September, 2013

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Sekhukhune College campaign: join the demonstration

Workers and Socialist Party and Socialist Youth Movement will lead a learners’ stay-away and march to demand the reopening of Sekhukhune College in Fetakgomo, Limpopo.

At 08h00 on Friday, 20 September, learners from throughout high schools in the Sekhukhune district of Limpopo will assemble at Ngwanamala Secondary School in Fetakgomo and march to the Fetakgomo Municipality Offices to demand the reopening of the closed-down teaching college in the area.

– We demand that the college is reopened as a Further Education and Training college for the youth in this area which has no tertiary education institutions whatsoever.

– The Workers and Socialist Party fights for free, decent and equal quality education for all from pre-school to university.

It is an absolute disgrace that this area which is so rich in minerals, cannot provide chances for its youth to study further, let alone decent basic services and infrastructure like water and roads.

We are uniting with residents of all ages and with the mineworkers in the area in this campaign for the college to be reopened“, says Jonas Magedi, Socialist Youth Movement, “and this march is just the first step in a struggle which we are prepared to fight to the finish.”

At least 1000 learners are expected to participate in the march, joined by residents and workers. The march is supported by various local formations, including the local taxi association.

Twickenham mine: workers and communities must unite

The Workers and Socialist Party believes the clashes between police and community members in Burgersfort, Limpopo, outside Amplats’ Twickenham mine is the direct result of the retrenchment policies being carried out by the mine bosses. As such the mine bosses are directly responsible.

Demanding job creation from the mining giants is an entirely legitimate demand for communities to raise and WASP supports this demand. Community members have protested about the lack of jobs at Twickenham going to local people, where, as across the country, unemployment is a severe and burning issue. Having deliberately disregarded demands for jobs from local communities the mining companies have cynically created the basis for conflict between workers redeployed there from other areas and the local community.

The protests in Burgersfort were sparked by the redeployment of 170 workers to Amplats’ Twickenham operation from Rustenburg. These workers are some of the 1,600 workers that have kept their jobs by acceding to redeployment out of an original proposal by Amplats to retrench 6,900. The other 5,300 workers were not so ‘lucky’ and will soon be on the scrap heap.

But WASP argues that only the unity of workers and communities, of those with jobs and those who are unemployed, can secure jobs for all and decent pay and conditions.

The mining bosses are attempting to play divide and rule and sow divisions between workers and the unemployed in the communities. The redeployment “offer” for a minority of the 6,900 was an example of this to begin with. By requiring the 6,900 to reapply for their jobs the Amplats bosses were attempting to head off a united response of the workers and introduce individual competition amongst them. Unfortunately, the Amcu leadership, neither the so-called task teams in Rustenburg, clearly rejected this.

Now the consequences are being felt in Twickenham in the anger of the community to what they perceive as their exclusion from job opportunities. Nonetheless, only unity can begin to address the issues of unemployment in Burgersfort. The community and the workers at Twickenham – including the 170 redeployed workers and those whether they were born in this country or not – must form a joint campaign demanding job creation for all those in the area who wish to work.

Cosatu Crisis: Anti-Vavi Cosatu leaders seeking to suppress democracy

 

The move by the leaders of seven Cosatu affiliated unions to oppose the application to the courts by Numsa, Fawu and the PFA to overturn the suspension of Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi on the grounds that the meeting that suspended him was ‘unconstitutional’ represents a new and probably critical stage in the disintegration of Cosatu. The pro-Zuma leaders of these seven unions have taken refuge behind the audi altarem partem principle to conceal their real intention: to deny the Cosatu rank-and-file a say in the most serious conflict in the history of the federation. It will now be October at the earliest that the case will be heard and in the meantime Vavi remains suspended.

It is unfortunate that the courts should become the battle ground for what is a life-and-death struggle for the organisational, ideological and political future of Cosatu. It could have been avoided had the seven agreed to the demand tabled by Numsa and others at the last Central Executive Committee for a special congress.

