THE YEAR OF DEFEATING OPPORTUNISM IN OUR MOVEMENT- BUILD THE ALLIANCE”
TRIBUTE TO COMRADE JABULANI NOBLEMAN “MZALA” NXUMALO ON THE 16th ANNIVERSARY OF HIS UNTIMELY DEATH

The year was 1991, and no one had expected the news of the passing away of one of the leading activists of the South African Communist Party and the African National Congress Jabulani Nobleman ‘Mzala’ Nxumalo, who died in hospital in London on the evening of February 22 after a long illness.

Who was Comrade Mzala?

Comrade Mzala held leading positions in the ranks of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the military wing of the liberation movement, serving in Angola, Swaziland and other areas of the underground. But his outstanding contribution to the movement was in the sphere of ideas and ideology. Comrade Mzala had a voracious intellectual appetite and rapidly absorbed every book he could lay hands on. Wherever he was stationed, he was surrounded by books, and was constantly engaged in argument and debate with his comrades. A constant stream of articles flowed from his pen and he contributed regularly to the African Communist, Sechaba, Dawn and other journals of the liberation movement.

He was endlessly fascinated and intrigued by the national question, and wrote and lectured extensively on the relationship between the national and class struggle in South Africa. Asserting that the aim of the South African revolution was to end inequality between the nations, he believed this could only be achieved under socialism.

Comrade Mzala went to Britain in 1987 to further his studies, and read for a Ph.D. degree at the University of Essex and the Open University. After attending a Seminar on socialism in New York later that year, he was given time on television and addressed a number of meetings at U.S. universities. In September 1987 he was scheduled to start a fellowship at Yale University.

Though ever loyal to the movement, Comrade Mzala was a fierce critic of bureaucracy and had no patience with fudge or compromise. He was a delegate to the ANC conference in Kabwe, Zambia in 1985 and presented a number of sharp challenges to the leadership. He was the chosen representative of the London region to the ANC’s Consultative Conference in Johannesburg in December 1990 but was prevented by ill-health from attending.

The death of Comrade Mzala at the tragically early age of 35 deprived South Africa of one of its most brilliant talents at the very period when he was destined to reach the peak of his powers. That he should be snatched from us when he had so much still to give is a grievous loss to the liberation movement (Bunting Brian, 1991).

Why do we need to celebrate the contributions to the struggle by Comrade Mzala, as he was known to all in the liberation movement?

It is exactly 16 years since Comrade Mzala passed away, and this is a clarion call for all revolutionaries to reflect on what kind of contributions he could have made had he been alive. In 2006, COSATU held it’s 9th Congress, which set the agenda and tone for a series of events set to take place in 2007. The ANC will hold a National Policy Conference from 27th June to 1st July. The SACP will hold its 12th Congress from the 11th to 15th July. COSATU will convene another full delegate conference, known as the Central Committee, between 17th and 20th September. Finally, the ANC will come together again for its 52nd National (elective) Conference in December, just before the traditional extended South African Christmas break. Each of these gatherings will involve thousands of delegates (Tweedie Dominic, 2007)

What are the emerging tendencies pre- this historic events?

In 2002, exactly at the time when the ANC was preparing for its 51st National Congress in 2002, Jabu Moleketi and Josiah Jele attached their names to a 28-page document entitled "Two strategies of the national liberation movement in the struggle for the victory of the national democratic revolution";. The ";two strategies"; in their title, referred to two strategic forces organised historically within our Alliance - ";revolutionary democracy"; (as represented by the ANC) and ";revolutionary socialism"; (as represented, at least until recently according to the authors) by the SACP, the ";Party of Kotane";.

The main contention of their article was that in recent years a ";faction"; has taken control of the SACP. This faction, exploiting the ";weak development of scientific socialism in our country";, ";has succeeded to project itself as the true representative of revolutionary socialism in our country."; (p.28). In response to the 28 page pamphlet, the SACP prepared a well structured rejoinder in What is ultra-leftism, what is right-wing opportunism? The twin dangers facing the National Democratic Revolution. Response of the SACP Political Bureau to the Moleketi/Jele document, November 2002. ((Bua Komanisi, Volume 2, Issue No. 4)

The Moleketi and Jele piece had, in fact, been the latest in a series of sectarian interventions, designed to disrupt the ongoing and constructive process of intra-organisational and inter-alliance bilateral and tripartite meetings and summits, and to deflect debate from substantive policy issues into witch-hunts. Over several years there has been a systematic attempt by a handful of individuals from within our movement to destabilise our ANC/SACP/COSATU Alliance. Where there are difficulties, these individuals rush in, diving in the box, faking fouls, and generally doing their best to deepen the contradictions and to inflame emotions. Even when intra-alliance processes move more effectively and constructively, the same small group of comrades attempt to unsettle the process ((Bua Komanisi, Volume 2, Issue No. 4).

IN 2007, exactly a few months before the 52nd Congress of the African National Congress to be convened in Limpopo Province and the South African Communist Party’s 12th Congress scheduled for Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape Province, the same cde Jabu Moleketi (Deputy Minister of Finance, ANC NEC Member and former Secretary of the SACP in the PWV Region) has resurfaced again and this time he lambasted both the SACP and COSATU for trying to turn the ANC into a socialist organization, we will refer to the issue later but let us first make some checks and balances.

