The SACP Central Committee met on Friday and Saturday, 18–19 December 2020. We convened the last plenary of the Central Committee to evaluate the year and adopt the 2021 programme of action.

The Central Committee expressed its condolences to all the families that lost their loved ones due to COVID-19 and from the scourge of gender-based violence. As we concluded our Central Committee meeting yesterday, over 902 thousand people were recorded to have contracted the virus in the country since March this year. The majority, over 784 thousand recovered, while 24 285 died because of the virus.

The SACP welcomes and commits to actively support the festive season measures announced by President Ramaphosa this week to combat COVID-19. We urge the working-class and all South Africans to comply with the COVID-19 regulations and basic hygiene measures.

The Year of Mass Activism and the SACP Centenary

The Central Committee declared the SACP Centenary Year, 2021, the ‘The Year of Mass Activism’ by the working-class and poor, strictly observing COVID-19 preventative protocols, through localised actions. This will be guided by the theme, ‘Put people before Profits’, and will involve, as a strategic objective, the forging of a popular Left front and capacity to assert working-class hegemony in the face of neoliberalism, its austerity agenda, corruption, and against the general undermining of working-class interests.

The SACP 2021 programme of action will encapsulate the Red October Campaign 2020–2021 objectives: Hunger eradication, Healthcare, Human settlements, and Water (HHH+Water). The objectives of the programme include deepening the campaign against interpersonal and gender-based violence and the campaign against retrenchments. We will also focus on supporting the implementation of the progressive pillars of the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Programme supported by NEDLAC labour and community constituencies announced by President Ramaphosa. In supporting increased investment into infrastructure, including social infrastructure, the SACP will seek to work with its allies, the wider labour movement, communities, and the broader democratic movement to embark on a campaign to protect community infrastructure from being vandalised.

In this age of the deepening and widening technological revolution public infrastructure to bridge the digital divide, close the gap in access to information and communication technology (ICT), is essential in advancing development. This includes ensuring public control of the broadband spectrum. The Central Committee has placed emphasis on this development imperative in the SACP programme of action for 2021. This includes intensifying the campaign to widen access to Wi-Fi, including free access, in working-class and poor communities, with rural areas given equal attention as urban areas.

The problems of persisting underdevelopment, including the lack of access to connectivity exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic when schools, colleges and universities shifted learning and teaching to the digital space cannot be left unresolved. Neither should the idea that profit-driven interests are an answer to connectivity and affordable mobile data be left unchallenged. The forces of private wealth accumulation in the ICT industry, over and above their pre-COVID-19 high mobile data charges, made a killing from exploiting the COVID-19 lockdown regulations when most organisations and individuals shifted to the digital space as a workplace and platform for education and training.

The SACP will convene an education transformation session early next year to reflect on curriculum transformation and achieving equal education in the basic education sector, the development of and support for the Technical and Vocational Education and Training colleges, and transformation in universities and the innovation, research and development landscape. The session will pay equal attention to the imperative of driving a skills revolution, considering continuously expanding advances in the deepening and widening technological revolution and its implications for work(ers). The SACP will invite its allies, other progressive formations and relevant authorities to participate at the session.

We now turn to the other decisions of the Central Committee plenary on the Year of Mass Activism: The Year of the SACP Centenary, 2021.

The fourfold crisis of capitalism

The Central Committee met as what we characterise as the fourfold crisis facing global capitalism is deepening: COVID-19, the economic crisis, the crisis of social reproduction, and the catastrophic crisis of climate change. As South Africa we are facing the same challenges.

The COVID-19 pandemic crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic crisis has entered the second wave in South Africa and other countries.

Just after adjourning on the first day of the plenary on Friday, 18 December 2020 the government through the Department of Health and the Department of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, and scientists, announced that there is a new, more transmissible variant of COVID-19 in South Africa, and which has a high viral load. It was discovered that the new variant has a profound expression in the second surge of the COVID-19 pandemic under way. The Department of Science and Innovation supported and funded the scientific research process leading to this discovery.

Speaking on behalf of the Department, Minister Dr Blade Nzimande pledged continued support for the scientific research to monitor the mutation of the virus, as part of the wider government effort to contain the spread of COVID-19. The Central Committee joined Dr Zweli Mkhize in his call to all the people in South Africa to comply with the COVID-19 preventative measures announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday, 14 December 2020 to ensure that the national effort to bring the deadly disease under control succeeds. The SACP pledged its own support to these initiatives.