The divisions in Cosatu and within Cosatu affiliates over the suspension of Vavi are in reality a reflection of the contradictory position that Cosatu finds itself in as a member of the Tripartite Alliance and the inevitable tensions this provokes. On the one hand the ANC, the dominant component of the Alliance, pursues a neo-liberal economic policy in the form of the National Development Plan. This policy favours the bosses and the markets and therefore stands diametrically opposed to the fundamental interests of the rank-and-file workers of Cosatu. The Cosatu leadership cannot face both ways on this issue. They either represent the working class or they become the representatives of the bosses, of the capitalist class, and act as a fifth column inside the mighty labour federation.

The immediate crisis, provoked first by the digging-up of corruption charges, latterly a rape allegation (now withdrawn) and then the suspension of Vavi for “bringing Cosatu into disrepute” through the exposure of a workplace affair (with the same Cosatu employee previously alleging rape), is a reflection of this ideological battle for the heart and soul of Cosatu. The openly pro-capitalist ANC, with the support of the pro-Zuma Cosatu leaders, wishes to complete the subordination of Cosatu to the ANC and SACP within the Alliance. Vavi’s refusal to support Zuma’s re-election at Mangaung (even though he later capitulated), his repeated criticisms of ANC policy and his refusal to be elevated to the ANC Executive makes him a potential barrier to their agenda. That is why, for the pro-Zuma Cosatu leaders, he has to go.

Vavi’s staunchest supporter has been Cosatu’s largest affiliate Numsa. Numsa, based on the most class conscious layers of the working class in manufacturing and metals, who recognise ANC policy for the pro-capitalist stall that it is, have been a constant pressure on the Numsa leadership to distance themselves, criticise the ANC, and in the case of the Vavi ‘scandal’ come to his defence in a recognition of what is at stake.

WASP holds no brief for Vavi as an individual, if he is guilty of corruption the workers movement would be better off making an example of him. But WASP recognises the deeper processes at work and what the stakes in this dispute really are.

WASP stands for the maximum unity of the working class as the most effective way to advance the interests of working class people. The danger in the crisis in Cosatu is that, if Cosatu continues to fragment, a process already considerably advanced, the working class could be left divided in the workplace, the frontline in the class struggle. It is the pro-Zuma Cosatu leaders who threaten the unity of the working class with their capitulation to the interests of the bosses and the capitalist class. WASP believes that Numsa has a responsibility to draw the full conclusions from the past twenty years of ANC betrayal and put itself at the head of the regrouping of the pro-working class, left, and socialist forces.

Read WASP’s ‘Open Letter to Cosatu members’ which was published in July. This letter gives a fuller analysis of WASP’s views on the crisis in Cosatu and where it is headed.

Full Support to the Motor Manufacturing Workers!

The Workers and Socialist Party fully supports the strike of the workers in the motor manufacturing sector. Given the reported R18bn profits made in the sector last year the workers’ demands for a 14% increase is reasonable, even modest.

An avalanche of predictable propaganda has been unleashed against the strike with workers accused of damaging the economy, chasing away investors and exposing the country to the risk of another sovereign rating downgrade.

But relentless increases in fuel, transport, electricity and food, have left workers with no alternative but to reject the employer’s offer of 10%, which will do little to arrest the decline in the real value of our wages.

The strike must be used not only to reverse the erosion of the purchasing power of our wages, but to correct other anomalies the bosses have created over the duration of the three-year agreement that has now expired and to restore wage parity across all companies in the sector. The media have not reported on these focussing exclusively on the wage demands in the deadlocked negotiations.

In 2010, for example, Toyota bosses deviated from agreements signed in the National Bargaining Forum (NBF) and unilaterally increased team leader pay rates by R3.22 per hour creating a disparity. Toyota workers demanded that this anomaly be corrected by raising all pay rates in line with that of the team leaders. The bosses ignored the workers’ demands. Unfortunately the Numsa leadership failed to address this anomaly, declared no dispute and organised no action allowing the bosses to think they could get away with dividing workers and violating collective agreements.

Accordingly, in September 2012, Toyota workers took matters into their own hands, set up a strike committee and downed tools.  Despite being “unprocedural” the strike ended in a partial victory. The bosses conceded to the demand for a R3.22 increase. But, instead of integrating it into the basic pay rate, they added it onto the existing basic wage as an allowance to be paid until June 2012. The integration of the R3.22 into the basic pay would be phased in over a three-year period commencing July 2012, at the rate of R1.07 per hour per year, with the difference between this amount and the R3.22 being paid as an diminishing allowance until it is completely phased out after three years.

