Let's Think

Tiny minority with overblown egos threatening SA constitution

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The South African Communist Party (SACP), representing 1.2% of the South African electorate, has set out to have the South African constitution rewritten and overturn the negotiated political settlement that underpins it.

That is the implication of a message by the SACP’s general secretary, minister Blade Nzimande, on Youth Day last week to the national congress of the trade union representing the country’s police and prison workers, the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru).

Saying that he brought SACP “revolutionary greetings” to the Popcru congress, he described it as an occasion to underline and strengthen the relationship between the SACP and Popcru.

Nzimande then, launching into an attack on a number of usual communist bogeymen, from “the bosses” and neoliberalism to “monopoly capital” and an independent media “dominated by private monopoly”, pleaded for renewed vigour in “our second, more radical phase of transition”.

He stated: “Indeed for us as the working class driving a more radical second phase of our transition is integrally linked to deepening the national democratic revolution to its logical conclusion – a transition to socialism.”

Revealing his particular slant and view of democracy, he went on to say: “The next task in driving a second, more radical phase, is ideological. At the head of the ideological offensive is what we have referred to as the anti-majoritarian offensive, whose aim is to discredit majority rule and seek to undermine the majority of the ANC in particular.”

Racist undertones

In his attempt to whip up emotions, Nzimande also again heavily played the race card with references like:

  • “…this capital flight by the beneficiaries of apartheid and white supremacist minority is a flight from democracy and has undermined our transformation efforts in a big way …”;
  • “… the production and reproduction of ideas still remains untransformed and largely white male dominated.”; and
  •  “… our media still largely remains untransformed, as well as our university professoriate which still is more than 80% white.”

Fundamental changes

Nzimande also created his own timeframe into which he fitted his assessment of what went wrong in the development of “counterproductive, negative and destructive tendencies”, which must be confronted openly.

He laid most of it at the door of President Jacobs Zuma’s predecessor, Thabo Mbeki, without naming him directly. Saying that since 1994 “monopoly capital has actively sought to reverse working class gains”, he goes on to state that “this was also worsened by our own government's flirtation with neoliberal policies between 1996 and 2007”, being the period Mr Mbeki was in office.

He even, in effect, sought to link the present dilemma with President Al-Bashir of Sudan and the International Criminal Court to that particular period.

More important, however, are the structural changes to South Africa’s constitutional framework that the SACP-SG hints at.

Besides the clear indications that the SACP is uncomfortable with an independent media, he also aired the parties’ unease with the judiciary and stated: “The SACP is of the view that it is time we once more have a national debate on the separation of powers and the role of each arm of the state.

“We therefore need to work together, to build, strengthen and participate in organs of people’s power, such as street committees and community policing forums, so that ordinary workers and poor have a say on these matters and that matters of the rule of law are not only the subject of the elite and their media. Popcru has an important part to play in all of this.”

The SACP and democracy

Against this background and the constant scapegoating of “elites” and special interest, it is only fair to take a look at the “democratic” record of the SAPC itself.

Dr Nzimande opened his message to the Popcru congress with, in the very first sentence, a boast that the SACP has more than 230 000 members.

In real democratic terms where people have the right to vote for representatives to parliament, that figure represents  01,2% of the number of people who voted in last year’s national election.

It the SACP had the courage of its conviction and had taken part in that election under their own banner (something it has never done since the country’s first fully democratic election in 1994) it would have qualified for five seats in parliament.

In reality, since the removal of Mr Mbeki from office and especially since Mr Zuma came to power, the SACP has secured 40%, or at least 15, of the most powerful elite positions in the country – the cabinet – for itself.

To my mind, that represents a tiny minority in terms of any democratic measurement one could use; a tiny minority, moreover, with a totally overblown influence and an equally overblown ego, presumptuously wanting to tamper with the country’s constitution and economic construct.

by Piet Coetzer

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