The South African Communist Party (SACP) has issued the strongest statement yet indicating its willingness to distance itself from President Jacob Zuma's ANC.
The party stated their intention to consider standing for election on their own, a radical shift from the tradition of campaigning for elections with the ANC.
The SACP's statement of intent should put the ANC and President Zuma under immense pressure. Since Zuma's ANC has been under pressure on various fronts, including the state capture allegations, the SACP has carefully positioned itself to cultivate legitimacy from the fading credibility of the ANC.
By threatening to participate in the 2019 elections on their own, the SACP is sending a message to the ANC that it will not go down with them. This is a simple cost benefit analysis by the SACP.
From now until the 2019 elections, the SACP has all the time to assess the electoral prospects of the ANC. The ANC's chance to remain in power after the 2019 elections depends largely on the outcome of the party's elective conference to be held later in December.
It is becoming clear even to some stubborn ANC leaders that if the party elects someone with no credibility, it will most likely fail to gain the majority it needs to form government in 2019.
The SACP is carefully watching this and has resolved not to join the ANC in its suicidal mission to impose the very unlikeable Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma on the party. Having made it clear that they support Cyril Ramaphosa, it will most likely execute its intention to go at it alone if Dlamini-Zuma is elected as ANC president.
The decision by the SACP to threaten to go at it alone is also justified by the ANC's arrogant stance towards its alliance partners whenever the partners raise issues with the ANC's process of electing leaders.
Quite often the ANC shrugs off any concerns raised by alliance partners regarding how it ought to elect its leadership. It usually castigates Cosatu and the SACP whenever the two raise their voice on leadership matters. To avoid being seen meddling with the ANC's internal process, the SACP decided to place it under watch.
Now the ruling party knows for a fact that if they elect Dlamini-Zuma, not only will it face the wrath of opposition parties going into the 2019 elections, but it will also face mutiny from their alliance partners.
If indeed the ANC carries on with project Dlamini-Zuma, then it can be guaranteed attacks from all sides and will certainly not win the 2019 elections.
What the SACP wants from the ANC is some respect. In addition to that, it also wants a guarantee that the ANC remains in power in 2019. Hence it is important for the SACP to threaten the ANC with a separation if the party does not get its house in order.
One cannot forget that the SACP made a wrong bet on President Zuma by supporting him to take over the ANC in Polokwane in 2007. Therefore, what it is trying to do now is to correct its mammoth mistake of supporting a leader without carefully evaluating what that leader stands for.
One can only hope that its support for Ramaphosa to lead the ANC is a decision that has been carefully reflected upon within the party, as opposed to being another anything-but-Zuma decision.
Back in 2007, SACP leaders were caught up in the anything-but-Mbeki stance. The question is, are they repeating the same mistake or are they really committed to Ramaphosa's leadership?
- Ralph Mathekga is an independent political analyst and author of the book When Zuma Goes. He writes a weekly column for News24.
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