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By Brian Sokutu

Senior Print Journalist


Nzimande a stumbling block to SACP’s independence from ANC – analysts

Solly Mapaila cannot influence the party to follow a new independent direction without offending Nzimande.


The South African Communist Party is not going to change or become independent of the ANC any time soon because its former general secretary Blade Nzimande will remain a stumbling block to any attempts to wrestle the party from ANC’s neo-liberalism.

This was the view of at least two experts with clear understanding of socialism who believed that Nzimande was the main force that influenced the party to become the ANC’s junior partner in government instead of a genuine independent vanguard of the working class.

They said Nzimande, who was elected as SACP chairperson during recent party national congress, was there to protect his legacy which involved purging opponents and keeping the SACP within the realm of the ANC neo-liberal policies as part of the government.

While political analyst, Dr Ntsikelelo Breakfast from Nelson Mandela University lauded Nzimande for having grown the SACP membership since 1998 when he took over from Charles Nqakula, he said Nzimande overstayed his welcome in the party. He said his 24 years as at the helm was an overkill as ideally the GS should only serve two terms.

He said Nzimande stepped down as GS but decided to stay on as chairman, which meant he was a de facto GS. “Nothing will change in the party without his input,” the analyst said.

Breakfast said Stalinism, where opponents were systematically purged, had deepened under Nzimande. Previously the party had a strong battery of intellectuals but the majority of them were purged because he did not tolerate dissent. “The hallmark of Nzimande’s leadership was to purge people who disagreed with him,” Breakfast said.  

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The party had failed the working class that it should be a vanguard of as it could not produce sustainable class consciousness through working class focused political education.

“That ideology is very complex, you must be able to articulate the dynamics of capitalism using the tools of analysis. Since there is a movement away from Socialism to democracy in the former Eastern bloc due to the demise of the Soviet Union,  you need to ask what are the implications of that to the working class,” he said.

The expert pitied Nzimande’s successor, Solly Mapaila because, with Nzimande around, he could not influence the party to follow a new independent direction without offending Nzimande. “Of course he will never rub him up the wrong way, otherwise Blade would find a way to get him out,” Breakfast said.

But more scathing was Dale McKinley, a political analyst and former SACP Johannesburg Central chair and Gauteng provincial executive committee member who said Nzimande had become the face of the SACP becoming the junior partner of the ANC in government.

Blade spent the last 24 years turning the SACP into a junior partner of the ANC in government as opposed to being the vanguard of the working class. He defended the alliance with the ANC and expelled those who advocated for independence of the party from the ANC,” McKinley said.

McKinley, who was expelled from the party in November 2000, was part of young party members and intellectuals who approached Nzimande to stand to replace Charles Nqakula with a mandate to direct the party to become independent from the ANC. But to their disappointment, on being elected and before the congress ended, Nzimande defended the SACP alliance with the ANC.

He pushed out anyone who advocated the party’s independent line towards the ANC.

“Jeremy Cronin and Blade did not want to give up alliance with the ANC and their argument was to influence the ANC from within in favour of the poor, but that did not happen. They were together in this journey,” McKinley said.

McKinley, who joined the SACP inspired by Chris Hani who declined succeeding Mandela as ANC president, said Nzimande and Cronin acted contrary to Hani’s approach that the party should not participate in the government  but should be independent to build the working class. He described Cronin as an “intellectual bully” who did not tolerate those who held different views intellectually within the party.

“I used to challenge his line, but many of us were pushed out.”

He cited intellectuals and SACP members who were sidelined in the party as Mazibuko Jara, Langa Zitha, Willie Madisha, Philip Dexter, Dinga Sikhwebu, McKinley himself and many others. Comrades in the lower and regional party structures were purged over the years while many party stalwarts and veterans got disillusioned with the SACP and decided to move aside.

Members of SACP political education secretariat that included Zitha were sidelined after they became critical of the ANC Growth Employment Redistribution (GEAR) strategy.

Jara, a former SACP national spokesperson and then editor of Umsebenzi journal, was isolated for penning a paper in 2005 critical of the SACP’s support for Jacob Zuma, who was facing criminal charges.

McKinley was himself expelled in November 2000 for allegedly undermining leadership and bringing the party into disrepute because of a critical article he penned about SACP’s move away from the working class.

However, McKinley said there was hope that the young generation and Mapaila would redirect the party to follow the correct path as a working class vanguard.

“I have no doubt that Blade will keep watch over Mapaila. But it’s clear the young generation of the party will want an independent working class vanguard – independent of the ANC, but Blade does not want that. Solly and others and the young generation are in the majority and will be able to push the party in the right direction in favour of the working class. there are clear signs this will happen. We might also see the return of those who were moved aside by Blade and Jeremy,” McKinley said.

ericn@citizen.co.za