May, 2013

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Workers and Socialist Party application for registration approved by the IEC

The Independent Electoral Commission on May 21 approved the application for registration as a political party by the Workers and Socialist Party (WASP). WASP was formed by mineworkers’ strike committees together with the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) which played a key role in the mining industry strikes which followed the Marikana massacre in August 2012.

–          This is another step towards clearing the way for WASP to contest the 2014 elections; something we see as a platform that must be used to further the key task of WASP: to unite the struggles of workers, working class communities and youth, says Mametlwe Sebei, WASP spokesperson.

WASP is currently involved in various struggles of communities and workers, for example the joint efforts of residents of poor south Gauteng working class communities from Thula’ Mntwana, Orange Farm, and Kliptown to Khutsong to fight evictions, electricity cut-offs and lack of housing.

A main focus at the moment is of course on the mass struggle that is needed to fight back the mass retrenchments at Amplats and across the mining industry.

As per the provisions of the Electoral Act, a registration certificate will be issued on the lapsing of the 30-day period allowing for appeals should there be any aggrieved parties.

Workers and Socialist Party condemns xenophobic attacks in Orange Farm

In response to an M&G Online-article posted today, the Workers and Socialist Party (WASP) wishes to put the record straight on our uncompromising opposition to xenophobia. Whilst the article represents our views on xenophobia accurately, by linking the WASP-supported housing protests in Thula ‘Mntwana – during which no xenophobic incidences occurred – with unrelated xenophobic attacks that took place in other parts of Orange Farm and nearby Sebokeng, the M&G nevertheless gives the impression that WASP was involved in the latter protests which are tainted with xenophobia. This is a matter of grave concern to us, making it vital that we be allowed the right to respond to clarify the facts and restate our role in the struggles that are currently taking place south of Johannesburg.

The community of Thula ‘Mntwana is engaged in disciplined and non-violent resistance against threatened mass evictions. Neither during Friday’s protest, nor at any point in the course of this struggle, has there been a single incident of xenophobia. The communities where it is alleged that looting of foreign-owned shops took place are far away from Thula ‘Mntwana. Neither the community of Thula ‘Mntwana nor the Workers and Socialist Party has anything to do with these incidents. We distance ourselves from all xenophobic attacks which we condemn in strongest possible terms.

WASP stands for working class unity in action against xenophobia

Fighting xenophobia, racism and all forms of divisions within the working class is one of the key tasks of WASP. We are combating it actively within the working class, through political education and in action at every community protest in which we participate. The protests in Thula ‘Mntwana are part of a drive towards a national campaign for service delivery initiated by WASP. The campaign platform makes it compulsory for all communities seeking to join not only to renounce xenophobia, but to also fight it.

Our approach in Thula ‘Mntwana has been no different. We insisted on the community desisting from any action which is, or may be construed as, xenophobic. WASP’s struggle against xenophobia is particularly important as xenophobic sentiments are common in desperate and extremely poor communities. The denouncement of xenophobia by government is hypocritical because it is precisely the policies of this government which foster xenophobia – in failing to provide adequate housing, jobs and services for all and disqualifying poor, desperate foreign nationals from applications for housing and services for indigent people, the ANC government is creating conditions fertile and fostering xenophobia in many poor communities.

On allegations of foreign nationals owning RDP-houses, WASP’s position is that whilst this clearly points to corruption as the government officials could only have allocated the houses against their ‘xenophobic’, government policy through bribery and corruption, the foreign nationals must be treated as victims of government corruption and must be defended against forced evictions in the same way as SA citizens.

WASP is campaigning for an inclusive policy on housing which entitles also poor foreign nationals to free housing, to ensure that they are not left at the mercy of unscrupulous and corrupt government officials. Working class solidarity, unity and internationalism are fundamental pillars of struggle against capitalism and for a socialist transformation of society, hence these principles are non-negotiable for WASP.

The facts about struggle for housing in Thula ‘Mntwana

The community of Thula ‘Mntwana is fighting against the lack of housing and government corruption in the allocation of the few houses which have been built. The community has been promised houses since 1996 when they were relocated from Moffatt Park to the current location of Thula ‘Mntwana. Ever since, the community has endured broken promises of successive ANC governments and shattered dreams of a better life.

