Saturday, December 19, 2009

South African Tripartite Alliance Update: SACP Seeks Greater Influence; ANCYL Press Conference

SACP seeks greater influence

Dec 18 2009 10:46

The South African Communist Party will amend its constitution in response to concerns that the senior government positions held by party bosses such as Blade Nzimande and Jeremy Cronin are weakening the party's management.

And the party now says it is willing to apologise to the ANC for booing ANC Youth League president Julius Malema and national executive committee member Billy Masetlha at the SACP special national congress in Polokwane last week.

The congress decided on constitutional amendments that will create a second deputy general secretary and remove the stipulation that the position of general secretary be fulltime.

There had been concern in the run-up to the congress that the deployment of Nzimande, the party's general secretary, to the Cabinet as minister of higher education and deputy general secretary Cronin's appointment as deputy transport minister, was weakening party work at head office.

Solly Mapaila, who has been running the office of the general secretary, is tipped to take the newly created second deputy general secretary position.

The amendment was not adopted specifically to suit Nzimande, Cronin told the Mail & Guardian this week, pointing out that provincial secretaries would also benefit from the change.

If relieving Nzimande and other provincial secretaries turned out to threaten the party's growth, Cronin said the amendment could be reconsidered. "That is the sort of thing that could come up at the 12th congress," he said.

"We must make sure that we do not lose the capacity [to run] the party."

And when the SACP and ANC meet in a bilateral session, likely to take place in January, the communists will be "bold enough to apologise" to the ruling party for heckling Malema and Masetlha at the congress, Cronin said.

Both SACP chairperson Gwede Mantashe, who is also ANC secretary general, and Nzimande had condemned the heckling by congress delegates on the day it happened, Cronin said. "A number of us also said it was a mistake that the ANC delegation was booed," he told the M&G.

The SACP will compile its own report on the incident, which will form part of discussions at the bilateral meeting. Cronin emphasised that it was not the entire ANC delegation that was booed, but only "two individuals". Malema and Masetlha are both considered anti-communists -- but that "still does not make it right", Cronin said.

But further friction between the two parties might have been created by the SACP's resolution to force its deployees in government to account to the party, despite their being in state positions on an ANC ticket.

"It is not good enough to say I am a communist, but I was acting under ANC discipline," Cronin said. He acknowledged that this might create friction between the party and the ANC because it is the ruling party that deploys cadres in government.

The SACP has encouraged its members to swell the ANC ranks as part of its strategy to have more influence within the alliance.

"It is not about taking over the ANC. It is about taking collective responsibility. We are not an opposition that should stand outside and criticise the ANC," said Cronin.

At the congress Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi encouraged the communist party to "hoist the red flag" proudly and deploy more of its members in government structures. "We do not struggle so that others can be our rulers," he told the congress.

"We, more than ever before, are presented with an opportunity to deploy our leaders to the key levers of power. We cannot abstain from this challenge nor can we subcontract it to others."

Vavi said the fact that the alliance was now recognising the contribution made by communists was a result of "our efforts. We are therefore not an opposition grouping or an NGO that is not interested in state power."

The SACP's membership now stands at just over 96 000, almost double that at the time of the party's last congress. At January's bilateral meeting the SACP will raise its unhappiness about the poor representation of the ANC at its recent congress. The delegation was supposed to have been led by ANC chairperson Baleka Mbete and deputy secretary general Thandi Modise, but neither attended.

Source: Mail & Guardian Online
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Mantashe: A hat too many?


The booing of ANC Youth League president Julius Malema by delegates at the South African Communist Party’s special conference in Polokwane last week has intensified a groundswell of opposition to communists within the ANC.

The growing hostility towards the left is manifested by the mounting pressure on Gwede Mantashe, the ANC secretary general, to choose between the two hats he wears — as an ANC leader and as the SACP chairperson.

Mantashe came under attack this week by ANCYL structures in different provinces, with Gauteng calling for him to be disciplined.

But beyond the youth league, the Mail & Guardian spoke to ANC national executive committee members and provincial leaders who said that, since the booing incident, many ANC members are taking an active stance. “Attitudes are hardening from people who ordinarily would not care, and when they take sides, they always choose the ANC,” said one official.