The Central Committee reiterated the SACP’s call for more decisive implementation of the National Health Insurance. Immediate implementation of the NHI principles is essential for the success of our national effort to contain the spread of COVID-19 and prepare the country to overcome any future pandemic outbreaks. The struggle for the NHI will be an important component of the SACP 2021 programme of action to Put People before Profits!

The SACP calls upon the World Health Organisation to ensure that COVID-19 vaccine development is geared towards making the COVID-19 vaccine universally accessible as a public good. As the COVID-19 global pandemic crisis demonstrably underlined, any neglect of one part of the world will affect the entire world.

The Central Committee denounced unscientific utterances promoting conspiracy theories against scientific vaccine development. Having in the past gone through a devastating period of AIDS denialism, we cannot allow another bout of dangerous anti-vaccination period.

The crisis of inequality, unemployment, and poverty

The COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed and deepened the capitalist crisis of high levels of inequality, unemployment, and poverty in our country. South Africa recorded a slight recovery in its gross domestic product (GDP) for the third quarter as a result of easing its lockdown. While this is important, the reality, however, is that South Africa is yet to recover the 2.2 million jobs lost in the second quarter of 2020 and more others lost thereafter as capital continued to retrench workers to protect profits. The jobs created in the third quarter are too far away to overcoming the damage caused by the pandemic.

The Central Committee further committed the SACP to campaign for the development and incorporation of measures of inequality, unemployment and poverty reduction as key indicators against which we must all judge economic progress in our country, rather than simply through the generalised notions of GDP and GDP per capita while high levels of poverty, inequality and unemployment remain entrenched.

The crisis of social reproduction-the struggle by households, families and communities to make ends meet

Because of the capitalist crisis of inequality, unemployment, and poverty, many working-class and poor households have been struggling to support life itself. The COVID-19 crisis has deepened the problem. The withdrawal of the COVID-19 Social Relief of Distress Grant early next year will see many of its beneficiaries sink deeper into destitute without any mitigation.

The implications for the government and society at large of the combined effects of the persisting high levels of inequality, unemployment and poverty, and the impact of the social reproduction crisis are unimaginable. It is crucial for the working class to close ranks and confront neoliberalism and its austerity agenda. This is one of the key tasks the Central Committee reaffirmed and underlined for the SACP to deepen. The Central Committee reaffirmed the SACP’s call for the entire progressive trade union movement to close ranks and embark on joint actions to advance the interests of the workers and poor.

While simultaneously campaigning for access to land, through a more effective land redistribution programme, in terms of the Freedom Charter, including security of tenure, and the growing of food, the SACP will also campaign for the sustenance of the COVID-19 Social Relief of Distress Grant. This will form part of our programme of action towards the establishment of a universal income guarantee, and the comprehensive social security system that the May 2019 general election manifesto of the ANC commits to.

Catastrophic crisis of climate change

The catastrophic crisis of climate change continues globally after the easing of lockdowns without a change in the old environmentally destructive patterns of capitalist production and consumption. Capitalist bosses are interested in profit making and maximisation, rather than in in protecting and reversing climate change, slowing down and stopping global warming, and ensuring decent standards of livelihoods for the workers, their families and communities. It is also for this reason that the SACP will be campaigning under the theme Put People Before Profits as part of the forces fighting to protect the ecosystem.

To protect life, working-class unity to roll back the catastrophic crisis of climate change is essential. The Central Committee will be identifying South Africa’s environmental hotspots, for example, the Wentworth community in eThekwini, KwaZulu-Natal Province, Sasolburg in the Free State Province, and the highly polluted Mpumalanga province. The SACP will work with communities and progressive environmental NGOs to confront environmental destruction. The Wentworth community, for instance, has been fighting a lone battle against the toxic environment they find themselves faced with. The SACP will support the community.

The damage caused by state capture and the destruction of black professionals

The destruction caused by state capture goes far beyond what many fully realise. One sector of society that has been hugely and negatively affected has been black professionals and managers that we so carefully sought to nurture since 1994. As shown through the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture and other commissions of inquiry into corruption, many black professionals have had their careers destroyed or compromised, either through their own collusion in corrupt activities or being victimised for their principled stance against corruption. This has been the case in many of our state-owned entities and other public institutions, including in places like the public broadcaster, the SABC.