When ultimately 1030 housing units were built and completed in March 2013, it became clear that the numbers were inadequate and government officials started selling them. After several appeals to government to allocate the houses in a fair and transparent manner fell on deaf ears, the community took a decision to occupy them. In so doing, the community was first and foremost refusing to endorse the corruption and sale of the RDP houses. The community is prepared to move if only the list for proper allocation of houses can be issued for public scrutiny and community supervision of the allocation according to the list.

Government apparently obtained a court order effectively evicting the community from the occupied houses. The community has decided to oppose this threat of eviction. Together with the Workers and Socialist Party, the community is mobilising for rolling mass action in Thula ‘Mntwana. It is appealing for solidarity from all members of the community, whether of South African or foreign origin, neighbouring communities and all progressive forces in the country to come to its defence in this struggle.

This is all the more urgent and necessary because, judging by the threats of the ANC councillor and MMC for housing, Mr Dan Bovu, about ‘the law taking its due course’, it is clear that the government is contemplating suppressing this struggle by brutal force. This would follow on the drowning in blood of the struggle of the Elias Motsoaledi community in Soweto, where a member of the community was brutally killed by the police last month, not to mention Ficksburg and Marikana, the most well-known examples the increasing state repression.

The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) and WASP are currently involved in this struggle, as part of broad mobilisation of communities involved in struggles for better delivery of essential public services, housing and jobs south of Johannesburg. This mobilisation itself is a step in the building a national campaign for service delivery, through which WASP aims to unite all working class and poor communities. In addition to Thula ‘Mntwana, the campaign at present involves several Gauteng communities such as Freedom Park, Elias Motsoaledi, Kliptown and Khutsong.

WASP has taken this initiative to end the tragedy that sees working class communities throughout the country endure enormous sacrifices in bitter and desperate struggles for delivery of housing, water, electricity, jobs etc, while remaining disunited. It is this deplorable lack of unity within and across communities which we believe is a significant factor in the defeats of the struggles of these communities.

These heroic struggles demand that communities combat all sectarian and divisive chauvinist tendencies such as tribalism, regionalism and above all, xenophobia. These tendencies are divisive and undermine working class solidarity and unity in action, which is the most important condition for the victory of every working class struggle.

WASP stands for struggle in demand of housing, electricity, water, jobs and education for all, for an end to all privileges for politicians – for workers representatives on workers wages – and for the nationalisation of the mines, banks, big farms and factories under democratic control by workers and communities to ensure that the wealth of this country can be used for the benefit of all who live in it.

Down with the Zuptas!

Zuma at last speaks; says nothing – high time for workers to break with the banana republic ruling party

Three weeks into the Guptagate scandal, the only thing that remains uncertain is what is the bigger joke – the government “investigation” or the President’s eventual attempt at disassociating himself from his obviously “generally corrupt” relationship with the Guptas. The Workers and Socialist Party (WASP) calls on workers and struggling communities to join in the Sun City workers cry: down with the Zuptas!

President Zuma’s decision to finally comment has failed to restore his credibility. After boycotting the parliamentary debate on the matter (on the absurd grounds that he, the president, who is elected by parliament, is not a member of parliament!), Zuma saw fit to raise the matter while addressing the National House of Traditional Leaders. While dutifully labelling name-dropping “unfortunate”, Zuma’s main focus was a condemnation of opposition parties’ unpatriotic and “un-African” politicking around a debate “you end up not even understanding”. It may be that it is only Zuma who does not understand that this case of blatant abuse of public resources to accommodate the vanity of the head of state’s super-rich benefactors is a political question.

The president’s comment, in his comfort zone among unelected “traditional” rural despots, comes after the ANC leadership had gone to comical lengths to deflect attention from the elephant in the room – Zuma. In its zeal to protect the president, cabinet has made much of the fact that there was no evidence of any minister or the president having issued any instruction to authorise the landing. Instead, cabinet blamed “name dropping” by South African and Indian High Commission officials, threatening to classify this as “gross misconduct”. This is merely official recognition that “the culture of corruption and bribery around the president and the government he leads is so deeply entrenched that – without even having to take instructions from the president or one of his ministers …senior official would actually break the law ….to please the Guptas”, as Professor Pierre de Vos has observed.

