Why SA needs an ‘inclusive left’

2017-10-15 06:19
Challenging the system: Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande.

Challenging the system: Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande.

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Forget speculation about Jacob Zuma’s replacement, the new ‘left axis’ is far more exciting, writes Chuck Stephens.

Next year is the soccer World Cup and Bafana Bafana are being reshaped into a younger squad with a new coach. They have a slim chance of qualifying, but looked pretty damn good against Burkina Faso and kept their hopes of going to Russia alive.

The bigger contest comes in 2019, when South Africans go to the polls. Most pundits are trying to determine if ANC treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize is a real alternative to Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and who the dark horse in the race to replace Jacob Zuma as party leader is. Lindiwe Sisulu? Mathews Phosa? But, as Shakespeare put it, such speculation is “much ado about nothing”. The evolving “left axis” is what is really interesting and exciting.

Since the last elections, much of the left wing of the ruling alliance has walked out. Without examining why, let’s face it, labour federation Cosatu is a spent force and the South Africa Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) is on the rise. Meanwhile, the South African Communist Party (SACP) is considering contesting future elections on its own.

While football fans wonder where Argentine Lionel Messi will be playing next year, columnists are wondering when the SACP will walk out of the tripartite alliance and join those reds already out in the cold. While they haven’t yet done so, they have already put on their coats and gloves.

The SACP has a disproportionate number of Cabinet ministers compared with the ANC. A good guess is that they are waiting for President Jacob Zuma to push them out in his next Cabinet reshuffle. For example, when Dlamini-Zuma was brought into Parliament recently, there were rumours that she would replace SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande as higher education and training minister. So could the SACP just be biding its time?

Already out in the cold is a coalition of the wounded. But Saftu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi and Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema get along about as well as Joseph Stalin and Leon Trotsky did. Two leftists who can’t see eye to eye.

Former ANC MP Makhosi Khoza said this week she will not join the EFF because she “is not a communist”. Do you have to be a communist to be left of centre? What about the democratic socialists? What about the communitarians? What about the trade unionists?

Getting their act together

It is odd that the trade unions ever joined the ruling alliance. You will not find this in any other country, unless there is a labour government. But this so-called broad church has turned out to be a hive of stinging crony capitalists.

What we need is an “inclusive left” – not one that is restricted to communists. US Democratic Party senator Bernie Sanders is a leftist and not by any means a communist. Sometimes the left offers the best solutions, and South African citizens, especially those under 35, need an option.

DA leader Mmusi Maimane would look like a leftist if you stood him alongside Mongol empire founder Gengis Khan but, in the 2019 election, he will be our “alt-right”.

From personal experience I know that not all youth join cooperatives, which sound too socialist to them. Many prefer the option of “micro enterprise” which is more capitalist. So there is no assurance that the new half of the electorate coming on stream before 2019 will vote left. Especially if the most senior leftist on the ticket is Nzimande! But with leaders like Malema, Vavi, Solly Mapaila and Cosatu’s Bheki Ntshalintshali rising, a new Dream Team is emerging. The question is whether they can get along with one another to form a cohesive option on the left. The Cosatu-sheviks do not get on with the Saftu-sheviks at all. What a pity! For the sake of the generation they represent, they need to bury the hatchet and form an inclusive left, one that Khoza could join. Speaking of which, maybe our national soccer team could recruit her as the new coach? Or would Bafana refuse to listen to a Banyana?

With two years to go until the next elections, there is still enough time for the left to coalesce into a cohesive and credible choice for voters, most of them young.

Socialists and communists can be tough on crime and corruption, so not only the alt-right has that scenario pinned down. They can be as corrupt as capitalists, but the emerging Dream Team have a solid track-record in this respect. They have decried the moral decay in the ANC. They have literally been thrown out of Parliament for their principled stand – by hired thugs. They have been browbeaten by the “vindictive triumphalists”. They have paid the price; they are believable.

The secret to a good marriage is not to think alike, but to think together. The various fragments on the left axis need to start doing that: getting their act together for 2019.


Can we have a credible, inclusive left that will appeal to young voters in 2019?

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Read more on:    blade ­nzimande  |  makhosi khoza  |  sacp

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