The South African Communist Party has nailed its colours to the mast by openly admitting that its decision to leave the tripartite alliance will be influenced by the outcome of the ANC’s December conference.
“I’m going to risk sounding factionalist but what if the Premier League slate wins the December conference by hook or crook?” former SACP first deputy general secretary Jeremy Cronin said during his presentation of a report on state power.
Cronin admitted that it would be difficult to remain in their positions under a “gangster leadership of the Premier League”.
“God forbid it happens,” said Cronin, cringing at just how extremely uncertain the ANC’s December conference was.
He went as far as alluding to a possible split after the ANC’s elective conference should the Premier League faction win.
Following the Polokwane conference in 2007, supporters of former president Thabo Mbeki broke away from the ANC to form the Congress of the People (Cope).
Should the so-called Premier League faction win, the SACP will also be out in the cold. The Premier League – a factional lobby group that includes North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo, Free State Premier Ace Magashule and Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza – have been championing the campaign of former African Union chairperson Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to take the ANC’s top job. Dlamini-Zuma is also the preferred successor of her ex-husband President Jacob Zuma.
Recently, there has been talk of fractures within the Premier League. Mabuza has been singing a different tune against factionalism – he has been working with Gauteng chairperson Paul Mashatile and other provincial leaders to try and reach consensus on leadership to avoid a bruising contest in December that would ultimately split the already divided governing party.
The SACP has not openly come out and pronounced on deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa to succeed Zuma as president of the ANC and ultimately of the country at the end of this year. However, the party shares the same anti-state capture views as Ramaphosa, who is campaigning on that ticket.
Ramaphosa also addressed the SACP conference yesterday and was scathing about those who have benefited from the state capture project, saying those linked to it must be prosecuted and must pay back money looted from taxpayers. Without mentioning Zuma’s name, he added that those within the ANC’s own rank must not be protected.
Meanwhile, delegates attending the SACP’s six-day conference will debate whether or not the party should go it alone and contest elections. Commissions will start this afternoon and Cronin has urged delegates to think carefully about this decision instead of being pushed by emotions.
Questions delegates will have to grapple with include.
• Is it the right moment to take a firm decision on electoral approach?
• Will this divide the working class, majority of whom support the ANC, or will it unite them?
However, City Press understands the party may defer the decision to next year after the ANC has elected new leadership. This will not be well received by the majority of SACP members who made no secret at the plenary since Tuesday, through songs, that they desire to take on the ANC at the polls.
Cronin said the party would have to deal with an onslaught it was using delay tactics should it decide to wait for the outcome of the ANC’s elective conference, particularly given that it had been threatening to contest elections since 2007.
“The sentiment is that we have been here before, we are falling back to the Polokwane illusion ... that a particular slate or personality will change the reality,” he said.
However, he pointed out that the danger posed by a premature exit needed to be debated and how it would be playing into the hands of those in the ANC who want to isolate the communists, including the Premier League.
The other possible scenario would be for delegates to decide to rather put positive pressure on the ANC’s December conference. This includes saying the future of the alliance depends on the establishment of a judicial commission of inquiry into state capture, cleaning up state-owned entities and convening a jobs summit.
Cronin today also distanced the SACP from having been at the forefront of the 2007 campaign, which placed Zuma in his seat when they went to war with Mbeki on Zuma’s behalf alongside Cosatu.
“The SACP has never pronounced on who should be the leader of the ANC; we might have done so in our body language,” Cronin said to some murmurs of disbelief.
The SACP, through its general secretary Blade Nzimande, were vocal supporters of Zuma and defended him through his rape trial in 2005. They even came to his defence when he was fired from his position as deputy president by his then boss Mbeki. Both Cosatu and SACP became instrumental in Zuma’s rise to power.
During his political report on Tuesday, re-elected Nzimande said that the SACP was betrayed by what happened after the watershed ANC Polokwane elective conference in 2007.
“We feel betrayed in terms of the understanding we had in Polokwane. Our trust has been broken. Unless we root ourselves among the people, we can’t freely give trust which, when broken, things go haywire,” Nzimande said, speaking off the cuff and referring to the total breakdown between him and his former ally Zuma.
SACP has joined alliance partners South African National Civic Organisation and Cosatu in calling for Zuma to step down, saying that the longer he stays the more it will exacerbate tensions within the movement.