The South African Communist Party says it does not regret its decision to support President Jacob Zuma during the ANC’s 2007 Polokwane conference — despite the recent falling-out between the ANC president and SACP boss Blade Nzimande.
Nzimande became the latest casualty of Zuma’s iron-fist rule after he was axed this week as higher education and training minister, a position he had held since 2009.
“The decisions adopted by the SACP towards Polokwane were not timeless but were principled decisions. There are many principled battles the SACP waged prior to Polokwane, which we do not regret,” said party spokesperson Alex Mashilo.
Nzimande was instrumental in Zuma being elected president at the party’s Polokwane conference, along with other one-time Zuma allies such as former Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, former deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe, former ANC deputy secretary general Thandi Modise, former youth league leader Julius Malema and ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe.
Nzimande has now joined a long list of former Zuma loyalists who have turned into opponents.
But Mashilo argued the communist party’s support for Zuma was based on principles.
“The SACP fought against the economic policy of Gear [the Growth, Employment and Redistribution strategy], including privatisation and the rest of its neoliberalism, as well as the abuse of state power and its misuse to fight factional battles,” said Mashilo.“In addition, post-Polokwane it is the SACP that was the first organisation in South Africa to expose the existence of state capture and to call for an independent judicial commission of inquiry into state capture.
“It is obvious the SACP would have taken a different decision [at Polokwane] if the party knew that we were going to encounter the problem of the Guptas and the overall tendency associated with it.”
SACP leaders will meet at a special central committee meeting this weekend to chart the way forward. Despite suggestions that the party should recall all its deployees in key government positions, observers believe it is unlikely it will take such a decision.
On Tuesday the SACP said the party’s officials would not resign from the Cabinet because it believes that Nzimande was a victim of the organisation’s critical stance on the president and was part of Zuma’s manoeuvres to secure the election of his “ordained successor”.
“The SACP took a decision at its 14th congress in July to strengthen the alliance by reconfiguring it and to actively contest elections, either within the umbrella of a reconfigured alliance or on its own if the alliance is not reconfigured,” said Mashilo.
“The SACP is particularly of the strong view that the alliance must function as a political centre and must be governed by the principles of democratic consensus-seeking consultation, as opposed to authoritarianism, unilateralism and factionalism.”
Political analyst Ralph Mathekga said organisations that once backed the president have been left unable to challenge him.
“He has lost most of the people who supported him when he ascended to power — take for example Malema, Vavi and Blade,” said Mathekga.
“These individuals used the organisations that they led to support Zuma and when they were disposed of, the organisations were left debilitated. The SACP, [metalworkers’ union] Numsa, the youth league and Cosatu today do not have enough firepower to go up against the very same person they once supported.”
Another political analyst, Somadoda Fikeni, said the tripartite alliance is slowly realising the mistake that was made in the lead-up to Polokwane and is part of the reason for the tensions in the alliance.
“It is common sense that, when meritocratic principles are overlooked for loyalty, particular organisations or institutions have to be sacrificed,” he said.
“The rise of patronage coincides with the personalisation of power and weakening of institutions. Anywhere in the world where patronage rises, institutions become weak. The leaders of organisations like the SACP who backed Zuma believed that he was different from his predecessor. They said he was a unifier, someone who came from a poor background and therefore understood the plight of the working class and would unite the alliance — and they know now that they were wrong,” said Fikeni.