The capture has involved forging patronage networks, paying ‘bribe tax and rent’, having due processes manipulated or circumvented, governance decay and mismanagement, co-opting professionals and managers, and the other rot exposed through various public investigations, including the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture. The capture has been at the heart of destroying state capacity with many black professionals and managers as collateral damage.

The year 2020 saw some important and significant progress in exposing those involved or complicit in corruption. The Central Committee reaffirmed its support for the work of the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture. The SACP is calling for full co-operation by all those called upon to testify or give answers on their role before the commission.

South Africa needs more decisive action to overcome the damage caused by state capture and corporate maleficence. This must be wide-ranging in scope, considering the role played by multinational corporations headquartered in other nation-states, with more in the United States and Western Europe. Back in 2014 when exposing the existence of ‘corporate-capture’ and moving forward to becoming the first to call for a judicial commission of inquiry into the phenomenon, the SACP correctly rejected the allegation that the ‘whole of the ANC’ or ‘the whole of the state’ is corrupt. However, the SACP warned that unless corruption and ‘corporate-capture’ were dealt with severely and decisively, these problems risked becoming systemic and difficult to reverse.

The SACP also supports the stance taken by the ANC that all those charged with corruption before the courts of law should step aside until their names are cleared.

In the same manner, South Africans should not ignore the charges brought against the Public Protector for perjury in the court of law. There is no reason in principle why a different standard must apply. The Public Protector, also considering all the damning court judgments against her, should honestly reflect and do the right thing. South Africa needs a capable and honest Public Protector, and not the one the damning court judgments describes.

Neoliberalism, austerity, and impact on the working class

Neoliberalism and its austerity agenda, on the one hand, and sustained primitive accumulation through corruption and state capture networks, are bedevilling economic reconstruction and recovery. In fact, these constitutes the twin dangers facing our country and run the risk of reversing the many gains we have made over the last 26 years of our democratic dispensation. Fiscal consolidation through austerity, or austerity through fiscal consolidation, whatever you call it, results in a common outcome—cuts in budgets affecting social and other development spending, with negative consequences for economic development.

The agenda was, and still is—support neoliberal policy or the National Treasury will cut social services and other developmental spending. The SACP has consistently stated its displeasure that some of the policies pursued by the National Treasury are a copy and paste from the policies neoliberal reforms promoted by the Paris-based OECD and the Washington-based International Monetary Fund. Just as the SACP said in the wake of the adoption of GEAR in 1996, neoliberal policies are not an answer to the huge developmental challenges we face in South Africa.

The budget cuts to fund SAA, for instance, were also deliberately designed to provoke outrage that spurs on the privatisation agenda as an alternative to fiscal funding of state-owned enterprises. While the ANC and the Alliance called for support to ensure that the SAA business rescue process becomes successful, we never said the National Treasury must cut the budgets for social services and other development imperatives.

The budgeting process reflected, more than anything, the National Treasury imposing its neoliberal policy reforms and austerity agenda. It is the SACP’s considered view, as articulated by the Central Committee, that a radical transformation of the National Treasury to rid it of the neoliberal paradigm is essential. The SACP will be placing these issues for priority discussions at the Alliance level.

The National Treasury pushed its austerity agenda through its counter-application in the public service and administration wage bill dispute, culminating in the judgment delivered by the Labour Appeal Court this week dealing a blow to South Africa’s collective bargaining system in the public service and administration, with wider implications for collective bargaining across the economy. While we respect the judiciary, the reality is that the judgment does not represent a shadow of a resolution to the dispute, as the primary problem remains. In fact, the judgment itself recognises this limitation, and adopts the notion of ‘polycentricity’ to ‘describe disputes that cannot be resolved adequately by adjudication’ (page 2).

The SACP expressed its active solidarity with and will continue its active support for the workers. This will conclude support for, if the trade union movement, both the applicant and respondent trade unions united, so decides, approaches the Constitutional Court. Should the matter remain unresolved, the SACP, still, will support the united action of the labour movement in calling for fresh negotiations to ensure that there is a collective bargaining agreement covering the affected period of wage adjustments.

The SACP is strongly of the view that it is better for all parties to engage than to embark on actions that threaten the collective bargaining system that South Africa’s working-class spent decades fighting for and out of which serious sacrifices were made.

