Blade set for next SACP term
Nzimande tenure timeline
SA Communist Party (SACP) leader Blade Nzimande looks set to extend his 19-year tenure by another five years when the party elects new leadership at its congress starting in just over a week in Johannesburg. This is despite lobbying by some members who want him to relinquish his position and hand over to one of the two deputy general secretaries, Solly Mapaila, whose popularity and public profile have grown in the last few years – a period during which he also became a vocal critic of President Jacob Zuma’s leadership.
With just eight days to go before the congress, it has become clear that Nzimande still wields some power, with insiders saying he has the support of his home province KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and the Western Cape.
City Press has heard that while this may be the case, the congress could still be contested as at least two leaders in the top structure don’t intend coming back.
Insiders said SACP deputy general secretary Jeremy Cronin has indicated that he wants to retire while party deputy chairperson Thulas Nxesi also wants to make an exit from the top structure.
“There are some who want Mapaila to succeed Nzimande but at this point he has to weigh his options, and given the political environment and posture the party has taken, he will not step down at this congress,” said the insider.
The sentiment was that the loss of his position would ultimately translate into his losing power and political influence.
“His constituency is in the SACP and he can’t afford to lose his position because if that happens, he will be useless as his name doesn’t appear on any list of names of preferred leadership of the ANC. He is not on the Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma list and is not on the [Cyril] Ramaphosa list, or any other slate for that matter.”
Nzimande resigned as an MP in 1998 to serve the party full time, but after Zuma appointed him to Cabinet in 2009, a special conference endorsed his staying on as SACP general secretary, even if he was no longer full time.
KwaZulu-Natal SACP secretary Themba Mthembu is being considered for one of the top positions should Cronin leave.
Cronin has been deputy general secretary for 22 years.
Before the succession battles intensified, Nzimande was speculated to have been eyeing the position of deputy president. The intention had been that, if he was nominated as one of the ANC’s top officials, the SACP would then lessen the burden on his shoulders by demoting him to the position of chairperson.
Meanwhile, Buti Manamela, who is one of the many SACP leaders serving in government, is also unlikely to come back as a member of the party’s politburo.
Manamela and Nzimande have not been seeing eye to eye for some time now and both have for years refused to explain the cause of the tension.
Another insider claimed the fallout was linked to Nzimande’s ambition to be nominated to a position in the ANC’s top six at the governing party’s Mangaung elective conference.
“Their fallout was over Manamela’s refusal to rally the [Young Communist League (YCL)] behind [Nzimande’s] ambition to become the deputy president in Mangaung, a position which was then taken by Ramaphosa,” said the insider with knowledge of the tensions.
Manamela said he did not comment on gossip peddled by cowardly faceless sources, adding that this in fact was “old news” and had already been published elsewhere.
“I am not the spokesperson of the SACP. I will not discuss SACP issues relating to the congress in the media.”
There was a push for the return of David Masondo, who was driven out of the organisation after rubbing Nzimande and other leaders the wrong way with his scathing criticism of Zuma in 2010. Masondo was a central committee member and has also served as leader of the YCL.
Nzimande and Mapaila could not be reached for comment.
SACP spokesperson Alex Mashilo said he could not confirm anything, when contacted for comment on Saturday. However, he said that to safeguard the unity of the congress, the central committee had asked structures to handle the election discussion with a view to reaching consensus.
“We will be in a position to give further information as soon as the revolutionary electoral commission has received and confirmed nominations clarifying who has been nominated and what position they have been nominated to serve in,” said Mashilo
Outside of the leadership question, the SACP has a huge task this week to see if it can put in motion resurgent threats over the past few months to contest national elections in its own name. Nzimande relinquishes his position as chairman after he is elected secretary general at the party’s 10th annual national congress 1998 The issue of contesting elections ‘within a reconfigured alliance’ was introduced but defeated Nzimande and other leaders finally warm up to the idea of contesting elections in the SACP's own name, after a 2015 conference decision to appoint a team to look at modalities thereof Another win for Nzimande as he gets re-elected Failure to muster enough support to oust him leads to Nzimande re-election and Cronin remains his deputy at the 12th congress in Port Elizabeth Some party members revolt and attempt to force conference to push Nzimande to be made to choose between the two positions. The SACP central committee had given Nzimande a free pass despite the constitution explicitly stating that the general secretary position is full time 2007 His deputy, Cronin, is appointed deputy minister of transport SACP constitution changed at conference to accommodate Nzimande with the creation of additional position of second DSG. Then SACP national organiser, Solly Mapaila, had already taken up the running of the office of general secretary since Nzimande was appointed a minister 2012 He appears number 25 in the ANC’s list of a total 60 national executive committee members, while Jeremy Cronin comes out at 45 at the ANC's Stellenbosch 51st national conference Under his leadership, the SACP helped Zuma fight his criminal battles and campaigned for his election as ANC president. He and then friend-turned-nemesis, Cosatu secretary general Zwelinzima Vavi, used their organisations to drum up support for Zuma during his court cases 2009 Nzimande is appointed into Cabinet as higher education minister by then close ally, President Jacob Zuma Nzimande and his deputy Cronin again re-elected unopposed at the party's 13th national congress held at the University of Zululand near Empangeni Mapaila is elected second deputy secretarygeneral