Be a good commie or get out of the kitchen – Cronin

2012-07-14 17:55

SACP deputy general secretary Jeremy Cronin has been in his position for 17 years and a member of the SACP since 1968.

He is also deputy minister for public works.

Carien du Plessis asked him for his views.

How has the SACP changed?
When I joined in 1968, it was a deeply persecuted and banned party. In exile, it grew to influence the ANC.

Under Blade (Nzimande) as general secretary, the party was in a battle in the alliance against what we called the 1996 class project (Gear, government’s growth policy).

The party realised we needed to be more actively campaigning on the ground. We have grown to 160 000 members.

How do SACP leaders handle contradictions between their beliefs and official tasks when appointed to government positions?
When I’m in the executive as a deputy minister, I’m there as an ANC deployee, not as an SACP cadre. But I can’t forget that I am an SACP member.

If a contradiction arises, I must be willing to resign from one or the other, for example, when asked to lead a privatisation process or to connive in corruption.

Would you say as deputy minister of transport you failed on e-tolls and public private partnerships?
As chair of the transport portfolio committee (in the National Assembly) we opposed the Gautrain and lost the battle. But then I had to preside over it.

It was the same with freeways. They were there, and how do you pay for them?

I didn’t succeed in getting the focus of the debate on the real issue: our strategic infrastructure priorities.

This was partly because of the way the campaign was run and partly how the media portrayed it.

I’m secretary of the presidential infrastructure commission, so I still have influence.

How does the SACP propose to keep ministers more accountable?

There were proposals at the last congress to set up an accountability structure in the SACP, but it never happened.

It is on the agenda again. We also have parliamentary discussion forums in the legislatures.

How do you reconcile your call for socialism with your relationship with your alliance partners?
In 1995 we said, ‘socialism is the future, build it now’. We wanted to be relevant as communists, not wait for
some dramatic seizure of power.

We can’t say to our allies, we are going to kick you off the train, but we are with you now.

We want to make socialism with the ANC, not despite it.

Communists in government

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