SACP AVERTS a crisis
Eleventh-hour drama at communist party’s national conference as Mapaila almost steps down. Also, the party ‘may or may not’ contest the 2019 general election
The SA Communist Party (SACP) has taken a resolution to support contesting power by itself, but the resolution is worded in a way that allows for the possibility that this may not take place at all, depending on “concrete analysis and realities”. The resolution reads: “After considerable debate at congress, we have resolved that, while the SACP will certainly contest elections, the exact modality in which we do so needs to be determined by way of a concrete analysis of the concrete reality and through the process of active engagement with worker and progressive formations.”
City Press understands that there was an agreement to contest the 2019 elections, but that the party would in all likelihood wait to see what happens at the ANC’s elective conference in December. The party is concerned about information that the Zuma camp could “steal” the conference from the Cyril Ramaphosa lobby group. The deputy president is seen to be enjoying popular support at the moment.
Not for the first time, most delegates pushed for the SACP to step out of the ANC shadow and exit the tripartite alliance. However, party leaders warned against “emotional decisions” and wanted the situation assessed first before a final resolution.
The SACP will also give itself time to consult with the ANC and to try to win over workers’ support.
SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande yesterday said that the party may or may not contest elections.
He said it was up to the special national congress next year to overturn or endorse the decision, and to also elaborate on its modalities.
The party also averted a crisis when deputy general secretary Solly Mapaila was persuaded at the eleventh hour not to step down.
Repeated chants of Mapaila’s name reverberated Would you vote for the SACP if it broke away from the ANC? SMS us on 35697 using the keyword SACP and tell us what you think. Please include your name and province. SMSes cost R1.50 through the venue of the six-day conference, which began on Monday. Some officials believed he had orchestrated the chants himself and demanded that he denounce the calls for him to succeed Nzimande.
In a move that shocked delegates, an emotional Mapaila took to the podium and said he would not avail himself for any positions, including the one he held at the time, which was that of second deputy general secretary. Mapaila’s popularity has grown in recent months, following his tough talk against the Guptas and President Jacob Zuma.
Insiders allege that Mapaila had been told to tone down his stance as it was making things awkward for SACP members who served in ANC structures, such as the national executive committee.
“Solly represented a wind of change; they had to block him,” said an SACP insider.
“Remember that he does not owe anyone in the ANC anything and is not embedded in the ANC factions, which is what the SACP needs now.”
Following Mapaila’s announcement during the plenary session, an emergency meeting of the party’s officials was convened in a desperate attempt to convince him to stay.
“Solly is disciplined, but he was furious in that meeting and he took them to task,” said the insider.
Nzimande was re-elected, uncontested, to his position as SACP general secretary this week, having served in that role for 18 years.
This is despite having confided in some in the party as early as last year that he was tired and that “Solly is the future”.
Speaking to City Press, Mapaila said: “I admit that I withdrew my name on the basis that some comrades in some provinces were trying to insist that there must be a contest for the position of general secretary, using my name without talking to me. I felt that was not right. Secondly, I had made it clear that I wasn’t available. That is the point that I stood up to raise. I said I was willing to withdraw from standing for any leadership positions so that the party could remain united [and] not [be] divided by unnecessary ambitions. It is not because I was angry with anybody, I was responding to the mood of the congress [where] comrades were beginning to be ill-disciplined, chanting my name, which is not something that is done in the party.”
There is a growing feeling among some in the SACP that the current management of succession, which is determined by higher structures, undermines the democratic process.
In an interview with City Press this week, the party’s former first deputy general secretary, Jeremy Cronin, admitted that the SACP’s leadership had been clumsy in dealing with succession.
“I think it is a huge achievement that we have managed [leadership] in the good sense, and perhaps in the less good sense, that we have managed over this long haul since 1990,” he said.
“There is clearly impatience from some quarters around the need for a bit more renewal than we have seen coming out of this conference.
“Even Blade said that the incoming central executive committee must open up this discussion, so that it is not a discussion that occurs in corners or is managed by provincial secretaries, and so on.
“But we must take collective and collegial responsibility for how we think about it.”
It has also emerged that Nzimande may not serve his full term. It is understood that he could step down at a special congress early next year, paving the way for Mapaila to take over the reins.
RED SEA SACP members at the party’s national congress this week