In one publicised case the ANC’s ­Siyanda regional secretary in the Northern Cape, Deshi Ngxanga, announced his decision to withdraw from the SACP in response to the humiliation of Malema.

In solidarity

Ngxanga confirmed his resignation, telling the M&G, he had taken the step in solidarity with Malema.

The battle between Malema and the communist party has been interpreted as a proxy war by those vying for senior positions in the party, to be decided at the next ANC national congress
in 2012.

The dominant view in the ANCYL is that Mantashe should yield the secretary general’s position to Fikile Mbalula, formerly ANCYL president and now deputy minister of police. The ANCYL has accused Mantashe of failing to defend Malema because his two roles are in conflict.

“It is not about principles, it is personalities at play. We are in a new phase of our national democratic revolution. Now power comes with being ministers and with fears that you could lose your position. It is these fears that make people position themselves in this manner,” said a ­senior leader close to Zuma.

However, in interviews conducted by the M&G, it emerged that although senior ANC members are not happy about Mantashe wearing two hats, this does not necessarily translate into support for Mbalula.

Too much work

NEC members said that Mantashe has been compromised by his two roles because they involve too much work: “He is like the CEO of the ANC, which is the heaviest and most difficult job you can get. I’m not sure he can juggle it,” said one NEC member, also a top government official.

Some observers believe the ANC is suffering because of Mantashe’s role. “There are some improvements that can be made in terms of his work,” said the NEC member. “He needs to do his work and not be distracted.”

Said another NEC member: “We cannot sit with you [Mantashe] in a meeting and agree on things that we are discussing, then you later sit in another meeting and attack the same things we agreed on.”

This week ANC deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe said the removal of Mantashe as ANC secretary general was a non-issue, adding that it was out of order for anyone to call for him to step down now. But Motlanthe acknowledged that there were concerns about Mantashe’s conflicting roles. He said the matter had been raised in the ANC.

Motlanthe emphasised that it was important for anyone appointed as an office bearer in both organisations to behave in a manner that would not give rise to suspicions of conflicting loyalties. “The problem is that you can’t take leave from either position,” said Motlanthe.

'Always secretary general'

After his spat with Mantashe at the SACP congress, Malema told journalists that he was speaking to Mantashe as the ANC secretary general and not the SACP chairperson because “he cannot take leave from himself. He is always the secretary general of the ANC, even when he is at the SACP ­conference.”

In a past interview with the M&G Mantashe argued that there was nothing wrong with representing both parties. “The most important thing is the discipline of being loyal to decisions that you make in structures,” he said. “If there is a view in the ANC and a decision is made, I can’t go out there and have a second bite.”

This week ANC president Jacob Zuma “raised concerns” about the booing of the ANC delegation at the SACP conference. He instructed the delegation to submit a full report to enable the NEC to engage the SACP early next year.

The ANC’s NEC insisted that it was not sufficient for the SACP to say an individual was booed, saying that both Malema and Billy Masetlha, the immediate targets, were part of one ANC delegation.

On Thursday Cosatu stated that it would not be derailed by a minority in the ANC leadership “who are small in number but with powerful friends in the boardrooms of big business”.

'Rooi gevaar'

“They are using rooi gevaar and anti-Cosatu and anti-communist rhetoric, (as well as) allegations of an imminent communist takeover of the ANC. They thrive on rumour and scandal-mongering, with all manner of claims that communists are gunning for certain positions in 2012. This tendency will stop at nothing, including the use of the race card and tribalism,” Cosatu said in its year-end report.

It also appears that the ANC NEC is itself divided on whether there is a threat of a communist takeover. Malema is known to believe that he enjoys the support of prominent NEC members including Mbalula, Tony Yengeni and his wife, Lumka, and Tokyo Sexwale, the human settlement minister.

The SACP has senior representation in the NEC through its general secretary, Blade Nzimande, and his deputy, Jeremy Cronin.

NEC sources said former president Thabo Mbeki had cautioned the party about leaders who wore two caps, but the warning was dismissed because of a perceived need to stand together against him in support of Zuma.

