April, 2017

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March against Zuma – raise the voice of workers & youth

Executive Committee statement

The Workers and Socialist Party calls upon all workers – organised and unorganised, youth, democrats, social movement activists, socialists and all people committed to equality and prosperity for all — to support #OutsourcingMustFall and #FeesMustFall and unite in protest against the corrupt Zuma-led cabal that has effectively established a dictatorship over the ANC and society as a whole. We must use this protest as the first step in the mobilization to enable the working class to have its own voice, its own programme and its own party – a mass workers party on a socialist programme.

Zuma proceeded with this power grab knowing in advance that it would not be his family, his clique or the rich capitalist minority as a whole that would pay the price for the inevitable downgrade by the economic police of global capitalism – the rating agencies. The victims would the working and middle classes, for whom what lies ahead are higher prices for food and basic commodities, school fees, and transport; greater indebtedness, higher home, car and furniture loan repayments and repossessions and retrenchments.

Nothing reveals the shameless hypocrisy of Zuma’s cabal than the assurances that both him and Malusi Gigaba have since given the rating agencies to continue the very policies of “fiscal consolidation” Pravin Gordhan had been implementing and which they had denounced so viciously. What they mean by “radical economic transformation” is the right to unrestrained looting in collusion with the very same “white monopoly capital” they claim to want to wrest economic power from. There is no more shameless example that that of the incompetent Bathabile Dlamini’s deliberately allowing the corruptly awarded white US-owned Cash Paymaster Services to continue and to open the social grant beneficiaries’ payments to be raided by the vultures of CPS’s partners even before they are paid out.

The working class has every interest in fighting against corruption. Zuma may be in the eye of the storm of our rage. But he is but one figurehead of an exploitative economic system that has made SA the most unequal society in the world over the entire post-apartheid period before and since Zuma with the ANC continuing where the apartheid regime had left off.

We are not protesting to enable the butcher of Marikana, Cyril Ramaphosa, to take over the presidency of the ANC or the country. His craven cowardice has once again been reaffirmed by his apology for speaking out against Zuma. After a weekend off his knees, he is now back on his belly licking Zuma’s boots.

These developments prove once again that the ANC has forfeited the right to rule society and along with them the capitalist class as a whole. As the 2016 local government elections have shown once again, the ANC – with the active electoral support of less than 35% of the eligible voting population — has lost the confidence of the majority. There is now a strong possibility that they may fall below 50% in 2019.

The capitalist class’ second eleven, the DA, is led in Johannesburg by a mayor who is an unapologetic xenophobe and free marketeer committed to dismantling trade union and collective bargaining rights but kept in power by the EFF. In the Western Cape it is led by a premier who says we should be grateful for colonialism.

The ever deepening mass unemployment, poverty and inequality lie within the capitalist system and the political system under which it is managed. The power Zuma has used to reshuffle his cabinet is provided for in the constitution in the form of the presidential prerogative. It shields him from accountability from his own party as well as society as a whole.

WASP calls for an Assembly for Working Class Unity of democratically elected delegates from communities, education institutions, trade unions and workplaces to develop a road map towards the launch of such a party. The party must commit itself to the nationalisation of the commanding heights of the economy under democratic working class control and management; free education and health, the election of all official subject to the right of immediate recall and on an income no higher than that of the average skilled worker.

Political crisis – working class must lead

The cabinet reshuffle Zuma announced, like a thief in the night, at 12am on 31 March, 2017, is the most audacious act of factional manouevering since Zuma’s election as president of the ANC in 2007 and of the country in 2009. It has rightly been met with outrage. It is this administration’s most defiant public pledge of allegiance to the Guptas yet. It is the most brazen confirmation that the looting of the state is now the official policy of government under the Zuma administration. This Saxonworld cabinet is not just an insult to every section of society especially the working class, but it also a declaration of war. This government must go!