The more the ANC leadership has attempted to defend Zuma, the more they have tied themselves in knots. Justice Minister Jeff Radebe now supports Zuma’s tortuous argument that Waterkloof Air Base is not a “national key point”, but a “strategic entry point.” The Commander-in-Chief of SA’s armed force, in other words has declared that the stringent security measures applicable to his Nkandla homestead, do not apply to the air force base located in the country’s capital!

As was to be expected, the team of directors-generals appointed to “investigate” the landing of the Gupta wedding plane at Waterkloof Air Base has fulfilled its mandate: not a single minister is to blame. Most important of all, it had nothing to do with president Zuma. Instead, in the despicable tradition of bourgeois hypocrisy, officials on the lower rungs of the food chain have been hung out to dry.

When attempting to absolve none other than the president, a heavy ransom is required. Eleven Tshwane Metro Police officers were arrested. Charges were to have been brought against 198 police officers in total and 296 private security employees. The cruel spitefulness of the ANC-elite is exemplified by the case of the most junior of the three SANDF officers suspended, “Movement Control Officer” Anderson. It defies belief that her duties of meeting VIP guests and serving them refreshments could have permitted her any role in the chain of command that led to the landing authorisation. Anderson, a SANDF employee of 25 years, reportedly stands to lose her entire pension and service benefits eight months before her scheduled retirement.

Now this entire scheme is unravelling spectacularly. Less than 48 hours after announcing that criminal charges would be brought including against high ranking police officers, charges have been dropped and suspensions lifted. The Tshwane Metro police officers would have been disciplined for insubordination had they refused to escort the president’s friends from Waterkloof to Sun City. Instead they were humiliated with arrest for obeying for what they had every reason to believe was a lawful instruction.

SA Zuptafied into banana republic

How is it possible that a family with at best a middle-ranking status in their country of origin, has in effect colonised the president of SA? For the landing of the private plane at the country’s most important air force base was only the most insolent example of the contempt this family has for the political elite including Zuma himself. The mealy-mouthed “apology” they have offered, probably through gritted teeth, about possible misjudgements the family may have made, merely adds insult to injury.

The Guptas’ breath-taking arrogance included demanding diplomatic passports on the grounds that the wedding entourage included cabinet ministers and other “dignitaries” amongst the Bollywood stars, that a part of Oliver Tambo International Airport be closed down specially for them, that special immigration facilities be availed, and rejecting the Minister of Defence’s offer of Pilane International Airport much closer to the wedding venue, Sun City, before circumventing her authority by invoking Zuma’s name to land at Waterkloof Airbase. The Guptas have distinguished themselves by the brazen, contemptuous attitude they have displayed towards the country’s ANC –led political elite and its people. There is a long catalogue of arrogance, the worst of which was undoubtedly the fact that ministers were informed of their fate in Zuma’s cabinet reshuffle not by the president but by the Guptas at their Saxonwold compound to which they had been summoned to hear their fate.

But the government’s attempts to limit the damage resemble the efforts of a bull picking up shards of broken glass from the floor of a China shop it had chosen as a mating venue. After years of practice, the ANC’s SA, for all its leadership’s desperate pretensions to achieve for the country a status in world affairs well above its real political and economic weight by campaigning for a seat on the UN Security Council and joining Brics, has graduated to the status of a banana republic.

Divisions in Zuma faction revealed

The Gupta family has become a magnifying glass simultaneously concentrating the rays of light burning a damaging hole into what is left of Zuma’s personal political credibility, and melting away the aura of an all-powerful united juggernaut ruthlessly exercising the dominance established over party and country by his faction’s crushing victory at Mangaung. None of the pre-conference divisions that plagued the ANC in a number of provinces has been resolved. Even Zuma’s credentials as an underground operative and head of intelligence has been unable to prevent the emergence for the first time, in the form of South Africa First, of a breakaway from the veterans of the ANC’s former military wing, Umkhonto weSizwe despite attempt to buy their support through the establishment of a special department for them.

Zuma’s presidency was born corrupt. He began his ascent to the top in the arms deal scandal. Since then he has spent his presidency manipulating the institutions of state to serve not so much the interests of the elite, but his own personal interests. His approach to appointments in key institutions of state has been so brazenly self-serving that Business Day described it as the “Zumafication of the state”. Zuma has so far managed to escape the consequences of the notion that there is no corruptor without a corruptee by defying the High Court order ruling that the tapes on which the decision to drop the charges was based be handed over to the DA.