At a recent ANC “lekgotla”, cde Jabu Moloketi attacked COSATU in particular for its resolution on the NDR and socialism and advocacy of a dictatorship of the proletariat in South Africa, his venom extended to the SACP as well accusing the Party of Kotane of “tailing” behind COSATU when the Party calls for the Building of Socialism, with and for the Workers and the Poor.

The debate at the Lekgotla unfortunately was brought to an abrupt halt in a clear rejection of Moloketi’s contribution. It was the first face-off of 2007, and it was a win for COSATU in particular and the working class in general (Tweedie Dominic, 2007).

Emerging from it’s recent First Plenary Session of the Second National Congress National Committee, the YCL National Committee expressed disgust and anger on the newly launched attack unleashed by Jabu Moleketi, NEC member of the ANC, on both COSATU and the SACP. The National Committee holds a strong view that the actions of Moleketi in the National Lekgotla were divisive, opportunistic and seeking to alienate alliance partners and ultimately break the alliance. A call was made to the ANC to condemn such behaviour and ensure that 2007 is the year in which the movement will focus on strengthening the alliance and halt on 'old opportunistic habits' of seeking re-election into the ANC National Conferences.

Alas, political maturity prevailed, and in what the General Secretary of COSATU cde Zwelinzima Vavi reported from a recent alliance meeting that “ we have have put matters to rest and our relations are much better” (Business Day, 20 February 2007), these signals a basis for better working relations for the alliance towards this historic gatherings within our movement in 2007.

How do we deal with this tendencies within our Movement? - A programme for the Alliance

Managing differences. In the ANC's 1997 January 8 statement it is said: "We need from our allies unity in action, but a real unity based on our different formations acting independently and robustly defending their principles, their constituencies and their perspectives."

This clearly states the fundamental basis of any meaningful Alliance. There would be little point for an Alliance if the respective formations were mere echoes of each other, or if they agreed absolutely on everything. However, when differences do emerge, it is not always easy to deal with them effectively and constructively. Finding the right balance between unity in action and robust independence can be complicated. In our situation, much of the media and other unfriendly forces are on the constant look-out for signs of "tension within the Alliance". These forces are happy to muddy the waters

We have, as an Alliance, learnt a number of lessons these past few years:
  • constant communication at all levels is crucial, particularly when one or another Alliance partner is about to issue a critical statement, for instance;
  • respect for the constructive raising of concerns is essential. If our various formations do not raise certain critical concerns that are in the public domain, other more hostile forces - ultra-left, or demagogic forces - will.
  • however, we all need to be constructive. We need to guard against cheap, public point-scoring.

The lack of a clear Alliance Programme of Action
The most serious obstacle to the effective functioning of our Alliance has, however, been the absence of a common Programme of Action around which we can:
    • unite our efforts strategically;
    • build our respective organisational structures
    • re-build a broader mass democratic movement; and
    • mobilise popular forces.
It is this lack of a clear Alliance Programme of Action that has exacerbated all of the other problems noted above. And it is a lack that deprives our co-ordination work of any strategic purpose.
Lack of a clear programme of action that focuses the energies of the organization and members on the key tasks can create a climate in which members preoccupy themselves with gossip and personal squabbles of comrades who quote from the “classics”, or use jargon words, not in order to illuminate a point, but in order to display their “superior” knowledge. We will all be familiar with the dogmatic invoking of an “authority”, the unchallengeable word of this or that leader, or of “head-quarters” - not in order to assist a discussion, but in order to silence debate (Cronin Jeremy, 2006).

A programme for the Alliance

Basis for Agreement
There are two major components which need to be present if the Alliance is to effectively drive the process of transformation:
    • an agreed Alliance platform on key strategic policy areas for transformation;
    • a mass-driven programme to ensure that the popular forces, together with the democratic state, are able to drive forward this Alliance platform in the face of resistance from forces attempting to block transformation;

The Alliance needs to set up the appropriate structures, including at the highest level, to plan, monitor, and implement this two-pronged programme for transformation. Experience has shown that existing Alliance structures are not able to perform these functions. To align the Alliance and government programmes will also require close structural co-ordination including the location of Alliance at the level of policy development and decision making (African Communist, No.148, Tripartite Alliance Summit Discussion Documents).




















References


African Communist, No.148, Tripartite Alliance Summit Discussion Documents, Fourth Quarter, 1997

Bua Komanisi, Volume 2, Issue No. 4, What is ultra-leftism, what is right-wing opportunism? The twin dangers facing the National Democratic Revolution. Response of the SACP Political Bureau to the Moleketi/Jele document, November 2002

Bunting, Brian, London, February 23, 1991

Cronin, Jeremy, “Blank pages in history should not be allowed” – The role of revolutionary intellectuals, February 25, 2006

COSATU, Daily Labour News, 20 February 2007

YCLSA, Statement of the First Plenary Session of the Second National Congress National Committee, 26 - 28 January 2007

Tweedie, Dominic, The Morning Star, London, Monday, 12 February 2007


By: Seshupo Segole
YCLSA National Committe Member
Based in the United Kingdom
(Writing in my personal capacity)