The re-elected KwaZulu-Natal leaders of the South African Communist Party want the SACP to examine the effect that serving in the Cabinet has on the ability of its leaders to serve working-class interests. They believe this should be part of the discussion about how the SACP perceives its role in a reconfigured alliance with the governing ANC and is necessary to prevent party office from being used as a conveyor belt to government office.
Speaking to the Mail & Guardian after the SACP provincial congress in Pongola this week, provincial secretary Themba Mthembu said “introspection” was needed because “there is a threat of opportunism trying to nest itself in the party, where the working-class struggle is less important than trying to position ourselves, even for me, to get an attractive deployment.”
Mthembu, who has held the post since 2002 and who was deployed as KwaZulu-Natal agriculture MEC by the ANC, said communist parties had been killed by their participation in governments.
“We need to ask how deployment in the executive of government affects our leadership of the working-class formations … if we want to be honest.”
Mthembu said the SACP was “not happy” about its national leadership having been “wiped out” from the ANC’s national executive committee at its December conference. “We are not happy but we must not always blame the ANC. We need to look at ourselves and do an introspection”.
Mthembu, an ally of the former president who came under fire for hosting Zuma at a departmental budget speech after his “recall”, said tensions with the ANC were “easing”.
“We would like to see for how long the honeymoon is going to last. The new leadership of the ANC has shown an eagerness to revive a strong alliance.”
Mthembu and the rest of the SACP’s 21-member provincial executive committee were elected unopposed after a culled list of candidates had been presented to congress. Like the new ANC provincial leadership, the SACP’s provincial leadership includes supporters of both the Zuma faction and those who backed President Cyril Ramaphosa. James Nxumalo, the chairperson, was re-elected, as was treasurer Nomarashiya Caluza.
An anticipated challenge to Mthembu’s leadership never materialised. Mthembu’s relationship with SACP secretary general Blade Nzimande and the other leaders at national level is understood to have soured because of the Zuma issue.
He had been accused of gatekeeping at branch and district levels and of manipulating the pre-conference process to ensure his re-election as secretary to ensure that he was returned to the ANC provincial list in next year’s general election.
Mthembu denied this. The conference had been run by the national office of the SACP and not the provincial leadership, he said
He added that the relationship between himself and Nzimande had not changed. “We are aware that there has been a massive drive to drive a wedge between myself and the secretary general. We will always maintain a good relationship with the secretary general,” he said.