But this is applicable to Toyota only. In response to the demand by workers in other companies, the bosses have instead offered a one-off payment of R2 225.00 over the three-year duration of the agreement. Apart from being very much less than the earnings of the Toyota workers, the bosses’ offer widens the gap between the earnings of workers in other companies and even  more so those of Toyota team leaders into whose basic pay the R3.22 increase was integrated in 2010 already. The bosses offer prolongs and widens the disparities and amounts to a demand for the union to retrospectively condone the bosses’ violation of a collective agreement. The bosses’ action is nothing less than the utilisation of the oldest trick in the book – divided and rule. We must not allow this attempt to weaken us to succeed. We must strengthen solidarity by putting forward uniform demands on the principle of equal pay for work of equal value across all companies in the sector.

From the standpoint of workers, the centralisation of collective bargaining has always been aimed at preventing the bosses from playing workers in one company off against others on the basis of differences in company performance in the market. The government has been dancing to the tune of the motor manufacturing bosses since the introduction of Gear in 1996 with massive subsidies as part of the plan to make SA an export platform to the world market especially in the advanced capitalist countries.

The drive to make SA a “competitive” manufacturer for export can only in the final analysis be achieved by driving down wages and conditions, playing workers in one company off against others, one sector off against others, and workers in SA against our class brothers and sisters in other countries.

Apart from the obvious benefits to the bosses in the form of fabulous profits, the economic benefits of government subsidies to the motor manufacturers are dubious to say the least. It is increasingly recognised that imports of spare parts is having a significant effect on the deficit on the current account – the difference between earnings from exports and imports. The consequent weakening of the currency poses a threat to the ability of SA to continue attracting the investment of currency speculators whose hot money is keeping the balance of payment in the black. This forces the Reserve bank to keep interest rates at their present level. Interest rates may be at their lowest level in over thirty years, but household debt as a percentage of annual income remains at 75%.

The leadership of the trade unions must recognise the reality of these ruthless calculations behind the stance taken by the bosses in the wage negotiations. We must forge solidarity between companies, between sectors and ultimately across the economy as a whole. With workers in a number sectors involved in wage negotiations – in mining, aviation, construction — and still more to come, the opportunity is there now to unite all these struggles and to link them especially to the struggle against retrenchments in the mining industry – the frontline of the class struggle now – through a general strike for a national minimum wage of R12 500 per month, no retrenchments, and the nationalisation of the mines under worker control and management.

HANDS OFF ABAHLALI! DOWN WITH CORRUPTION AND REPRESSION! FOR DEMOCRATICALLY PLANNED DEVELOPMENT!

The Workers and Socialist Party (WASP) condemns the latest acts of repression – ANC-instigated evictions of and assault on Abahlali baseMjondolo members – in Cato Crest in the strongest terms. We urge all progressive organisations and individuals to stand in solidarity Abahlali.

This attack is the latest in a long history of repression and harassment against Abahlali and other progressive organisations that fight corruption and defend the interests of working class people. For the second time in just a few weeks, the local ANC councillor Mzimuni Ngiba and the ANC Branch Executive Committee instigated action by the Ethekwini Municipality demolish the shacks of Abahali members in Cato Crest. This despite Abahlali having won a court order which makes the evictions illegal.

The trigger for the attack seems to have been an attempt to expose corruption in the media by Abahlali president S’bu Zikode on the TV show iLungelo Lakho, where he mentioned Ngiba. This shows the fear of these corrupt people of having their evil deeds exposed to the light of public opinion. Targeted shack demolitions continue despite a second court interdict. Again this demonstrates the ANC government’s utter contempt for the rule of law which they claim to uphold. The ANC is using tribalism and promoting conflict between shack dwellers and people in formal housing – these are divide-and-rule tactics worthy of the apartheid government.

