SACP moves to sharpen its act

The South African Communist Party (SACP) is expected to elect three more deputy general secretaries to accommodate the vacuum left by party boss Blade Nzimande, but the move has not been universally welcomed.

“All of these constitutional amendments are done for [the] political expediency of the general secretary [Nzimande],” said a senior member of the party’s central committee, who did not wish to be named.

Nzimande has been under intense pressure from the alliance, particularly from trade union federation Cosatu, to step down from his post as higher education minister and assume his full-time position at the party’s head office in Johannesburg.

Central to Cosatu’s concern is that, since Nzimande’s move to the government, the SACP has abandoned its working-class programmes and has taken a softer stance on major issues affecting the poor.

Nzimande blamed for the left’s dormancy
Another major concern raised by Nzimande’s detractors is that the voice of the left in the tripartite alliance has been weakened since he joined the government.

The national conference of the SACP in July, to be held at the Uni­ver­sity of Zululand, is expected to endorse a position taken at the party’s policy conference in Polokwane in 2009 that the position of the general secretary should not be full-time.

“Initially, the constitution was not meant to be changed,” said the central committee member.

“Blade was supposed to be chairman. But the problem was where do you take the current chairperson [Gwede Mantashe]. The other dilemma was who comes in if the incumbent [Nzimande] goes out.”

The proposal to elect three more deputy general secretaries will be high on the agenda of the Gauteng provincial congress, to be held this weekend in Benoni on the East Rand.

Other key proposals will include the call for the renationalisation of steel-producer ArcelorMittal and petrochemical giant Sasol.

More secretaries to strengthen the party
Acting provincial secretary Jacob Mamabolo said the proposal to elect more deputy secretaries was aimed at strengthening the party secretariat.

One of the candidates tipped for one of the deputy general secretary positions is Nzimande’s protégé, Solly Mapaila, who, with Chris Matlhako and Charles Setsubi, has been running the head office since Nzimande joined the government.

Mamabolo said the proposal would form part of the SACP’s vision to take the party forward and consolidate the national democratic revolution.

He defended Nzimande’s deployment in government and said the party took a decision at its previous policy conference to occupy all spheres of power and the state.

“The deployment of communist cadres has helped change the character of the state,” said Mamabolo. “Organs of state have now taken a revolutionary posture since we occupied positions in the government.”

SACP needs ‘full-time leadership’
In the past few months, Cosatu has insisted that the SACP needs to re-establish its focus and ensure that it has full-time leadership whose primary commitment is to drive the organisation forward.

Cosatu was referring mainly to Nzimande, a close ally of President Jacob Zuma.

SACP spokesperson Malesela Maleka said those “making noises” about Nzimande’s return to head office were mainly members of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa).

“It’s a tired debate,” said Maleka. “They keep on harping on one point and are not adding value to the ­party’s ideological debates and policy proposals. We are in the alliance with Cosatu, not Numsa.”

Approached for comment, Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim said: “Our role is to build the SACP and we will do everything that we can to strengthen it, because it is our interest, it is our vanguard party.

“In this connection, we want our SACP leadership and membership to play its vanguard role, without compromising the organisational strength of the working class.”

Northern Cape provincial secretary Norman Shushu said there was no crisis of leadership in the SACP.

“The centre is intact and is not about to fall part,” he said.

Charles Molele

Charles Molele

Charles Molele is a senior politics reporter at the Mail & Guardian. Charles joined the paper in 2011. He has covered general news, court and politics for the past 19 years, and also worked as a senior reporter for the Saturday Star, Sunday World, ThisDay, Sunday Times and is former politics editor of the New Age. Charles's other career highlights include covering Kenya's violent general elections (2007/08), Zimbabwe’s sham general elections (2008), Mozambique's food riots (2010) and the historic re-election of US President Barack Obama (2012).
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    Matuma Letsoalo is a senior politics reporter at the Mail & Guardian. He joined the newspaper in 2003, focussing on politics and labour, and collaborated with the M&G's centre for investigations, amaBhungane, from time to time.In 2011, Matuma won the South African Journalist of the Year Award and was also the winner in the investigative journalism category in the same year.In 2004, he won the CNN African Journalist of the Year prize – the MKO Abiola Print Journalism Award. Matuma was also a joint category winner of the Mondi Shanduka SA Story of the year Award in 2008. In 2013, he was a finalist for Wits University's Taco Kuiper Award.
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