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By Moshoeshoe Monare
South African Communist Party delegates opened their congress in Port Elizabeth on Thursday by chanting and asking President Thabo Mbeki to tell them who killed former party general secretary Chris Hani.
They erupted into the song "Thabo Mbeki siyabuza ubani owabulala uChris Hani Simthanda".
The Young Communist League has repeatedly called for the re-opening of Hani's murder investigation - with whispered accusations that senior ANC leaders may have been indirectly implicated.
Mbeki declined an invitation to address the 12th National Congress of the SACP as he is on leave.
In his political report on Thursday, SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande snatched the opportunity to respond to Mbeki's attack on the party at the ANC's national policy conference two weeks ago.
Mbeki said then that the SACP must not "delegate" its socialist agenda to the ANC. Nzimande said while he agreed with this statement, "of course we are seeking to influence the ANC and its mass membership" in an "constructive, open and non-factionalist manner".
"We are seeking, without apology, to underline the imperative of many socialist-orientated programmes in order to advance, deepen and defend the very national democratic revolution itself in the present phase of the struggle," Nzimande said.
He said the ANC national policy conference, contrary to the ruling party leadership in government, reaffirmed some of the policies the left and the SACP had been calling for.
Nzimande repeated the accusations that there is a group in the ANC - labelled the 1996 class project - that has sought to undermine the movement's programmes and "attempts were made to provoke the allies to walk out of the alliance".
He said that project had led to corruption, succession battles, a weak ANC and a crisis of state-led service delivery that triggered spontaneous and "sometimes misguided" township protests.
Nzimande said whereas the SACP would never leave the alliance, it wanted to restructure it and could not rule out the possibility of contesting elections on its own.
"The central committee recommended to this national congress that no binding decision should be taken at this point in time concerning the exact modality of the SACP's future participation in elections," he said, confirming earlier reports that the SACP would wait for the ANC's December national conference before making such a decision.
If Jacob Zuma and his allies take over the ANC, such a move might not be considered.
Nzimande admitted that the SACP had been disappointed by a number of party members in the ANC government, who were no longer accountable to the SACP. "We have given ourselves a 'black cheque' (sic) for communists to even pursue policies that are in direct conflict with party programmes, directives and policies. This must come to an end," he warned.
He said it was about time that the SACP also strengthened its policy on conflict of interests for members who are involved in business. "If some of our own comrades decide to enter the capitalist world, they should be open about it, and not use the party for such purposes. Congress will have to discuss this matter," he said, admitting that the party's demand to members to declare their interests yielded few results.
Meanwhile, ANC secretary-general Kgalema Motlanthe - who spoke on behalf of Mbeki - affirmed the SACP's importance as an ally and urged for unity in the alliance.
Nqakula told the same congress that the poor, the unemployed, the homeless and crime victims had a right to be impatient. But he warned that "we must not mistake impatience" with short-sighted and narrow selfish political interests, a subtle warning to his comrades not to use emotions to undermine the ANC government.