About this site

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Left out in the cold

20 Dec 2002 00:00

The left-wing challenge for a stronger hand in the leadership of the African National Congress seemed set for disappointment as the party's five-yearly national conference moved towards its climax.

The results of the election for the 60 positions on the ANC's national executive committee (NEC) are to be announced at the Stellenbosch conference on Friday. The poll, held on Wednesday night, must be tweaked to take account of a quota for women and the preferences of the ANC Youth League and Women's League, which are both hostile to the left.

The left challenge came after a spate of attacks launched by the ANC top brass, including President Thabo Mbeki, on alleged ultra-leftist leaders of its alliance partners, the South African Communist Party and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu).

A consolidated list of 71 members, finalised by the provincial secretaries of the nine provinces, shows that none of the left's new candidates for the NEC have made it. They include National Union of Mineworkers general secretary Gwede Mantashe and South African Communist Party central committee members Willies Mchunu and Yunus Carrim.

Former Mpumalanga premier Mathews Phosa, who is seen as a left-wing candidate, also does not feature. Robben Islander George Mashamba's name is at number 71 and Luthuli House members described his election as "doubtful".

SACP deputy general secretary Jeremy Cronin and treasurer Phillip Dexter are low down on the list but are expected to scrape into the NEC.

The top 36 in the list include 21 Cabinet ministers, three deputy ministers, three MECs and a number of other senior government figures described as "priority" and a "safe bet" by sources close to Luthuli House.

Of the 36, only outgoing ANC deputy secretary general Thenjiwe Mtintso and MP Pallo Jordan could be considered sympathetic to the left. Other "safe" candidates include hardline Mbeki loyalists Dumisane Makhaye and Northern Cape MEC for Health Dipuo Peters.

Left-leaning MP Derek Hanekom, who received the 13th highest vote at the ANC conference in Mafikeng in 1997, is at 42 on the consolidated provincial list.

SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande, who received the 16th highest votes in 1997, is at 45.

At the time of going to press, the left were still confident that lobbying delegates at the voting station might have swayed votes in their favour. To counter the list of 71 they circulated a counter-list of "60 most-popular NEC members" which included their candidates.

The replacement of Mtintso, a prominent SACP leader, as deputy ANC secretary general by Minister of Housing Sankie Mthembi-Mahanyele, also means the left has lost its foothold in Luthuli House. Mthembi-Mahanyele is close to Mbeki.

The left put a brave face on the elections, arguing that if Mbeki had not made conciliatory gestures to the SACP and Cosatu, while asserting that the ANC was a party of the left as he did in the president's report on Monday there might have been an electoral backlash.

However one SACP member said: "The left were not well-prepared. They did not even have a replacement candidate for Mtintso."

Another SACP member insisted a victory for the left should not be "calculated in electoral" terms. They said the ANC had received messages of support from prominent communist parties world-wide, rather than centrist political movements like the British Labour Party and the US Democrats.

At a press conference this week, the ANC's chief strategist Joel Net-shitenzhe described the party as a "social democratic" movement.

The left also described the social transformation commission's decision to continue engaging civil society on the implementation of the Basic Income Grant as a "victory". However, it appeared on Thursday that BIG was off the table, and that the age limit for child grants would be further extended instead.

In the conference's economic transformation commission, there were heated debates on the use of labels such as "ultra-left" to describe the union and communist campaign against the privatisation of basic services.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to theThis resource is hosted by the site.