THE 14th Congress of the South African Communist Party (SACP) held in Birchwood Conference Centre, Ekurhuleni, near Pretoria from July 10-15, 2017 was a resounding success. The key slogan was: `Defend, Advance, Deepen the National Democratic Revolution and the Vanguard Role of the SACP’. The key task focused by the party was to anchor its medium term strategic outlook around driving a second and more radical phase of the transition in the country with the demonopolisation of the economy of South Africa.
One of the core points of the debate in the SACP Congress was the future of the alliance with the African National Congress (ANC). South Africa is going for next election in 2019. In his concluding speech, the re-elected general secretary of SACP, Blade Nzimande, declared that sections of ANC has betrayed the objective of the alliance. He expressed deep concern of the SACP regarding the future of the alliance in its present form. He stated that the manner in which the alliance functions is clearly outdated. The alliance’s mode of operation is incapable of holding together the alliance any further. If the modus operandi of the alliance failed to change, it will inevitably disintegrate with serious consequences. Rise of factionalism within the ANC and authoritarian tendencies with increasing manifestations of corruption are the main reasons for the decreasing popularity of the Jacob Zuma government. SACP has openly criticised these tendencies. Refusal of the ANC leadership to discuss relevant issues with the SACP and the COSATU is also contributing towards the disorientation of the Jacob Zuma government from its commitment to the workers and toiling masses.
Blade Nzimande pointed out that last time the alliance held a national summit was two years ago in June/July 2015. The alliance should have held an Economic Policy Summit by June 2017, before the ANC National Policy Conference and the 14th Congress of the SACP. However, it did not happen. The failure of the ANC leadership to hold regular meetings of Political Council of the alliance was also sharply and openly criticised by Nzimande in the open session.
The last Summit of the alliance adopted a declaration recognising the genuine concerns raised by the SACP and the COSATU regarding the orientation of the National Development Plan (NDP) in its current form. It was agreed that the reservations and oppositions raised by the SACP and the COSATU regarding the economic and labour policy content of the NDP would be addressed. For this, a task team to execute the work for consideration by the Political Council of the alliance as well as Economic Policy Summit was also decided. However, it did not happen.
Party general secretary stated in his concluding observations in the Party Congress that the alliance partners have full freedom to openly express opposition to the policies which are sought to be implemented by the Jacob Zuma government, which are not decided upon through consultation by the alliance. It has been declared that the National Democratic Revolution belongs to the entire alliance partners and the people as a whole. The revolution is too important to be left to one alliance partner alone or to some individuals or worse off to a faction. The collapse of the collectivity within the alliance was sharply criticised during the deliberations in the Congress. Party Congress declared that there will be no reason in principle why we must claim to be in alliance with one another if we cannot work together to determine the direction of our National Democratic Revolution.
It has been decided that the SACP would hold a Special National Congress (SNC) by the first quarter of 2018. The response of the ANC Conference scheduled to be held later this year would be analysed by the SACP in the SNC. Certain constitutional changes of SACP would also be finalised in the SNC after proper discussions at different levels within the party.
The most important message given by the Party Congress was about strengthening of the organisational structures of the SACP at all levels. Strengthening of the branches occupies an important task for building a strong SACP. The importance of expanding the influence of the SACP and Young Communist League structures was also underlined in the Party Congress. Party Congress gave a call to develop structures that will enable SACP and the working class to have organisational presence in all key sites of power. Now SACP structures are primarily community-based branches. It has been decided that in all other important areas like universities and colleges, SACP influence should be expanded.
The importance of fighting patriarchy and organising women was also underlined. It has been decided that Communists should be present in all areas where people assemble such as school governing bodies to burial societies and churches. Taking up sanitation work and other local needs of society should also be addressed by Party branches.
ANC deputy president, Cyril Ramaphosa, made a special address on July 12 in the Party Congress. He is a probable candidate for the post of presidency of ANC as well as South Africa. (Jacob Zuma’s former wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, is the main opponent from within the ANC backed by the present president for the same position.) Cyril Ramaphosa’s speech was a scathing attack on corruption in South Africa and the role of certain sections within the ANC behind it. He stated that nobody can prevent him from exposing and fighting corruption in government and in society. He advocated that the alliance should continue for taking South Africa forward and friends should not part ways when a bigger enemy needs to be fought. His speech was in defence of the alliance to take forward the fight against rightist forces as well as corrupt and degenerated elements within the ANC.
Congress had meetings of separate commissions as well as plenary sessions to discuss various means and methods to strengthen the party in the current political situation.
Party Congress re-elected the existing Central Committee with very few changes. Their system is to give time well in advance, almost 24 hours, to propose comrades for the leading position as well as for members to the Central Committee. However, there was no contest for leadership positions or Central Committee membership. First deputy general secretary, Jeremy Cronin, voluntarily stepped down from that position due to his age and he continues in the Central Committee. second deputy general secretary, Solly Afrika Mapaila, has been made the first deputy general secretary. Head of the international department, Chris Matlhako, has been made deputy general secretary. These are the main changes among the important functionaries. One-third of the Central Committee members are women comrades. Polit Bureau will be elected in the next Central Committee meeting.
A very important feature of the Party Congress has been music and dance. All Party leaders participated and led the singing and dancing.