The complete absence of left-wing leaders in President Kgalema Motlanthe’s Cabinet has heightened fears among ANC president Jacob Zuma’s left-wing supporters that they are being marginalised.
Delegates to the South African Communist Party’s policy conference last week challenged the leadership on the absence of communists in President Kgalema Motlanthe’s inaugural Cabinet.
Delegates who attended the conference quizzed their leadership on why Motlanthe ‘ignored the communistsâ€.
In addition the economic summit of the tripartite alliance, scheduled for this weekend, has been cancelled which the left believes is as an important vehicle for influencing government policy.
Instead, a meeting of the alliance leaders will be held at which the appointment of the deputy ministers in vacant portfolios — finance, foreign affairs and correctional services — will be discussed.
At the SACP’s policy conference delegates complained that the party was not consulted about the appointment of the new Cabinet members, after one communist leader conceded that the appointments took place ‘without a great deal of consultationâ€.
Delegates said long-serving communists in government and the National Assembly, such as Trade and Industry Deputy Minister Rob Davies and parliamentary transport committee chairperson Jeremy Cronin, could have been considered for Cabinet jobs.
Parliamentary justice committee chairperson Yunus Carrim was seen as a possible candidate for the post of justice minister vacated by Brigitte Mabandla.
Mabandla was shifted to the public enterprises ministry, which the communists want to scrap.
‘There is quite a lot of unhappiness about that,â€ said an alliance leader. ‘Hopefully it will be different next year [after the elections] when people are appointed for the long term.â€
Senior SACP leaders conceded that the first ‘major deployment statementâ€ by the ANC’s post-Polokwane leadership presented an opportunity to show a reformed party in which the left has more say.
However, they tried to allay delegates’ concerns by underscoring the temporary nature of the new appointments.
Said one: ‘This is essentially a holding operation and the sideways shuffle of people like Manto [Tshabalala-Msimang, former health minister] and Mabandla showed that [the appointments] were about assuring the public that this is as neutral as possible.â€
Concerns about losing influence on the ruling party were also highlighted by the rejection of parliamentary seats for the SACP, on the grounds that ‘we don’t want to be seen as going against the ANCâ€.
Another SACP leader said the conference avoided pushing for communists in Parliament on an ANC ticket to articulate an SACP agenda.
The ANC has made it clear that the SACP must either toe the ANC line or win seats on its own ticket. This contrasts with Zuma’s call some years ago for communists to argue more left-wing viewpoints in parliamentary debates.
‘[The SACP leadership] suppressed that idea because there is an opportunistic concern by those who think the regime they helped establish in Polokwane should help them now,â€ the leader said, suggesting the leadership soft-pedalled because they have an eye on big jobs next year.
‘They are now the ‘Polokwane class project’. They think they are owed positions and now they are deserting the class struggle,â€ a provincial SACP leader said.
A fracture appears to be developing between ANC president Jacob Zuma and the left.
Said an ANC provincial leader: ‘He has not delivered on any promises and did not give in to any of their demands. The postponement of the economic summit is a big blow to them.
‘The ANC is consumed with getting together the election manifesto. This summit is not their top priority, as the left would want it to be.â€
Meanwhile, the ANC Youth League is also scrambling to shore up its relevance. This week the league’s regional leadership on the KwaZulu-Natal North Coast condemned the weekend attack by Social Development Minister Zola Skweyiya on league president Julius Malema.
In an interview with the Sunday Independent Skweyiya said Malema was an ’embarrassmentâ€ to the party and had shown ‘shocking disrespectâ€.
‘People … call me every night complaining, ‘What are you doing about this child?’,â€ he was quoted saying.
North Coast league spokesperson Sicelo Mdletshe said certain people wanted to ‘reduce [Malema] to a
‘We feel that people want him not to have the credibility and the respect that he demands. They want to downplay what he says. They don’t take Malema seriously, and ridicule him,â€ he told the Mail & Guardian.
But efforts by the elders to get the league to toe the line appears to be working higher up the ladder. National league spokesperson Floyd Shivambu said there were no plans to haul Skweyiya before its executive committee as the young lions did with Motlanthe prior to his becoming president.
The youth league did not succeed in influencing the choice of president as Zuma did not back its candidate for the presidency, Baleka Mbete. Zuma, advised by ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe, opted for Motlanthe, as the most senior ANC member after himself.