It cannot be excluded that a tipping point maybe reached where, Zuma, the beneficiary of the recall of his predecessor, may become a victim of the precedent his coalition established. The idea that Zuma will be head of the ANC and the country for another five years must, after this latest scandal, create the possibility that the eyes of even his most loyal supporters could be opened. At the time when opposition to Mbeki mounted before he was recalled as ANC head and toppled as the country’s president, the idea that anyone could be worse would have seemed fanciful. Zuma has achieved the feat of plumbing even lower depths than his predecessor.

Corruption makes the capitalist world go round

Repulsive as the relationship between Zuma and the Guptas is, there is no fundamental difference between this relationship and that between the ANC and the capitalist class in SA and internationally. In all capitalist societies, the relation between the political and economic elite is as incestuous, and in the final analysis, behind a more sophisticated veneer in the advanced capitalist counties, just as corrupt. Corruption oils the capitalist machine internationally – from Haliburton’s corrupt profiteering from the Iraq War to British Aerospace’s corrupt sale of fighter jets to Saudi Arabia and Germany’s Ferro  Staal’s involvement in the SA arms deal scandal.

For all the soap-opera like dominance of Zuma’s persona over the scandal, in the final analysis, the president merely personifies, in the most repulsive manner, the material interests of the aspirant black capitalist class that the ANC was created to advance. This class dreams of course of the day when the demographics of the composition of those in control of the commanding heights of the economy will  correspond with their numbers in the population – that blacks will make up the majority of the capitalist ruling class in SA. But it is nearly two decades since the end of apartheid, and yet “black chips” – black-owned shares – make up no more than 2% of shares on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange according to the authoritative Empowerdex. This has given rise to right wing populist tendencies – the championing of the ideas of nationalisation to advance the interests of this parasitic minority under the pretext that they wish to empower the working class majority, by a current presently in a minority in the ANC.

The current majority of the ANC elite is too cowardly to antagonise the predominantly white capitalist class and has accordingly renounced nationalisation, removing even the word from its policy documents at the ANC’s Mangaung conference. At the same time the Zuma faction is too terrified of arousing the appetite of the working class for radical action against the capitalists. Squeezed between the owners and consumers of the country’s wealth and its producers, the petty bourgeois have nothing left but looting and grovelling before the ruling elite. This is what establishes a direct line between Marikana and Waterkloof – bowing and scraping before the rich and powerful masters and doing their bidding.

Down with the Zuptas!

Zuma’s skin may have been saved, but the Gupta scandal has done serious damage to the ANC. The best slogan describing the relationship between the ANC elite and the Guptas was given by the workers at Sun City during their protest against the Guptas’ racism “Down with the Zuptas!”

The WASP calls on workers and struggling communities across South Africa to join in this call – this latest scandal shows with grotesque clarity that it is only the organised working class can lift SA out of this capitalist dead-end. The Zuma-faction in government may present the façade of an all-powerful juggernaut crushing all opposition before it. Yet precisely the exercise of that power is divisive. Even the most blindly loyal to the ruling clique must now take into consideration that Zuma could become the victim of the precedent his coalition established when recalling Mbeki. Any capitalist government is a giant on chicken’s feet – once the working class majority understands its power and organises to rule itself.

WASP believes the Zupta scandal shows it is high time for workers in Cosatu to say “Not in our name!” to try and rescue their federation from being dragged down with the ANC – to organise and fight to take Cosatu out of the Tripartite Alliance. We urge workers still in Cosatu to forge unite in action with the many who are so repulsed that they are leaving the federation’s affiliates, and all workers regardless of union affiliation to take on the task of rebuilding a truly worker-controlled, corruption-free trade union federation. It is time to reclaim the class independence of the working class and support WASP to unite to fight corruption by eradicating its root, capitalism, contest the 2014 elections and fight for the socialist transformation of society.

WASP also calls for all trade unions, workers committees and organised working class communities to demand the recall of Zuma and the entire ANC government, for the release of the Guptagate report and for the prosecution of the Guptas – not only for laws that were broken linked to the Waterkloof landing but also for any corrupt business dealings – as well as of Zuma and his cabinet.

