Increasing leadership tensions within the South African Communist Party (SACP) have resulted in one of the party’s most senior leaders deciding not to stand for re-election.
The Mail & Guardian has reliably learned that SACP second deputy general secretary Solly Mapaila told delegates during the closed session of the party’s national conference under way in Boksburg that he would not be available for re-election or for any other top five positions after senior leaders within the SAPC complained about the conduct of his supporters, who are calling on him to replace Blade Nzimande as the party’s general secretary.
An increasing number of SACP delegates from different provinces are pushing for Mapaila to replace the higher education minister from his current SACP position. Mapaila supporters broke into song earlier on Wednesday after ANC deputy Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the conference, praising him, saying he was the right man for the party’s top job.
Nzimande has been in the position for 19 years now and has indicated that he would be available for re-election.
Mapaila’s popularity within the party has grown over the past years as he became one of most vocal critics of President Jacob Zuma and state capture, particularly by Zuma’s family friends, the Guptas.
SACP insiders told the M&G that Mapaila was forced by senior SACP leaders, including Public Works Minister and SACP deputy chairman Thulas Nxesi to openly distance himself from the delegates who were singing praising songs about him as this was dividing the conference.
SACP first deputy general secretary Jeremy Cronin announced on Monday he would not be standing for re-election after serving in the party’s top leadership for 22 years. Nzimande, however, said he could not step down now when the movement was going down a slippery slope. He said delegates should begin discussion about new leadership that would take the party forward during the next term. On Tuesday, Nzimande was heckled by delegates during the close session after he told them not to address the leadership issue and state power with emotions.
SACP leaders have been working hard behind the scenes to discourage leadership contest – saying this was likely to divide the party. The current leadership was also elected by consensus during party’s national in 2012 for the same reasons.
Provincial secretaries were expected to convene a meeting to convince both Mapaila and Cronin to reconsider their positions. Some SACP delegates were also lobbying for party leaders seen as close to Zuma to be removed from their positions. This included party chairman Senzeni Zokwana and central committee member Buti Manamela.