South African Communist Party
13th Congress Central Committee
17th Plenary Session statement, 28 August 2016
Let’s take on the choke-hold of monopoly capital on our economy, but let’s prioritise the struggle against the most immediate threat – the parasitic hollowing-out of state capacity!
The SACP Central Committee met in Ekurhuleni, Gauteng over the weekend of 26 to 28 August. A central focus of the CC was an evaluation of the performance of the ANC-led Alliance in the 3 August local government elections. CC members were able to provide detailed insights coming from many localities throughout South Africa, in which the SACP campaigned actively for an ANC election victory.
The CC applauded the activist role played by the SACP and in particular our Red Brigades in campaigning often in the most difficult areas, some of which had otherwise become no-go areas for the ANC itself.
The 3 August local government elections – a strong popular message from our core base
These detailed inputs from the ground all confirmed a common thread of serious challenges confronting our ANC-led alliance. As a general characterisation of the election results, the CC endorsed the earlier Political Bureau perspective. The PB had noted that at 54%, the ANC still retains majority support.
However, while there has been a steady decline over several elections in the ANC’s percentage support, the August 3 results represent a precipitous decline in both urban and rural areas. The CC further observed that, unless serious corrective actions are undertaken, the decline will continue and likely accelerate.
A significant factor in our declining electoral support has been a major stay-away in much of our core social base, which is reflected in our winning the overwhelming majority of working class township wards but with a low turnout, and consequently losing significant ground in terms of proportional representation.
The low general turn-out in our core social bases, the small but not insignificant toe-hold secured by opposition parties like the DA in these bases, and even the scepticism expressed by many who nonetheless voted for the ANC – these are all sending a powerful message to the ANC and its Alliance partners.
Growing numbers of South Africans are tired of being taken for granted. They believe that ANC formal structures are increasingly inward looking, pre-occupied with factional battles and money politics. They believe that the conduct of ANC politicians is often arrogant and aloof.
There are tens of thousands of loyal ANC supporters and many veterans who are excluded from branch structures by gate-keepers and fraudulent abuse of membership data. The imposition of unpopular ANC candidates, in defiance of the ANC’s own guidelines, was another major weakness.
All South Africans are deeply concerned about corruption. Many correctly appreciate major service delivery advances over the past two decades. However, they increasingly tell us that it is not material issues alone, but a prevailing view that our liberation movement has lost its moral compass.
The CC also agreed that the manner in which the ANC chose to campaign by foregrounding President Zuma and not local issues and local mayoral candidates played straight into the hands of the opposition campaign. The opposition parties had very little to say about local policy content, focusing instead on our national leadership shortcomings – whether real or alleged.
The CC also expressed some disappointment at the statement issued by the ANC following its recent National Executive Committee. It is not that the statement did not touch generally on many of the challenges and internal weaknesses confronting the ANC. But ever since the early 2000s, successive ANC National Conferences and ANC-led Alliance Summits have raised the same themes – growing social distance from our mass base, gate-keeping, factionalism, slate-based campaigning with winner-takes-all outcomes, personality-based politics without any ideological foundation, money politics, and corruption.
What the great majority of South Africans are hoping for is a clear sign of willingness to act decisively against these morbid symptoms. The recommendations of the ANC’s own integrity committee are by-passed. Corrupt individuals appear to enjoy cover.
One senior leader, in order to explain why there appears to be a reluctance to move decisively with disciplinary action, recently said in public that “we all have small skeletons in our cupboards”. As far as we know, she was not called upon to divulge to the integrity committee (or any other relevant structure) what small skeletons she was aware of, so that the matters could be dealt with.
Notwithstanding all of this, the SACP CC reaffirmed its long-standing tradition to work tirelessly for the revitalisation of the ANC on the basis of a principled unity. We all need to work together to restore the ANC in its ability to lead what its own 2012 National Conference called a second radical phase of the national democratic revolution.
If we are to be honest, the jury is out as to whether there is the internal capacity to carry forward such a revitalisation.
We urge the ANC to convene a non-elective Consultative Conference
In this general context, the SACP has taken note of calls by the ANC Youth League for an early ANC national elective conference. We are also aware that the ANCYL is being used by others to test the waters in this regard.