 

WASP May Day Public Meetings

Mametlwe Sebei, WASP spokesperson, addressing the Motsoaledi meeting.

In Motsoaledi, Soweto, over 200 residents turned out on the local sports field to hear WASP spokesman Mametlwe Sebei and other WASP, DSM and local activists. WASP held a May Day event in Motsoaledi at the request of the local community following WASP’s assistance in the community’s on-going service delivery protests and police repression against them, including the murder of a local activist. WASP called for the community to build unity with other Soweto communities in the struggle for services – electricity, sanitation, housing, roads etc. Activists from neighbouring Freedom Park attended. The following day, one of the Motsoaledi Concerned Residents leaders, Lucky Ngobeni, was arrested by police.

Singing at the Carletonville WASP meeting. Photo: Jonny White

In the mining town of Carletonville, 150 attended a WASP public meeting chaired by Elias Juba, chairperson of the mineworkers’ National Workers Committee. Workers of the Community Works’ Programme, residents fighting for housing and electricity and mineworkers stood for lively participation throughout the day. Weizmann Hamilton, general secretary of the Democratic Socialist Movement (CWI South Africa) called for those in attendance to unite the struggles of workers, students and communities behind WASP. Hamilton called for those in attendance to take up the ‘one million signatures for socialism’ campaign to prepare support for WASP in the 2014 elections where WASP will target the over 12 million who were too disillusioned with corrupt big business politics that they failed to vote in the last elections.

Thobeka, a CWP worker at Blybank, gets ready to speak. Photo: Jonny White.

WASP condemns the political arrest of Lucky Ngobeni, Motsoaledi Concerned Residents

Lucky

Lucky Ngobeni addressing WASP and MCR May Day rally in Motsoaledi, May 1 2013.

The Workers and Socialist Party (WASP) condemns the arrest of Lucky Ngobeni, the chairperson of Motsoaledi Concerned Residents, today (May 2, 2013) by Diepkloof police as a clear attempt at silencing the on-going struggle for housing and electricity in this Soweto community.

Ngobeni’s arrest follows the police murder of Motsoaledi resident Xolani Mtshikwana on April 21 and the arrest on the same day of 17 witnesses to his shooting. Mtshikwana died, and three others were hospitalised, as they were shot with rubber bullets in their yards hours after a community protest for housing, which involved the stoning of cars, had ended.

The arrest of Ngobeni was instigated by a local ANC figure, against whom Ngobeni had laid charges last Sunday after he was attacked and stabbed without provocation while mobilising for a community mass meeting. Ngobeni received treatment at the Lilian Ngoyi Community Health Centre for his wounds. The accused ANC member has now, four days later, decided to in turn lay charges against Ngobeni, apparently accusing him of assault.

Returning from the court appearance of the arrested residents today, Ngobeni was arrested when he arrived at the Diepkloof police station after being requested by the SAPS to provide further information in the case against the ANC member. The apparent collusion between the ruling party and the SAPS is deeply worrying.

The Workers and Socialist Party calls for the immediate release of Lucky Ngobeni and the 17 other Motsolaedi residents. WASP also calls for the dropping of the trumped up charges against the 18, and for justice for Mtshikwana’s family.

–          We call for the arrest of the JMPD officers who shot and killed Mtshikwana and for the setting up of a community-led commission of inquiry into his murder, days Mametlwe Sebei, WASP spokesperson.

–          We also call for all struggling working class communities to unite in an urgent local general strike against police brutality and for immediate, community-controlled provision of basic services.

It is likely that the SAPS will take the opportunity of the weekend to hold Ngobeni detained until Monday. The previously arrested residents are represented in court by Lawyers for Human Rights.

Thousands of people have lived in Motsoaledi for over 20 years without decent housing, electricity or sanitation.

The Motsolaedi Concerned Residents has organised residents for ten years in countless peaceful protests for housing.

The Masakhane Community Forum, which unites the Motsoaledi Concerned Residents with the nearby organised community of Freedom Park, has recently led the residents of the Elias Motsoaledi squatter camp next to Bara hospital in Soweto in a series of protests for access to housing, electricity and sanitation.