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Plotting the parameters of genocide – the SACP and Zuma booing

The ancient Chinese thinker Confucius is reputed to have said: “The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper names.”

At the risk of inviting the vitriol that attracts calling things by their proper names, I will testify, hopefully not in a kangaroo court, that the SACP’s statement of December 11 2013 which rightly condemns President Jacob Zuma’s booing at Nelson Mandela’s memorial at the FNB stadium is an exercise in plotting the parameters of genocide.

It “calls upon all [SACP] members and structures in Gauteng … to bring to the Party whatever information they might have about who was behind this despicable behaviour, so that these elements are exposed, named and shamed. In particular we need to ensure that we get information of who the ring leaders behind this action were, so that they will also be exposed, named, shamed and be driven out of the ranks of our movement”.

It also calls on “the government and our ally the ANC, to institute an investigation into the circumstances that led to this incident, including those who were involved” and dismisses “with contempt suggestions by sections of the media and its commentators that this despicable act represents dissatisfaction by South Africans”.

What exactly is the SACP calling for? Its structures and members to report to it “who” was behind the booing and or “the ring leaders” or that the government and the ANC investigate the “circumstances that led to the incident” and “those who were involved?”

If the SACP is calling for investigation — three of them as its statement suggests — why does it feel constrained to pre-empt the outcomes by dismissing (or embracing) some conclusions that have been proffered in the public domain? And why is it pronouncing on the remedial cause of action against the culprits before the investigation(s). The answer to these questions is that the outcome of the investigative processes the SACP seeks is pre-determined!

The invitation to SACP members to become informers in the mould of apartheid impimpis militates against due process; the lifeblood of an organisation governed by the imperative of justice.

In the context of the congealed factional politics that define the mass democratic movement currently, the invitation may well amount to a bait for careerists and factionalists of all hues to peddle urban legends about their real and perceived opponents. Taken together with the statement’s shrill lexicon, we have here, excellent ingredients of which genocides are made.

Perhaps the most profound advice emanates from texts which the SACP would be well advised to rediscover and internalise as essential reading. In a series of articles published in the New York Daily Tribune between October 1851 and October 1852 about middle and working-class aspirations in the context of German unification in Prussia, Austria during the convulsions of the year 1848, Frederick Engels wrote, among others, that:

“The times of that superstition which attributed revolutions to the ill-will of a few agitators, have long passed away. Everyone knows nowadays, that wherever there is a revolutionary convulsion, there must be some social want in the background, which is prevented by outworn institutions from satisfying itself. The want may not yet be felt as strongly, as generally, as might insure immediate success, but every attempt at forcible repression will only bring it forth stronger and stronger, until it bursts its fetters.”

Engels called for “the study of the causes that necessitated both the late outbreak, and its defeat” which causes he said “are not to be sought for in the accidental efforts, talents, faults, errors or treacheries of some of the leaders, but in the general social state and conditions of existence of each of the convulsed nations”.

Evidently against the tempting and narrow search for fault in “single individuals”, what the SACP refers to as “the ring leaders”, Engels sought to focus attention on the real issue: “The irresistible manifestations of national wants and necessities [which were] … distinctly felt by numerous classes in every [affected] country.”

Listen to him again: “But when you inquire into the causes of the counter-revolutionary successes, there you are met on every hand with the ready reply that it was Mr This or Citizen That, who ‘betrayed’ the people. Which reply may be true, or not, according to circumstances, but under no circumstances does it explain anything – not even show how it came to pass that the ‘people’ allowed themselves to be thus betrayed.”

Engel’s articles, which were later published in book form as Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Germany, and freely available on the internet, contain valuable lessons not only about the futility of superstitious phrases such as “ring leaders” as currencies of analysis, but more importantly about what the SACP should do to frame the current “general social state and conditions” relative to “national wants and necessities” beyond the “talents, faults, errors or treacheries” of individuals.

Exorcised of the malignant factional calculus of the current period, this undertaking would also aid the SACP, the movement and the country as a whole, critically to reflect upon the historical genesis of booing and other regressive tendencies in the movement as forms of expression and the culture-producing practices that should be avoided if we are to defeat it.

As Engels warns: “What a poor chance stands a political party whose entire stock-in-trade consists in a knowledge of the solitary fact, that Citizen So-and-so is not to be trusted!”

Genuine activists will appreciate, almost instinctively, Engels’ fellow traveller, Karl Marx, who writes in The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, that: “Society now seems to have fallen back behind its point of departure; it has in truth first to recreate for itself the revolutionary point of departure, the conditions under which alone modern revolution becomes serious.”

The rather limited horizons of the SACP’s statement call Marx’s lament to mind for they seem to have gone beyond consisting only in knowledge of the fact that “member-so-and so” is not to be trusted.

