Zuma not welcome at SACP congress to avoid Cosatu May Day 'fiasco'

In Zuma's stead, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa will address the congress. (Reuters)

In Zuma's stead, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa will address the congress. (Reuters)

The South African Communist Party (SACP) has banned President Jacob Zuma from addressing its 14th national congress this week, citing the “fiasco” caused by his address at Cosatu’s May Day rally as one of the reasons behind its decision.

The communist party has written to the ANC indicating that while the ruling party is free to send a representative to address the gathering, it would be preferable if that delegate were not Zuma.

“While we had initially invited the ANC and left it them to decide who should attend, we felt appropriately that we needed to inform the ANC that perhaps any other delegate would be much better than sending the president whom we have asked to step down,” second deputy general secretary Solly Mapaila said.

Instead, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa will address the congress.

Mapaila said having Ramaphosa address the gathering would help avoid tension between the SACP and its ANC allies.

“It only makes it easier for the ANC delegation here to know that it is welcome, these are our comrades, you would know that the mother movement is the ANC,” he said.

In May, Zuma was booed at a Cosatu rally in Bloemfontein, where he insisted on addressing May day celebrations despite the trade union federations calls for him to step down.

While the SACP specified its ban on Zuma, it had not made any specific requests for an ANC speaker and said the ANC had made the decision to send Ramaphosa instead.

The state of the ANC led alliance is currently at it’s weakest with both the SACP and Cosatu calling for Zuma to resign.

The ANC-led the alliance is likely to face more pressure with the SACP also threatening not to support the ANC if it allows a faction to influence the election new leaders at its December conference.

“There’s the ANC conference in December, we don’t know if the ANC will manage to unite itself or will smash itself,” SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande said.

“Whether we will elect a leadership that will be capable of uniting the ANC, or we will elect a faction. And as the SACP we have said we are not going to be aligned with a faction. If we had done that before we are no longer prepared to do that”.

While Nzimande would not offer detail on who formed part of the faction the SACP would not support, he is believed to have been referring to a faction supporting Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to become president.

In addition to electing its new leadership at the 5-day congress, the party will also grapple with internal calls for it to contest the 2019 general elections independently.

First deputy general secretary Jeremy Cronin announced that he would not avail himself for re-election after 22 years in his position; something he said was a difficult choice to make. 

While other office bearers did not explicitly indicate their availability for re-election, Nzimande said continuity and stability were necessary in the party’s leadership as the party faced some unpredictable months ahead of the ANC’s elective conference.

“As the party we are not short of leaders who can rise to these levels, we want to make that clear,” Nzimande said.

“The debate is do you change or not change leadership when the truck is going down at fast speed on a slippery slope?”

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