By retaining Bathabile Dlamini as Social Development Minister Zuma is spitting in the face of the poorest of the poor. The promotion of Faith Muthambi to Public Service and Administration is a condonation of incompetence – an invitation to take her wrecking ball from Communications to wield against more than a million public sector workers. Worse than this, in justifying the retention of both in his cabinet in the name of women empowerment, Zuma has demonstrated once again his complete contempt for women.

Bathabile Dlamini has consciously acted as a conduit for billions in tax payer money to end up in the accounts of the US-owned Cash Paymaster Services and for the grants of beneficiaries themselves to be raided with loans, funeral polices and pre-paid airtime in an illegal and corrupt contract by the vultures of CPS’s accomplices.

Faith Muthambi has acted in open defiance not just of the ANC NEC on communications policy, but even of cabinet in brazen collusion with MultiChoice over set box encryption and the SABC archives. Now Zuma has promoted her in contemptuous disregard of the ANC-led parliament’s own ad hoc committee. This is his insolent response to the parliamentary committee recommendation that she be sanctioned for wrecking the SABC’s credibility, management and finances and attempting to turn it into an unapologetic propaganda agency for the Zuma faction not unlike the Guptas’ ANN7.

This development has exposed the Zuma faction’s slogan “radical economic transformation” for what it is: the creation of an enabling institutional and policy environment for the self enrichment of Zuma’s family friends and cronies in the black elite. That is what lies behind the takeover of Treasury. The way has now been cleared for, in the words of the SACP second deputy general secretary, Solly Mapaila, “parasites and vultures to encircle it and loot it completely.”

Zuma and his faction have dressed up their corruption and looting in radical clothing, portraying their factional opponents as lackeys of white monopoly capital to which they are allegedly opposed. Their project is being presented as the “second phase of the transition of the National Democratic Revolution.” Yet new Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba’s first statement was to assure the rating agencies that he remained as committed to Gordhan to the austerity policies his predecessor was implementing  to appease them at the expense of the working class.

The reaction of the markets (the capitalists) to these developments is already being felt in the 8% decline in the value of the Rand. The downgrade of the country’s sovereign credit rating was predictable and inevitable. That Zuma has taken this action in spite of a ratings downgrade threat, confirms not only his economic ignorance, but also his insolent indifference towards the consequences of his actions for the middle and working classes.

The Standard & Poor’s downgrade, which could now be followed by Moody’s as well as Fitch, will mean that the cost of borrowing by government will skyrocket. Already government bond yields have been forced up 9.2% — junk territory. Government debt, at 43% of gross domestic product, is at levels higher than in the wake of the of PW Botha’s Rubicon speech in 1985. The cost of servicing this debt is already the fastest rising item on the expenditure side of the budget. Not only will this require even further cuts in social spending, but, with a fall in the value of the Rand, lead to spiraling inflation, as the cost of fuel, transport and food go through the roof. To the vicious circle of a declining Rand, capital flight and raising inflation, the Reserve Bank whose primary mandate as a key institution in the implementation of the ANC government’s neo-liberal capitalist policies is to keep inflation under control, will be to raise interest rates. It is a policy to make the working class pay the price for a crisis created by the capitalists themselves, their number increased by the middle class that will be dragged into their ranks.

The current level of interest rates – the servicing of which consumes 80% of annual household income – will mean hundreds of thousands if not millions more will swell the ranks of the 19 million indebted. House, car and furniture repossessions will escalate alongside personal and small business bankruptcies. Even from a capitalist standpoint, the actions of the Zuma administration are reckless in the extreme.

The looting of Eskom by the Zuptas has resulted in huge increases in the price of electricity and strangled economic growth. At 0.3%, economic growth in 2016 was the lowest since 2009. The 2017 budget’s strategic aim is to reduce the budget deficit to 2.4%. Its calculations are predicated on economic growth reaching 2%. With economic growth having contracted in the last quarter of 2016 to 0.3%, there is now a distinct possibility of a recession. The recession that followed the 2008 world economic crisis led to the loss of a million jobs. That recession came against the background of an average growth rate of 4.3% over the previous five years. Growth rates since 2009 have averaged less than 2%.  As the massive retrenchments in the mining, metal, engineering and now the poultry industry indicate, potentially millions more will be thrown onto the scrapheap of unemployment and poverty.

