SACP is leading the Nkandla cover-up

General secretary of the South African Communist Party Blade Nzimande has described media articles about President Jacob Zuma and Nkandla as 'white people's lies'. (M&G, Delwyn Verasamy)

General secretary of the South African Communist Party Blade Nzimande has described media articles about President Jacob Zuma and Nkandla as 'white people's lies'. (M&G, Delwyn Verasamy)

There is something worrisome about South Africa’s developing body politic. Instead of dealing with principles and substantive issues, our politics have been reduced to innuendo, conspiracy theories and personal insults.

At the end of August, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) issued a statement in which we noted that the attacks on the public protector from the ranks of the ANC and the South African Communist Party (SACP) had reached very dangerous conspiratorial levels.

Irvin Jim, as the leading official of Numsa, issued the statement. He asked why the leaders of these organisations were resorting to slander instead of dealing with the public protector’s findings on Nkandla.
As a union, we expressed amazement at what we considered blind loyalty to President Jacob Zuma.

As is now the norm, none of the issues raised in the Numsa statement have been addressed. What we have received, instead, are insults.

Bonakele Majuba, the SACP’s provincial secretary in Mpumalanga, accused Jim of “liberal elitism”, of being a liar, of using Numsa to promote the programme of the Economic Freedom Fighters, and of “actively pursuing the agenda of those whose agenda is to portray our liberation movement as enemy number one of the people”.

As if those insults weren’t enough, the national committee of the Young Communist League, the youth wing of the SACP, “noted the opportunism displayed by certain individual leaders of Cosatu and Numsa for calling for the full implementation of the recommendations of the public protector on Nkandla”.

At a press conference, the deputy minister in the presidency, Buti Manamela, who in his spare time moonlights as the league’s national secretary, launched a scathing attack on Jim and Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, calling them “opportunists parading as queens of justice”.

Jim and Vavi’s sin was to call for a rational debate on the public protector’s Nkandla report.

We at Numsa are not surprised at all these arrows being fired against those calling for due process in relation to the report. The SACP, more than the ANC, has been at the forefront of trying to cover up what is likely to be the biggest scandal to confront the president since he assumed office in 2009.

The track record shows that the SACP has taken as its vanguard role to provide cover for all the wrongdoing in relation to the upgrades at Nkandla. Every time there is an attempt to throw sand in the eyes of the public, there you find a leading member of the SACP.

In October 2012, the SACP deputy national chairperson Thulas Nxesi, acting in his capacity as minister of public works, ordered a probe into the Nkandla upgrades. It was Nxesi who, until otherwise instructed by Cabinet and under pressure from the ANC, classified the report of the interministerial task team as “top secret”.

In his foreword to the report, Nxesi was eager to declare that “attempts to lay the responsibility for the upgrade at the door of the president are misdirected and malicious”. Nxesi declared the first finding to be that “allegations that the president had used state resources to build or upgrade his personal dwellings are unfounded”.

When the public protector issued a report that contradicted the interministerial task team, Nxesi and the security cluster ministers ran to the high court for a judicial review of report.

They argued that the public protector’s investigation and report trespassed on the “separation of powers” doctrine, went against constitutional provisions that national security is the competence of the executive, and that the remedial actions proposed were irrational.

The national deputy chairperson of the SACP was the prop forward in the scrum of deceit, but he was not alone. SACP structures and branches have been mobilised as part of the cover-up.

When the Democratic Alliance wanted to march on Nkandla in November 2012, the SACP, instead of protecting citizens’ right to protest, incited the residents of the surrounding area: “We call upon the community of eNkandla and all decent South Africans to do all they can to protect the dignity of the president and the office he holds.”

The SACP secretary general Blade Nzimande himself said that the public protector’s “constant over-reaching … wittingly or unwittingly, plays into an anti-democratic regime change agenda”.

The SACP’s defence of Zuma “at all costs” has continued since the mid-2000s.

One could be cynical and say that this has yielded the desired results – party leaders have been rewarded with ministerial positions and other posts in government.

But unfortunately this policy of uncritical support for Zuma has come at a cost to South African society. What was meant to be the political party of the working class has become embedded in the state; its leaders have become megaphones of the ANC’s neoliberal policies.

The SACP has had to formulate a theory for its rotten political practices. In a political programme adopted at its national congress in July 2012, it identified two “opponents” that had to be defeated: first, the “new tendency”, which it described as “a populist, bourgeois nationalist ideological tendency with deeply worrying demagogic, proto-fascist features”, and, second, what the party calls “liberal constitutionalism”.

The “new tendency” referred to the ANC Youth League rump led by Julius Malema.

“Liberal constitutionalism” included those who insist on good governance, the rule of law and action against corruption.

According to the SACP, the “liberal constitutionalists” are every­where: they “fight rearguard actions from within the liberation movement, the state, and through a network of the media, nongovernmental organisations and academic institutional bases”.

So, watch out before you raise issues to do with corruption or the rule of law – you could be placing yourself in the “liberal constitutionalist” camp and thus in the firing line of the SACP’s bloodthirsty commissars.

Andrew Chirwa is the president of Numsa.

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