While any decision on the timing of an ANC national conference must, of course, be made by the ANC itself, the SACP is firmly of the belief that the motivation for this call is entirely factional. If followed through it will result in deepening disunity within the ANC and across its alliance. The winners will inherit a shell organisation.
Those making this call are not even bothering to disguise their factional intentions. They have learnt nothing from the local government elections. Nor have they learnt anything from the premature convening, against the advice of the ANC NEC itself, of the KZN ANC provincial conference which has simply deepened divisions within a formerly united ANC province.
The SACP believes there is great merit in considering the possibility of a national ANC Consultative (or special) Conference prior to the ANC’s National Conference. Such a consultative conference should be a non-elective event, with ANC provinces being accorded an equal number of delegates to avoid endless accreditation disputes. The aim of the consultative conference should be to unify the ANC and indeed the broader Alliance on a principled programmatic basis.
Agreement should be reached, if possible, on the transition to a new leadership, and, at the very least on mechanisms to ensure that the December 2017 Conference will not be characterised by a shoot-out between winner-takes-all mutually exclusive slates. Regardless of the winning slate, such an outcome will simply accelerate the decline of the ANC.
An effective consultative conference should also be a unifying space in which we can all reflect upon and take individual and collective responsibility for mistakes we have made. We do not exclude the SACP from this self-reflective and responsibility-taking imperative. We believe that alliance partners should be allowed an active role in the conference.
Consideration should also be given to inviting senior and respected veterans of our movement, and even other progressive forces like, for instance, the South African Council of Churches. Let us be prepared to listen to those whose criticism of us is motivated by a genuine concern about the future of our movement and our country, and not by petty personality hatreds or an inveterate anti-ANC position.
End the politically-motivated harassment of the Minister of Finance!
The CC reaffirmed the SACP’s condemnation of the ongoing harassment by the Hawks of the Minister of Finance, comrade Pravin Gordhan. No-one, whether comrade Gordhan or Hawks General Ntlemeza, should be above the law. But as numerous commentators have observed, the putative charges against Comrade Gordhan are a flimsy concoction without the slightest basis in law. They are designed as a pretext to remove Comrade Gordhan from office and weaken Treasury’s struggle against corruption and corporate capture.
We have noted the denial of any political involvement in this matter, but also note that after assuring Comrade Gordhan that he was not a suspect, and then pausing for the local government elections, the matter is suddenly back on the table. The timing has an eerie similarity with the events that unfolded between 2003 and 2007, when the timing of another prosecution attempt against a senior politician appeared to be coordinated around the political calendar of the ANC.
Over the last decade the ANC has battled to handle effectively leadership transitions. Back in in 2003 the head of the National Directorate of Public Prosecutions Bulelani Ngcuka announced that, while there was a prima facie case against then deputy president Comrade Zuma, he would not be prosecuted. This statement placed Comrade Zuma, the ANC, and indeed the whole country in an untenable situation. The current harassment of Comrade Gordhan bears an uncanny resemblance to those events, where judicial processes are used and abused for political ends.
The SACP also notes that the most critical of all issues is getting lost in this affair. It is too often presented in the public domain as a simple stand-off between Comrade Gordhan and the Hawks. Clearly, the South African Revenue Services, like any reputable revenue service in the world, needs a financial intelligence capacity. Yes, that capacity needs to be regulated by law to prevent abuse. But the real question in this matter is what did the so-called “rogue unit” in SARS uncover that has made some forces so desperate as to dismantle effective capacity in SARS, even risking South Africa’s economic well-being in the process?
Tax confidentiality prevents SARS from disclosing details of its findings and investigations. But there is much that is available in the public domain. We know, for instance, that SARS has had a major focus on the cigarette industry and tax fraud amounting to billions of rands. We know that one company that has come under scrutiny is Carlinix owned by Adriano Mazzotti an Italian reputedly with underworld connections.
We know that Mazzotti has connections with convicted drug-dealer Glen Agliotti and that Carlinix employed two of the shooters involved in the death of Brett Kebble. Mazzotti has also publicly admitted that it was he who paid the R200,000 that enabled Julius Malema’s EFF to register with the Independent Electoral Commission in 2014.
Mazzotti, however, refused to confirm whether he was assisting Malema in paying his R18m tax penalty agreement with SARS. Malema’s association with Mazzotti clearly goes back long before the formation of the EFF, at a time when he was still president of the ANC Youth League and the question arises as to what tendencies Malema has left behind within our movement itself.
