ANC national executive committee (NEC) member Billy Masetlha has become the first senior leader to express concerns publicly about the growing dominance of Cosatu and the SACP in the ANC.
Anxiety has grown among party leaders in the past few months about the left’s influence on key ANC policy decisions since the 2007 Polokwane conference.
Masetlha told the Mail & Guardian this week that a number of senior ANC leaders have expressed disquiet about the push by Cosatu and the SACP for a socialist agenda within the ANC.
He singled out SACP boss Blade Nzimande as the main architect behind the left’s socialist agenda within the party, saying he found it strange that Nzimande had abandoned the SACP to join the Cabinet and was now trying hard to influence the direction of the ANC.
“I take serious exception to [his doing] that,” Masetlha told the M&G. “I will have a problem with someone trying to impose a communist manifesto on the ANC. We fired a lot of [comrades] in the past who wanted to do the same thing.”
He also took issue with President Jacob Zuma’s silence regarding the left’s agenda in the ANC, warning him that if he did not take a firm stand on the new tendencies, ANC members would revolt against him as they had against his predecessor, Thabo Mbeki.
Other senior ANC figures who spoke to the M&G on condition of anonymity echoed Masetlha’s views.
Zuma has been criticised by some within the ANC for succumbing to leftist pressure on a number of key decisions taken since he became president. These include the removal of Tito Mboweni as Reserve Bank governor, the removal of the SABC board and the appointment of Ebrahim Patel as economic development minister.
Zuma has come under pressure for failing to defend Trevor Manuel, minister in the presidency for national planning, whom alliance leaders have been attacking for pushing the agenda of the “1996 Class Project,” in the form of mainstream macroeconomic policies.
Said Masetlha: “If we have not pronounced our position on these new tendencies, this does not mean we are fools. The ANC was not founded on a socialist agenda. Socialism has no space within the ANC.
“The cause for our struggle has always been about national liberation. The day the ANC sings to the socialist agenda, it would be signing its death warrant.”
One ANC provincial leader complained about an apparent double standard regarding the treatment of communist leaders and ANC leaders: “As we speak, Zweli Mkhize [ANC chairperson in KwaZulu-Natal] and Ace Magashule [ANC Free State chairperson] are being made to choose between being directly elected members of the NEC and being ex-officio provincial chairs. They are being told they can’t be both.
“But people are quiet about Gwede [Mantashe], who is the chair of the SACP and ANC secretary general, Nzimande, who is general secretary of the communist party, an ANC NEC member and a minister in government, and Phumulo Masualle who is ANC provincial chair in the Eastern Cape and SACP treasurer.”
ANC leaders were afraid to speak out against Cosatu and SACP leaders, the source said, because they were too close to Zuma.
“For example, on the issue of expensive cars for ministers, comrades wanted to respond to Cosatu but had to retreat because they are not sure of the backlash.
“The problem — is that JZ [Zuma] was carried so much by the alliance partners to — where he is.
“He initially had little support in the ANC itself but [the alliance partners] pushed for him. That has compromised the movement because now we have to carry them, whatever we do.
“You watch it, these guys will get what they want on the soldiers’ unionisation and labour-brokers’ issues. Their proposals will go through and no one will challenge them. Look at the contrast. Check the energy with which people are attacking anything that has to do with Mbeki because it does not affect their careers and prospects.
“They go for the kill on anything associated with Mbeki such as Trevor Manuel, the North West ANC provincial executive, SAA and the SABC, because attacking Mbeki is a soft option.
“We should be saying [to the alliance partners]: you helped us towards Polokwane but that has been achieved. When we go to SACP or Cosatu conferences you never find us saying ‘we prefer so and so to lead them’ — [on the contrary] they dictate to us. Look at the Eastern Cape — where the SACP treasurer was elected chairperson. We need JZ to tell them to stop.”
He also complained about the increase in the deployment of alliance partners to the public service.
“As the situation stands, you have a number of men who were just ANC members who did not make it back as MPs and MPLs because they could not be catered for when we made space for youth, women and alliance partners.
“You must check the number of people we have deployed as alliance members in our legislatures — there are many. We understand why it’s like that but JZ must now stand up and defend ANC principles.
“We are only left with [Julius] Malema to be the repository of intellectual debates because everyone else is retreating in the ANC.”
But Malema appears to disagree with Masetlha and other senior ANC leaders: “I do not think there is any dominance of the left within the ANC,” he told the M&G, saying rather that there is “openness among comrades”.
He said Cosatu and the SACP were raising critical and substantial issues.
“What we need to do is to have more bilateral [interactions] in addition to the alliance summits with Cosatu and the SACP. We welcome the engagements.
The only thing we would not allow is when people try to take over the ANC.”