The murder of Abahlali activist Nkululeko Gwala on June 26 followed threats and intimidation by the ANC. He was shot twelve times, an assassination that mirrored the murder of another housing activist in March. Witnesses also say the shooters were the same people. No arrests have been made for either murder. We note, in contrast, the state’s excessive enthusiasm in pursuing charges against activists which hardly ever result in convictions. The WASP calls for the formation of community self-defence committees to monitor, prevent and act against the ANC’s campaign of terror.

The WASP supports development and demands decent housing for all. However, ‘development’ under the ANC-led government has become a vehicle for patronage and corruption to enrich the emerging black elite. The ANC-government is committed to the capitalist economic system which secures the vast majority of society’s resources in the hands of a few while the majority who create the wealth are shut out from accessing it.

This is why the WASP was formed last year, by the Democratic Socialist Movement together with mineworkers’ strike committees, as a new political party to unite workers and poor people in struggle to take on the ANC and its capitalist masters on every front – the Workers and Socialist Party (WASP). The WASP stands for a simple programme of struggle for nationalisation of the mines, land and big companies to be run democratically by workers and working class communities in the interests of satisfying the needs of all instead of the greed of a few, for decent housing and services for all, including free, equal quality education and health-care for all, for jobs and living wages for all – a programme for the socialist transformation of society. The WASP is built on the principles of no privileges – elected representatives cannot earn more than the average of their constituency and are subject to the right of immediate recall. The WASP is still in formation as an umbrella in which many independent organisations of workers and working class communities can participate. It will hold a conference at the end of 2013 and aims to contest the elections in 2014.

THE WORKERS AND SOCIALIST PARTY CALLS FOR:

* An independent investigation into the murders of Nkululeko Gwala and Thembinkosi Qumbelo and all other crimes against activists which must be democratically controlled by the Cato Crest community without intimidation.

* The resignation of Cllr Ngiba – followed by a by-election. We urge the community to put forward an independent candidate who will be subject to recall and will not earn more than a skilled worker. Such a candidate will have the full support of the WASP.

* Stop the evictions and demolition of shacks.

* End the transit camps – build houses for all in the area but also shops, roads, schools, embankment of steep slopes, proper town-planning for decent livelihoods.

* Democratic control by the community and workers in the housing development. No to tenders – use local labour and the setting up of community building cooperatives.

* No to tribalism and discrimination of people from the Eastern Cape.

* No to the port expansion! Invest the money in upgrading our communities.

* Nationalise the mines, the big farms and companies under democratic control by workers and communities – plan to use the wealth for decent lives for all.

Workers and Socialist Party backs gold strike and calls on mineworkers to widen strike action

The Workers & Socialist Party gives its full backing to the gold mineworkers who begin their strike action at midnight tonight. WASP calls on the NUM organised workers taking strike action to appeal to their brothers and sisters in Amcu to join them to bring about a complete shutdown of the gold mining sector until their wage demands are met. WASP calls on the rank and file of both NUM and Amcu to pressure their leaders to give notice of a unified strike.

There is a war being waged by the mine bosses against their own workforces. It has been reported that the mine bosses have been preparing themselves to weather a long strike by beefing up security and hoarding billions of rands. They are prepared to try and starve the workers back to work and impose their paltry pay offer of just 6.5%. They want to maintain the cruel irony of having those workers who dig out gold – the symbol of wealth and value – live in abject poverty. There is only one answer to this: workers unity. We call on mineworkers in all sectors to organise strike action in support of the gold workers’ wage demands and against the retrenchments planned across the industry.

It is crucial that in the course of this strike the mineworkers themselves have democratic control over every aspect of the action. It is for the workers to democratically decide on the tactics used, elect those they trust to negotiate on their behalf, and decide on what terms they are prepared to return to work. The best way to do this is to elect independent strike committees, a tactic successfully employed in last year’s sector-wide strike action. It is for the unions – NUM and Amcu – to carry out the democratic mandate of the workers.

WASP stands for the nationalisation of the mines under democratic workers control and management.

WASP is preparing itself for its first electoral challenge in the 2014 national and provincial elections. The cause of the mineworkers will be at the centre of the WASP campaign, and mineworkers themselves will be candidates on the lists.