Anthea Jeffery | Aug 08, 2019Theirs is a totalitarian concept fundamentally at odds with an open, accountable, and multiparty democracy.

In its 98th anniversary statement issued earlier this week, the SACP claims to be the ultimate defender of South Africa’s democracy and the most determined opponent of state capture, as shown by its #HandsOffOurDemocracy campaign.

The irony is profound. For the SACP captured the ANC many decades ago and has cynically been using it to advance a national democratic revolution (NDR) fundamentally at odds with both the Constitution and the wishes of the moderate majority.

The SACP’s capture of the ANC dates back all the way to 1928, when the Communist International (Comintern) instructed it to begin this process. By 1969, SACP penetration and control was so far advanced that only a single member of the ANC’s national executive committee was a non-communist.

This explains the accuracy of what SACP general secretary Chris Hani said in 1991, when he stated: ‘We in the Communist Party have participated in and built the ANC. We have made the ANC what it is today and the ANC is our organisation.’

It was also in 1969 that the SACP pushed the ANC into endorsing the NDR, with its socialist and ultimately communist aims. Since 1994, the SACP has been sedulously pushing for the policies needed to implement the NDR – even though many of them contradict the Constitution.

One of the interventions most crucial to the NDR is cadre deployment. This requires the deployment of committed party loyalists to all ‘levers of power’ so as to bring them under ANC/SACP control and then use them to advance the revolution.

The ANC identifies these ‘levers of power’ as incorporating ‘the army, the police, the bureaucracy, intelligence structures, the judiciary, parastatals, regulatory bodies, the public broadcaster, and the central bank’. Also included are legislatures and executives at all three tiers of government, the private sector, the print media, universities, and civil society organisations.

The aim of cadre deployment is to allow the most senior ANC/SACP leaders to control the organisation, the organisation to control the state, and the state in time to control the whole of society. This is a totalitarian concept fundamentally at odds with an open, accountable, and multiparty democracy.

Cadre deployment has also made it possible for the SACP to occupy thousands of positions in government despite its never having stood for election or won a single vote.

Instead, the SACP has simply ridden the ANC horse into power at every tier of government. The result (in the party’s own words) is that ‘thousands of SACP members…have been elected into the National Assembly, the National Council of Provinces, provincial legislatures and municipal councils’.

In theory, all these individuals are elected representatives of the public. In practice, the public has little inkling of how many people on ANC election lists are closet members of the SACP. Nor does it know that the SACP expects them at all times to be ‘exemplary communists’ with an ultimate loyalty to ‘their own communist identity and principles’.

Much the same applies within the executive and the public service. According to the SACP, ‘tens of thousands of South African communists have taken up the challenges of governance, as cabinet ministers, [in]…provincial executives, [as] mayors…[and]  as officials and workers throughout the public service, including the armed forces and the safety and security institutions’.

Again, ‘the SACP expects all its members to conduct themselves as exemplary communists in these many deployments in the state apparatus, whether as ministers, senior civil servants, or public sector workers’.

Yet all those exercising public power are supposed to have an overarching loyalty and obedience to the Constitution, not a clandestine commitment to an unelected SACP and a Soviet-inspired NDR.

In addition, the SACP was instrumental in bringing Jacob Zuma to power – despite his obvious proclivity to corruption – because he had promised to speed up the NDR. To aid his ascent, the SACP went so far as to help disband the Scorpions and bring about the withdrawal of all corruption and other charges against its champion.

Because Mr Zuma was so useful to the NDR – he ushered in its second radical phase by tightening up many NDR-related laws and paving the way for the ‘EWC’ (expropriation without compensation) demand – the SACP for many years also condoned the ‘licence to loot’ that he had created at Nkandla and elsewhere.

The SACP changed its stance only when Mr Zuma became a threat to the NDR: in other words, when the extraordinary scale of Gupta-related corruption created a real risk that the ANC would be voted out of power in 2019.

The SACP then found a new champion, Cyril Ramaphosa, to take the NDR forward. It did much to create the ‘new dawn’ hype around his leadership and to generate the ‘Ramaphoria’ that hailed him as a real reformer.

But Mr Ramaphosa’s appeal to the SACP lies rather in his success in advancing the NDR. Vital NDR interventions made under his watch include Parliament’s decision to amend the Constitution to allow EWC, divestiture and other damaging provisions in the amended Competition Act, the unveiling of the NHI and Expropriation Bills, and the ANC’s 2019 election manifesto pledge to investigate the introduction of prescribed asset rules for pension funds and other financial institutions.

Now that Mr Ramaphosa is under increasing threat from Mr Zuma’s camp, the SACP is mobilising to protect him, just as it (belatedly) mobilised to push Mr Zuma out of the presidency. This is what has prompted its ‘Defend our Democracy’ campaign.

Yet the SACP still sees its ‘key immediate task’ as pushing ahead with the second, ‘more radical’ phase of the NDR. It recognises that it might again have to ‘help save the ANC from itself’ if it is to ‘save the NDR’. In return it wants a further ‘reconfiguration’ of the tripartite alliance, so as to give itself ‘a stronger basis for taking forward the NDR’.

The SACP appears singularly unconcerned about the country’s gathering plight. It seems to care little about the debt crisis, the Eskom crisis, the unemployment crisis, or the growing crisis of crime and anarchy on the streets. All these are predictable consequences of the NDR interventions it has assiduously promoted. If anything, it seems to view them as opportunities to push ahead with the NDR agenda.

The SACP now has the effrontery to pose as a stalwart defender of democracy, as a principled opponent of state capture. However, the key challenge is not merely to end ‘Zupta’-style looting. The real imperative is to end the SACP’s capture of the ANC, terminate the NDR, put a stop to cadre deployment, uphold the Constitution – and start generating the rapid growth so urgently required to overcome our mounting crises.

Dr Anthea Jeffery, Head of Policy Research at the IRR, is the author of People’s War: New Light on the Struggle for South Africa, now available in all good bookshops and as an e-book in abridged and updated form.

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Anthea Jeffery
Dr Anthea Jeffery holds law degrees from Wits, Cambridge and London universities, and is the Head of Policy Research at the IRR. She has authored 11 books, including People’s War: New Light on the Struggle for South Africa and BEE: Helping or Hurting? She has also written extensively on property rights, land reform, the mining sector, the proposed National Health Insurance (NHI) system, and a growth-focused alternative to BEE.


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