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23 November 2017 00:17 (South Africa)
Opinionista Blade Nzimande

The ANC alliance needs to be democratised – or risk the SACP reconfiguring it by other means

  • Blade Nzimande
    blade-nzimande-as-columnist.jpg
    Blade Nzimande

    Dr Blade Nzimande is the general secretary of the SA Communist Party (SACP) and former Minister of Higher Education and Training. See his Wikipedia profile.

The alliance needs to be reconfigured to function in accordance with democratic principles. Unilateralism and authoritarianism are the antithesis of the Alliance and will destroy it.

Our Red October Campaign 2017-2018 main rally this year occurs in the context of two important historic events: the centenary of the Socialist Revolution that occurred in Russia in 1917, and the centenary of the birthday of President OR Tambo.

The Great October Socialist Revolution brought an end to an oppressive regime in Russia. The revolution established the first government of the people under the leadership of the majority, the working class in alliance with the peasants.

Comrade President OR Tambo was born in the same year and during the same period that the Great October Socialist Revolution became successful. It appears there is poetic connection between the birth of President OR Tambo and the success of the Great October Socialist Revolution. President OR Tambo was born on 27 October 1917 and died on 24 April 1993. He would therefore have turned 100 in October if he were still alive. His death occurred a year before we achieved our historic April 1994 democratic breakthrough against colonial rule in our country, which he dedicated his entire youth and adult life to bringing to an end.

This Red October Campaign main rally is correctly dedicated to the centenaries of the Great October Socialist Revolution and the birthday of President OR Tambo.

Our message on this important occasion consistently maintains our programme to mobilise against crime, including corruption and state capture, violence in general and gender-based violence in particular. Taking our cue from the Great October Socialist Revolution and the good leadership example set by President OR Tambo, another important theme running through our message is that of building people’s power to selflessly serve the people wholeheartedly.

Inspired by the success of the Great October Socialist Revolution in 1917, taking our cue from the good leadership example set by President OR Tambo:

Let us defend, advance and deepen the principles of collective leadership, democratic governance and accountability!

President Oliver Tambo and his generation of leadership deeply understood that the struggle for national liberation was not only about throwing away the yoke of racial oppression. They understood that an all-encompassing economic and broader social emancipation is as important as political liberation. President OR Tambo and his generation of leadership understood that political liberation will be incomplete without radical economic and broader social emancipation. This is why, 23 years after our April 1994 historic democratic breakthrough, we still cannot claim that we are (fully) free.

Indeed, we have made many commendable advances. The defeat of the apartheid regime, the dismantling of its state apparatus and doctrine, the adoption of our democratically arrived at Constitution, and the building of democratic state institutions, are, in their own right, the most important achievements we have made. This is a foundation that made possible the many important social advances implemented, since then, benefiting millions of our people. These include the expansion of access to education at all levels, healthcare, clean water, housing, and household electrification and infrastructure in many of our communities. This work is itself not over.

There is still a lot that we need to do in order to build a fully non-racial, wholly non-sexist, completely democratic and outstandingly prosperous South Africa; a South Africa without the legacy of colonialism, apartheid and imperialist domination and exploitation. There is still a lot of work that we need to do to radically reduce and ultimately solve the problems we are faced with as a people.

The majority of South Africans are still facing persistently high levels of class, racial and gender inequality; unemployment; poverty; crime and violence in general, including gender-based violence in particular; abuse of women, children, people with albinism and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. In short, many of our people are facing a crisis of social insecurity in the household, in their communities, at work, at school and elsewhere. Millions of our people, especially the historically oppressed and the continuously exploited, are not free yet.

As if that were not enough, we are faced with multiple crises; the crisis of widespread state capture; the crisis of cancerous corruption; the crisis of governance decay destroying major public entities and State-owned Enterprises; the crisis of looting and plunder of public resources and our basic national wealth. Associated with these crises is the crisis of patronage and factional networks in collaboration with parasites and elements of monopoly capital pursued in the name of radical economic transformation.

