The forthcoming South African Communist Party (SACP) Special National Congress will determine whether communists are ready to contest political power.  Delegates at the four-day meeting starting on Monday will debate and finalise whether the party will contest future elections independently.

For some time now the SACP has been pushing for a reconfiguration of the alliance.   Its lower structures have complained about the dominance of the African National Congress (ANC) on candidate lists, policy proposals and deployment processes – saying many SACP and Cosatu members are being side-lined.  Some party members believe the best way is to contest future elections outside the ANC and are now looking at the 2021 local government elections as the best time to test their electoral support.  And already a discussion paper titled – New Possibilities, New Challenges and New SACP Responsibilities – has been prepared for consideration at the congress this week.

Although delegates are still to discuss the issue, first Deputy General Secretary Solly Mapaila says there is an overwhelming mood for the party to contest power at the local sphere of government.

For the first time, the SACP contested elections at the Metsimaholo Municipality in the Free State.  Defending his comrades at the lower structure, Mapaila says they were not influenced by careerism and lust for power.  He says they decided to contest because the ANC had failed the community and workers in that municipality.

With the longstanding view that the alliance is still relevant, Mapaila says a wish to contest elections outside the ANC does not signal the beginning of the end of the alliance.  He maintains the SACP voice will still be expressed within the context of the alliance insisting they are now pinning their hopes in the reconfiguration process.

However, Political Analyst Dr Ralph Mathekga says although proponents of a contest for political power might be influenced by opportunities in government, the communists might have a point in that within the alliance, the SACP and Cosatu are junior partners which are only valued at election time.

A serious concern that the SACP has with the ANC, is that of cadre deployment.

The party says most of its members were removed from the candidate lists in the 2016 elections and that had recurred up to the national elections where some party members were excluded from the parliamentary and legislative lists.

While senior SACP leaders including Dr Blade Nzimande and Thulas Nxesi as well as former Young Communists League leader Buti Manamela are included in President Cyril Ramaphosa’s new Cabinet, several communist leaders including the party’s chairperson Senzeni Zokwana, Rob Davies and Yunus Carrim were left in the cold.