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by Weizmann Hamilton, Johannesburg WASP
Inside two months following his election as ANC president at the party’s December 2017 national conference, Cyril Ramaphosa has realised the ambition he reportedly set himself whilst still at high school according to a close childhood friend – to become the country’s president. If his victory in the ANC presidential succession race was not at all certain, the narrow margin of his victory made Zuma’s dramatic resignation so soon after the conference seem improbable. Ramaphosa’s ascendancy to the highest office in the land was built on a 50/50 split that ran right through its top structures — the Top Six, the national executive as well as the national working committees.
Even more unpromisingly for Ramaphosa, his triumph was the result of the betrayal of Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza, the most powerful member of the pro-Zuma so-called “Premier League”. This alliance of corrupt provincial premiers (including those of the Free State and North West) manipulated provincial conference elections, stripping the national conference of all credibility – reduced to a gigantic auction of corrupted delegates. By instructing his delegates, in the name of “unity”, to switch their votes from Zuma’s anointed successor, his ex-wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, it could be reasonably expected that Ramaphosa would be beholden to the most corrupt of the trio.
That outcome suggested a period of paralysis ahead for the ANC as the two factions – Ramaphosa’s and Zuma’s – were set for a collision between the two centres of power in the party and the country for the remaining 18 months of Zuma’s term as the country’s president before the 2019 general elections and inaction by Ramaphosa.
By the evening of the 14th of February 2018, however, the reality of the decisive shift in the balance of forces in the ANC that set in after Ramaphosa’s conference victory, finally dawned on Zuma. He surrendered the presidency as meekly as he had ascended to it with such triumphalism nine years ago. For the second time in ten years, the ANC has humiliated its president by not permitting him to complete his term of office.
Zuma reaps the whirlwind
The drama of Zuma’s ousting is rich with irony. He became the victim of the same process he had led to prevent Thabo Mbeki from completing his term nine years ago – a recall. Thabo Mbeki continued as the country’s president for eight months after Zuma’s triumph at the ANC’s Polokwane conference in 2007, Zuma for less than two. His defiance of the ANC’s NEC’s instruction to resign or face being voted out by the previously unthinkable — the ANC supporting a Motion of No Confidence tabled in parliament by the Economic freedom Fighters, led by Julius Malema whose expulsion Zuma had ensured in 2012. The ANC had gone to such extreme lengths despite the fact that a successful Motion of no Confidence would lead to the dissolution of the entire cabinet – ministers and deputies. Faced with such a threat, Zuma capitulated.
The end of Thabo Mbeki’s reign was inglorious. But he accepted his recall with dignity and respect for the decision the party he had served all his life, and in which he had come to be regarded as political royalty. Zuma’s presidency ended in ignominy and cowardice, protesting his innocence to the end – his conduct a study in incomprehension in the parallel universe he inhabited, of what had unfolded.
Zuma ascended the presidential throne in the slip stream of a revolt against more than a decade of the neo-liberal Growth Employment and Redistribution (GEAR) policy Mbeki had imposed on the country in 1996 without any discussion in ANC structures. Although economic growth averaged 4.5% under Mbeki, the regular budget surpluses at the time were made possible by the massive redistribution of wealth from the poor to the rich catapulting SA to the top of the global league table of inequality. Gear led to a rapid polarization of the classes, reflected in the phenomenon of service delivery protests – working class communities in revolt against poor service delivery and corruption which began in 2004, and the biggest public sector strike in SA history at the time. The aloof indifference of the Shakespeare-quoting. whisky-sipping and pipe-smoking “Call me a Thatcherite” Mbeki- the personification of the aspirant black bourgeoisie the ANC was founded to represent – ensured that the succession battle in the ANC became an indirect expression of the collision of the classes in society.
The consequences of these policies called into existence what subsequently came to be known as the coalition of the wounded – victims of Mbeki’s marginalisation and witch-hunting who opposed the policies he enforced in dictatorial fashion on the ANC and its Tripartite Alliance partners, the Congress of SA Trade Unions (COSATU) and the SA Communist Party (SACP) as well as the Malema-led ANC Youth League. Zuma was to win the presidency with a decisive 60% majority which was to increase to 75% at its next conference in 2012.
Then Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said famously at the time that the forces would ensure Zuma’s victory would be an “unstoppable as a tsunami.” He was not to know that the Zuma tsunami would cut a swathe of destruction through society – through the economy, on the lives of the working class, the Tripartite Alliance, and in state institutions.
