22 October 2012, Mamelodi, Stanza Bopape Hall

“The ANC and the SACP: A Shared History”

The history of the ANC and the SACP is the history of South Africa. As we celebrate the 91st Anniversary of the SACP and the Centenary of the ANC, we do so cognisant of the fact that the current state of events are informed by where we come from. This alliance survived internal and external attempts to ensure that the working class and the poor have divided loyalties between their national mass movement and the communist movement, and thus, a derail of the long-term objective for the complete liberation of our people from economic and political bondage.

In the past, the attempt to drive a wedge between the SACP and the ANC were led by those who sought to turn the ANC into a narrow PAN-Africanist political formation on the one hand, whilst on the other hand there were the ultra-leftists and workerist tendencies who wanted to distinguish between a national democratic struggle and a struggle for socialism.

Many of these went on to pursue their own political formations such as the PAC, members of the then Gang of Eight splintered into various political formations, lately, some went on to form the UDM and COPE defiant of this alliance and its leadership. Others are pursuing a narrow socialist path, urging communists not to form part of a “sell-out” ANC government and pursue socialism far from and out of the state.

Just as we saw immediately after Mangaung, some forces both within and outside the ANC and the SACP questioned the legitimacy of a sitting office bearer in the communist party becoming also an office bearer in the ANC. The same tendencies are the one`s calling for change, having used that initial excuse to launch a leadership change in the forthcoming Mangaung Congress.

What are the shared historical mandates and objectives of the Alliance between the ANC and the SACP and how do we relate these to the current political and economic situation? Cde. Joe Slovo was spot on to suggest that there can be no struggle for socialism outside of the struggle for national emancipation, for it can only be under socialism that we completely eradicate the shackles of colonialism and national oppression. He further said that any struggle for national emancipation and economic freedom that falls short of pursuing the goals of socialism is worthless and would face massive defeats.

Many efforts have been made since 1994 to reverse the effects of more than three centuries of national oppression, economic exclusion and colonial rule. Because of the nature of the political and economic settlements reached since then, the pace and extent of reversing colonialism, imperialism and apartheid rule was determined by contending forces hellbent on maintaining the status quo.

These were further perpetuated by the systemic and real challenges of an apartheid state apparatus, the urgent need for delivery of education, health and housing in order to better the lives of our people and the urgent priority of building an economically equitable and politically just society

We are time and again coming to the realisation that we cannot change the lives of our people for the better if we do not alter the ownership patterns inherent of the apartheid past. The fact that millions of black South Africans are locked in poverty, inequality and unemployment on the one hand whilst white South Africa continues to inherit the wealth of the past that was protected by the apartheid negotiators remains an unsustainable pattern of economic development.

We have to consistently challenge the multiple efforts of blaming the ANC and the alliance-led government as the sole creator of this type of society. The capitalist path of development, which has guaranteed billions of profits channelled into the pockets of both local and foreign firms should take the responsibility for the mess that we are in.

Although government has built millions of houses, opened taps for millions of families, built thousands of schools and hospitals, built roads and empowered some of our people with land and other means of production and sustainable livelihood; a lot more needs to be done and some of the trials and errors have to be corrected by our government. However, most of the real conditions of the lives of people will never change as long as the economic institutions still favours the historically rich and co-opt a few black faces as part of economic empowerment.

I must hasten to say that there has been efforts to create an impression that doomsday is nearing and that the entire South African roof is about to collapse on all of us. This impression has been consistently repeated by, firstly, proponents of a liberal government and the former architects of apartheid.

They include people such as FW de Klerk, whose intention is not out of pity for black people in general for the conditions that they face, but scorn for them having voted for the ANC since 1994. Institutions such as the FW de Klerk foundation have awoken to the reality that the wealth which they secured in perpetuity for white South Africa is under threat as many of our people languish in poverty and want.