The notion that the leftist alliance partners are bent on seizing control of the ANC has long caused tensions within the ANC-led alliance. At the SACP’s 10th congress in 1998, Mbeki told delegates that they should not cause divisions in the ruling party in the hope that they could “build themselves by scavenging on the carcass of a savaged ANC”.

This article was part of a two-page spread in the Mail & Guardian's lead story for December 18 to 22 2009. Read the other stories:

Source: Mail & Guardian Online
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Are you a nationalist or a communist?


That’s what ANC members will need to decide before the 2012 national conference, the battle lines of which are being drawn with much public kicking and screaming.

Supporting Deputy Police Minister Fikile Mbalula for the post of party secretary general will show you’re a nationalist. A vote for the present incumbent, Gwede Mantashe, will mean you’re a communist.

Or will it? In the debates now raging within the alliance, ideologies don’t really feature. This is a game about playing the man — the ball is practically off the pitch.

Nowhere in the world is the line between communists and nationalists fading faster than it is in the latest skirmish between the ANC and the South African Communist Party (SACP).

Mantashe is the chairperson of the SACP but at the same time the darling of the business world. So to call him simply “red” would be a mistake.

ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema, who serves as Mbalula’s proxy, supposedly fights under the nationalist banner, saying President Jacob Zuma must not “surrender” to communists. But Malema introduced the debate on the mines, which he believes should be nationalised. So has Malema become a communist?

Enter what Malema likes to call “the yellow communist” — cowardly fakes or the 21st-century version of champagne socialists. These communists say they feel the plight of the people, but they do it while living in mansions in upper-class suburbs with, to paraphrase an old struggle song, “garden boys and kitchen girls” all round.

Malema’s favourite “yellow communist” right now is SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande. True, he’s no stranger to the good life and things only got better with the acquisition of a new R1.2-million BMW.

In turn, Nzimande’s favourite “African chauvinist” nationalist is Malema.

As for who is the pot and who is the kettle, both share a taste for the finer things in life, including their 4x4s — Nzimande loved his black Jeep Cherokee before he became higher education minister; Malema adores his grape-coloured Range Rover. Both have chauffeurs. Perhaps they would argue that they need their SUVs when visiting the rural masses who elected them in the hopes of a better life.

ANC stalwarts say the “real ANC” operates within a nationalist framework — nationalism implying a common identity and entrenching ideas about “us” (the people) and “them”. In theory the ANC leans towards the left in its belief in nonracialism and popular sovereignty — meaning the party believes it can derive legitimacy only from its popular support.

Yet, in effect, the nationalists find the leftwingers a nuisance, believing the communists are using the ANC as their ticket to the spoils of liberation.

Maybe SACP deputy general secretary Jeremy Cronin has the answer. He claims Malema displays communist tendencies to feed the greedy black bourgeoisie. Therefore, Malema is using communist principles to gain access to the same spoils for himself and his friends. Which is exactly the same thing the nationalists fear the c­ommunists will do.

Source: Mail & Guardian Online
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Has Juju lost his mojo?


The press conference started like any other where the president of the ANC Youth League is the headline act: the room was packed to the rafters and pregnant with expectation.

So it was a satisfied Julius Malema who strode into the room followed by his in-house kitchen cabinet of Steven Ngobeni, Andile Lungisa, Pule Mabe and Floyd Shivambu — all leaders of the league.

The one notable absence was the league’s secretary general, Vuyelwa Tulelo; apparently she is on leave.

Team Malema was dressed to kill, with Malema sporting the latest fashion accessory — a Breitling watch in red gold and crocodile worth R250 000.

The press conference was the crescendo of Malema’s orchestrated campaign to get himself on the right side of public sympathy after being booed by SACP delegates at the communists’ congress last week.

During the booing, Malema demanded that SACP chairperson Gwede Mantashe give him a chance to address the delegates. But, wearing his SACP hat, Mantashe did what few people in the ANC have ever tried to do: he said no to Julius.

Malema then reported the matter to President Jacob Zuma, who is yet to make a clear pronouncement. And with the ANC refusing to come out in support of Malema, he went on a charm offensive.