Many crises emerged in this context:

  • SAA was flown into crisis.
  • The SABC was transmitted into crisis.
  • Our strategic fuel reserves were sold under mysterious circumstances at substantial discount at the Central Energy Fund.
  • PetroSA was fuelled into crisis.
  • A crisis was generated and distributed at Eskom.
  • A crisis of looting manoeuvres exploded at Denel.
  • The Public Investment Corporation, which handles approximately R2-trillion of state employees’ pension monies, faced unravelling looting manoeuvres.
  • Prasa was forced off the road and Transnet off the rails and both into crisis.
  • Social grants distribution was couriered to CPS, a subsidiary of Net1, foreign monopoly capital. SA Post Office/Bank was marginalised under this false radical economic transformation.

South Africa is faced with the immediate task of bringing an end to these and more other crises. We must stop all own goals. In addition, South Africa is faced with three deep-seated challenges to resolve:

First, we must eliminate the persisting legacy of colonial rule, apartheid oppression, capitalist exploitation and its imperialist domination. We must solve the resultant problems of inequality, unemployment, poverty and social insecurity.

Second, we must deliver ever greater political, economic and social progress through democratic transformation, development and delivery of quality services to the people.

Third, we must bring to an end malfeasance in our state. We must deal decisively with State Capture and corruption both in the public and private sectors.

President OR Tambo understood that our economy had to be transformed to serve the needs of our people, the majority of whom is made up of the workers, the poor and the exploited. It was these shared strategic and programmatic perspectives that formed and cemented the foundation of building our alliance.

President OR Tambo worked together with ANC and Alliance leaders, including Communist leaders such as Moses Kotane, Joe Slovo and many others. They built our alliance guided by the principles of unity of purpose and collective leadership. One of President OR Tambo’s outstanding leadership qualities was that he upheld the principle of democratic consensus-seeking consultation. It is this that he derived guidance from when he led the ANC, in part as a response to a memorandum produced by Comrade Chris Hani and other Umkhonto weSizwe combatants, to convene a consultative conference in 1969 in Morogoro, Tanzania. It was at this meeting that the ANC adopted its first Strategy and Tactics document.

The revolutionary perspectives we have just outlined, about uniting our alliance and movement as a whole to selflessly serve our people wholeheartedly, were elaborated in that historic document. The 1969 ANC Strategy and Tactics, adopted under the collective leadership of the ANC led by President OR Tambo, was embraced by the whole of our alliance, its individual components and formations of the mass democratic movement back home in South Africa. This did not occur by default. There was extensive consultation.

We cannot say the same today about the many decisions announced in the name of our shared national democratic revolution. OR Tambo was not an authoritarian. He did not promote unilateralism and factionalism both in organising and decision-making.

The best way we can honour the democratic legacy of President OR Tambo, his revolutionary contribution to our Struggle, is to reconfigure our alliance. The manner in which the alliance functions will, going forward, not be able to hold together the unity of its components and historical support base.

It is unprincipled, for instance, to expect alliance partners to campaign for the ANC to win elections only for the ANC alone, or worse for an individual or faction, to make decisions.

It is unfair to expect alliance partners to support the decisions they were not consulted on, and more so factional, divisive and wrong decisions.

It is unjustifiable to expect alliance partners to rally behind wrongdoing and the failure to hold those committing wrongdoing accountable.

In order for the alliance to survive, it has to be reconfigured to function in accordance with democratic principles. The strength of the alliance lies in internal democracy and in building democratic people’s power. Unilateralism and authoritarianism are the antithesis of the alliance and will destroy it.

The importance of consensus-seeking consultation cannot be overemphasised.

Similarly, the alliance must be visible both in the content of the decisions made and the people selected and deployed to implement those legislative and policy decisions. The alliance must be visible in monitoring implementation, performance assessment and holding accountable those deployed in the state. If we are an alliance we must be seen to be working together.

