RUSTENBERG, South Africa – Nearly 1,000 delegates and guests attended the 11th Congress of the South African Communist Party (SACP) here, July 24 to July 26. Blade Nzimande, SACP general secretary, in his political report to the Congress said the gathering was “the largest ever of our great and glorious party.”

The Congress held under the banner of “For the Workers and the Poor,” was opened by SACP national chairperson Charles Nqakula, who welcomed the delegates and guests. Also addressing the opening sessions of the Congress with messages of support were Mlungisis Hlongwane of the South African National Civics Organization (SANCO) and Zwilinsima Vavi, general secretary of the Congress of South African Trade Unions.

Vavi said, “For us, as COSATU, the Communist Party is synonymous with the best, bravest and most committed leaders of the working class.”

Vavi urged the Congress to take clear positions. “I speak here as the representative of organised labor – and workers will lose most if the Communist Party is indecisive, unclear or disorganized,” he said. “We need to discuss what it means to build socialism now.”

Nzimande’s report was given on the second day of the Congress to a capacity-filled hall in the Rustenberg Civic Center, located just a few miles away from Sun City resort, object of international boycott during the apartheid era. Speaking before a sea of delegates singing revolutionary songs and wearing red and black t-shirts inscribed with the SACP slogan, “Socialism is the future, build it now,” Nzimande began by reminding delegates of some “basic things.”

“Ours is a struggle for socialism,” he said, adding that “the struggle for this objective is fundamentally a class struggle … these struggles are fundamentally struggles over the control and ownership of property.”

The general secretary’s report outlined the danger and opportunities before the country in its efforts to overcome the enduring legacy of apartheid and transform the country into a free, non-racial society. “Perhaps the biggest threat to our revolution at this point in time is the global neo-liberal agenda, in a context where the national, class and gender legacies of apartheid still remain dominant,” he said.

Outlining the tasks and openings before the Party and working-class movement, Nzimande said, “The key strategic objective of the SACP over the next five to ten years is to build a mass-based momentum for socio-economic transformation that overcomes poverty, deep-seated inequality and systemic underdevelopment, launching our society onto a new path of growth and development.”

During the five-day Congress, delegates debated aspects of various reports to the Congress in smaller workshops and commissions. Over 30 international delegates also attended. Communist Party USA National Chairman Sam Webb brought greetings and participated in a plenary of the Congress devoted to the crisis in the Middle East.

A fundraising dinner at Sun City brought in over 1.6 million rand ($160,000).

Delegates elected new officers and a new Central Committee. Nzimande and Nqakula were reelected to the posts of general secretary and chairman, respectively. Three members of the outgoing Central Committee, who served as ministers in the ANC-led government, were not reelected.

Joe Sims, editor of Political Affairs, and Sam Webb, CPUSA national chairman, represented the Communist Party USA at the SACP Congress. Sims will remain in South Africa to cover the United Nations conference on sustainable development later this month.

The author can be reached at jsims@politicalaffairs.net

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