Issuing statements every day to keep himself in the news, he even roped in provincial youth leaders to issue statements affirming their support for him.

Upping the attention-grabbing stakes, Malema confided to the assembled and expectant reporters that he had interrupted his annual leave to address this press conference, which was transmitted live on the eNews Channel. But he insisted he was not playing to the crowd.

“Anything you write about me, I don’t care about that,” he said. “I’ve not emerged through press conferences. I’m chosen by the poorest youth of South Africa.”

His audience, which included European diplomats, was ready to be entertained. Journalists were poised to scribble down those choice quotes that would make the headlines and land their stories on the front page.

But despite Malema’s war talk and his denouncing of “yellow communists” he didn’t quite deliver the headline goods everyone was waiting for.

He first declared that the ANC Youth League considers the booing by the communists — who quite a while ago called the league’s president an African chauvinist — “an invitation to war”. But when asked for clarification, Malema diluted this, saying: “If this is a declaration of war they must say so.” And finally he asked the communists to “clarify” whether this was a call to war or not.

War talk or small talk?

Then Malema was asked about rumours that Lungisa, the league’s deputy president, wants to take over as president — a possibly insolent hint that Malema’s power might not be uncontested. But Malema answered with suave eloquence that Lungisa will make a fine successor.

Ngobeni at this point chipped in, revealing that some people are telling him that he is smarter than Malema and could do a better job of running the youth league. His ostensible point was that this illustrates the divide- and-rule tactics some of Malema’s detractors use.

But perhaps the detractors have succeeded. Malema may now be hauled in for his first disciplinary hearing about his comments on the communists — and his backers are openly admitting they are waiting in the wings for him to step aside.

So his comments are diluted and without their usual punchiness. And therefore, most importantly, he fails to make a headline.

Source: Mail & Guardian Online
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'I was right about the left'


The man who caused all the trouble by publicly deploring the growing dominance of the left in the ANC feels vindicated by President Jacob Zuma’s lambasting of communists for interfering in the ANC’s affairs.

Speaking to the Mail & Guardian this week, Billy Masetlha dismissed statements by Cosatu that only a small group within the ANC was opposed to the left’s call for radical policy changes in the party.
“Zuma is not a small group ... he spoke out on this [and] made it clear who leads the alliance. We are not fighting for socialism. They [the left] are fighting for socialism,” said Masetlha, who is a member of the ANC’s national executive committee. He felt vindicated that Zuma had clarified the roles of the ANC and the SACP in the alliance, he said.

Zuma took a tough line on the left at the SACP special congress in Polokwane last week, after the delegates booed ANC Youth League president Julius Malema.

In his address to the congress Zuma warned alliance partners not to overstep the line of constructive criticism and become an opposition.
Zuma reminded delegates that, contrary to suggestions by some leaders of the left that the alliance should become the centre of power, the ANC would always play a leading role in the alliance. He also warned the SACP against playing an opposition role to the ANC.

“We need to respect the constitutional autonomy of all alliance partners,” he said in his address. “The ANC will continue to determine in its structures how to advance its objective. The role of the SACP in the alliance is to assist the ANC to succeed in implementing its programme of action.”

Masetlha said the majority of ANC structures were angry about the conduct of some Cosatu and SACP leaders who wanted to take over the ANC. “If I don’t defend the ANC, I would be failing in fulfilling my role as a national executive committee member,” he told the M&G.

“This is our revolution. Some of us have sacrificed. We can’t run away now. We cannot have a few people who think they can change the direction of the ANC.”

But he is “not anti-communist”, he said. “I believe the party has a huge role to play within the alliance. We [the ANC] need to engage with them ... I am used to real robust engagement. That’s the reality about our revolution ... This revolution is serious. If we start playing these games, we lose it,” said Masetlha.

He said he did not object to communists serving as leaders in the ANC. “I would vote for a member of the SACP who has demonstrated good leadership. I love some of the left policies, but differ with the position and strategies they put forward.

“I will never be anti-communist. I am not a narrow chauvinist.”

Masetlha was booed alongside Malema last week at the SACP conference. But unlike Malema, Masetlha stayed and participated for the duration of the conference.

Source: Mail & Guardian Online
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