It was meant to be a commemoration of the 20-year anniversary since the death of the general secretary of the South African Communist Party (SACP), Joe Slovo.
But an address at his graveside did little to commemorate his life and contribution to the struggle, and instead became a platform to bash the media and tear into opposition parties.
The incumbent general secretary of the SACP, Blade Nzimande, took to the podium alongside Slovo’s graveside at the Avalon cemetery in Soweto with a 15-page speech in hand, but soon his speech digressed in an attempt to lash out at anyone who questioned him or criticised the party.
Here is some of the vitriol Nzimande expressed.
On the media
Nzimande accused the media of being a “continuation of the apartheid regime”.
He spoke of “failed editors” and “so-called academics” who, he said, condemn the SACP of today.
“They try to condemn us today … Who are they? They are a continuation of the old regime,” he said repeating several times that the media wanted to see an end to the communist party.
“There are white sub-editors who sit at night and massacre the stories of black journalists.”
On the Democratic Alliance
“The DA will bring back apartheid,” Nzimande said to cheer.
He was speaking of the alleged strict measures which the DA-led City of Cape Town imposed on the ANC for their 103-year celebrations scheduled for Saturday.
“This attempt by Helen Zille and the DA to sabotage our rally [is a] taste to South Africans of what will happen when the DA takes over the country,” he said.
“The Western Cape does not belong to the DA. It belongs to the people of South Africa.”
On the EFF
“Those renegades who were expelled from the ANC stole our colours. Red is not the colour of tenderprenuers,” Nzimande said of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).
He picked at the EFF’s attire in Parliament, saying it was a slap in the face of workers.
But it was against EFF leader Julius Malema when he was the harshest. “Julius must pay back the millions of rands which he stole.” he said.
No speech by Nzimande would be complete without an attack on what he called “the leadership clique of Numsa”.
“They use dirty money to do their work.”
Nzimande said Numsa’s plans to launch a United Front was a declaration of war against the SACP and that the party would “meet them on the ground”.
“This leadership clique of Numsa, It wants to be a union and a federation. It has applied to organise workers across sectors. It wants to be the ANC and wants to be the SACP.”
On splinter parties
Nzimande dug into the Pan Africanist Congress who he said are “nowhere to be found”.
“Inkatha [Freedom Party] was formed from the ANC and is in the ICU,” he said.
He said Cope was “dead and buried. They are not six feet underground. They are 12 feet underground. They will never come back.”
Nzimande believes that there was a “multi-pronged offensive” to divide trade union federation Cosatu and called this counter-revolutionary.
“This is why as the SACP we strongly condemn all activities aimed at dividing and weakening Cosatu and our alliance.”
There was nothing surprising from Nzimande’s speech altogether as he is infamous for his fiery speechmaking and pointed attacks at his personal enemies.
This time though, he did so at the expense of the legacy of Slovo.
Little mention of Slovo
Those gathered at the grave did not get the opportunity to hear about how Slovo was arrested in 1960 and detained for four months, or how his commitment to the liberation movement continued with him in exile.
The most notable mention of Slovo made by Nzimande was the fact that Slovo was the general secretary of the SACP and housing minister in the first administration.
It was almost as if Nzimande used the legacy of a great stalwart to justify some of his own questionable decisions.