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Don't use President Mandela's name to justify backward tendencies plus misunderstandings of the alliance - Response Zikalala

By Alex Mashilo

The Sunday Independent carried Sihle Zikalala's attack on the SACP entitled "The SACP cannot dictate to the ANC" (23 July 2017). This response was submitted to the Sunday Independent immediately thereafter to allow its readers access to a fair debate based on both sides of the story rather than a one-sided view. The editor Steve Motale might not have liked the need to facilitate a balanced debate. He carried yet another attack on the SACP, with the Party General Secretary Cde Dr Blade Nzimande the entry target. The attack by Carl Niehaus entitled "Hypocritical attitudes won't be allowed to prevail" carried by the Sunday Independent (30 July 2017) further isolated a number of ANC leaders, for example David Makhura and Paul Mashatile of Gauteng Province. It is unbelievable that the biasness, which appears to be embedded in factionalism, occurred by default rather than by design.

Just last week a political analyst Elvis Masoga publicly stated that he received an email from Motale effectively blacklisting him. This draconian measure was not denied. One may or may not always agree with Masoga's views or those of any other political analyst, but taking such an apartheid-style banning of a political analyst is against both the letter and spirit of the freedoms of expression and media that our liberation struggle fought for. Facilitating a fair and balanced dialogue is always the best, and let the people judge which ideas are based on factionalism or any other arbitrary ground and which ideas are based on facts and science.

Don't use Mandela's name to justify backward tendencies plus misunderstandings of the alliance - Response Zikalala.

Firstly, former President Nelson Mandela never disrupted SACP meetings after he gained new political content and realised it was politically undeveloped, backward, undemocratic, anti-freedom of expression, anti-freedom of association and anti-revolutionary to disrupt the meetings and activities of the Communist Party. It is wrong to justify the disruption of SACP meetings and suggest this was to emulate Mandela. On the contrary Mandela moved closer and closer to the SACP. He finally became a disguised domestic worker using the alias name of David Motsamai at the Party's headquarters, Lilliesleaf Farm in the north of Johannesburg, conducting revolutionary work.

Where I nevertheless agree with Zikalala is that the SACP cannot dictate to the ANC. What he forgot to say, conversely, is that the ANC too cannot dictate to the SACP. This is the first point where I disagree with Zikalala. The point has less to do with superficial or factionally charged arguments. It has more to do with matters of principle. Organisationally in the context of an alliance functioning as a strategic political centre which formation should be involved in directing the national democratic revolution in parliament (in councils and provincial legislatures as well), in government and across the state in general, as well as in preparing, selecting and deploying public representatives and office bearers and in holding them accountable?

The relationship between the two primary political formations of our alliance, the SACP and the ANC was based on mutual influence. It still should be. No single alliance partner should believe it alone has the exclusive and natural right to lead and decide the content and direction of our shared national democratic revolution, including in parliament, in government and across the entire organisation of our state.

Zikalala invokes the name of former President Mandela to proceed from a wrong premise, a distorted view of the SACP's 14th Congress resolution on the relationship of the Party, and the entire Alliance, to state power. At its Congress the SACP never discussed the name or names of any individual leaders as preferences for election at the forthcoming ANC national conference in December 2017. What Zikalala is saying on the contrary must be dismissed and denounced with contempt. There would have been nothing wrong for Zikalala to contact the SACP to obtain clarity if he had some misunderstanding. This would have been true to the spirit of an ally.

The resolution taken by the SACP 14th Congress, that the Party must actively contest state power through elections, and that this may or may not be within a reconfigured alliance, has nothing to do with who will be elected ANC President going forward. If Zikalala read the resolution he would have recognised that contrary to the figment of his imagination, the resolution has no reference whatsoever to any person's name for any of the ANC's leadership positions. Any name he mentioned in his "The SACP cannot dictate to the ANC", and which I do not want to repeat, comes from him rather than from the SACP.

The SACP is not an NGO, or a subordinate of the ANC. It is an independent political Party in alliance with the ANC. If the alliance is not alive to this fact it will not hold going forward. The post-1994 experience, in particular the rebound of the tendency of lack of consultation but if any lack of meaningful consultation on major decisions, the experience of factionalism, ever rising corruption and state capture, will dismantle the alliance. This tendency was disturbing to the celebration of the 2017 Mandela Day.

