THE political scene will be dominated by the South African Communist Party (SACP) congress this week, although President Jacob Zuma 's centenary lecture in Limpopo tomorrow will also gain attention.

These events are taking place as observers continue to look for battle signs in the run-up to the African National Congress (ANC) elective conference in Mangaung.

The SACP's 13th congress in Richards Bay comes two weeks after the ANC's policy conference in Midrand, and should provide some indication of the SACP's view of its relationship with the ANC leadership and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu).

SACP national chairperson Gwede Mantashe (who is also the African National Congress's secretary-general) is set to step down and may be replaced by central committee member Thulas Nxesi, who is also the minister of public works or National Union of Mineworkers president and central committee member Senzeni Zokwana.

Cosatu's recent call for a full-time general secretary to strengthen the party is also likely to feature in the discussions. General secretary Blade Nzimande also serves as higher education and training minister.

The push to prevent the general secretary from wearing two hats could result in a reconfiguration of the powers of the top leadership, as there has also been a proposal for the establishment of two posts of deputy general secretary, instead of one.

The SACP's policy pronouncements will be closely watched, after Mr Nzimande - an ally of Mr Zuma - expressed his pleasure that the ANC had put economic and social transformation issues - held back by the negotiated settlement after apartheid - back on the agenda. This week could also see further clarity on the outcomes of the ANC policy conference, as the party's policy wing continues to draft documents on the resolutions taken.

Today, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan will deliver the opening address of the World Economic History Congress in Cape Town.

This week, Mr Zuma will attend several events across the country in honour of former president Nelson Mandela, who celebrates his 94th birthday on July 18.

Tomorrow Mr Zuma will deliver a memorial lecture on the legacy of Mr Mandela in Limpopo, a province that looks set to oppose his bid for a second presidential term.

It will be interesting to observe Mr Zuma's reception in the province, after five of its departments were placed under administration by the national government, and also because of the seven-month delay in the delivery of textbooks to its schools.

The lecture is likely to take place amid high security, as the party seeks to prevent incidents of ill discipline, and amid fear that supporters of expelled youth league leader Julius Malema may use the opportunity to boo or heckle Mr Zuma.

Last month Mr Zuma was criticised by some youth organisations for attending a Group of 20 meeting in Mexico rather than a Youth Day rally in Port Elizabeth.

On Wednesday Mr Zuma will be in the Eastern Cape to launch the Nelson Mandela Legacy Bridge and River Valley projects, and although it is a highly contested province, he is assured of a cordial reception.

The issue of textbooks will also feature tomorrow as the Legal Resources Centre meets the Department of Basic Education to discuss the shortages of workbooks in the Eastern Cape. Last week, the ANC criticised the Democratic Alliance (DA), saying the DA-led Western Cape also had examples of schools that had not received textbooks this year. The provincial education department denied this.

A provincial government imbizo is expected to be held with residents of Mafikeng in the North West on Saturday, following service delivery protests in the area. The protests have been linked to factional battles in the provincial ANC leadership, with sources saying it was likely that the findings of the task team set up last month to investigate the protests will be made public.

gernetzkyk@bdfm.co.za