Disaster for the working class
Zuma’s regime was born in scandal and morphed into a kleptocracy. Making full use of the Bonapartist provisions of the country’s much vaunted constitution, the prerogative to appoint and “dis-appoint”, heads of state-owned enterprises, the police, the priority crimes unit (the Hawks) and the National Prosecuting Authority. Dismissed by Mbeki as deputy president in 2005 over what the judge described as a “generally corrupt relationship”he had developed with benefactor Schabir Shaik who was sentenced to 15 years for corruption over the arms deal scandal, he was reinstated after he manipulated the dropping of the charges against him. He drove Khwezi, the daughter of a fellow comrade into exile and to her death, after he was acquitted of raping her. He dismantled the Scorpions (SA’s equivalent of the US FBI).
He converted government into a criminal enterprise for the self-enrichment of his family and cronies. Under the direction of the Gupta family of Indian immigrants he developed a network of cronies so powerful that they even decided on appointments in cabinet and SoEs that the beneficiaries themselves heard about from this corrupt family even before it was announced in the ANC itself. It is estimated that the looting spree has resulted in the loss of over R100bn to the public purse. Under his watch the economy has nosedived gasping for breath at 1% per annum when eliminating extreme poverty (those living on R441 per month and have to choose between buying food or spending on other essentials) will require ten years of 5.4% average economic growth. The SA Revenue Service has under collected tax of over R50bn. Under his watch,far from halting the impoverishment of the masses that Mbeki’s regime began, it has accelerated. 55% of the population live in poverty, with 9m unemployed – approximately 40% (67% amongst the youth) with 15m going to bed hungry every night. The economy has experienced two recessions and a rating agency downgrade.
Under Zuma the ANC has undergone two splits—the birth of the Congress of the People in 2008 and the Economic Freedom fighters in 2012. The Tripartite Alliance has lost all credibility. COSATU expelled the 340 000-strong National Union of Metal Workers following its 2013 decision not to support the ANC in the 2014 elections. Nothing expresses the political bankruptcy of COSATU and the SACP than the fact that they cling on for dear life to the Tripartite Alliance having campaigned for the billionaire Ramaphosa – one of the richest men in the country and butcher of the Marikana mineworkers.
The Ramaphosa Spring
Understandably Ramaphosa’s victory has been welcomed by most including working class people. They hope he will make good on his promise to root out corruption, lift the economy out of the doldrums, create jobs, eradicate poverty and raise living standards.
So discredited had Zuma and his cronies become that the demand that Zuma step down was supported by virtually every layer of society including big business who had been opposed to Mbeki’s ousting. It is this factor, the tsunami of public of opinion, that overwhelmed the ANC. Zuma’s erstwhile allies dumped him like rats a sinking ship. As we predicted after the ANC conference, with the ANC facing almost certain defeat in 2019 if Zuma remained at the helm, the beneficiaries of Zuma’s patronage would desert him for the same reason that they defended him to the hilt despite all the crimes he committed, from the rape charges against Khwezi, to the arms deal corruption and the so-called security upgrades at his private home Nkandla which earned him a scathing, unprecedented judgment by the Constitutional Court.
In the period following his election as ANC president, the Hawks and police appear to have been energised leading to raids on the Gupta compound, the offices of the Free State Premier and the arrest of a number of corruption suspects. Gupta patriarch, Ajay, was prevented from fleeing out of the country on a private jet, stopped by airport police, and has now been officially declared a fugitive from justice whilst his nephew has already appeared in court. The state electricity utility Eskom’s entire board has been replaced. The NPA is under pressure to reinstate the corruption charges against Zuma as his strategy of appeals has been exhausted.
These developments have given the impression that Ramaphosa means business. He thus comes to power carrying the hopes of all sections of society. But herein lies the contradiction. The expectations of the capitalist class and the working class are irreconcilable. Ramaphosa is the candidate of big business. His entire career has constituted preparation for the role the capitalist ruling class has thrust on him and he has enthusiastically placed himself at their disposal.
