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Solly Mapaila elected as South African Communist Party's first new general secretary in 24 years

SOLLY Mapaila was elected as the South African Communist Party’s new general secretary yesterday at its 15th National Congress in Johannesburg. 

He takes over from Blade Nzimande who was elected the party’s national chair. Mr Nzimande had held the post of general secretary since 1998.  

“We now have over 330,000 members which is a huge growth for the Communist Party. I am glad to step down, leaving an SACP that has a significant membership,” he said ahead of congress. 

Mr Mapaila, who had served as deputy general secretary, was elected unopposed. 

The SACP is part of the South African government coalition together with the African National Congress (ANC) and the Central Union of South African Workers (Cosatu).

President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed delegates and said he remained committed to the alliance, although he acknowledged relations with the SACP had been rocky of late. 

He was not present to hear the political report presented by Mr Nzimande which was critical of the role of the ANC which the SACP blames for neoliberal austerity and popular disillusionment with electoral politics.  

It called upon “all of our alliance and its components, together with the broader democratic movement, to unite ourselves and place the interests of our people, especially the workers and poor, above all factional and narrow political interests. 

“We must start with ourselves here as the SACP at this congress by seeking to place our people before profits, and the workers and the poor first,” Mr Nzimande said.

The party was critical of Russia’s “military intervention in Ukraine” saying that its President Vladimir Putin was not a socialist nor a friend of the working class.

But it said that Moscow had legitimate security concerns and that the current conflict “was directly fomented by the US and its Nato and EU allies.”

The SACP called for the Russian working class to build solidarity with progressive forces across the world, warning against being sucked into “the politics of authoritarian nationalism” embodied by Mr Putin. 

Communist Party of the Russian Federation spokesman Slava Tetekin however received applause from delegates when he claimed: “It’s not Putin’s war, it’s an anti-imperialist war supported by the majority of the Russian people.” 

Congress reiterated support for the Palestinian people and those fighting against US imperialism in Latin America, including Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, labelled “the troika of tyranny” by Washington. 

Mr Nzimande closed his speech with a rally cry for unity; “Together, let us build a powerful, socialist movement of the workers and poor,” he said.

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