management.”
He felt that members of the EFF had placed themselves on the “moral high ground” despite having skeletons in their own closets.
“Let’s take the VBS scandal. This is basically a bank of the poor, that relied on savings of village men and women, old people, the pensioners. They stole from the poor.”
In the past, the SACP has supported Gordhan amid continued attacks from the EFF and the scathing 2019 report released by the Public Protector, Busisiwe Mkhwebane, accusing Gordhan of forming the infamous SARS Rogue Unit, thus linking him to State Capture.
The report is currently under judicial review.
The SACP has also joined forces with civil society organisations in continued efforts to fight corruption. Mapaila expressed the SACP’s support for the recent “year of the orange overalls” campaign led by the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation alongside other civil society groups to put those linked to State Capture behind bars.
Cosatu, the other partner in the tripartite alliance, released a statement on 14 February with an overall positive reaction to the SONA.
“The speech succeeded in identifying the bottlenecks that have led to economic stagnation and has managed to focus on some of the solutions that have been proposed by the ANC Manifesto,” wrote Matthew Parks, the Deputy Parliamentary Co-ordinator.
The response included welcoming the establishment of a state bank, the investment into the Prasa rail network and the building of TVET colleges, though concerns were raised over the lack of detailed plans to combat safety in schools and “scant details on how the government plans to restructure and rationalise” state-owned enterprises. DM
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