SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande launched a blistering attack on President Jacob Zuma, accusing him of betrayal, at the opening of his party's national conference in Boksburg. Picture: Itumeleng English/ANA Pictures
Johannesburg - The fallout over President Jacob Zuma’s leadership of the country and the ANC deepened on Tuesday when the SACP used its conference to accuse him of betrayal.

SACP general-secretary Blade Nzimande revealed that some of his comrades who he worked with him to remove Thabo Mbeki as ANC president in 2007 had one motive in mind: to loot the public purse.

“We feel betrayed. Personally, I feel betrayed,” Nzimande said. “Our trust has been broken.”

Nzimande’s confession, which comes about 10 years later, detailed how the plot to oust Mbeki was not entirely driven by genuine principles.

In one of the blistering attacks on Zuma, Nzimande said his co-plotters had originally agreed to remove Mbeki because he allegedly wanted to centralise the control of the ANC within his office and not within the ANC and its alliance partners.

So betrayed was the party by Zuma that they had written a letter to the ANC asking them not to deploy him to the SACP’s congress, currently under way in Boksburg.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa was expected to address the congress on Wednesday, in what could raise the heat in the battle for the soul of the ANC in the run-up to its elective conference in December.

Nzimande, former Cosatu boss Zwelinzima Vavi and former ANC Youth League president Julius Malema were central in catapulting Zuma to the Union Buildings after the ANC’s chaotic Polokwane conference in 2007.

Malema and Vavi have already apologised for their role in helping Zuma’s rise to power.

On Tuesday, it was Nzimande’s turn to reflect on his part in helping Zuma and the party’s vociferous defence of the president until the fallout.

The schism between Nzimande and Zuma has led to rumours on occasions that the president would use a cabinet reshuffle to oust the communists - one of the issues that hardened the party against Zuma.

Nzimande, delivering a political report, warned that the ANC would not receive more than 50% of the national votes in 2019 if it did not get its house in order.

Nzimande acknowledged that Zuma’s ascendancy was as a result of a marriage of convenience on the part of those who supported him, with some wanting to loot the state.

“However, in practice the Polokwane moment involved a marriage of convenience (or, perhaps, an unholy alliance) of the broad Left, anti-neoliberal bloc with demagogic forces for whom the assertion of the ANC as the strategic political centre was a move to displace the incumbents in the state with their own to advance an even more aggressive parasitic, rent-seeking agenda,” Nzimande said.

Nzimande singled out Malema but stopped short of mentioning Zuma, who later replaced Mbeki as ANC president after the elective conference in Polokwane.

Even prior to the conference, this group, with an alleged “aggressive, parasitic, rent-seeking agenda”, apparently composed a song claiming that Mbeki may have been linked to the death of SACP stalwart Chris Hani in April 1993 - a song which contributed to a split within the ranks of the ANC and the formation of Cope under Mbhazima Shilowa and Mosiuoa Lekota.

On Tuesday, Nzimande conceded that some of his co-plotters had “identified patronage-based mobilisation within the ANC as the soft underbelly from which to capture strategic positions within the state to advance their parasitic agenda”.

Mbeki, however, was also not spared. Nzimande said some of the major infrastructure vanity projects, such as the construction of the 2010 stadiums, Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project, King Shaka International Airport and Dube Trade Port, as well as the Gautrain, did not bring much improvement to the lives of people in the country.

Nzimande did not accuse Mbeki of any complicit act in those infrastructure projects but directly accused Zuma of acts of impropriety, especially the alleged capture of state owned-entities after he took over from Mbeki.

“If opposition to Mbeki at the 2007 Polokwane conference was centred on the struggle against over-centralisation within the Presidency, we are clearly now in a much worse situation.

“Imperialist conspiracies and regime-change threats are invoked in order to justify this dangerous drift - as if the accusers were not themselves involved in a ‘silent coup’ against a democratically elected government, and as if they were not actively betraying South Africa’s democratic national sovereignty,” Nzimande said.

'A promising start but then the rot set in'

Nzimande said the first few years of Zuma in office looked promising, as the government increased its fight against HIV/Aids.

But then the Zuma administration pounced on state-owned companies such as Eskom and Transnet for their own benefit.

“The massive overspending at Zuma’s Nkandla homestead symbolised both the continuation as well as the personalisation of the vanity project phenomenon,” he said.

Nzimande said the situation became worse in 2014 when state capture became prevalent in the government, with the Gupta family and Zuma’s son Duduzane implicated.

"SOEs have been captured not to privatise them, as was the case during Mbeki's time, but to milk them and direct their billions of rand of procurement into private corporate and even individual pockets,” Nzimande argued.

He added that in "an ordinary country", allegations contained in the leaked Gupta emails would have already led to arrests.

The government had to stop doing business with the Guptas and associated companies, Nzimande said, saying some of the money being made would be used at the ANC elective conference in December.

“Some of the current parasitism is directed at building war chests to subvert the ANC’s December 2017 national conference. The continued association with and defence of the Guptas, and the attempt to prolong the Cash Paymaster Services social grant contract, are, in part, an aspect of the war-chest agenda,” Nzimande said.

He said Zuma used law enforcement agencies such as the State Security Agency, Hawks and National Prosecuting Authority against the Treasury and had deployed people in those offices to serve his own interests.

ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte welcomed Nzimande’s political report and said it would help to find solutions to some of the problems identified within the ANC.

“The secret of the SACP’s political report lies in taking us forward,” Duarte said.

The Star