The SA Communist Party (SACP) has called for President Jacob Zuma’s power to hire and fire Cabinet ministers to be reviewed if he continues to use it for “factional reasons”.
They believe decisions to hire and fire should be made by the ANC and not be left for Zuma to “marginalise other sections within the movement”.
This agitation to review Zuma’s powers comes amid the president’s failure to extensively consult the Tripartite Alliance the way he used to after they helped him become president, as well as rumours of an imminent purge targeting SACP leaders in Cabinet.
These include SACP general secretary and Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande; Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi and his deputy, Jeremy Cronin; and Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davis.
Speaking to City Press on Friday, SACP second deputy general secretary Solly Mapaila said if their members were removed on a “factional ticket”, and not based on performance, the way the president’s prerogative right was being exercised had to be revisited.
Mapaila said that while the Constitution gave this right, the president should be doing the bidding of his party.
The surprise mini reshuffle in which then finance minister Nhlanhla Nene was removed in December seems to have emboldened the SACP, as it was in their eyes a wake-up call that Zuma preferred the advice of the Guptas, rather than that of his former allies.
Mapaila emphasised that the party – and in this case the alliance – should be able to guide the president when he goes astray.
“If the president uses his prerogative right to appoint and remove members of Cabinet, he has factionalised that right. Then we must redemocratise the prerogative right as a tool that he uses in government, so that people don’t work to kowtow what he wants, just because they know he has a prerogative right.”
The SACP, which helped propel Zuma to power, has grown bolder over the past few months, criticising the political influence of Zuma’s friends, the Gupta family.
Battle lines were drawn after the ANC’s decision to drop an investigation into what has become known as state capture. Zuma mocked the SACP, saying it was quick to talk about something it had no clue about.
Bilateral talks followed the public spat where SACP leaders told Zuma to distance himself from the Guptas and a group in the ANC known as the Premier League.
Mapaila insists that the SACP has nothing personal against Zuma.
He said that the SACP was not in the movement for positions, but to be of service to the people. However, if Nzimande was removed despite being effective in his department, it could be the end of the alliance.
“If he is removed just because he doesn’t like the positions of the ANC, obviously we take issue with that. We have fought for elections on the platform of the ANC, as the SACP. That will be a clear declaration of war against the communists.”
Relations between Nzimande and Zuma are said to have soured after the latter’s first term.
Last week, City Press reported that the relationship between Nzimande and Zuma had almost completely deteriorated. Insiders alleged that Zuma could use the university fees crisis to get rid of Nzimande.
City Press has learnt that the SACP could possibly recall its leaders, should Zuma go ahead with his reshuffle, targeting the SACP.
But Mapaila said that would be the last resort as the intention was rather to avoid an en masse resignation.
Mapaila also warned that dealing with the SACP in this manner would alienate a huge chunk of the ANC’s electoral and political support, which they can ill-afford following the decline at the polls.
Things have deteriorated to a point where the SACP was considering how it should align itself with the ANC, and whether it should function separately from the alliance and contest elections.
This call, first made in 2003 by the Young Communist League, was reignited at the SACP special congress last July. A base document is set to be released to structures and for public scrutiny in November.
Two documents were on the table for discussion in preparation for the party’s 14th elective congress in July next year – four months before the ANC elects Zuma’s successor.
Mapaila made no secret of the fact that their notion of reconfiguring the alliance and going as far as contesting power may have an impact on unity.
Mapaila said that this was a difficult balancing act, but that members would determine the party’s fate.
“If they choose at the congress to say, let’s go it alone [contest elections], then that is what we must do.”
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