Reshuffle: Zuma throttles SACP
By Weizmann Hamilton, Executive Committee
Zuma’s cabinet reshuffle – his twelfth in eight years – underlines the depth of the ANC’s crisis. Carried out a mere 58 days ahead of the most important elective conference in the ANC’s history, Zuma’s move has a number of inter-related objectives: firstly to strengthen his faction. The axing of Nzimande is aimed at silencing dissent from within cabinet as he nears the end of his term as party president in the hope that this will increase the prospects of his anointed successor, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. The need for immunity from prosecution has become absolutely imperative now that the Supreme Court of Appeals has effectively reinstated the corruption charges he has evaded for eight years.
Secondly it is to the secure factional loyalty through the eye-watering patronage that can be dispensed by the trillion rand nuclear deal with Russia. New Energy Minister David Mahlobo was sent to Russia in the company of two convicted criminals-turned politicians, Gayton McKenzie and Kenny Kunene, in advance of the reshuffle. The decision to replace one loyalist with another, Mmamoloko Kubyai for David Mahlobo, derives from the fact that the former took the Western Cape High Court judgment that the nuclear deal was unconstitutional, too seriously. Mahlobo, who claimed he knew about the Vuwani uprising a year in advance but did nothing, and who visited a brothel owned by a rhino-poacher whilst State Security minister, has no such qualms.
Thirdly the appointment of little-known Mpumalanga ANC leader Bongani Bongo to replace Mahlobo as State Security Minister is to ensure simultaneously continuity of that ministry’s strategic objective – to ward off attempts at “regime change” – as well as to serve as a sop to Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza who now commands the second biggest provincial delegation to the December elective conference.
However much Zuma may delude himself that he is flexing his muscles to demonstrate the ascendancy of his faction, that this has occurred barely two months before the ANC elective conference, lends to his manoeuvers an air of desperation – the action of a man whose grip is weakening by the day uncertain about the outcome of the ANC conference to which his personal fate is tied.
That this will accelerate the erosion of the ANC’s political credibility even further will be clear to all but his most obsequious sycophants. Far from enhancing the ANC’s 2019 electoral prospects, it will bring the continent’s oldest liberation movement closer to the 50% water-mark below which it will it no longer be able to form a government on its own. But even this requires the ANC to go into the election as a single, albeit divided, entity.
This is no longer guaranteed. Rumours that he plans to depose Ramaphosa as deputy president (possibly by utilizing the vacancy left by the redeployment of Buti Manamela to Higher Education to appoint Dlamini-Zuma, already sworn in as an MP, through another reshuffle) will almost certainly result in the split. The outlines of such a split are becoming more pronounced, especially given the “lawfare” for control of delegates that is now wracking the ANC’s provinces.
The biggest casualty of Zuma’s wrecking ball, which has now all but buried the Tripartite Alliance, is the SACP. The axing of its general secretary Blade Nzimande who was not even the shown the courtesy of being informed in advance, is no less humiliating for having been expected. The SACP has been richly rewarded for keeping Zuma in power during the “No Confidence” debate when a handful of SACP MPs could have breaking the ANC whip could have forced him to face corruption charges.
The SACP is now sitting on the horns of a painful dilemma: to carry out the threat first made in the context of Pravin Gordhan’s impending dismissal – to resign en bloc or to stay. Just as Zuma’s last reshuffle was calculated to divide the SACP by selective dismissals of its leaders, the redeployment of Young Communist League leader Buti Manamela to the post of deputy Higher Education – where he will preside over a R30 billion Seta budget – is a calculated insult designed to take advantage of the reported tensions between leaders of the mother body, who only yesterday dismissed the Nkandla scandal as “white peoples’ lies” and of its youth wing.
Any self-respecting party of any ideological hue would resign from their posts en bloc. But the SACP is imprisoned by its ideological bankruptcy and betrayals of the working class they claimed to be the vanguard of for virtually its entire history. Should SACP MPs remain in their posts it will destroy the last vestiges of credibility of a party whose record in the most important conflict between the classes post-Apartheid, is soaked in the blood of the martyrs of Marikana whose uprising their then deputy general secretary Jeremy Cronin condemned as inspired by a “Pondoland vigilante mafia” and whose preferred candidate for the succession to the presidency, is none other than the butcher of Marikana himself – Cyril Ramaphosa.
The SACP is facing a richly deserved political extinction as is it torn apart by a rebellion from a rank-and-file, whose fury was contained at its June conference only by the accession of Solly Mapaila as deputy general secretary, for whom continued participation in this rotten corrupt ANC capitalist government has now surely become intolerable, and a leadership in whose DNA reformism – inherent in which is betrayal — is embedded. This will be the central question at the special congress the leadership has committed to convening should NDZ emerge at the ANC December conference. Should it leave it would finally realise their worst nightmare – that it has a programme no different from the ANC’s and will be faced with possible electoral oblivion.
Damned if it does and damned if it doesn’t, the SACP faces the choice of death by asphyxiation inside Zuma’s cabinet or from exposure outside it. Such is the cruelty of history – the SACP’s fate has been determined by the insolence of the president they helped to bring to power. What an irony it is that it will take the victory of the Butcher of Marikana to provide the SACP with the pretext to remain at their posts as warders of the Tripartite Alliance political prison out of which the birth of Saftu represents a mass break-out.
However, even as Zuma tightens the noose around the neck of the SACP, he cannot be certain that he has saved his own. On the contrary, so repugnant are his actions and so obviously self-serving, they pose afresh the question of the completion of his term as the country’s president after the December conference – as the reappearance of two centers of power makes its reappearance if Ramaphosa wins.
NDZ herself will wonder how she can go into the election campaign with the albatross of a discredited president at the helm of government and hope to keep the ANC above the 50% water mark. A deal may well have to be made for Zuma to step down, NDZ installed as acting president if she wins, and an immunity from prosecution granted to Zuma before the NPA is forced to prosecute by court action or a private prosecution is initiated.
For the working class, the ANC’s neoliberal capitalist policies will continue regardless of whether it is led by the devil or Satan. A victory for a weakened ANC is not outside the realm of possibility. More likely there will be a pro-capitalist coalition government of a weakened ANC, a split-off from it together with the DA, UDM and the EFF in what may well be a second edition of the short-lived “Government of National Unity” that ushered in the new democracy.
The necessity for a mass workers party on a socialist programme is now an even greater necessity. It is what it owed to the martyrs of Marikana whose heroic uprising was the epicentre of the earthquake that separated post-Apartheid SA into two epochs – the first of its incarceration in the class collaborationist trap the ANC, SACP and Cosatu leadership led them into, and the second the reclamation of its class and political independence the political uprising of the Marikana workers set the course for. Saftu must throw its full weight and all its resources into the creation of such a party to unite organised workers, communities and the youth into a struggle or the abolition of capitalism and the socialist transformation of society.