THREE SACP central committee members opposed to Blade Nzimande were voted out of their positions at last weekend’s national congress of the party in KwaZulu-Natal as the SACP general secretary consolidates his power before the ANC elective conference in Mangaung.
The three – Limpopo Finance MEC David Masondo, SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) president Thobile Ntola and Christine Olivier, the second deputy president of the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) – and their organisations have been critical of Nzimande and President Jacob Zuma, who is vying for a second term as the leader of the ruling party, and by extension, the country.
Two other former central committee members – former Limpopo health and social development MEC Miriam Segabutla and Noluthando Mayende-Sibiya, SA’s ambassador to Egypt – did not return either, because, according to a top SACP official, they could not carry out their responsibilities efficiently as they spent a lot of time away on government duties.
Gwede Mantashe, the ANC secretary-general who gave up the chairmanship of the SACP, is now an ordinary member of the committee and so is Phumulo Masualle, who is the chairman of the ANC in the Eastern Cape. He was previously the treasurer of the SACP.
The two gave up their SACP jobs to focus on the ANC.
“I felt I am not doing justice to the work of national treasurer of the party. There is nothing untoward about this,” Masualle said on Friday.
In his speech at the SACP congress, Mantashe gave a similar reason for not making himself available for a second term as SACP national chairman. “One is doing a disservice to the party by being an absentee chairperson (and) because this is not an ideological decision, one is prepared to serve in the central committee if nominated,” Mantashe said.
Zukiswa Ncitha, the mayor of Buffalo City in the Eastern Cape, did not return because her province had taken a resolution not to back her at the congress, which took place at Empangeni, KwaZulu-Natal, last weekend.
“Ncitha had problems with her province. Masondo and Ntola clashed with Blade while Segabutla was just being tolerated. She was not liked from the word go,” a party member privy to the group’s removal said.
Centre for the Study of Democracy director Steven Friedman said it was clear from the election of the new central committee that Nzimande was building a united front within his own party so that he could campaign for Zuma to retain his position in the ANC at the Mangaung conference.
“The SACP is consolidating behind Nzimande and Nzimande is consolidating behind Zuma.
“The current leadership of the SACP is consolidating and they will continue to support (Zuma) solidly. That’s a clear strategy,” Friedman said.
Zuma is seeking a second term at the ANC elective conference and the SACP, under Nzimande, is behind him.
The current SACP central committee – which has staunch Zuma supporter Senzeni Zokwana as national chairman – was said to have been strengthened to be fully behind Nzimande, a central figure in the campaign to have Zuma re-elected for a second term.
In 2009, Zuma appointed Nzimande as minister of higher education and training, and just months later the SACP changed its constitution to allow its general secretary to serve part-time in the party while running the ministry.
The Sunday Independent has established that Ntola and Olivier were not attending central committee meetings and it was unclear whether they snubbed the committee’s meetings because of the fight between Nzimande and Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi.
Their rejection has, however, been interpreted to mean that they were victims of the divisive battle between Vavi and Nzimande.
Vavi – who had the backing of some Cosatu unions, among them Numsa and Sadtu – had called on Nzimande to give up his ministerial job so that he could focus on the SACP.
SACP spokesman Malesela Maleka said party members were elected into the committee based on their contribution, not what they do in the other organisations they belong to. “Christine was not even at our congress. No apology, nothing. What must the delegates do? I don’t even know if Numsa is an issue here. We want to work with Numsa. Never once has Ntola spoken (against the SACP leadership),” Maleka said.
“We elect people on to the central committee based on party work, their contribution and them carrying out their responsibilities. Nobody was kicked out because of what they do at the trade union. We judge them on their contribution. Nothing less and nothing more,” he said.
Masondo said his membership was more important than getting elected into a leadership structure.
“My commitment to Marxist theory and practice as well as my communist conviction are more important than being elected into leadership structures,” he said.
Olivier confirmed that she was not at the SACP congress and added that it was not her intention to continue serving as a member of the central committee.
“I did not stand for any position at the congress and it was never my intention to do so. My work from Numsa kept me away because when the central committee had its meetings, I was out of the country. But it is not a big issue because I never planned to stand and continue to serve in the central committee of the SACP,” she said.
Ntola, who lashed out at the Zuma administration last year for pushing the Protection of State Information Bill through the National Assembly, could not be reached for comment.
In 2009, Masondo, the national chairman of the Young Communist League (YCL) at the time, wrote an article that was critical of the president’s family getting involved in business under the guise of black economic empowerment. He said the involvement of the president’s son Duduzane in the ArcelorMittal deal, was a clear example of how narrow BEE, which he termed “Zuma Economic Empowerment, or ZEE”, had become.
For this, he drew criticism from the YCL, which has defended Zuma.
In April last year, Ntola and Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim came out in support of Vavi while Frans Baleni and Fikile Majola, the general secretaries of the National Union of Mineworkers and the National Education Health and Allied Workers Union, respectively, were in favour of Nzimande retaining his position. Baleni and Majola are on the central committee.