he prospect of Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa becoming president of the ANC in 2017 was among several unsettling factors that caused some members of the SA Communist Party (SACP) to push for the SACP to consider contesting elections on its own.
Ordinary members of the SACP this week lobbied strongly for the party to end its reliance on the ANC to govern.
But the final resolution announced by party leaders was a mild one – they only committed to establishing a committee to assess the party’s power and electoral options.
SACP deputy secretary Jeremy Cronin said the move to establish the committee was part of how the party constantly evaluated its power and influence.
“We have resolved that the SACP stance towards electoral politics will be evaluated in an ongoing manner in the context of our wider, medium-term vision to build a working class hegemony,” he said.
SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande said much emphasis was being placed on getting the alliance to function properly.
At least three senior leaders who spoke to City Press said the election issue had become a raging debate at the party’s special national congress, which ended yesterday.
It was a source of great discomfort to SACP leaders, who believed it was not the right time to lock horns with its ally, the governing ANC.
Members who wanted to contest elections said Ramaphosa was not to be trusted and needed to be viewed as a “capitalist”.
There was also concern that, if he took over, the SACP could be sidelined and relations would be strained, as had been the case when former president Thabo Mbeki was in power.
“The idea of 2019 is premised on the fact that we need to check exactly how Cyril intends to deal with the SACP. Will we enjoy cordial relations, as is the case under [President Jacob] Zuma?” asked a provincial leader.
“Zuma has been very good to the SACP. Our members have been deployed in government.
“Will he retain our members? Even if we don’t win the debate now, we must still scrutinise him leading up to 2019 and take drastic decisions if needs be.”
The five-day SACP special congress was held at the University of Johannesburg in Soweto and ended yesterday.
Nzimande and chairperson Senzeni Zokwana warned at the start of the congress that individual irritations with the ANC should not lead to the radical step of the SACP contesting elections on its own.
Since President Zuma took over in 2009, many SACP members have taken up prominent positions in government.
This is seen as his way of appeasing his allies to maintain the unity of the alliance.
The SACP senior leadership in government consists of Nzimande as higher education minister, Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi and his deputy Cronin, Zokwana as minister of agriculture and former Young Communist League (YCL) national secretary Buti Manamela, who is now deputy minister in the presidency.
The two provinces that led the debate on the need for the SACP to contest state power were Mpumalanga and
Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini (centre) and Cosatu second
deputy president Zingiswa Losi greet SACP
deputy national chairperson Thulas Nxesi
(seated) before leaving the SACP’s special national congress. Cosatu starts its special congress tomorrow