11/07/2017 06:01 SAST | Updated 11/07/2017 06:06 SAST

How The SACP's Threat To Go It Alone May Be Just A Pipe Dream

Discussions on contesting the 2019 elections independently from the ANC are on the table again.

The end of a beautiful friendship? ANC General Secretary; Gwede Mantashe with the South African Communist Party General Secretary Blade Nzimande.
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The end of a beautiful friendship? ANC General Secretary; Gwede Mantashe with the South African Communist Party General Secretary Blade Nzimande.


The South African Communist Party (SACP) is considering going head-to-head against its alliance partner the ANC, with leaders thinking about contesting the 2019 elections independently.

This is not a new rhetoric. The party has threatened to do so as far back as 2005. But would the SACP, which has maintained such close ties to the ruling party from which it garners much of its support, be able to stand alone?

At a media briefing ahead of the party's 14th national conference, SACP first deputy general secretary Jeremy Cronin said if the ANC collapses, "and there is no guarantee that it won't", it will be necessary to "reinvent" something "like an ANC".

"Whether that will assume the form of an alliance of forces or a coalition of forces, all of those remain very uncertain," Cronin said.

He also remained steadfast in saying that the SACP will not break away from the tripartite alliance.

From his statement, it seems the party is still uneasy about which path to take.

Political analyst Ralph Mathekga said the SACP had threatened a breakaway for "quite a while", usually at times when it becomes frustrated with the ANC's actions.

"If they [the SACP] continue to do threaten the ANC with talks of contesting elections, and not acting on those statements, people will soon call them on their bluff. If they do decide to contest the elections, it will be a new terrain for the party. They will have to learn how to be the opposition," Mathekga said.

"They will have to take a position on some of the leftist policies. I see great potential for them as a credible opposition, they may even do better than the Economic Freedom Fighters."

But Susan Booysen, a professor at the Wits University School of Governance, thinks otherwise.

"The SACP have not had sufficient existence independently. It is a strong symbiosis between the ANC and the SACP. The ANC is stronger," Booysen said.

"It would take a huge transitional process for the SACP to contest the elections successfully. It has more pull as a party that provides moral critique than as an opposition."

At the SACP's 2005 Special National Congress, some delegates argued that, in the light of the relative "marginalization of the left", that the party should contest elections independently.

Then too, the party was not able to reach a consensus on the matter. They also discussed the possibility of contesting election in 2015.

Most recently, the SACP's structures in the Western Cape resolved during its provincial conference to lobby the party's central leadership into considering contestation.

The North-West structures took a similar resolution as well.

The SACP should make light of their decision when the Congress' commissions report back on Friday and Saturday this week.