/ 26 November 2010

Young communists brace for a fight

Buti Manamela’s position as the national secretary of the Young Communist League (YCL) will be challenged when the league holds its national congress in two weeks’ time.

The conference is also expected to see the old debate about the South African Communist Party contesting elections on its own revived.

The detractors of Manamela, who has been the leader since 2003, accuse him of being too cosy with the party’s senior leader, particularly with Blade Nzimande, the general secretary. But he hit back at them, denying that the league’s voice had been stifled because of his close ties with Nzimande.

“We remain the YCL of the SACP. If we are accused of being too close to the leadership of the SACP, then we plead guilty. Where we differ, we’re not going to keep quiet, but we’re not going to scrape around for negative things just to prove that we’re vocal,” Manamela said.

It was also “extremely false” and “opportunistic” to accuse the league of being submissive on issues that affect young people, he said. But he would not answer questions about the leadership contest, which will see him being challenged by Khaye Nkwanyana, his deputy.

If Manamela is re-elected it will be for a third term — a practice the league challenged when former ANC ­president Thabo Mbeki wanted to do the same.

Addressing the question of the SACP standing for election on its own, Manamela said that “persistent contradictions” between the SACP and ANC made the issue more ­relevant than ever.

The proposal has been raised before but has never garnered much support. The SACP’s 12th special congress in December last year ruled it out, confirming the ANC-led alliance as a suitable mechanism to contest elections.

The league’s conference political report declares that “we cannot allow the party to be content with power allocated not directly from the ballot but from an ANC-led election platform and at the dictate and mercy of the ANC. The fact that things have changed now is mainly due to the personalities who are at the helm of the ANC, especially the president [Jacob Zuma].

Manamela said: “We should not be under the delusion that the alliance will be permanent. The socialist agenda of the SACP extends beyond the vision of the ANC. That fundamental contradiction will always be there.”

The league would not shy away from the struggle within the ANC to dislodge communists and the movement would try to win over that part of the black middle class that misunderstood socialism, Manamela said.

“We will make them understand that socialism is not about poverty. It is about equitable distribution of wealth. Capitalism, on the other hand, is associated with greed.”

The league, which claims to have 54 000 members, supports the “strategic nationalisation” of the mines, entailing expropriation without compensation. This is designed to stop capitalist mine owners from using nationalisation to bail them out of debt.

‘The reality’
Though the league’s conference documents express appreciation of the ANC’s inclusive approach in appointing Cabinet ministers and MPs, it decries “the reality” that, once appointed, they account to the ANC and “succumb” to its discipline.

The league questions why the ANC has the power to recall members from Parliament or Cabinet without consulting the alliance, while appointments are made in consultation with alliance members.

Recently, Zuma sacked Noluthando Mayende-Sibiya, an SACP central committee member, as the minister of women, children and people with disabilities.