The ANC might split amid deep divisions within the party’s senior leadership and the tripartite alliance, the SACP said on Wednesday.

The ANC and its alliance with the SACP and Cosatu was facing a “fluid, uncertain and complicated” period, with leaders unable to resolve the crisis, SACP first deputy general secretary Jeremy Cronin told reporters in Johannesburg.

He was speaking ahead of the party’s augmented central executive committee meeting, which would run from Wednesday until Friday. It would discuss a “complicated” 2017, both on an economic and political level, and make plans for the coming year.

A fierce leadership contest was expected in the ANC, between those supporting either Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma or Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa to take over from President Jacob Zuma.

The SACP was expected to debate whether to contest elections and what form the alliance relationship would take when it held its own elective conference in July.

The party had said the tripartite alliance was dysfunctional, despite numerous discussions with the ANC and an alliance council earlier this year.

“There is a possibility that the ANC might split. We will certainly work hard that that doesn’t happen but, at the same time, we don’t want a paper unity that covers up the serious problems,” Cronin said.

He said he had heard Ramaphosa saying that unity could not be “unprincipled unity”.

If the ANC disappeared or fragmented, the SACP would be needed to reinvent a national democratic movement.

Last week, SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande told the Young Communist League council in Soweto that factional leaders had to go, “especially when you are president of the ANC”.

Cronin said it was not their place to discuss who should stay or go. Instead, they would discuss their concerns about leadership paralysis and divisions in the ANC, and the Gupta family’s effect on the ANC and the alliance.

Cronin said the “bubble has burst” as more people within the ANC, alliance, and civil society were speaking out against the ills plaguing the party. These included disputes over money, politics, and corporate capture of state institutions and sections of the alliance.

“We welcome the fact that that the bubble has burst, and that many more voices are speaking out.”

Parliament had become more active in scandals the SACP had raised concerns about, like the SABC, Cronin said.

He said the ANC in Parliament had pushed for an ad hoc committee to investigate the fitness to hold office of the SABC’s board. The inquiry is presently underway.

Cronin said the SAPC would continue to be critical of developments in government and the ANC, despite rumours of a Cabinet reshuffle which might affect some senior SACP members.

“The point is we don’t know if there will be shuffles in Cabinet, but we cannot allow ourselves to be intimidated by the possibility, because we say things we believe are truth.

“We can’t allow the importance of doing those things to be undermined by a concern that some of us may or may not be shuffled. If we are shuffled for speaking the truth, then that is a badge of honour.”

The meeting would discuss the SACP’s performance this year. Cronin said they were anxious to counter views expressed in the media and by the opposition that communists were “passive beneficiaries” and unable to do anything because they were comfortable in their positions.