Red tide:  South African Communist Party (SACP) delegates sing as they arrive at the Birchwood Hotel in Boksburg where the party is holding its 14th national congress. The SACP will discuss whether to contest the 2019 elections independently from the ANC. Picture: MASI LOSI
Red tide: South African Communist Party (SACP) delegates sing as they arrive at the Birchwood Hotel in Boksburg where the party is holding its 14th national congress. The SACP will discuss whether to contest the 2019 elections independently from the ANC. Picture: MASI LOSI

The South African Communist Party (SACP) does not want President Jacob Zuma to address its congress, which starts on Tuesday, where it will discuss contesting national elections independently.

The party has relayed the message to its alliance partner, the ANC.

The SACP, along with Cosatu, helped bring Zuma to power in 2007. Now, however, both have asked him to resign, saying he is not the best person to run the country and the ANC.

Zuma was booed and heckled at Cosatu’s May Day rally in Bloemfontein, forcing the trade union federation to cancel all his addresses at its events.

This was the first time an ANC president had been prevented from addressing an alliance partner rally.

SACP second general secretary Solly Mapaila said on Monday that the party had invited the ANC to address its congress but had left the decision of who to send up to the governing party.

The SACP had then written to the ANC indicating it would prefer someone other than Zuma to address its congress.

"We had initially invited the ANC and left it to them to decide who should attend. We felt appropriately that we needed to inform the ANC that perhaps any other delegate could be much better than … sending the president who we have asked to step down," Mapaila said.

It is tradition for the ANC, as leader of the alliance, to deliver a message of support at the SACP congress. Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa will perform that duty in 2017.

PERHAPS ANY OTHER DELEGATE COULD BE MUCH BETTER THAN … SENDING THE PRESIDENT.

Mapaila said the SACP did not want a repeat of what had happened at the Cosatu rally.

The SACP’s congress, at which the party will be electing new leadership, gets under way in Boksburg on Tuesday.

All the party’s top officials are available for re-election, except first deputy general secretary Jeremy Cronin, who has said he was not available.

This means the party’s succession battle is wide open, which may lead to a call for general secretary Blade Nzimande, who has been at the helm for 21 years, to step aside.

Critics in the party have said the leadership under Nzimande had to go in order for the SACP to move forward as it decides on whether it will contest the 2019 election independently.

Cronin said the SACP was easily the "most unified and stable" of the alliance partners and the party did not expect a big fight over positions.

Mapaila said the party’s other allies faced debilitating battles over leadership, but the SACP was seeking to avoid this.

He defended Nzimande, saying he would continue to lead the party. Mapaila added that he would not contest Nzimande for his post.

The key discussion for the SACP will be whether the party breaks away from the ANC and contests the general elections on its own in 2019.

But Cronin cautioned against making a hasty decision on this, saying the SACP should wait until after the ANC’s December elective conference.

If the SACP did decide to contest elections, however, it would not necessarily do this on its own but could rely on the support of a "broad front" — including from organisations such as Save SA, which the ANC has accused of being a regime change agent.

Cronin said that all South Africans needed to unite around the defence of the Constitution.

Nzimande said the next six months would be unpredictable and it was unclear whether the ANC would "unite itself or smash itself" by the end of 2017.

He said the SACP would not align itself to a faction, indicating it may not openly endorse Ramaphosa for the ANC presidency, as Cosatu has done.

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