/ 13 July 2007

Red Blade’s bourgeois life

SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande definitely does not lead the life of a ”horny-handed son of toil”. The Mail & Guardian understands that his salary is equivalent to that of deputy ministers, who earn between R700 000 and R800 000 a year.

Nzimande lives in a large home in the upmarket Johannesburg suburb of Emmarentia and has been known to have up to four luxury vehicles in his garage. He is most commonly seen in his black Grand Jeep Cherokee, for which he has a driver.

Most delegates chugged to the SACP’s 12th national congress in Port Elizabeth in overnight trains and walked about 1km from where they were staying to the venue, the Nelson Mandela University campus.

Nzimande flew down to the congress and cruised to the venue each day in a hired Mercedes Benz.

In another development some party members warned that the growth of the SACP could be hindered by a creeping personality cult around Nzimande.

The Gauteng SACP leadership ”pronounced on this Stalinisation of the party leadership” at its recent executive meeting, said a member who was present. ”It has become a case of either you’re with Blade or you’re part of what he calls the 1996 class project,” said the Gauteng leader. ”It’s that simplistic, there is no room to debate.”

SACP treasurer Phillip Dexter was suspended recently from the party for a document he wrote intended for publication by the SACP, in which he criticised ”a rigid, doctrinaire, dogmatic, quasi-Stalinist tendency that apparently seeks to centralise all power in the SACP in the hands of the general secretary and a few individuals around him”.

Dexter is the latest in a growing list of party members who have either been suspended or expelled for criticising the organisation.

In November 2005 Mazibuko Jara, former secretary of the Young Communist League (YCL), was suspended for reasons that remain unclear. He had written a paper recently that was critical of the SACP, called What Colour is our Flag: Red or JZ?

Last year Vishwas Satgar, former Gauteng provincial secretary, resigned from active office after accusing Nzimande of trying to silence him.

Another senior party member from the Free State said that ”in a party where there is a lot of popularisation there is a weakness for personality cults … and it’s a threat we have to be acutely aware of”.

Another national party leader said Dexter has been critical of Nzimande’s leadership style for the past three years and the general secretary ”eventually reached desperation levels”.

Dexter has appealed against his suspension on the grounds that he was not given a fair hearing and that it was unconstitutional because the decision was taken by the politburo, not the central committee.

Another Gauteng leader said the personality cult developing around Nzimande was the result of his and his inner circle’s blind support for the ANC deputy president Jacob Zuma. ”Blade and his comrades are tied to JZ and they’re thinking about their anticipated positions in the anticipated JZ government.”

SACP deputy general secretary Jeremy Cronin said he did not believe there was a personality cult in the party, but added: ”Any organisation needs to watch that — it’s been a legacy in some communist parties that has become very dangerous.”

Nzimande’s inner circle is seen as including YCL secretary Buti Manamela, Nehawu general secretary Fikile ”Slovo” Majola, Sadtu general secretary Thulas Nxesi, KwaZulu-Natal SACP secretary Themba Mthembu and chairperson Willies Mchunu, Eastern Cape SACP secretary Mandla Makhupulo and chairperson Phumulo Masualle, Western Cape provincial secretary Khaya Magaxa, Free State chairperson Zet Hleko and Mpumulanga secretary and chairperson Bonakele Majuba and Madala Masuku.

At a press briefing on Wednesday Nzimande dismissed claims of a planned purge of SACP members critical of him. ”There is nothing of the sort,” he said.

Apology printed on July 27 2007

In ‘Red Blade’s bourgeois life” (July 13), the Mail & Guardian said it understood SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande’s salary to be equivalent to that of a deputy minister, ranging between R700 000 and R800 000 a year. Nzimande says this is ‘completely false”.

We also reported that Nzimande ‘has been known to have up to four luxury vehicles in his garage”. Nzimande says his property cannot accommodate four cars and that he only drives the black Jeep Grand Cherokee as reported.

We retract and apologise for these reports. We also apologise for our failure to contact Nzimande ahead of publication about the questions of lifestyle.

We note that our information on his salary was calculated as follows: Nzimande earns a total package of a parliamentary portfolio committee chairperson, which ranges between R625 476 and R683 973 per annum; plus a R250 000 car allowance.