He earned his spurs during his role in the defeat of the historic 1987 mineworkers strike as secretary general of the National Union of Mineworkers he was founder member of. He forged close ties with big business in the 1980s in the Urban Foundation, established to create the basis for the development of a black capitalist class as the strategists of capital became increasingly alarmed by the socialist consciousness that had developed especially in COSATU. He played a leading role in crafting the constitution of SA’s pro-capitalist post-apartheid dispensation at the Codesa negotiations. Embittered at being overlooked for the position of deputy to Mandela in the first post-apartheid government, he left politics, failed to attend Mandela’s inauguration and got on with the business of becoming a billionaire.
He comes to power when rating agencies are demanding savage austerity measures to avoid a further downgrade. Given the state of the world economy, and lack of demand in the domestic economy because of the levels of poverty, there is in fact little incentive to invest at home and no way out on the world market.
Ramaphosa’s spring will therefore be short-lived. For this reason it is not excluded that Ramaphosa may call an early election. The birth of the new SA Federation of Trade Unions in 2017 represented the first steps towards the working class reclaiming its political and class independence. The debate on the establishment of a workers party must be concluded urgently and a workers party established. In 2012, COSATU’s own survey of shop stewards’ political attitudes found that 67% were in favour of the establishment of a workers party. In 2013 the EFF was launched exploiting this mood with populist radical nationalism. After the 2016 local government elections, the EFF revealed its class character by entering into a coalition with the DA – which it denounces as racist party of “white monopoly capital”. Behind this hypocrisy lies its real ambition – to be part of a pro-capitalist coalition.
Under Zuma the ANC’s electoral support has declined to the point where in 2016, it lost 8% from just two years before to 54% and relinquished control in three major metros – Johannesburg, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela. Its vote was reduced to 34% of the eligible voting population.
In 2013 NUMSA itself resolved at its special national congress to establish a workers party. The SAFTU NEC has the opportunity to put an end to this undue delay. It must set a date for the launch a mass workers party on a socialist programme that will unite community, students and work place struggles.
Now we step up the campaign to end all precarious work!
by Weizmann Hamilton, Johannesburg WASP
Picture: #OMF protest outside Gauteng legislature on 22 February 2017
The Workers and Socialist Party welcomes the announcement by the City of Johannesburg that 4,000 security guards will be insourced. We look forward to the full implementation of this commitment after a long, and in our view, unnecessary delay. We hope such delays will not affect the cleaners who Mayor Mashaba is now publicly committed to insourcing as well.
For the workers to enjoy “the dignity of fair pay, stable employment and benefits available to employees of the City” workers are entitled, as a minimum, to the full R9,500 – the difference between the R14,000 paid to the contractor parasites who treated workers as slaves and the R4,500 workers received as pay, as well as all the benefits agreed in the bargaining council between the unions and South African Local Government Association (Salga). This will take the security guards’ salaries to R14,000. The workers must also be granted direct representation in the bargaining council.
The recognised unions led by Cosatu had turned their backs on the workers, concentrating on corruption and class collaboration with the bosses. Nehawu for example refused to allow membership of outsourced or labour broker workers. Cosatu has now hypocritically hailed this agreement and denounced as “doubting Thomases” those who are legitimately skeptical over it. Cosatu, many of whose affiliate’s leaders had vested interests in outsourced and labour broking companies, has ignored the possibilities of using the 2014 labour law amendments to enforce the banning of labour broking through shop floor action by workers themselves, begging the ANC to pass legislation to ban it instead. Now the Gauteng ANC has once again showed its true class colours by denouncing the agreement as “unaffordable”.
This decision is a complete vindication of #OMF’s 2-year campaign for permanent, decent jobs and a minimum wage of R10,000. This outcome is not the result of a conversion on the road to Damascus by a leader of a neo-liberal DA who originally came to office promising wholesale privatisation and the break-up of e.g. PikitUp. It is the fruit of the struggles of workers under the #OMF banner, thousands of whom still suffer the indignity of exploitation. Mashaba’s statement makes no commitment, for example, to the eradication of make-work schemes like Jozi@Work. Instead Mashaba has used Jozi@work workers as a political football in their rivalry with the ANC – the architects of this scheme of exploitation.
Mashaba has hailed the EFF for its support. This may be the EFF’s reward for propping up an administration led by a xenophobe whose party they continue to describe as a “racist party of white monopoly capital”. Workers will of course take this victory from whence it comes. But we must be forgiven our skepticism over both the DA and the EFF’s motives. The EFF rejected a similar resolution drafted for them by the #OMF for the eradication of outsourcing in Tshwane as they have now moved in the City of Joburg. Why?
