27/09/2017 16:52 SAST | Updated 28/09/2017 07:31 SAST

Tripartite Alliance's Problems Can Be Traced Back To '94, Says Cronin

“There are hard lessons that the SACP and Cosatu need to learn from this period".

The SA Communist Party's Jeremy Cronin says the current deteriorating state of the tripartite alliance with the ANC can be traced all the way back to 1994.

Cronin, who is the former first deputy general secretary of the SACP and an ANC NEC member, said mistakes were made as far back as the dawn of South Africa's democracy -– mistakes that have effectively led the country to where it is now.

On Wednesday, the SACP supported its alliance partner, Cosatu, in a nationwide strike against state capture and corruption.

Thousands took to the streets, some echoing the calls for President Jacob Zuma to step down.

Cronin said back in 1994, there were many illusions.

"With the Mandela presidency itself, basically the struggle was largely over and that we were now sort of a normal society, turning into a normal world. That illusion was actively cultivated from outside, with speak about the rainbow nation and so forth," Cronin said.

"We did not press ahead with the necessary structural changes that were required. The key beneficiaries of that early period were actually big capital, big monopoly capital inside South Africa."

Cronin said government mistakenly implemented neoliberal policies and macroeconomic policies.

"We liberalised trade, we liberalised exchange controls and so forth. There was a massive outflow of capital from our country which had been penned in by sanctions in the '80s and early '90s," Cronin said.

"We lost control of key parts of the economy, we lost sovereign control over it."

Next came black economic empowerment (BEE).

"Not every South African benefited from being on a board of directors. There were limited spaces and that set up huge competition and rivalry between aspirant BEE elements," Cronin said.

"Part of the Zuma support in Polokwane [ANC national conference in 2007] was also coming from aspirant BEE or actual BEE people who were not in the inner circle of the Mbeki period. Those elements are behind a lot of what we are now seeing, the state capture, the looting of public resources and so on."

Cronin said the SACP's vision at Polokwane was not one of supporting Zuma.

"We didn't and still are not specifically supporting any particular candidate for the ANC's December conference. But many people said the SACP's body language back then, though it didn't pronounce formally, clearly showed support for Zuma," Cronin said.

"That had everything to do with a huge dissatisfaction, which was not just SACP dissatisfaction, in the role that Mbeki was playing in the ANC. It was a default position in supporting Zuma. Zuma also very actively courted both the unions and the SACP at that time and promised to behave very differently."

He said Mbeki, at the same time, was very actively marginalised by the SACP and Cosatu.

"There are hard lessons that the SACP and Cosatu need to learn from this period. Too much faith was placed in a presidential figure. That is why, as a party, we are not saying that we support this or that candidate for the forthcoming ANC national conference," Cronin said.

"We would like to see an ANC that emerges stronger, non-corrupt, and have principled, collective leadership."

Cosatu has called for Zuma's head to roll and has banned him from speaking at any of their events. It has instead thrown its weight behind Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa for the ANC's next president.

At the same time, the SACP last month announced it planned to contest future elections –- although it would not say which election -– independently from the ANC.