The SACP resolution on state power has everything to do with the best possible way the NDR can be defended, advanced and deepened towards its logical conclusion - i.e. socialism. The resolution has everything to do, as a principled consideration, with how our alliance can be reconfigured to function differently, that is more effectively, recognising that it is an alliance made up of at least two independent, primary political formations of our shared struggle for liberation and social emancipation. The alliance, as the ANC resolved at its 52nd national conference held in Polokwane, 2007 and in support of what the SACP and Cosatu had already said, must function as a strategic political centre.

To insist that the alliance must function as a dictatorship of its leading organisational partner (the ANC) is utterly wrong. That would be to undermine the strategic relevance of the alliance. It is important, consistent with the purpose for which we established the Alliance's Political Council in May 2008, for the alliance to be seen working together as a single, united force, a strategic political centre, based on a democratic, consensus-seeking consultation model as opposed to the dictatorship of its leading organisational component. The alliance must as such work together to deicide the content and direction of the NDR, the competent deployments selected on merit necessary to execute the revolution in the state, and in holding accountable those deployed. This includes recalling anyone who becomes captured by private interests, corrupt and therefore bring our revolution into disrepute. This democratic function is too important to be left to one alliance partner alone or worse off either to a faction or to a deployed office bearer.

It cannot be correct to suggest that the SACP and other Alliance partners other than the ANC must not express their views on what laws must be passed in parliament, on how our-alliance-representing MPs must vote on every question, on what policies must be adopted and implemented in government and the state in general, and on how to hold our public representatives and office bearers accountable. The ANC Polokwane resolution that the alliance must function as a strategic political centre sharply contradicts what Zikalala is all of a sudden arguing for, some natural leadership role for the ANC without regard to what other alliance partners and motive forces of our NDR are saying about the revolution and the compromising conduct of some of its leaders in the state.

If Zikalala was indeed worried about tendencies that have disturbed this year's celebration of Mandela Day, he would have certainly identified corruption, state capture and rent-seeking. Zikalala would have correctly identified the problem of over nine million South Africans who are unemployed and the millions of workers who live under conditions of poverty as if they are not working. All these, Zikalala would have said, take place while, for example, a single family, the Guptas have been made to become filthy rich, including through state owned entities and decisions taken either in some parallel/quasi state elsewhere and/or in the actual state that we know by the powers that be. One of them has become South Africa's top black billionaire.

It is inconceivable to suggest that Mandela would be happy about such tendencies. If he was indeed concerned about such tendencies, Zikalala would have referenced Mandela saying he has fought against white domination as well as against black domination. Mandela never fought for black capitalist elite to take over from the white capitalist elite under the guise of fighting the so-called "white monopoly capital". This is what Zikalala should have said to Niehaus, if indeed he was concerned about disturbing tendencies in our revolution.

As the ANC's 1969 Strategy and Tactics document clearly states, the ANC's nationalism is revolutionary nationalism. As the ANC further states in the document, its nationalism must not be confused with chauvinism or narrow nationalism, with a drive from the ranks of the historically oppressed to replace the oppressors in the exploitation of the masses. The ANC's nationalism is revolutionary in that it is aimed at achieving both liberation and social emancipation, which - as the ANC put it succinctly in the document, will not be realised in our land unless our wealth and public resources are placed at the disposal of the people as a whole and are not manipulated by sections or elite of individuals - BE THEY WHITE OR BLACK.

If Zikalala was indeed concerned about tendencies that disturbed this year's celebration of Mandela Day, he would have advised President Zuma that it was embarrassing to wrongly suggest that the SACP does not have a political programme. He would have advised the President that 'The path to power' was not the last political programme the SACP adopted. He would have said to the President the current SACP political programme, which every delegate at the SACP 14th Congress had for updating through resolutions, is very much about defending, advancing and deepening the NDR and intensifying the struggle for socialism!

* Alex Mohubetswane Mashilo is SACP Spokesperson, and writes in his capacity as a full-time revolutionary