We are entitled to ask if this is not a case of both parties, neither of whom on their own could win sufficient support to form an administration on their own in the three metros they now control, rewarding each other for making it possible to form and administration? Like two convicts who have escaped form the prison of electoral rejection chained to each other, they are engaged in a dress rehearsal for the role they both hope to repeat at a national level with an ANC involved in a fight for survival as the dominant party of government.
The EFF may have temporarily fooled 1.3m voters desperate for an alternative to the left of the ANC with their radical rhetoric in the 2014 general elections, only to jump into bed with the “racist party of white monopoly capital” in 2016. But the bosses are not fooled. Just as they realised that Mugabe had the habit of spouting radical phrases before implementing neo-liberal policies in Zimbabwe, so too in SA the bosses have seen through the EFF’s radical posturing and are comfortable with the idea of a pro-capitalist coalition including the EFF in 2019. This is why Business Day’s Peter Bruce has suggested to Ramaphosa that is time to talk to Malema (BD 08/02/18).
Both Mashaba and the EFF must demonstrate their seriousness by ensuring the replication of this agreement firstly across all services in the City of Johannesburg, and secondly across all municipalities where they are engaged in this same vat-en-sit coalition in Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay. We want to see this also in the DA-controlled Cape Town and in the metros like Ekulhureni and municipalities like Rustenburg where the EFF has influence.
Most important of all we demand that both the DA and the EFF publicly call for the example they have now set in the city of Joburg to be emulated across the entire public sector – provincial and national government and parastatals for the eradication of all forms of precarious work. But we will not hold our breath. We will, continue our campaign. Gauteng Premier Makhura must keep to his word. We have been negotiating for more than a year with the Gauteng Legislature with their commitments to ensure that our demands are taken to national government. We will now step up the mass action. If the DA can make a concession to the demands of the workers so should the ANC.
#OMF has saved hundreds of jobs through mass action including occupations. Despite their ulterior motives, the DA/EFF have set a precedent and vindicated our campaign. We call upon the slaves of the precariat – those exploited by outsourcing, labour broking and all forms of precarious work – to swell the ranks of #OMF to fight for decent permanent jobs and a minimum wage of R10,000 a month.
For WASP the OMF campaign is an essential part of the strategy of organising the unorganized, mobilising the forces for the challenges ahead not only in the workplace but on the political plane. With the ANC in crisis, the bourgeois has thrown its weight behind the butcher of Marikana, Ramaphosa, who is poised to become the country’s president at the head of an ANC government or an ANC-led pro-capitalist coalition. He is armed for an escalation of the class war with a minimum wage fit for slaves, an arsenal of weapons to undermine the right to strike and savage austerity measures to “solve” the economic crisis created by the capitalists at the expense of the working class.
We must supplement our struggles in the workplace with a struggle on the political plane and campaign for a mass workers party on a socialist programme.
No to profiteering!
by Rose Lichtenstein, Cape Town WASP
Cape Town is facing its worst drought in almost 100 years. Rainfall was at a 100 year low two years in a row, and the dams that supply 98% of Cape Town’s potable water are currently only 26% full. The biggest, Theewaterskloof Dam, is only at 13%. Once a dam is below 10%, it becomes very difficult to extract water. This is the reality Cape Town is faced with today.
The City of Cape Town has pushed the narrative that ‘Day Zero’ will happen, and the only way to avoid it, is to reduce individual water usage. Day Zero is supposedly the day the taps will run dry, because there is no water left in the dams. Four million Capetonians will have to collect a 25 litre daily allocation of water from less than 200 water collection points. Schools, hospitals, and the CBD will not have their water turned off.
What is missing from the news is the fact that the City of Cape Town reported water loss at a rate of 106 million litres per day due to infrastructure failures for 2017 – 20 million litres per day more than that of 2015 and 2016. That amounts to 19.3% of the current demand of about 550 million litres per day. When we take this and the agricultural use into account, residential usage amounts to a mere 63 litres per person per day.
Despite this evidence of significant savings from residents, the government continues to fear monger with talks about Day Zero, unjustly scolding the people for not doing their share to save water. Blackmail tactics are being used to install water management devices, with false promises to fix leaks and write-off inflated water bills, limiting households to 200 litres of water per day. When leaks are not fixed, this allocation runs out within hours before automatic shut-off engages. This leaves the household with nothing until 4am the next day. Note that the allocation is calculated on the City’s clearly false assumption that an “average” household consists of four individuals – just another indictment on the City’s complete disconnect from the people it supposedly serves.
