now browsing by month
by Sheri Hamilton Executive Committee
The SA Federation of Trade Unions’ 25 April national strike potentially signals a decisive shift in working class struggle. The estimated 100,000 workers silenced Saftu’s critics. Millions now look to Saftu as an alternative to Cosatu and as a point of reference.
This was in fact the first conscious political general strike against the ANC government post-apartheid. The Cosatu-led general strikes against Gear and privatization, as well as the public sector strikes of 2007 and 2010, were against particular policies of its alliance partner – the ANC government. Whilst the 25 April strike was called to oppose the new poverty-level minimum wage and attacks on the right to strike, there is no doubt that for the workers taking part, this strike was a rejection of both the ousted Zuma-led -ANC and the “new” Ramaphosa one. This poses the question of a workers’ party.
The ANC leadership under Ramaphosa remains firmly committed to neo-liberalism. The ground continues to be prepared for a social explosion. In anticipation, the strategists of capital are preparing for a possible coalition government from some combination of the DA, ANC and even the EFF. The working class is lagging behind.
The political vacuum on the left has been magnified by the degeneration of the SACP-led Cosatu. In reality the early Cosatu was a quasi-workers party in the struggle against apartheid and capitalism. Saftu’s challenge now is to complete the retying of the knot of history politically and ideologically. In 1982, Joe Foster, general secretary of Cosatu’s predecessor, Fosatu, warned prophetically that the lesson of independent Africa was that unions should protect their independence against capture by post-colonial governments.
However, Foster did not draw the conclusion of the need for a workers’ party that his position implied. Recognising that this was the logic of his argument, the SACP denounced Foster for not recognising it as the “vanguard” of the working class.
The SACP “vanguard” barred the way to the development of an independent workers party, captured Cosatu and trapped it in the ANC-led Tripartite Alliance. Acting as the shock troops of the National Democratic Revolution (NDR) – the first stage of the bankrupt two-stage theory –they engineered the derailment of a potential socialist revolution. Confused by the SACP, the Cosatu leadership was absorbed into the capitalist state.
Marikana exposed the ANC as the party of capital like nothing before. But even before the massacre, a survey of shop stewards showed support for Cosatu to form a workers party had reached 65%. The mineworkers’ support for the launch of WASP, NUMSA’s 2013 Special National Congress resolutions and the significant increase in the number of communities standing independently in elections confirmed this. The working class was yearning for is its own party.
Unfortunately, despite all of this, Saftu’s “independent but not apolitical” policy goes no further than Foster in 1982. But unlike Foster, Saftu has the benefit of the experience of 24-years of ANC rule.
Cosatu, Nactu and Fedusa’s collaboration on the national minimum wage and attacks on the right to strike shows that abstention from party politics does not guarantee independence. Independence is a class question. Political parties represent the interests of classes or fractions of them. Cosatu’s betrayal was caused by collaborating with a capitalist party – the ANC. Saftu must form an alliance with a political party with a programme based on the interests of the working class. By concluding from the experience of the struggle against corruption that it will be necessary to remove the ANC government in the North West Saftu is reinforcing the need for a workers party.
Party of struggle
The SACP imposed itself on the working class as a pre-fabricated “vanguard’ with a programme manufactured behind the backs of the working class, shielding itself from accountability. A genuine workers party must answer the question: “how do we take our struggles forward?” Therefore it must become the furnace that forges the fighting unity of the working class; it must be a party of struggle.
What must be the party’s guiding political principle? In our view a socialist programme is the only possible one – the aim of a society run by and for the working class. The foundation for this is the call for the nationalisation under democratic working class control of the banks, the mines, the commercial farms, the big factories and other big businesses. A new workers party must be based on a programme of action that links the immediate issues faced by the working class to the need to fundamentally transform society on a socialist basis As an example, we propose that the struggle for a living wage be championed by the new party through a demand like this:
Organise the workplaces to win R12,500! Build industry- and sector-wide action-committees that unite workers in a campaign of rolling mass action. Lock-out the bosses in non-complying industries through workplace occupations that demand nationalisation under workers control. Mass defiance of laws that stop workers defending themselves.
We propose the new party works out similar demands for the struggles (1) to end unemployment, (2) win service delivery and houses, (3) high quality free health care, and (4) genuinely free and decolonised education.
A new party must allow for open and free debate, maximum democracy, collective development of a manifesto and programme of action. As well as individual membership, the party must have a federal component allowing for the fighting unity of existing working class organisations. The party’s leadership must be elected on the principles of the right of recall and that a workers’ representative must earn only a workers wage.
The Working Class Summit initiated by Saftu for 21-22 July must place on its agenda the question of consciously filling the political vacuum with a new party – a vacuum Saftu’s own 25 April strike again underlined.
