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By Lunga Simelane


No new blood for the SACP: old dog, new bone

Experts hoped for fresh faces as Nzimande had held that position since 1998.

As the South African Communist Party (SACP) wrapped up its 15th national congress, Minister of Higher Education Blade Nzimande stepped up rather than down in being elected the party’s new national chair, which simply recycled leaders, according to an analyst.

Nzimande, who vacated the position of general secretary of the party, beat his adversary, Gwebinkundla Qonde, by 118 votes.

Old dog with a new bone

According to political economist Dr Ntsikelelo Breakfast, it may be significant to have Nzimande in that position, but it was also just a reshuffling of leaders.

Breakfast said Nzimande had been the general secretary of the SACP since 1998 and that he did not believe he would offer anything new.

‘It just seems like he has not stepped down because he has changed positions now and will feel on the ground in townships.

“It just seems like he has not stepped down because he has changed positions now and will be chairing meetings,” he said.

“I was hoping young people would be given the opportunity to emerge.”

Breakfast said the issue of restructuring was key because, while the ANC did not have a specific constituency, the SACP appealed to the working class.

ALSO READ: Ramaphosa says ANC remains committed to alliance with SACP

“Some people believed the SACP was treated as a stepsister or brother but not as a real partner of the [Tripartite] Alliance,” he said.

“Decisions were made without the knowledge of the SACP about what is happening in government, which is why they are talking about reconfiguring the alliance.”

Breakfast said one of the weaknesses of the SACP was that the party’s footprint had not been felt on the ground in townships.

Looking at unemployment and poverty, Breakfast said, the working class was still on the margins
of communists.

“The audience to reach the Communist Party leaders and its message is the working class which has been marginalised,” he said.

“You do not find them [the SACP] in townships, where social conflicts break out. They should be leading specific protests because those are the real challenges of poor people.

“They are the vanguard to lead these struggles.”

Nzimande, the longest-serving SACP general secretary was replaced by Solly Mapaila, who was elected unopposed.

He had served as a deputy general secretary for years. Mapaila had been outspoken in his opposition to corruption and was among those who ousted former president Jacob Zuma.

ALSO READ: Solly Mapaila elected unopposed as SACP general secretary

New blood would have been refreshing

Breakfast said the replacement of Nzimande would be a “breath of fresh air” for the party. “He is a bit younger than Nzimande, militant and a solid comrade,” he said.

Political analyst André Duvenhage said there was a lack of leadership within the broader framework of the Tripartite Alliance and the SACP was no exception.

“I am not reading Solly Mapaila as a very influential, charismatic type of leader that will grip the imagination in some way,” he said.

“I am reading him as more ordinary, business-as-usual, functioning in a party that, according to my assessment, is very outdated for the times we are living in.”

With only four months left until the ANC national elective conference, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the ANC remained firmly committed to the Tripartite Alliance.

Duvenhage said the SACP functioned within the alliance to maximise its capacity and influenced on a higher level in relation to their support base.

It was important for Ramaphosa to gain the support of the SACP in the months leading up to the national elective conference.

“Ramaphosa is trying to stabilise the SACP, keep them on board and ensure they are supporting his side and not going the way of other radical forces,” he said.

“If we analyse and look at the bigger political picture, at the moment, it is a toxic and dangerous world of political survival, and I feel we will still see a lot more instability in the build-up the conference.”