What REALLY drives communism in SA – the Mercs, BMWs, Range Rovers?

It’s hard not to be taken aback by the long line-up of luxury cars in which delegates arrived at the South African Communist Party’s recent national conference in Johannesburg. Some of those vehicles will have cost their owners a cool R1 million or more. All that excess can seem more than a little at odds with communist party ideology, and struggles against monopoly capital. The SACP presents itself as a ‘poor party’, even if its leaders aren’t, and it is the second largest political party after the ruling ANC.  

SACP’ deputy general secretary and MP Jeremy Cronin says the party is not about gaining state power and government positions. It’s about ‘servicing the people’. Servicing those vehicles on their own will cost the poor people who own them a pretty packet or two. Former ANC finance minister Trevor Manuel wrote a provocative  piece in City Press on Sunday, questioning the SACP’s relevance, and how far it is straying from its origins. The party’s perceived brand of ‘champagne socialism’ leaves it open to accusations of having sold out. It risks dying the ‘organisational death’ SACP general secretary Balde Nzimande has wished on the EFF. – Marika Sboros

By Mpho Raborife

Picture: Facebook

Johannesburg (News24) – Is the SA Communist Party still fighting for communism in South Africa, or are they just the ideological and intellectual arm of the tripartite alliance?

Do Range Rovers, Mercedes Benz, BMWs and Jeep Grand Cherokees symbolise the struggle against monopoly capital?

These car brands, and many others, were what SACP delegates arrived in to the special national congress at the University of Johannesburg’s Soweto campus this week.

Among the cars parked at the communist gathering were a BMW Gran Turismo 550i which goes for about R1.1m, a Mercedes Benz AMG ML350 which costs about R930 000, and a number of Audi Q5s and Jeep Grand Cherokees with starting costs at about R500 000.

“Now bear in mind there are many extras or options on the cars that can take the prices much higher,” Wheels24 editor Les Stephenson said.

However, Stephenson said that the Mercedes CLAs and C180s, which seemed to be the most popular sedans among delegates, were reasonably priced at around R407 000 and R470 000.

These cars were affordable for any minor businessman, Stephenson said. Most of the BMW, Audi, Jeep and Mercedes SUVs seen at the venue were above a pay grade of someone who earns about R50 000 a month.

Although it was not immediately clear how much SACP officials earned, the party’s financial report has revealed that R3.5m of its R30m operating budget is spent on salaries. According to the Business Day, R1.5m of that budget came from members of the Congress of SA Trade Unions. The newspaper had access to the party’s financial report which was circulated among selected delegates on Thursday. 

The report revealed that its expenses for last year amounted to R29m, while its income was R25m leaving it R4m short.

‘A poor party’ On Friday, SACP’s second deputy general secretary Solly Mapaila emphasised how the party was a non-profit organisation which depended largely on donations. He said the party was so poor, even the members made personal contributions to keep its basic functions running.

The party currently has around 225 000 members, making it the second largest political party after the African National Congress.

Mapaila said he was proud of the fact that the party met its basic obligations but on occasions that it could not pay its creditors, it always communicated this well in advance, Mapaila said.

The party had a good relationship with its creditors, he said.

“When we owe people, we discuss with them a method of payment.”

The party’s first deputy general secretary Jeremy Cronin had told reporters that communist struggle was not about gaining state power and positions in the government.

“It’s not about positioning ourselves [in government], it’s about servicing the people,” he said.

To those looking at the party from the outside, it appeared the party was walking on the right and on the left, the same thing it had accused the Economic Freedom Fighters of doing through its actions and policies.