The SACP and its new leadership: ‘What is to be done?’ (And is it still relevant?)
Solly Mapaila, a seasoned politician, recently succeeded Blade Nzimande as the SACP’s general-secretary.
Nzimande was in the position for 24 years, which means he rose to the job when Nelson Mandela was still head of state! That’s some innings.
During this period, the SACP’s high-water mark was in 2006 and 2007 when the “vanguard party”, as it likes to portray itself, was one of the main agitators against then-president Thabo Mbeki and a big supporter of Jacob Zuma.
But ever since then, it has quietly slipped from view, as SACP office-bearers were elected to Parliament and its leaders appointed to Cabinet, becoming part of the firmament of the Zuma-era ANC.
The world has also moved on, with socialism not looking to make a return despite the vagaries and contradictions of the global capitalist system.
What then is the role of the SACP?
During the struggle years, the party styled itself as the intellectual hub of the liberation movement and managed to ensure the ANC’s leadership was populated with SACP deployees. And it provided intellectual and policy ballast to the ANC after unbanning.
But with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the discrediting of communism, the SACP’s role had to change. And for a while in democratic South Africa, it seemed as if it found its niche as a significant actor in the ANC, but those fortunes seem to have dramatically diminished since.
In this week’s Friday Briefing, Mapaila writes about his vision for the SACP – and he tries to answer Vladimir Lenin’s famous question: “What is to be done?”
Ace analyst Mpumelelo Mkhabela considers the SACP’s position, and we carry two wonderful extracts, including by academic Stephen Ellis, surely the best book to understand the SACP and ANC’s relationship.
Also, Karyn Maughan dissects the political trial in which advocate Dali Mpofu is attempting to turn the impeachment hearings of Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane into.
Have a good weekend,
Pieter du Toit
Assistant editor of investigations
EXCERPT | The SACP very much remains a product of its very long history
In 2021, The South African Communist Party celebrated 100 years of its existence. In his book, ‘Red Road to Freedom: A History of the South African Communist Party 1921-2021’, renowned historian Tom Lodge examines the SACP in all its intricacies. In the closing chapter of the book, Lodge reflects on how the party views itself currently.