SACP leaders say Blade Nzimande has unified the party ahead of its conference, though the expulsion of his opponents from the party might have helped.
Leaders of the South African Communist Party (SACP) on Wednesday defended both the party's decision to disband some of its provincial structures and expel senior members perceived to be hostile to general secretary Blade Nzimande’s leadership style ahead of the party’s elective conference this week.
Nzimande, who was appointed by President Jacob Zuma as higher education minister in 2009, is expected to be re-elected unopposed during the SACP’s national conference, held at the Zululand University in KwaZulu-Natal.
While SACP leaders have boasted about the fact that there would be no leadership contest at the conference, political observers said the reason for this this was because Nzimande had managed to wipe out all his opponents, including Limpopo finance minister David Masondo, former SACP secretary, and now ANC Limpopo provincial secretary Soviet Lekganyane, senior SACP Gauteng leaders Zico Tamela, Vishwas Satgar and Nkosiphendule Kolisile. Satgar was forced to resign from the party after he accused Nzimande of intolerance of different views and stanilism.
Masondo fell out of favour with Nzimande and other national leaders close to him after he questioned the party stance on nationalisation and the government’s new economic growth path. Masondo was also critical of Nzimande serving as both Cabinet minister and SACP general secretary.
According to SACP insiders, Masondo was also taken to task after he wrote a paper criticising the party’s deputy general secretary Jeremy Cronin for his endorsement of the government’s new growth path.
The party refused to publish Masondo’s paper on the party’s online publication Umsebenzi – in a move that many saw as a deliberate attempt to suppress his views.
SACP organising secretary Solly Mapaila and Cronin defended the decision to expel leaders from its ranks, saying it was done in the best interest of the party.
"It's far from the truth [that Nzimande has resorted to purging all those who are seen as hostile to his leadership]. We disbanded Limpopo after an assessment. If you were to read the assessment, they [provincial executive under Lekganyane] were unable to address [certain] issues. Today, [after leadership changes] Limpopo is leading the whole country in terms of campaigns [against corruption]," said Mapaila.
He said the party expelled Satgar because he started his own political party outside the SACP. "There were people who participated in that initiative [Satgar’s]. They were subjected to the disciplinary action. Some of them explained that they did not know [what Satgar was up to]. Zico was one of them and he was expelled as provincial secretary but he remains a member of the party," said Mapaila, who added that the SACP, under Nzimande and Cronin was now more united than ever and that the unity should be transferred to the entire ANC-alliance.
Cronin said while he acknowledged that leadership change was necessary at some stage, he believed Nzimande still had a lot to contribute to the party.
"Obviously the party is much bigger than Blade. The fact that we are coming into this conference stable and united [is something that needed to be celebrated]. The party is characterised by high degree of leadership. The membership has grown and we have [significant] influence in society," said Cronin.
All top five leaders were expected to retain their positions unopposed, except for ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe and Eastern Cape ANC chairperson Phumolo Masualle, who have declined nomination for the position of chairperson and national treasurer respectively.
Mantashe is expected to be replaced by National Union of Mineworkers president Senzeni Sokwana. It is not yet clear who would replace Masualle, who is reported to have fallen out of favour with Nzimande and other senior leaders in the SACP.