South African Communist Party (SACP) deputy general secretary Solly Mapaila says the ANC should have opened up its succession debate to restore the credibility of a process that has been marred by factional battles.
Unlike union federation Cosatu, which has thrown its weight behind Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, it remains unclear who the third member of the tripartite alliance supports as the ANC’s next president.
Speaking to the Mail & Guardian this week, Mapaila also criticised the ANC’s new focus on radical economic transformation, which he believes is a front.
“If we as the SACP support this thing, we will be supporting radical economic looting,” he said.
Mapaila said the SACP had decided to leave the matter of succession to the ANC. But he said the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) had erred in putting a lid on discussing the issue until the process had officially begun.
The ANC is embroiled in a debate over whether it is party tradition for its deputy president to succeed the president. Mapaila made it clear that he was not endorsing Ramaphosa. But he said a culture had been created and that it was strange that the ANC would elect Ramaphosa as deputy president if it had no intention of making him president.
“This thing — you may call it a culture or a tradition — has been traced back to the 1950s. So now there’s a deputy president and suddenly numerous hurdles are being placed in front of him?”
He said although there was talk of the ANC being ready for a woman president, simply placing a woman as head of the party would not be enough to fight a patriarchal system. Instead, he called on the ANC to find a way of ridding itself of succession-related conflicts.
“What the ANC needs to do is create a clear policy on succession so that the party stops becoming divided every time there is congress,” he said.
The SACP has raised its unhappiness about the state of the ANC and the influence of factions and greed. In a hard-hitting statement released last week, its central committee criticised the ANC’s quest for radical economic transformation, questioning why the party was taking the radical stance now after years of not showing interest.
According to Mapaila, in a 2015 alliance meeting the SACP called for a discussion on the meaning and implementation of radical economic transformation. The call was rejected, he says.
“This was our only item and we were begged not to put it [on the agenda]. Largely because the ANC was not ready,” he said. “Now that slogan is brought back, post 20 years of democracy, almost as a dominant slogan to justify the looting of state resources.”
Mapaila believes calls for radical transformation are part of a ploy to promote what he referred to as “Guptarisation” — the enrichment of black elites who abuse their proximity to political power.
At the heart of the problem, he believes, is the abuse of power by ANC leaders — including Jacob Zuma’s use of his presidential prerogative.
Last year Mapaila called for Zuma’s power to hire and fire Cabinet ministers without consultation to be reviewed if he used it for factional reasons. This was in response to the shock axing of then finance minister Nhlanhla Nene, who was replaced by little-known Des van Rooyen.
“The prerogative right doesn’t belong to him as an individual; it belongs to the movement. He is just privileged to be the chosen one to exercise this right on behalf of the movement. It is not his. He must never, ever think it belongs to him, that he can exercise it willy-nilly,” Mapaila said.
Unhappy with the state of the ANC-led alliance, the SACP also said last year that it was under mounting pressure from some of its structures to abandon the ruling party and contest the 2019 elections on its own.
But Mapaila made it clear that the SACP would not leave the ANC “because that’s what the factionalists want … to loot from our people rather than serve them”.
He said: “There’s no way we are leaving the ANC; they must get that message very clear. We are not leaving the ANC; we can’t leave the ANC.”
Instead, the SACP will hold a consultative conference in April to discuss allowing members to contest elections independently. A final decision is expected to be made at its national congress in July.