By Greg Alexander Mashaba
Going into the 14 TH National Congress of the SACP, very much like the Policy Conference of the ANC which preceded it, South Africans from all walks of life, especially those who look in the direction of the Tripartite Alliance for political leadership, wished and hoped that the SACP would have a fruitful and a successful National Congress. Such hope emanates from the fact South African Communists have played a leading role in the struggle for national liberation and the establishment of a democratic state.
South African communists were brilliant commanders and tacticians of our glorious military wing Umkhonto WeSizwe (“MK”). Not least amongst these are Joe Slovo, Chris Hani and Jabulani “Mzala” Nxumalo. They also played a leading role in the development of the ANC’s strategy and policy documents. In fact the ANC owes its legacy of being the most highly organised national liberation movement to the contribution made by South African communists.
I am personally privileged to have walked in the company of some of our communist cadres in the late 1970s and 1980s. Apart from Comrade Mzala, I grew up in the ANC underground with Comrade Ivan Pillay, who like our veteran leaders, Stanley Mabizela, John Nkadimeng and Shadrack Msizeni Maphumulo, mentored me in struggle politics and underground activity. One of the greatest personal attributes which these comrades instilled in me was that of self-less sacrifices where one joined the liberation movement simply because it was the right thing to do. The reward which awaited us was a free, non-racial and democratic South Africa. We expected nothing more. In fact I always had at the back of my mind the dream of going back to live in the dusty streets of Lynville and Phola townships, both situated outside of Witbank ( present-day Emalahleni ) once the racist regime had been overthrown. There, so I hoped, I would be able to read freely all political literature which was banned under apartheid, discuss and debate freely political philosophy. The desire for massive houses in enclosed golf estates simply did not exist.
Soon after the un-banning of the liberation movement Ivan Pillay paid me a visit. He proposed that we jointly go into the business of importing beautiful African print material in Zambia and selling it in South Africa. Needless to say, I was very happy with that idea because we also needed to support ourselves and our families. So Ivan went off to Lusaka to negotiate procurement of the material. When he came back after a couple of weeks he sat down with me and explained that it would be immoral of us to buy such material. His argument was that he had seen the conditions under which the labourers who produced the cloth worked. He had also established that the labourers were paid slave wages. “Comrade,” he said “..we simply cannot be part of this chain of exploitation …Let us drop this project and explore other alternatives.” I was more than happy to concur with him. I am relating this incident in order to reflect the moral philosophy which informed South African communists, a philosophy which was transmitted to us. It is this kind of thinking which current leaders of the SACP must strive always to instill not only in the rank and file of the ANC, SACP ,COSATU and SANCO.
The Congress took place during a particularly difficult moment in the history of the Tripartite Alliance. Those whose interests would be best served by a collapse of this historic Alliance banked on the hope that delegates would vote on the SACP exiting the Alliance and thus weakening the broad left which is led by the ANC. We have already read of a possibility of the SACP not only exiting the Alliance but also it registering as a political party and contesting the 2019 general elections. It has been argued that this would have the intended effect of pushing the ANC in parliament below the 50 percent mark. This in turn, so the story goes, would see the SACP seize power on the back of a broad coalition of anti-ANC formations; the seizure of three major metropolitan municipalities by the DA during the 2016 local government elections having been a dry run of such a strategy. I want to believe that it is not the intention of South African communists to replace the ANC with a predominantly reactionary and rightwing formation. Such a strategy seriously offends all that communists stand for. The delegates at the congress had to be unequivocal in the stand that the ANC unlike Julius Malema’s EFF and the structures led by Zwelinzima Vavi are not for sale to agents of imperialism. It was acquired through the blood and sweat of our great heroes of the South African revolution.
In his opening address to delegates, General Secretary Blade Nzimande was at pains to stress that the SACP does not side with any of the current factions in the ANC. However perusal of the list of ANC invitees seems to suggest otherwise. Therein lies, at least to my understanding of the situation, one serious weakness of the current SACP leadership, namely that which I can term ( with great sadness in my heart ) “double-speak”.
This tendency of the SACP leadership wherein they are seen to be dabbling in double standards sends a message to its supporters, both within and outside of the organisation, that is confusing. In a similar manner, the zeal with which the SACP attacks President Jacob Zuma and the Gupta family over allegations of state capture seemed to be at odds with its perceived tolerance of capture on a grand scale of state-owned companies like ESKOM and SAA by mining giants like Exxaro and Anglo American. The SACP has to deal with the perception that it condones reports of maladministration at National Treasury under previous ministers Manuel, Gorhdan and Nene .
The SACP is a vital and an essential arsenal in the struggle for a better life for the broad masses of our people . It cannot and must not lose its credibility, earned over many decades of selfless struggle due to short-term political expediency .
Greg Alexander Mashaba is an Additional Branch Executive Committee member of the ANC Ellen Khuzwayo Branch in Ekurhuleni. He writes in his personal capacity.