ANC's civil war with the left hots up
The battle lines have been drawn between moderates and leftists in the ANC following a stern warning by ANC president Jacob Zuma that the left should not flex its muscles over deployments in government.
Tensions in the tripartite alliance surfaced after ANC national executive committee (NEC) member Billy Masetlha warned in an interview with the Mail & Guardian last week that the South African Communist Party and Cosatu should not try to impose their socialist views on the ANC.
In what is likely to heighten insecurity among ANC nationalists Cosatu leaders have told the M&G of their plan to push for a ‘socialist” economic policy at the alliance summit scheduled for next month.
The M&G has learned that Masetlha’s comments are the culmination of events that started at a national executive committee meeting three weeks ago, in which Zuma referred to a ‘tendency” among the ANC’s allies to try to meddle in state appointments to ensure that their members get jobs in government and thus influence economic policy.
The discussion arose after the party’s Eastern Cape conference in September, where Phumulo Masualle, the SACP national treasurer, was elected provincial chairperson over Eastern Cape finance minister Mcebisi Jonas.
In a bid to win votes for Masualle at the conference a pamphlet was distributed setting out the SACP’s plans to clean up corruption in government and make changes in economic policy, particularly using state intervention to create jobs.
The SACP’s national leadership explained to the NEC that the party had distanced itself from the pamphlet, former arts and culture minister Pallo Jordan told the M&G.
After the conference the Eastern Cape SACP also released a statement saying the party will ‘support the new leadership in making changes where necessary”, implying that a provincial cabinet reshuffle is on the cards.
According to members at the recent NEC meeting, Zuma insisted that ANC deployees serve in government on an ANC ticket and that the alliance cannot be involved in deployment.
Masualle was widely expected to reshuffle the cabinet and his associates made it clear that Eastern Cape Premier Noxolo Kieviet’s days were numbered. But the implication of Zuma’s declaration was that the decision rests with the NEC.
Masualle’s election sparked anxiety among ANC moderates about the growing power of SACP members in the ruling party. It was this that prompted Masetlha to publicly express disquiet about Cosatu and the SACP’s push for a socialist agenda in the ANC.
Although Masetlha’s statements were echoed privately by a number of ANC leaders this week, few were willing to publicly support his stance.
The ANC distanced itself from his comments.
But ANC NEC member and Limpopo Premier Cassel Mathale said that all alliance partners should understand that Cabinet ministers were ANC members and that they were not appointed because they belonged to Cosatu or the SACP. ‘The president appointed them because they are ANC members in good standing and he had faith in them to carry out the mandate,” Mathale said.
Mathale said it should be expected that both the SACP and Cosatu would want to influence what happens in the country, but he said that did not constitute a fight for the control of the ANC.
But he reminded those aiming to change the ANC’s direction to socialism that the ANC alone is the ruling party in the country. ‘When we attained democracy the colour of the flag that was raised was black, green and gold. We did not raise a red flag.”
Mathale compared the ANC to a bus carrying different passengers who might be heading in different directions. ‘When that bus went to Polokwane, people thought delegates had agreed on the long-term direction of the bus, but there was no pact.”
Young Communist League national secretary Buti Manamela this week interpreted Masetlha’s comments as an attempt to isolate the SACP and Cosatu.
‘We cannot go back to that painful period where communists were seen as a threat,” Manamela said, adding: ‘Masetlha is threatening Zuma with a revolt at the next conference of the ANC on the basis that he is standing for a principle of uniting the alliance. We will never allow that to happen.”
In an interview this week Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini revealed that the federation would propose a new economic growth path at the alliance summit. He warned that unless Zuma’s new administration made a significant shift from its policies, the new ANC’s priorities would remain a pipe dream.
‘There’s no way we can achieve these priorities in the current neo-liberal mode. We need an alternative to Gear [growth employment and redistribution policy]. For us, socialism is the way to go. Polokwane signalled a shift from neo-liberal policies.”
It is understood that Cosatu and the SACP will present a united front at the summit to push for ANC adoption of socialist policies, including the nationalisation of strategic assets in critical sectors of the economy, notably in the chemical, energy and mining industries.
Companies targeted for nationalisation include Sasol and Mittal Steel. The left will also push for the establishment of a state bank and mining company to accelerate development.
Cosatu also wants changes in monetary and fiscal policy, including interest rates and with regard to the budget surplus. Dlamini said Cosatu would put pressure on Zuma to amend the Constitution to allow some of the powers vested in the treasury to be shifted to Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel.
He said Cosatu was worried that Patel has not been given sufficient capacity to develop economic policy. ‘He [Patel] is sharing office space with Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies. Our view is that the department must lead us in developing economic policies,” said Dlamini.
A member of Zuma’s executive, who asked not to be named, said that the ANC was unlikely to accede to Cosatu’s demands, as there had already been a major shift in the government’s economic stance.
‘Gear does not exist any more. There might still be some elements of it, such as inflation targeting, but these were not key to Gear. The key elements were 6% economic growth and privatisation of state assets. The government has abandoned this.
‘The focus now is on addressing persistent realities of underdevelopment and unemployment, which have risen sharply in the past 15 years.”
The M&G understands that at this week’s alliance political council, Cosatu and the SACP were told to stop attacking ANC leaders in public and engage with issues.
‘There was consensus that people have to move away from personalities and engage with the strategic planning of government,” said an ANC NEC member who attended the alliance meeting.
Jordan said Masetlha’s comments reflected the age-old battle in the ANC between communists and the moderates and was ‘old hat”.