Blade Nzimande's axing is no great tragedy
The axing of Blade Nzimande from cabinet seems to have drawn a disproportionate reaction from the South African Communist Party (SACP).
The SACP and its youth chapter‚ the Young Communist League said they viewed President Jacob Zuma’s decision to drop Nzimande from his cabinet as a “declaration of war”.
The SACP’s deputy general secretary Solly Mapaila said Zuma’s actions had also pushed the tripartite alliance to the “brink of destruction”.
Considering that the SACP had been expecting Nzimande’s firing for months‚ and that the alliance has been comatose for years‚ the wailing and outrage seems rather over-the-top.
After all‚ the SACP has consistently maintained that their leaders were serving in cabinet at the pleasure of the president and they were not desperate for jobs in government. Nzimande himself said recently that he was tired of being threatened with being fired.
The question is‚ what did the SACP think would happen after they consistently demanded that Zuma step down and vowed to actively mobilise against him?
They have been bashing and needling Zuma for months‚ almost daring him to act against the party’s leaders. It is actually surprising that Zuma has been that tolerant of an alliance partner attacks for so long.
If the SACP had lost complete faith in the president and believed he is not worthy of the position‚ why did they remain part of his executive and give him legitimacy?
Surely it would have been logical and principled for them to quit.
But the SACP has been steeped in contradictions on the Zuma issue.
In February the SACP central executive committee (CEC) resolved that if Pravin Gordhan were axed as finance minister‚ their leaders would resign en masse to avoid being complicit in the president’s bad decisions.
A month later‚ Gordhan was fired‚ along with his former deputy Mcebisi Jonas.
The SACP’s six ministers and two deputy ministers who are CEC members stayed put.
The complicity argument seemed to have been forgotten.
Then the SACP could not decide whether it was supporting the mass demonstrations against Zuma or not‚ with some people pitching up and others staying away.
Despite repeated demands for Zuma to go‚ the SACP was also hazy about the motion of no confidence against him in August. The party was urged to come out clearly and instruct its members to vote against Zuma.
But a few days before the matter came before parliament‚ the SACP said it would vote in support of Zuma.
The excuse was that if the motion succeeded‚ the entire cabinet would have to resign. This meant that the SACP leaders were in fact concerned about their own jobs.
This U-turn also suggested that while the SACP wanted Zuma to leave office‚ they only wanted him to do so on their terms.
The notion that Nzimande’s axing is a death knell for the alliance is also illogical.
The alliance has been dysfunctional for years‚ with resentment all round. It has deteriorated to the extent that the ANC avoids meeting with the SACP and Cosatu.
The alliance exists in name only and the collapse of the relationship has had no material impact on South Africans.
So the SACP’s desperate attempt to evoke mass indignation about Nzimande’s firing seems to be falling flat. If they are waiting for hundreds of thousands of people to take to the streets to protest about the cabinet reshuffle‚ as they did in April‚ they need to think again.
It is no great tragedy for the country that Nzimande is now pensioned on a ministerial salary and that the alliance does not have meetings.
Honestly‚ who cares?
The real cause for concern is that some of Zuma’s adjustments to his cabinet are designed to enable greater looting of the fiscus and that he continues to cause political instability to the detriment of the economy.
If the SACP were driven by principle‚ it would now withdraw all its leaders from cabinet.
But somewhere in its muddled logic‚ there is a reason why it will not.