In Marx’s words, the SACP must “recreate for itself the revolutionary point of departure, the conditions under which alone modern revolution becomes serious”.

The stakes appear tragically to verge dangerously close to the genocidal at the expense of the necessary and thorough examination of the “general social state and conditions” and their manifestations ie “national wants and necessities”.


  • David Maimela holds a degree in political science majoring in international relations, an honours degree in the same field and is currently pursuing a master's programme in international relations focusing on SA's foreign policy. He has done project management with Regenesys Business School, 2012, Johannesburg. In April 2013 he was enrolled for a seminar on economic and social development at the Academy for International Business Officials (AIBO) in China, Beijing. He is former president of Sasco (December 2006-June 2008). Among other honours, he holds the Mandela Rhodes Scholarship from the Mandela Rhodes Foundation for the class of 2007 and in 2010, he was chosen as one of the Mail & Guardian 200 Emerging Young Leaders in South Africa. David has also worked in the erstwhile Gauteng Youth Commission and the Gauteng Office of the Premier in the Policy and Governance branch. In his period in the Office of the Premier, he acquired considerable experience in policy-making processes in government. David is currently a researcher at the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflections (Mistra) in the political economy faculty.


  1. bernpm bernpm 19 December 2013

    An interesting academic approach to address the SACP’s comments on an ordinary popularized expression of dissatisfaction with the “general social state and conditions” in SA and/or its leaders.
    Targeting the so-called “ringleaders” seems very similar to the old communist party in the USSR….and then what??? Re-instate Robben Island for lifelong imprisonment?
    The place makes today more money from tourists.
    I agree with your suggestion to concentrate and fix today’s social ills if the SACP finds the current partners in government capable of doing so.
    If not….break away and do your own thing.

  2. Momma Cyndi Momma Cyndi 19 December 2013

    I think I may have a very different idea to you of what the word ‘genocide’ means.

  3. Sydney Sydney 20 December 2013

    In other words, David, the SACP, in calling for the outing of the ring leaders, is being counter-revolutionary. As Engels says, ‘inquire’ about the conditions that necessitate the booing in this instance. I cannot quote Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky off the top of my head but I do know and understand that the leadership of the South African Communist Party has changed substantially in essence since they took the decision to avail themselves to serve in Cabinet.

    Your article, although going over my head at times(‘Exorcised of the malignant factional calculus of the current period,big words!) confirms what I have always suspected happens to leaders: A significant material change in the living conditions and financial well-being of the leadership of a revolutionary movement will result in a significant change in the substance of their leadership. They will now seek to protect their right to those better conditions even in the face of a revolt. Ditto Blade Ndzimande and the SACP.

    How ironic that where the SACP was once labelled ‘ring leaders’ under Thabo Mbeki’s rule, they now turn around and want to lead the witch hunt for the current ring leaders. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Great read.

  4. D.Moeketsane Mdlalani D.Moeketsane Mdlalani 20 December 2013

    I wholeheartedly agree with your deductions, especially on the reseaches made by Marx and Engels.It still stand true that the nation is de4crying its social (in) justice.
    The South African nation in general is faced with the problem of what I will term over used faked freedom. I will use this term because the majority of our people really miss use freedom in general, very loose indeed! It is suceeding the leadership is not focused and guiding,mentoring and coaching in most of the time. It actually manuvours and use the unfortunate state of the masses, for votes and support. This is clearly shown in the change/ substitute actions/symbols! The red card! and lately the booing!
    The South African society needs the intelligentsia class which is focussed, (know what the freedom must attain in reality and also the how in terms of influencing the society on the positive public reactions that will direct the nations thinking! What ? INDOCTRINATION? Which country, nation , ideology does not do it? Let us introspect and salvage what remains of the hard fought freedom and liberation of the most deserved nation on earth! Policies re evaluation by the ruling party!!!
    The country is running on the will of God policy !
    Personally a lot needs to be done instead of vocusing on financial issues only. Teach the society positive moral values and thinking. Lastly, the ideology is democracy, which one, western or socialiist democracy? We can still harness the positives from the two ideologies!

  5. Sterling Ferguson Sterling Ferguson 21 December 2013

    @David, what most people have forgotten that the SACP like all communists parties never believed in democracy. These don’t have enough members to contest an election so, they have been hanging on to Zuma and the ANC.

  6. Shaman sans frontieres Shaman sans frontieres 21 December 2013

    David, yes – it’s very likely that the SACP knows these arguments, these excellent analyses. The problem is, of course, that they’re up to their necks in complicity with the neo-capitalist system of thieves that now runs the country, jobs in the cabinet, vested interests, etc – and so they fall back upon old-fashioned intimidatory rhetoric. And, yes, it is a concern – in a land where education is so poor and intimidation so prevalent, this kind of rhetoric can lead to social atrocities. We really have to get rid of this current pack of wolves who govern SA.