Those who have a problem with the alliance working together, who take decisions outside of the principles of democratic consensus-seeking consultation, collective leadership and accountability, cannot be trusted when they talk about the importance of the alliance.

The SACP denounces hypocrisy.

The crisis of unlawful social grants tender

We cannot believe individuals who claim to be the champions of radical economic transformation, yet who do everything possible to keep social grants distribution in the hands of apartheid era and foreign monopoly capital.

What is even worse is that the social grants distribution tender was awarded illegally and is unlawful. It is heartbreaking to observe government representatives labouring to prevent our own,state-owned Post Office/Bank from distributing social grants.

Instead of a developmental approach, instead of empowering the Post Office/Bank, what we see prevailing is characteristic of an effort to sell social grants distribution on tender to the highest private bidder. The SACP ledges its solidarity with social grants recipients against the stress and other mental health problems they are experiencing as a result of persistent action creating uncertainty around social grants distribution.

The state must take direct responsibility through the Post Office/Bank and other state entities to distribute social grants. The commitment to empower the Post Office/Bank, the commitment to build a developmental state-owned bank, must be seen in action implemented.

The unlawful manner in which the ongoing social grants tender was created must be investigated. Persisting action to perpetuate the illegal contract has reasonably given rise to the suspicion that the whole fiasco is underpinned by corruption and corrupt relationships.

The SACP says:

  • Let us work together to intensify the Know Your Neighbourhood and Act Campaign. Let us work together to solve social problems in our communities.
  • Let us work together with the Police and the National Prosecuting Authority to combat violence and gender-based abuse. Let us make sure that perpetrators are arrested, prosecuted and adequate sentencing is imposed.

Very recently the minster of Police said that there are criminal elements that infiltrated some of our police officers and officials. The SACP condemns police capture in the strongest terms possible.

However, the fact that there are criminal and corrupt elements that infiltrated the police does not mean that we must not work with the police and recognise the good work that good police do. We must defeat the capture of the police and decisively deal with criminals, according to the law.

Inspired by the success of the Great October Socialist Revolution in 1917: Let us build a popular left front to defend, advance and deepen our national democratic revolution towards socialism.

At our 14th Party Congress held in July, the SACP took a resolution to actively contest state power through elections and to buttress this by consistently building popular mass power. Contrary to ignorant commentary, we added new elements to our 12th and 13th Party Congress resolutions on state power adopted in 2007 and in 2012. Most important, we said going forward our electoral contest may no longer be limited to the prospects of a reconfigured alliance.

In other words, refusals to democratise the alliance; refusals to accept collective leadership of our national democratic revolution; refusals to engage in consensus-seeking consultation before major policy and deployment decisions are made, will leave us with no other option but to reconfigure the alliance via the ballot as the SACP or through a popular left front.

When we say we are committed to the alliance we mean it. We want the alliance to function as a single revolutionary democratic unit. The alliance must implement our shared national democratic revolution through the state – which must be an organ of democracy.

Reconfiguration from below

Think about Metsimaholo in the Free State province. The alliance and our plea for democracy, involving consensus-seeking consultation, were totally disregarded. Workers were dismissed from municipal work en masse. Our appeals for their reinstatement were ignored. Service delivery was compromised.

Only after communities called on the SACP to tackle the anti-worker and anti-alliance attitude via the ballot were all workers reinstated and an alliance meeting requested. The meeting did not bear any fruit. There was no indication that there was a change of heart. The SACP is forging ahead to an electoral contest in Metsimaholo. This is a matter of principle and loyalty to the communities that called on the SACP to contest the by-elections on 29 November. DM

This is an edited version of a speech that Blade Nzimande delivered at the main rally for the Red October Campaign 2017-2018 in Clermont, KwaZulu-Natal, on 12 November.

  • Blade Nzimande
    blade-nzimande-as-columnist.jpg
    Blade Nzimande

    Dr Blade Nzimande is the general secretary of the SA Communist Party (SACP) and former Minister of Higher Education and Training. See his Wikipedia profile.

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