They preach the gospel that the misery of our people lies not in the equitable redistribution of the wealth in white hands, the mineral resources and the arable land, but that all of these are part and parcel of a failing or failed state. These are the same people who have used violence and deployed the so-called third force in the townships during the negotiations so that, in fear of more lives being lost, the ANC should concede economic freedom and pursue a political settlement.

They are the same people who have used the courts and the constitution to prevent the ANC-led government from redistributing land without incurring exorbitant costs, and made a vampire out of the ANC for wanting a two-thirds majority in order to change the property clause and other laws that guarantees apartheid wealth.

These also include some of the people within the ANC and the alliance who scorn our people for having elected the leadership of Polokwane, against their wise advise. Some of these people are making calls for change when it comes to leadership at the next Conference of the ANC but fail to provide content on how this changes will impact on the lives of our people. They have armed both the opposition and the media with propaganda that seeks to weaken the ANC, and therefore the government and its leading capacity, in order to themselves share the spoils once in office.

We must be careful not to reduce the ANC and the alliance into organisations that are self-centred and only interested in leadership battles. We cannot have every five years, no matter how democratic leadership contests are, an ANC or alliance that presents itself as seeking to devour itself merely because some people have turned themselves into professional campaigners, seeking to change or impose leadership at every Conference just to serve their stomachs and the egos of their handlers.

When we called for a change of heart or a change of leadership building up to Polokwane, it was not merely for want of positions to shared amongst those who stood firm in principle. Just because some people were not appointed as Ministers or Premiers post-Polokwane does not mean that their role must at all conference call for change and become the change that they want us to see. How can you say that there must be a change of leadership, but when asked who should then lead, you boldly say “I will be National Chairperson, and my friend there would be Secretary General”. There is no principle in such call of change.

Yes there must be change. We must change the lives of the more than 13 million people on social grants. We must change the lives of those who do not have access to water, electricity and basic health care. We must change the lives of those who live in shacks. We must change the lives of unemployed young people who have degrees and diplomas. We must change the tender system that allows corruption and non-delivery. We must change the lives of school children in Limpopo who do not have access to textbooks or the ones in the Eastern Cape who learns under mud-schools. We must change the lives of mineworkers who are paid peanuts by Anglo-Gold and Lonmin Marikana, and the exploitative nature of capitalism in those mines.

Yes there must be change and this is the change that we call on the leadership that was elected in Polokwane to ensure that, as they continue after Mangaung, the effect this change. My friend, brother and Comrade, Fikile Mbalula, is alleged to have said that President Zuma is politically bankrupt, marries every week and relies on corruption as a president. In that regard, my friend, brother and Comrade Mbalula is alleged to have declared war in President Zuma come Mangaung. He is further alleged to have said that he has ensured the election of all the currently serving NEC members.

There is a popular poem by Bertolt Brecht titled “Questions from the worker who read” and it goes on as thus: Who built Thebes of the 7 gates?/In the books you will read the names of kings/Did the kings haul up the lumps of rock?/And Babylon, many times demolished/Who raised it up so many times?/In what houses of gold glittering Lima did its builders live?/Where, the evening that the Great Wall of China was finished, did the masons go?/Great Rome is full of triumphal arches./Who erected them?/Over whom did the Caesars triumph?/Had Byzantium, much praised in song, only palaces for its inhabitants?/Even in fabled Atlantis, the night that the ocean engulfed it/The drowning still cried out for their slaves/The young Alexander conquered India/Was he alone?

They kept on feeding us the lie that “Young Mbalula conquered Mbeki”, we ask the question, “was he alone”. Where were the branches of the ANC? Where were the leadership collective of the Alliance? Where were the leadership of the PYA which was together with Mbalula? Our history cannot be written in names of king-makers. Yes, my friend, brother and comrade was fearless in the build-up to Polokwane, but was he alone in that big Conference Hall? We were all there.