As far back as the 90s scientists have warned the City of Cape Town that a decline in rainfall and incline in population would lead to a water supply shortage. At the root of this crisis lies a lack of planning for alternative water supply and storage options, as well as negligence in maintaining existing municipal infrastructure that make up the water supply system. This ultimately indicates a failure by all levels of government to the people of Cape Town, but currently city, provincial, and national governments are too busy playing politics to engage in meaningful public consultation to explore rational, affordable, and sustainable solutions.
Profiteering from disaster
The one unifying factor amidst the petty squabbling of the career politicians is the beckoning of a lucrative desalination public-private partnership. Make no mistake, the only role of the public in these partnerships is to ensure the private sector can profit off the resources that constitutionally and ethically belong to the people. With projections from the City of Cape Town that one large scale plant will cost R14,9 billion to implement and R1,2 billion per year to run, it is clear that government is using the conditions of crisis to rush through a tender that will impact the people of Cape Town for generations. The only question seems to be, which party gets to award this lucrative tender?
Regardless of the environmental impact, massive energy requirement, and unaffordability of extracting fresh water from the sea, these plants take 2-3 years to build and therefore make for a terrible intervention in a drought. Immediate interventions – such as removing water-guzzling alien vegetation from the areas surrounding supply dams and their catchment areas; fixing all leaks on public and private property; updating and maintenance of infrastructure; extracting groundwater sustainably with artificial recharge; recycling wastewater; and harvesting the water of the Camissa springs currently flowing underneath the CBD through sewers and storm water drains into the ocean – have the potential to not only increase our water supply in a matter of weeks, but provide many jobs and training opportunities for residents.
WASP has joined more than 70 organisations from various backgrounds in forming the Water Crisis Coalition (WCC). The main aim of the WCC is to reject the privatization of our water and the fear mongering of Day Zero, and explore sustainable and rational water management options. The WCC has grown in less than a month’s time to include several community committees. The coalition has successfully pressured AB InBev (formerly SABmiller) to open to the public 24/7 the spring they claim ‘heritage rights’ to, increase the access points of the spring, and provide paid security during the night. Currently the WCC is pushing for distribution of the spring water to communities that cannot access it.
On 28 January the WCC organized a protest against the mismanagement of our water by all tiers of government. Hundreds of concerned citizens participated in voicing their frustrations, community-specific struggles, and handing over the WCC memorandum to the Minister of Water and Sanitation. The Western Cape Premier and Cape Town Mayor chose to ignore the invitations extended to them by the coalition.
Efforts to meet with all tiers of government have proven a waste of time, with ministry officials for the National Department of Water and Sanitation indicating that “harmonizing relations” between the DA-led city and province and the ANC-led national government must happen before a public consultation process can occur. While government sits in boardrooms shifting blame and negotiating their slices of the desalination pie, it is clear that the WCC’s energy is better spent in continuing to organize communities, schools, and workplaces, and build a true mass movement against the rush to privatize our resource.
We Stand For:
- Free, sufficient and accessible water for all; STOP cut-offs, metering, punitive tariffs/levies and Water Management Devices!
- A rational water plan managed by democratically elected committees from the communities affected.
- The responsible use, recycling, and rehabilitation of our water resources to ensure its health for future generations.
- NO TO PRIVATIZATION—stop robbing the working class and poor of their water. Kick out the tenderpreneurs!
- FIX THE LEAKS—maintenance and infrastructure public works initiatives that prevent water wastage and provide permanent, well-paid jobs.
- STOP THE LOOTING: Private water bottling companies and breweries must pay for using our water! Luxury tax on unnecessary water guzzling entities like golf courses and wine exporters.
- Protect whistleblowers! Workers reps to ensure full compliance of industry with water restriction measures. No loss of pay or jobs from production slowdowns.
- NO TO FEAR MONGERING AND SCARE TACTICS—Democratic control of disaster relief. Community assemblies to elect accountable and recallable representatives to scrutinise all disaster relief processes in their community.
- Nationalization of commercial farms that control 95% of agricultural land, and implementation of sustainable agricultural water practices. Farms should be in harmony with the community, not competing with us for resources.