(File image) Dr Blade Nzimande. Photo: Cindy Waxa

Johannesburg - The South African Communist Party (SACP) on Tuesday denied reports that its general secretary Blade Nzimande was a former IFP member.

“Occasionally, in the run-up to major congresses of our organisations, this allegation and others are thrown up with an intention to tarnish the name of the general secretary of the SACP,” spokesperson Malesela Maleka said in a statement on Tuesday. He was referring to the ANC's upcoming policy and elective conferences.

“Comrade Blade's record of struggle is there for all to see.”

The SACP was reacting to a report on Sunday that African National Congress national executive committee (NEC) member Tony Yengeni and Nzimande became involved in an argument at a NEC meeting last week.

According to unnamed eyewitnesses at the meeting, the men were having a debate about former ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema's expulsion from the ruling party.

President Jacob Zuma’s representative in Parliament, Siphiwe Nyanda, reportedly told the meeting that people could not speak freely because they felt they were under a dictatorship. Nzimande objected to this.

Yengeni took issue with Nzimande and told him that he “doesn’t know the ANC and its traditions because he's originally from the IFP”, according to the Sunday World.

Maleka said the only way Nzimande could be isolated was by associating him with the Inkatha Freedom Party.

“The absurdity of this claim is also in its tribalistic undertones, building on (IFP leader Mangosuthu) Buthelezi's and the apartheid regime's claims in the 1970s and 1980s that all Zulus were members of Inkatha.

“It is a repeat of the same script, because Nzimande is Zulu, therefore he was Inkatha. No shred of evidence has ever been produced to support this ludicrous claim,” Maleka said.

The IFP said the SACP should not drag its name into the ANC's internal battles.

“Maleka must not drag the IFP into the internal ANC battles which threaten the future of his general secretary. His duty is to convince his comrades within the ANC about Dr Blade Nzimande's often-questioned struggle credentials,” spokesperson Joshua Mazibuko said.

He said Maleka needed to produce evidence to support his claims or issue a public apology to Buthelezi and the IFP. - Sapa