  7. Jeffrey Jones Jeffrey Jones 22 December 2013

    It’s almost 2014 guys. The relevance of Marx and Engels was long ago confined to the dustbin.

  8. bernpm bernpm 22 December 2013

    How do we get out of this ‘impasse” or stalemate?
    How do we get the government the population want?
    How do we make the governmental candidates (individuals or parties) specify their plans in sufficient detail for the people to be able to hold them to their plans as compared to the results on a regular basis.

    IN short: how powerful is our vote and for how long??.

  9. Franklin Adams Franklin Adams 24 December 2013

    A Communist party in collusion with a Social Democratic ruling party going around acting like murderous thugs is not exactly new or unique to South Africa. They used to press for revolution against the Social Democrats they were colluding with as soon as they could too, so the SACP’s been slacking. No Soviet Union to act as a driver and financier anymore must be a real damper on that.

    But seriously, Castro and Guevara acted like thugs in Cuba during the early part of their regime, the Kims in North Korea act like thugs doing things like the youngest one murdering his uncle very recently, Beria and Stalin did much the same, as did Pol Pot. The only thing they have in common is they all considered themselves Communist.

  10. Tofolux Tofolux 24 December 2013

    @David, your condemnation is quite hypocritical and by using and equating words such as ‘impimpis’ to the SACP or ANC shows the lack of conviction and integrity when putting your argument. Yes, the erstwhile and soft-bellied support you receive should worry you because you cannot resort to Marxism or any other ideology other than the broad liberalism which is what you actually moot. The problem with the argument of liberals is that there is no beginning and no end, Their responses are broad and it lacks concrete evidence. What everyone in our country must condemn is this lack of tolerance. This is what is at play here. And to parade this lack at a memorial of one the fathers of democracy does not bode well. Liberals cannot have everything their way. In our society we have a huge lack of tolerance against people with different sexual orientations, people who are HIV positive, class intolerance, lack of tolerance to other cultures etc. In fact, we have seen people murdered because of intolerance. ANC must deal with people who parade these intolerances both within and outside their ranks. Someone has to do it and clearly with these weak arguments, it exposes how weak some are building our nation into a strong and tolerant society.

  11. Gerry Gerry 24 December 2013

    The SACP is so compromised at present, with most of the top leaders either in government (plush ministerial jobs) or in Parliament. They have become lapdogs of JZ, and will go to the extreme to defend the indefensible. The booing is an authentic manifestation of discontent, and it is that perticular root cause that should be examined.

  12. The Creator The Creator 24 December 2013

    In other words, the SACP is a bunch of sleazy time-servers, just as Irwin Jim said in Queenstown, and is there any surprise there?

    And, Mr. Jones, you and all your friends can try as hard as you can to keep the lid on that dustbin into which you have thrown the doctrines of freedom and justice, but there are many billions of us in that dustbin and you can’t keep us in there forever.

  13. Tofolux Tofolux 30 December 2013

    @Gerry, if you claim that our citizenry is aware of all their rights in our democratic state and that they are exercising this right in the most responsible manner, ie in any public forum then why did they spare Obama from insults? These citizens would have been informed that SA in particular and Africa in general has suffered due to his shutting down of his govt, let me repeat the US Federal State was shut down. They would also be aware of the impact of NSA spying scandals on World Peace, they would be aware of how many Africans are dying because of bombing by drones and they would have felt the pain of our own CIvil Society due to the cancellation of USA AID for HIV in particular? In fact, if one had to measure Obama against our President, then clearly our own President would have a long list of achievements against his US counter-parts. Hence once again, what is the real issue here? Where is the ‘authentic manifestation of discontent” ? Can I tell you, the only authenticity I see,is the flagrant use of opportunism-at-any-cost that we see in society today? No-one has the courage to challenge it. It is allowed in our homes, our schools, our communities, in the workplace etc etc. This intolerance and opportunism is used against our grandparents in our villages, in schools by schoolteachers and wholesale preying on young girls by older men. Why are these practises not condemned with the fervour and insults? Is it because the boo-ers are too afraid to tackle real issues?

  14. David Maimela David Maimela 6 January 2014

    Thank you so much for the feedback, both positive and negative. It will help us improve the debate for mine and your benefit.

    When you look at the spectacular failure of the Neo-liberal project globally proves to a large measure, the correctness of progressive economics in the Left, of which Marxism is one kind of philiosophy that informs the conception of progressive economics. The is an alternative.

    Once more, thank you.


  15. David Maimela David Maimela 6 January 2014

    Excuse the typos

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