Lately, the chorus of a crises was repeated by former President Thabo Mbeki in his beautiful oration to Oliver Tambo as part of the ANC centenary celebrations. I am not interested in the media headlines proclaiming that “Mbeki lashes Zuma”, but in the actual content of what our beloved former President said. As he put down the speech on at the University of Fort Hare, I waited for the skies to fall or the graves to open in collaboration with the former President`s proclamation of an apocalypse. But alas, here am I.

The thing with what the former President said is that it is neither new nor is being ignored. His acceptance that the leadership is dealing with a mess that he has created fell short of an acknowledgement that it will take us much longer because that mess was built on the traumatic experience of dealing with an apartheid system.

We have seen stern leadership is instilling discipline and unity within our movement post-Mangaung, we are also dealing with a continuous scourge of HIV/AIDS, reversing the consolidation of wealth in white hands which was guaranteed by neo-liberal economic policies embodies in Gear and others, we are dealing with a deficit of political education that was canvassed in the SGs report to the Polokwane Conference, we are dealing with the effects of purging real cadres of the movement in favour of theproffessional cadre` whose sole purpose and mandate was to accumulate the crumbs from the table of white capitalism.

To suggests that blame for the preventable tragedy of Lonmin Marikana lies solely with the democratic state, and that South Africa, although becoming the firm leader of the continent through the AU, has become another laughing stock of the world and a disappointment in the continent is to be frugal with the truth and in denial of the progress made since 2008.

We do not expect former President Mbeki to shower the current leadership with praise, after all, they recalled him from office. But the least we expect from him is to corroborate and arm people such as FW de Klerk with ammunition aimed at the ANC and its government.

We supports all the efforts and intentions of the workers in the various mines to better their lives and get a living wage. We fully agree that things cannot and must never be the same for these workers. We stand with them that victory through struggle is certain. We also call on them to agree to be led not by chance takers who are merely interested to resuscitate their political fortunes. The NUM is there for all the workers in the mining industry. Use their leadership and ignore efforts to drive a wedge between you and your leadership. It is also important to send a message to companies such as Gold-Fields that your actions are not for the cause of resolving the disputes, but intended to worsen the situation if you expel more than 15 000 workers. We further condemn the stoning of the vehicle of the General Secretary of COSATU by individuals who have no interest in workers struggles. This follows the killing of many shopstewards of the NUM, which we believe is spearheaded or encouraged by some of these forces. Killing other workers is no solution at all.

Comrades, the challenge of building a democratic, prosperous society that will be inherited by our youth lies in strengthening the alliance and its leadership of our society. As young people, we deserve a better future that is enshrined in the golden values of non-racism, non-sexism and common social justice. We cannot allow the history of our fathers and mothers to divide a future society. We need to hold, without fear, the current leadership accountable in order to guarantee this prosperity.

We are duty bound to ask problematic questions, to expect solid answers about what is being done to guarantee a better future for all the youth of our country. We need a future were practical things such as education, health, employment, housing, safe and quality public transport, electricity and water are guaranteed.

We represent not a colonial outpost for the West to rape our mineral resources, but an important connection between the continent and the world for the common good of all Africans. As the last zone of colonialism, imperialism and under-development imposed by Western Powers, we need a solid alliance and organisation that will foster unity and harness the resources that we have for the future.

At all times, we need, and have in the current collective, a leadership that is troubled by the situation in the mining sector, in the education sector, in the health sector and in all facets of our society. This leadership must collectively share the spoils of post-1994 victory, and equally, shoulder the blame for the slow pace of transformation in some sections of our society.

If at all, and this is directed to those who say there must be change, there is a need for the overhaul of the leadership, it must be in its entirety. No one is without blame, and no one has the right to cast the first stone, from the comfort zone of alienating themselves from this leadership collective.

To those on the journey to Mangaung, we say, the youth are hungry for change. That change, is not in the leadership, for things may remain the same or worse, but that change is in their lives. If Mangaung will be anything to go by, and will be worth its while, it should come out there and say these are the problems confronting young people, and that we have listened to their voices, and we say this is the kind of future we will build for generations to come.