Johannesburg - Senior SACP leaders and Cosatu’s top unionists are among the casualties who didn’t make it to the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) during the governing party’s national elective conference this week.
The SACP - which backed Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa to replace President Jacob Zuma as ANC leader - has admitted that the exclusion of several of its leaders from the 80-member NEC was a significant issue.
Several of the party’s top officials, including general- secretary Blade Nzimande, national chairperson Senzeni Zokwana and his deputy Thulas Nxesi, are some of the senior SACP members who were in the previous ANC NEC.
All of them were also appointed in government as either cabinet ministers or deputy ministers, and their exclusion from the ANC’s highest structure is likely to negatively affect their prospects of future deployment.
Zuma recently dumped Nzimande from his cabinet.
With the new NEC being almost split down the middle, Ramaphosa will have to work hard to get a clear majority to make key decisions, such as Zuma’s possible recall from the Union Buildings.
Backers of Ramaphosa made it clear in the run-up to the conference that Zuma had to step down to help the ANC renew its image ahead of the national elections in 2019.
While around 35 of Ramaphosa’s key backers, including chief whip Jackson Mthembu, former finance minister Pravin Gordhan and Mathole Motshekga, might back moves to oust the president, Zuma’s allies might block it.
Zuma’s staunch supporters include ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule, ANC Women’s League president Bathabile Dlamini, ANC Youth League president Collen Maine, and Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane.
But there could be realignments, an analyst said, given that Zuma was becoming a lame duck.
This comes as the SACP calls for the reconfiguration of the tripartite alliance as it complains about the sidelining of the left in the ANC’s deployment and key decision-making.
SACP first deputy general secretary Solly Mapaila blamed factional battles that occurred leading up to the ANC elective conference, which ended in the early hours of on Thursday morning, for the poor showing of leaders from the left in the final NEC list.
“You know there were factions before this conference so that has influenced the outcome,” Mapaila said.
However, he was reluctant to talk about how the SACP felt about the outcome of the NEC poll.
Mapaila added that the party had no qualms about the exclusion of SACP leaders from the list, as they were participating in the ANC structures as ANC members and not as SACP leaders.
“It is the choice of the members of the ANC, so we have no problem with it.”
He said that while previous SACP general secretaries usually secured a seat in the ANC NEC - including Struggle heroes Chris Hani and Joe Slovo - Nzimande’s surprise exclusion would not mark the first time an SACP general secretary did not sit on the ANC’s highest decision-making structure between conferences.
“Late former general secretary Moses Kotane (who served between 1939 and 1978) was not on the ANC NEC at some point, so it is not the first time,” Mapaila said.
Meanwhile, the party’s KwaZulu-Natal structure lamented what they called a snub of communists.
SACP KZN secretary Themba Mthembu said they would be engaging the ANC on the shunning of the party’s senior leaders from inclusion in the new ANC NEC.
“We will engage with the ANC because anything that can weaken the alliance will weaken both the ANC and the SACP,” said Mthembu.
Cosatu general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali said the federation had hoped the ANC conference would retain some unionists.
”They didn’t; it’s their choice,” he said.
Along with Zokwana and Nxesi, former Nehawu general secretary Slovo Majola was also left out of the NEC. He is also a member of the SACP central committee.
According to Ntshalintshali, Cosatu did not lobby for any of its leaders to be elected to the ANC NEC out of fear of being accused of interfering in the affairs of its ally the ANC.
Ntshalintshali said Cosatu only backed Ramaphosa but was also happy with the performance of its second deputy president Zingiswa Losi, who lost the ANC deputy secretary-general position to incumbent Jessie Duarte. Losi was voted into the NEC on Thursday.
Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) president Kebby Maphatsoe, who also failed to make the NEC cut, said he was disappointed by Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma’s defeat.
The MKMVA was one of the first organisations to declare support for Dlamini Zuma’s presidential ambitions.
Maphatsoe said while he lost out on being re-elected into the NEC, he was happy that critical policies, including radical economic transformation, were adopted by conference.
“It was not about me, so I accept the outcome,” he said.
Maphatsoe, a staunch Zuma supporter, warned Ramaphosa not to push for Zuma’s removal before the 2019 general elections.
“It will be a stupid thing for him to do. He must allow him to finish his term. We have learnt a lot from removing Thabo Mbeki as the president of the country in 2008. This will cause divisions and can lead to us losing 2019 (general elections),” Maphatsoe said.
Other notable exclusions from the NEC include Deputy Health Minister Joe Phaahla, Home Affairs Minister Ayanda Dlodlo, and her Land Reform and Rural Development counterpart Gugile Nkwinti and his deputy Mcebisi Skwatsha.
ANC veterans Max Sisulu and Stone Sizani also failed to make the cut, alongside Philly Mapulane, the chairperson of the National Assembly’s portfolio committee on environmental affairs.
Political analyst Thabani Khumalo said the snubbing of senior SACP leaders in the NEC was a clear sign that the tripartite alliance had reached a point of no return.
“The SACP created its own misfortune because of the way it handled issues around Jacob Zuma; they were divisive to the ANC, while this new NEC’s aim is to unite the party.
“The SACP is not honest because you find that their leaders are part of the ANC’s NEC and they sit there discussing and endorsing issues as the ANC, and they leave the ANC colours and go out in their red regalia and start criticising the ANC while they were part of the very same decisions,” Khumalo said.
He said the SACP’s “dishonesty and opportunism” were destroying any attempts of unifying the alliance, and the ANC was now fed up with it.