This article will appear in the upcoming issue of Izwi Labasebenzi.
by Weizmann Hamilton Executive Committee
The ANC’s May 2018 Land Summit has referred a proposal to amend its Expropriation Bill to its NEC to allow for expropriation of land without compensation (EWC). Then the Constitutional Court will be asked to test it for compliance with Clause 25 – the Property Clause. Malema has offered his party’s 6% to the ANC’s 62% to achieve the two-thirds threshold to amend the constitution.
Predictably the white right has spread alarm amongst urban and rural whites of impending doom – land invasions, home dispossessions and an escalation of the toxic myth of white farmer genocide. The DA has denounced EWC as theft and a violation of the sanctity of private property. Even the normally sober capitalist, Business Day has indulged in histrionics: “land expropriation, a reason to panic” (Peter Bruce). A “desperate, terrible, historic land mistake”, editor Tim Cohen lamented (BusinessLive 05/03/2018).
Whether the ANC Land Summit’s approach will result in a constitutional amendment, remains to be seen. The ANC, however, is not waiting for the ConCourt process. There is consensus amongst legal experts, including the High Level Panel on the Assessment of Key Legislation and Acceleration of Fundamental Change, (HLP) led by former president Kgalema Motlanthe, established in 2017. The Property Clause neither prohibits EWC nor insists on the “willing seller, willing buyer” principle or that “just and equitable” compensation necessarily means “market value”.
The Gauteng Government will now immediately start identifying unused land for “rapid release”. It will implement a “site-and-service” programme, and distribute title deeds weekly on “Title Deed Friday”.
Will EWC achieve economic emancipation, the correction of the historical injustice caused by the “original sin” of colonial and apartheid land dispossession?
Inequalities in wealth rooted in class, not race
Black nationalists claim ALL whites own SA’s wealth. It is of course true that the apartheid social pyramid – whites at the top, Indians below them and coloureds further down, closest to black Africans – still persists today. But superimposed upon massive racial inequalities are class inequalities. In fact the fastest growing inequality is amongst blacks.
This applies also to land ownership. Only 8% of whites live in rural areas. The claim that ALL whites own the country’s wealth and land is false. Only a tiny minority within the white population today, as under apartheid, owns the majority of wealth in general and land in particular.
The EFF is providing the ANC with an alibi for its betrayals. In fact the greatest indictment against the ANC is that under it, black land dispossession without compensation has continued uninterrupted.
Gear – the original sin
The Growth Employment and Redistribution policy (Gear) has had a catastrophic effect. In the cities expectations of a decent life for all were betrayed. In the rural areas the ANC land policy’s three main planks – redistribution, restitution and tenure reform – failed.
The “opening up” of SA’s agricultural markets under Gear threw established white and emerging black farmers into the shark-infested waters of neo-liberal global capitalism. Gear-dictated public spending cuts meant the Land Reform budget, which never exceeded 1%, is today at its lowest level ever – 0.4% –only 0.1% for land redistribution. Only 9% of land has been redistributed.
Addressing Parliament’s Land Reform Portfolio Committee, Dr Aninka Claassens, UCT Land and Accountability Research Centre director, pointed out that land tenure is more insecure than under apartheid. The few who obtain redistributed land remain tenants of the state with “conditional use rights” subject to “productivity”.
The land reform budget and farms are subject to elite capture. At the present rate it will take another 40 years to complete restitution “…if land claims are reopened and the expected 397,000 claims are lodged, it will take more than 700 years.” (Daily Maverick 15/03/18) Corruption means no support for land restitution.
White farmers exposed to escalating farming costs, have evicted hundreds of thousands of workers and tenants, accelerating urban migration. Squatter camps have mushroomed as public spending caps have created a massive housing backlog. There have been over 4,000 land occupations over the past two years. This shows that in urban areas they are driven by the need for housing, jobs, access to health and education.
As Mmatlou Kalaba, University of Pretoria Agricultural Economics lecturer points out: The apartheid regime had supported the white farming sector through direct subsidies, cooperatives, commodity boards, input subsidization, preferential Land Bank financing terms, tariff protection, guaranteed market access through agricultural control boards and profits through price controls. Dismantling this system completely, the ANC government opened up the agricultural and food markets beyond World Trade Organisation accession criteria. Today only 13% of the Land Bank’s loan book clients are black.
Today agricultural production is monopolised by a handful of conglomerates in turn controlled by finance capital. “…about 40,000 large-scale, capital-intensive and corporatised operations produce 91% of agricultural production. They, and their retail and value chain counterparts, control the availability, price, quality and nutritional value of what we eat, not the indebted small commercial farmers.” (Businesslive 12/03/18).
These corporations are in turn controlled by the banks: Standard Bank, First Rand, Nedcor, Investec, and international institutions banks like JP Morgan Securities and RMB Morgan Stanley control on average 70% of the agricultural value chain. (Uncensoredopinion.co.za 13/07/17)
ANC continues black land dispossession
For colluding with colonialism and apartheid the pre-capitalist traditional leaders faced armed resistance, most famously the late 50s Pondoland Uprising. Instead of dismantling these institutions, the ANC legitimised, funded and expanded them. