This story has been updated with more details.
SACP leader Solly Mapaila has been elected first deputy general secretary after an afternoon of uncertainty about whether he would stand for any leadership position.
Mapaila was convinced to reconsider a decision he had made earlier in the day not to accept any nomination, due to concerns that the conduct of his supporters would cause divisions within the party.
However with no other nominations brought from the floor Mapaila accepted nomination to see him replace former first deputy general secretary Jeremy Cronin who announced on Monday that he would step down after 22 years in the position.
Earlier today Mapaila, who was previously second deputy general secretary, told delegates during the closed session of the party’s national congress in Boksburg that he would not be available for re-election or for any other top five positions after senior leaders complained about the conduct of his supporters, who are calling on him to replace Blade Nzimande as the party’s general secretary.
Nzimande has been re-elected as general secretary, Senzeni Zokwana as national chair, Thulas Nxesi as deputy national chair, Joyce Moloi-Moropa as treasurer and Chris Mahlako as second deputy general secretary.
An increasing number of SACP delegates from different provinces were pushing for Mapaila to replace Nzimande, who is also the higher education minister. Mapaila supporters had earlier on Wednesday sang in praise of him, saying he was the right man for the party’s top job.
Nzimande has been in the position for 19 years and has indicated that he would be available for re-election. Mapaila’s popularity has grown over the past years, particularly when he became one of most vocal critics of President Jacob Zuma and his family friends, the Guptas, and state capture.
SACP insiders told the Mail & Guardian that Mapaila was forced by senior SACP leaders, including deputy chairperson Thulas Nxesi, to openly distance himself from his singing delegates because this was dividing the congress.
Nzimande, however, said he could not step down at the moment when the movement was going down a slippery slope. He said delegates should begin discussion about new leaders who would take the party forward during the next term. On Tuesday, Nzimande was heckled by delegates during the closed session after he told them to leave emotions out of the issues of leadership and state power.
SACP leaders have been working hard behind the scenes to discourage a contest over leaders, saying this was likely to divide the party. The current leaders were elected by consensus during party’s national congress in 2012 for the same reasons.
Provincial secretaries were expected to convene a meeting to convince Mapaila and Cronin to reconsider their stances. Some SACP delegates were also lobbying for party leaders seen as close to Zuma to be removed from their positions. This includes party chairman Senzeni Zokwana and central committee member Buti Manamela.