Mail and Guardian

The SACP says it was Gwede Mantashe’s decision to quit, adding he was putting its interests ahead of himself, writes Rapule Tabane.

SACP secretary Solly Mapaila says leadership restructuring will improve the party. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

The Mail & Guardian spoke to the South African Communist Party’s organising secretary, Solly Mapaila, ahead of the start of its conference on July 10. He talked about the party’s role in the ­government and the role of its national chairperson, Gwede Mantashe, who is quitting.

Mantashe may be replaced by Senzeni Zokwana, president of the National Union of­Mineworkers.

What do you see as the priority for the conference?
The main challenges are, first, the adoption of a five-year socialist programme called the South African Road to Socialism, which maps out the strategy for the next five years. The strategy is anchored in advancing and deepening working-class power and hegemony in all sites of struggle, the key one being the state. The state represents the greatest concentration of social power under capitalism, so the working class must contest and use that power. Second, the challenge is to deal with the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment. Third, to build working-class power in the workplace and change the workplace.

I hear that chairperson Gwede Mantashe is not coming back to the position. Was it because of ­concern about the dual hats he wears as ANC secretary general?
He has made it clear that he is not available for the position of national chair. He does not want to be in any of the official positions. We have taken a decision about the active role of officials and feel they should meet more often. Mantashe was actually the one who sponsored that motion. He learned from his experience as an ANC official and he is now putting the party before his own interests.

There has been criticism from some trade unions that the SACP has abandoned the leadership of the working class in exchange for government positions.
That is just a political attack on the party and it has no basis. We have continued the working-class struggle. We fought, for example, for national health insurance, which we now see coming to light. We fought massively against corruption. We were the first to launch anti-corruption campaigns and we paid dearly for it. Some of the people leading that campaign were killed, such as Bomber Ntshangase in Mpumalanga. This conference will give him an award posthumously. We led the campaign against willing seller, willing buyer [in terms of land reform]. Read more…