S.African Communists mull quitting ANC election pact

Johannesburg (AFP) - South Africa's communist party has said it could contest elections on its own rather than as part of the alliance led by the ruling African National Congress, local media reported Sunday.

SACP secretary general Blade Nzimande announced the proposals during his closing speech to the SACP party congress in Boksburg near Johannesburg on Saturday.

Analysts say that the move, which would hurt the ANC's electoral chances, could be a bid by the SACP to influence the party's leadership contest later this year.

The SACP currently fields candidates under the ANC's electoral banner as part of South Africa's "tripartite alliance", which comprises the two parties and the COSATU trade union federation.

Nzimande said the party had not yet decided which elections to contest or how it would field its own candidates.

"The alliance mode of operation is incapable of holding together the alliance any further," he said.

"If the modus operandi of the alliance does not change, the alliance will inevitably disintegrate with serious consequences," said Nzimande, according to the Sunday Times newspaper.

Under the proposals, the SACP would remain part of the tripartite alliance, meaning that it would not compete against the ANC in elections.

But successful SACP candidates would have greater autonomy to oppose ANC policies and ministers than they currently do by standing on the ruling party's electoral list.

- 'Gun to the ANC' -

The move might also rob the ANC of some of its campaigning clout.

The two parties, which along with COASTU were the leading anti-apartheid forces, have campaigned together since the end of whites-only rule in 1994.

But neither of the junior partners in the alliance, the SACP or COSATU, have ever contested an election in their own right.

Independent political analyst Ralph Mathekga suggested the move was a way of applying pressure on the ANC. The SACP wants its preferred candidate, deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa, to succeed President Jacob Zuma when the ANC elects a new leader in December.

"What they've done with this move is to hold a gun to the ANC and say 'fine, if you don't go with our candidate, good luck'. They're in a win-win situation," Mathekga told AFP.

"They've done a very crafty cost-benefit analysis. They will not want to remain in the tripartite alliance if it's not a governing alliance that wins elections."

Some within the SACP fear that Zuma's ex-wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who with Ramaphosa is a front-runner in the ANC leadership contest, would represent a continuation of Jacob Zuma's presidency and be an electoral liability.

There has been growing disquiet within both the SACP and COSATU over the leadership of Jacob Zuma who has been mired by allegations of corruption and incompetence.

Proposals for how the SACP could contest elections in its own right will be discussed at a party meeting in December.

South Africa will go to the polls to elect a new parliament -- and president -- in 2019.

ANC treasurer general Zweli Mkhize told a party meeting in the Western Cape region on Sunday that "challenges within the alliance must be resolved".