The Guptas claim to be selling off their South African interests
The SACP has taken note of Friday’s announcement that the Gupta family intends to sell off all of its assets in South Africa by the end of the year to certain unspecified international interests. Ostensibly this is for the benefit of South Africa and to save local jobs. Frankly, we treat this announcement with a great deal of scepticism.
It comes at a time when Gupta companies are reportedly under increasing scrutiny from the Reserve Bank, Treasury and the Financial Intelligence Centre. The announcement that the sale will be completed before the end of the year happens to coincide precisely with the 2017 date for the multi-lateral, international Automatic Exchange of Information (AEI) agreement coming into operation.
The agreement provides for the automatic exchange of non-resident financial account information with the tax authorities in the account holder's country of residence. This will facilitate the discovery of formerly undetected tax evasion by way of illicit flows into foreign bank accounts. The AEI will provide South African authorities with much greater insight into the foreign bank accounts of South African residents.
Given the over-valued and under-traded nature of Gupta-linked JSE interests we doubt that there will be much appetite for purchasing them. There is a strong possibility that the Guptas simply intend to sell their South African interests to themselves through their foreign-based investment venture capital operations.
We call on the Financial Intelligence Centre to satisfy itself that if any sales are effected, the Gupta family or close relatives are not the beneficial owners of the sale. We trust that the Reserve Bank, before approving any sale from a resident to a non-resident, will ensure that there is full legal compliance with capital export requirements.
We also believe that our financial regulatory entities should ensure that money is retained in South Africa in a blocked account so that any potential penalties and liabilities are covered should further information emerge in regard to the wrecking-ball activities of the Guptas and their associates.
Let us mobilise the key motive forces of our national democratic revolution!
The CC agreed that the democratic transition from white minority rule to a united, non-racial, non-sexist and fundamentally more egalitarian society is now at a decisive cross-roads moment. This is not the first time in its proud history that the ANC has found itself in difficulty, facing internal disintegration. In the first decade of exile, the ANC’s 1969 ANC Morogoro Consultative Conference was a decisive moment in rescuing the ANC from decline and irrelevance. It laid the basis for a principled programmatic unity of the ANC itself and it formalised the ANC-led tripartite alliance.
Of course, the realities and challenges confronting the ANC and its Alliance in 2016 are different in many respects, but the critical imperative remains the same. We have to unite the broadest range of patriotic and democratic forces in the ongoing struggle to overcome the terrible legacy of colonialism and white minority rule.
It is a legacy that continues to reproduce extraordinarily high levels of racialised (and gendered and spatial) inequality, poverty and general social distress. It is precisely these systemic features that the DA is in deep denial about with its guiding individualistic philosophy of “equal opportunities” (and NOT equal outcomes). It is this denialism that accounts for Helen Zille’s inability to recognise the profound impact that poverty has on vulnerability to HIV infection, for instance, leaving it all down to “individual responsibility”.
It is the same denial of a racialised systemic reality that underpins the DA’s ambivalence about affirmative action and broad-based economic empowerment measures, or, for that matter, a state-led re-industrialisation program.
If the ANC’s national leadership proves incapable of leading a national democratic struggle, it does not mean that it is a struggle that does not still need to be waged across a broad, multi-class, patriotic front. The SACP continues to see its role in this context as an independent but non-sectarian vanguard party of socialism in the midst of a broad national democratic struggle.
Let us be active in helping to re-build a principled ANC and broader mass democratic movement from the ground-up. We believe that the consolidation of our national and democratic objectives cannot be advanced, deepened and defended without taking on the choke-hold of monopoly capital on our political economy.
But we cannot undertake any of these tasks without also prioritising the struggle against the most immediate threat – the parasitic hollowing-out of state capacity.
The SACP working with allied and all progressive formations believes that now is the time to reinvigorate people’s power through mobilising the key motive forces of any democratic revolution – the working class, the urban and rural poor.
Rural development and land reform, the struggle for the right to work, the financial sector campaign, community safety, the consolidation and re-building of the trade union movement, solidarity with the aspirations of the youth - these are among the key priorities of our current reality.
Statement issued by the 13th SACP Central Committee 17th Plenary Session, 28 August 2016