While we respect the judiciary and its independence, the Central Committee disagrees with the comments in the Labour Appeal Court simplistically likening wage adjustments for workers to social grants. Important as social grants are, wage increases are a right or at least an entitlement based on the rendering of labour in return for remuneration.

The challenge for negotiations, in both the public and the private sectors, in a period of economic hardship is now compounded by the very institution of collective bargaining being undermined.

Economic reconstruction and recovery

The success of the government’s economic reconstruction and recovery plan lies in its potential to overcome the persisting high levels of inequality, unemployment and poverty, thus relieving many household and families from the pressures of being unable to put food on the table. The Central Committee welcomed the fact that the government’s economic reconstruction and recovery process has been and continues to be consulted upon by the social partners at NEDLAC. More of these consultations are needed, to ensure economic reconstruction, recovery and development radically reduce, and eventually overcome, the persisting high levels of inequality, unemployment and poverty.

The SACP welcomes the prioritisation of infrastructure spending in the economic reconstruction and recovery programme. However, reliance on financialisation of infrastructure including blended finance will prove to be a problem. The SACP calls upon the government to take measures to put pressure on the financial sector to release the billions of rand of uninvested monies for investment into infrastructure. This includes the more than a trillion rand of monies in pension and retirement funds that remains uninvested. The SACP is concerned that unlike the international norm, South Africa invests only about 2 per cent of its retirement funds into infrastructure development. The SACP also calls upon the Public Investment Corporation and the other development finance institutions, such as the Industrial Development Corporation, and the Development Bank of Southern Africa, to prioritise investment into infrastructure and the productive sectors of the economy.

By and large, the financial sector has been left to get away with murder. Its poor handling of the COVID-19 state-guaranteed loan scheme further exposed the financial sector and its lack of will to invest in a manner that supports our economic developmental priorities. The Central Committee committed the SACP to intensify the Financial Sector Transformation Campaign in 2021 to ensure that the financial sector is pushed towards these objectives.

Local government elections scheduled to take place in 2021

The Central Committee noted the engagements that took place in the Alliance on the local government elections scheduled to take place before the end of 2021. The Alliance Secretariat agreed to allow the SACP and COSATU time to consult internally with their structures and return to Alliance discussions before the start of the next election campaign processes for further engagements. The Central Committee welcomed the outcome of the last ANC National Executive Committee that committed to serious engagement within the Alliance.

One thing is certain-a united ANC-led Alliance electoral contest depends on the elections candidates’ selection guidelines reflecting the letter and spirit of the Alliance reconfiguration processes. As per the SACP and COSATU joint statement issued on 1 December 2020, the working-class formations are at one on the necessity for a reconfigured Alliance and inclusive Alliance electoral processes.

The SACP will convene an election preparatory session early in 2021 to finalise consultation on the local government elections candidates’ selection guidelines and on its other preparations for the forthcoming local government elections. In this regard we will be guided by our Special National Congress resolutions adopted in December 2019, that as the SACP we will not accept or support candidate councillors that are imposed on communities or corrupt candidates or candidates emanating from factional slates. The Central Committee will further spell out on how to deal with such instances.

International solidarity

The Central Committee expressed solidarity with the people of Swaziland struggling for democracy, the people of Zimbabwe who are facing a monumental economic crisis, and the people of Somaliland. The SACP calls for an end to all wars on the African continent in favour of peaceful settlement of disputes. We support the African Union’s commitment to silence the guns in our continent.

The Central Committee denounced the proclamation signed by the outgoing United States President, Donald Trump, wanting to recognise the so-called sovereignty of Morocco over Western Sahara in exchange for Morocco establishing full diplomatic relations with the apartheid Israeli regime. The Central Committee expressed solidarity with the people of Western Sahara and Palestine and called upon Morocco and Israel to end their respective occupation of Western Sahara and Palestinian territories.

The SACP congratulates the Left in Kerala, India for its decisive victories in the recently held elections, and the Movement for Socialism for its electoral victory in Bolivia.

The Central Committee urged the global community to respect the outcomes of Venezuela’s elections for its National Assembly and expressed its solidarity with the Venezuelan people and its Bolivarian revolution.
Source: South African Communist Party – Put people before profits: Forward to the SACP Centenary and the Year of Mass Activism – SACP Central Committee statement