It's winter here in South Africa and without the central heating those of us who come from northern climates are used to, its mighty cold, especially in the mornings. But the sun shines bright as does the prospects for the upcoming convention of the South African Communist Party (SACP) that will be held from Wednesday to Sunday in Port Elizabeth.
On the eve of the SACP meet, the 260,000 strong metal workers union have gone on strike demanding a 10 percent pay increase, with the company offering 6 to 7 percent. The 10 percent wage demand equals that of the almost month long strike of public employees (teachers and nurses) that has been recently called off without resolution.
A march of an expected 18,000 metal workers will converge on Johannesburg today with similar events in Capetown and other cities.
The SACP congress takes place in a crucial pre-election year and is the second of three important policy making forums of the tripartite alliance that includes the African National Congress (ANC) and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU). COSATU's congress occurred last fall and the ANC's conference will take place in December. The ANC recently concluded a policy conference where it mapped out the organization's main strategic economic, social and political objectives for the coming period. Addressing the conference President Thabo Mbeki likened the Alliance to Beethoven's 9th symphony which the composer predicted would "live forever." Mbeki, casting cold water on those who predict the Alliance's demise, said, like the 9th symphony, the Alliance would outlive and outlast those who were present at the meeting.
Another important issue underlying the various meetings are the presidential and parliamentary elections next year. Mbeki because of term limitations must step down as the country's president. So far no clear candidate has emerged to lead the country and the ANC in the next period. It is possible that Mbeki may stand for election as ANC president at the December congress as the national liberation movement has no term limitations. As of now, Jacob Zuma, the ANC deputy president and Tokyo Sexale, an ANC businessman are the two declared contenders.
As the SACP congress draws near, South African newspapers are full of intrigue about who and who will not be elected to the new leadership. One can only hope this time greater unity prevails and that the scenario played at the SACP's last convention where newspaper's prior to event predicted the defeat of SACP ministers serving in government posts. Regrettably, there is no independent patriotic or working-class press in South Africa.