Mantashe: ANC must remain political centre

The African National Congress (ANC) must remain the political centre of the ruling alliance, party secretary general and South African Communist Party (SACP) chairperson Gwede Mantashe said on Thursday.

“Any notion of liquidating the components of the alliance into a single structure will change the concept of an alliance and replace it with an organisation,” Mantashe said in an address for delivery at the SACP national congress in Polokwane.

Mantashe said at the party’s last alliance summit—between the ANC, SACP, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and the South African National Civic Organisation (Sanco)—a draft programme to “operationalise” the alliance as the political centre was returned for re-working.

At an alliance summit last year, it was agreed that the alliance was the political centre, which was translated in various ways by the structures of the organisations.

“In the majority of cases it was interpreted as meaning that the decision-making power of the ANC is transferred to the alliance as the political centre,” Mantashe said.

The Sunday newspaper City Press reported that the “top secret lobbying document” put forward by Cosatu leaders suggested that policies and deployment should be determined by the alliance and not the ANC alone.

According to the article, the ANC had rejected the document “Draft alliance programme of action for fundamental transformation of society”.

The document reportedly stated that: “A qualitative shift in our politics and practice will entail a functioning alliance that determines strategy and deployment jointly.”

The document called for the creation of a structure to “manage the day-to-day affairs of the alliance”, and which was likely to parallel the ANC’s national working committee.

Mantashe on Thursday said the draft programme took the issue of the political centre “another step forward”.

“This is a tactical mistake that must be thought through carefully if we are not going to push the alliance to the brink,” he said.

“An alliance is an association formed for mutual benefit among allies.”

The alliance was based on principles including that of “independent partners” with the right to debate matters and take decisions. Its partners had to seek to influence each other and influence other partners and the “historic leadership role of the ANC must be reaffirmed”.

Therefore, the resolutions taken at the SACP congress were not going to be subjected to an alliance review process, rather it would be used to influence the other partners.

“The alliance cannot operate like a structure, hence decisions are taken by consensus,” said Mantashe.

“Communists are expected to be leading the efforts of keeping the alliance united and not be seen as reckless in dealing with the ANC in particular.”

He condemned “hurling insults and seeking to attack comrades in person” as a sign of “political immaturity” which did not have a place in the SACP.

He urged SACP members not to play into the hands of those who claimed that “there is a threat of a communist takeover” of the ANC by proclaiming our own” at ruling party conferences.

“Communists in the ANC are not communist members of the ANC, they are members of the ANC.

“When we campaign for them we must do so because they deserve to be elected through their hard work.”

The issue of SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande being deployed to Parliament was raised by Mantashe.
He said the challenge centred not on Nzimande’s deployment, but on strengthening the leadership of the communist party.

“The challenge therefore is how to ensure that the party improves its full-time capacity to do party work. This cannot be a function of the party being absent in government where the highest concentration of political power is.

“We must consider restructuring the secretariat by creating full time positions of the Organising and Administration secretaries.”

He requested that delegates also discuss why party national office bearers never held meetings.

“We need the party today more than ever before. Class contradictions within our movement are going to be more intensive as we move ahead. We must strengthen our leadership structures and make the party more effective.”

He said the party should “confront the reality” that racists were becoming more confident in South Africa.

“Organisations like Afri-forum are becoming bolder in fighting for the racist cause,” he charged, adding that there was a real risk of some reacting in the “extreme” to this.

“Both affirmative action and the BEE [black economic empowerment] are under siege and progressive forces are not as forthcoming as they should. This is one area that needs our urgent attention as the movement.”—Sapa

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