The South African Communist Party (SACP) has announced its decision to contest future election on its own. This is a breakaway from its usual strategy of acting as a parasite in the Tripartite Alliance, relying on its more successful cousin (the African National Congress) for appointments and power.
The decision is allegedly due to the SACP’s view that the Tripartite Alliance is broken. It comes as more of an ultimatum, as the party stated that they will remain in the alliance if it is “reconfigured” to allow equal power between its members. This must, of course, be equality in name only, as the pitiful SACP could never truly be politically equal to the gargantuan ANC or even the fading trade union COSATU. If the demands are to be more than in name, then this ultimatum will result in the SACP going alone in the future.
Freeing the ANC
This decision is ultimately good for freedom-lovers.
The SACP represents a bloc of the ANC that continues to espouse disastrous policies that wreck our economy. If there is a genuine fight between the SACP and other ANC blocs, the left-wing economic policy so strong in the ANC may weaken and potentially be replaced with more pragmatic policy, friendlier to the free market.
As is the case with all splits, the move will be disruptive. Voters may become split between the SACP and ANC. It will be an easy choice for most, however, as the vast majority will continue to vote for the ANC as they always have. Where disruption may become noticeable is in the leadership echelons, where the likes of Blade Nzimande and others may find their relations strained with their ANC counterparts.
This could result either in the complete breakdown of interrelations within the leadership structures of government, or just a breakdown in the left-wing bulwark in what was the Tripartite Alliance, allowing a more reasonable block to fill the gap.
As for electoral performance, I don’t have high hopes for the SACP doing well, and that is a good thing. Communism is abhorrent. I don’t want any party claiming to support it to gain an inch politically.
From the numbers, SACP membership as of 2015 was around 220 000. Many of these are no doubt also members of the ANC. It is not clear how many would cross the floor and maintain membership with the ANC. For now, let’s be charitable and pretend that all of them will remain with the SACP and then vote for them.
A seat in the National Assembly requires roughly 47 500 votes. If all SACP members voted for them, that would give them around 4-5 seats. This would be above the minority parties, but below the ANC, DA, EFF and the IFP and NFP. It would be relegated to a role as a minority party.
How much power does COPE, Agang, the PAC and similar smaller parties have? Not much. If the split from the ANC is truly a split, and SACP leaders lose their connections with ANC appointees, then the SACP will go from a fat parasite to a weak party with no reasonable ability to enforce its ideology.
And that’s just what we want.
But, many SACP members are ANC members. No doubt many of them will remain with the ANC. Non-member voters who vote along ANC lines also tend to be ANC loyalists for reasons other than ideology, so will remain. I doubt the SACP will be able to garner enough votes even for 4 seats.
On the contrary, however, hype may allow the SACP to wrest more seats. COPE was initially quite popular and the EFF managed to cinch 25 seats despite their niche nature. If the SACP markets well as an alternative to the corrupt ANC and a true representative of the struggle, they may be able to garner more votes.
While this will result in Communists gaining more power in the legislature, they will no doubt still have less power than the other parties, and be relatively toothless. On the bright side, they may also take a large chunk of EFF and ANC voters with them, weakening both those parties.
Overall, I find this a welcome move by an unwelcome party. The SACP does well because it doesn’t have to do anything. Becoming independent will probably break them. Above this, without a strong communist bloc within the ANC, more reasonable members may be able to enact logical change from within. So, take this as my blessing for the SACP’s secession. I wish them luck.