Zuma’s actions amount to a declaration of war. The primary consideration behind this reshuffle is the need to strengthen his factional grip over the ANC, to bolster his support amongst the parasitic black elite whose mouths are watering at the prospects of riches beyond their wildest dreams; riches that will completely insulate them from the disaster that awaits the masses in whose name they claim to be acting. The consolidation of Zuma’s factional grip over the ANC is intended to guarantee that he is succeeded as president, whether after the ANC’s elective conference in December, or after the general elections in 2019, by someone, preferably his ex-wife and mother of four of his children, Nkosazana-Dlamini Zuma from whom he expects an amnesty for the more than 700 corruption charges the courts have ruled must now be reinstated.

Alongside the burning anger of the masses there is a sharp feeling that something must be done. The protests at Treasury and Church Square in Tshwane are an indication of the indignation, albeit, at this stage, mostly of the middle class. But they are a harbinger of much bigger storms to come when the masses enter the stage of revolt against this regime.

Demands for Zuma to step down will gain increasing support not just from broader society but even from within the ANC itself. Zuma has effectively captured the ANC in a one-sided factional war in which only his faction has a clear plan and strategy. Secretary General Gwede Mantashe’s complaint that the list of new cabinet ministers came from elsewhere other than the ANC is a damaging admission of the impotence of the anti-Zuma forces in the party in the face of what is now a dictatorship over the ANC.

After months of suffering blow after blow, especially at the hands of the courts, Zuma and his faction are attempting to crush the opposition from within the ANC. By retaining leading SACP members Zuma is daring the SACP to carry out the rumoured threat of mass resignation. It is a cunning attempt to outmanoeuvre the feeble opposition of the very forces that brought him to power – the SACP and Cosatu, who now stand completely discredited buried under the rubble of their ideological bankruptcy and political cowardice. The call by the SACP politburo, likely to be echoed by the Cosatu Central Executive Committee, for Zuma to step down is a desperate attempt to salvage the last vestiges of their credibility.

But having dealt this knock-out blow to the entire Tripartite Alliance, Zuma has stepped out of the ring into an open confrontation with the masses.  In this arena he faces a force that he not only holds in the same contempt as the class forces he represents, but whose power he does not understand and for which he has no respect.

His confidence will be bolstered by the adulation of his cronies and his sense of omnipotence will be heightened by the absence of an organized mass working class political opposition. But it will be all too brief. The havoc their actions will unleash will detonate a revolt that will ultimately sweep not only the Zuma regime, but the ANC itself aside.

But for that to happen, the working class needs to be organized politically. The desire for a mass workers party has been present in the consciousness, especially since the Marikana massacre of not just organised workers, but of much broader layers of society including the middle class who are looking desperately for the kind of leadership the working class gave in the struggle against apartheid. It is to the task of compressing the raging fires of discontent across society into a mass workers party that all activists, progressive democrats and socialists must now dedicate themselves.

A rolling campaign of mass action to prepare for the increases in fuel, food, and mass retrenchments that are on the near horizon must be undertaken. With the connection between the onslaught on our living standards and the political developments in the ANC now obvious, the political situation demands the launch of a mass workers party. WASP calls for the convening of an Assembly for Working Class Unity to draw up a road map for the launch of a mass workers party. All socialists, youth, communities, workers including the forces building the new federation, must organize to elect delegates to this assembly whose main task must be  draw up a road map towards the lunch of a mass workers party.

It is vital that such a party adopts a socialist programme. Both ANC factions are committed to neo-liberalism. In the final analysis the present crisis does not originate with the corrupt Zuma faction, but derive from the neo-liberal economic policies the ANC has been implementing since 1996 with the adoption of Gear for which all the various factions into which the ANC is disintegrating are collectively responsible.