The South African Communist Party says the level of commitment the ANC shows towards reconfiguring the tripartite alliance will determine whether the SACP opts to contest the 2019 elections independently.
Alliance partners have called for an urgent political council meeting to finalise a paper that will set the terms of engagement for the planned reconfiguration.
The changes they want to see involve adopting a system of “democratic consensus-seeking consultation”. This would mean that all major decisions on issues such as policy and appointments must be discussed with alliance partners first.
The drafting of the paper started last year but it was not finalised because of the ANC’s preoccupation with other matters, including its 54th national elective conference.
“What we are looking forward to with the ANC is to take forward that process. We agreed in October on completing the discussions of reconfiguring the alliance. The matter remains urgent and there must be an alliance political council held soon,” SACP spokesperson Alex Mashilo said.
Should the reconfiguration of the alliance not come to pass, the communist party has threatened to act on a resolution it adopted at its July national congress: to contest elections independently.
“If the alliance doesn’t get reconfigured and there is still insistence on marginalising the alliance, then we will proceed outside the ANC. But before we proceed nationally, we will convene a special congress to report the outcome [to members] and that will decide the way forward,” Mashilo said.
Labour federation Cosatu said it wanted the reconfiguration to ensure that the alliance was declared the strategic centre of power and not the ANC, as was currently the case.
“Yes, that is our position that the alliance should be the centre. That was once agreed to in 2008. That position was adopted but [things] changed immediately after. The ANC went back to saying the ANC is the strategic centre of power, which then led to difficulties,” said Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini.
Tensions between the ANC and its alliance partners reached their peak last year when the SACP and Cosatu intensified their calls for President Jacob Zuma to step down amid allegations of state capture. They also accused the ANC of sidelining them and failing to consult them on major decisions.
Though the ANC has now elected Cyril Ramaphosa as its new president, the SACP said it had learnt from previous experience not to place the future of the alliance, and the country in general, in the hands of one leader.
The party said it had witnessed the marginalisation of alliance partners under the leadership of former president Thabo Mbeki and Zuma, and was not prepared to take that risk again with Ramaphosa.
“Zuma’s era teaches something … you can’t rely on individual leaders. You must rely on principles and collective work.
‘‘You can’t hand over your own future [and place it] in the hands of another person. We must create a mechanism of participatory democracy,” Mashilo said.
This weekend, both alliance partners will be attending the ANC’s lekgotla, where Zuma’s recall might be discussed. The SACP said it stood by its resolution to have Zuma either resign or be recalled. But it would not raise the matter at the lekgotla to allow the ANC’s newly elected national executive committee to make its own decision.