A titanic battle is brewing within the SACP over the direction of the party, with some provinces pushing for an overhaul of its leadership.
The SACP will hold its 15th national congress next week, during which a new general secretary will be elected, marking the end of the era for Blade Nzimande, who has been at the party’s helm for 24 years.
Sunday World understands that the party, an ally of the governing ANC, is deeply absorbed in a debate about Nzimande’s future.
While his backers want him to be elected the new national chairperson, a group consisting of the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and North West want a new slate of the party’s top six and the central committee.
Solly Mapaila, the current first deputy secretary, has emerged as the frontrunner to replace Nzimande after consensus reportedly emerged that he was the right man for the job given his long service in the secretariat of the party alongside Nzimande.
If the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and North West, among others, have their way, the positions of first deputy secretary, second deputy secretary, national chairperson, deputy national chairperson and treasurer will all be contested.
Next week’s congress could be the most fiercely contested in the recent history of the communist party, which normally assembles its officials and central committee through consensus. A central committee member said it was time the party charts a new path beyond its current leadership.
“We want an overhaul of the leadership. It is about time now the party breaks away with its past and emerge stronger beyond Nzimande. The new obsession should be repositioning the party as a fighter for the working class … The working class is under siege under this ANC government that is pushing a neo-liberal agenda,” the member said on condition of anonymity as he is not permitted to speak to the media.
Through its medium-term vision, SACP leaders have been catapulted to key positions in the national executive since 2007, occupying positions of ministers and deputy ministers. Several communists are MECs in ANC-run provinces.
Nzimande and his core leadership have over the years faced allegations of using the party as a steppingstone to cushy government positions, an allegation they have denied, highlighting the gains the party has made including pushing for, among others, the commission into state capture, amendments to the National Credit Act and the adoption of the national health insurance policy. SACP Western Cape secretary Benson Ngqentsu said they will discuss matters of the leadership at their provincial council on Sunday.
“We shall have a debate at the provincial council on the issue of leadership. I can assure you that we are going to renew the party.”
The Brian Bunting District in the Western Cape has already pronounced, after its regional council, that the party must renew.
However, Nzimande’s supporters have vowed to ensure he comes back to the party’s top six as chairperson, replacing Senzeni Zokwana. KwaZulu-Natal and Northern Cape are leading the charge to have Nzimande retained in the party echelons.
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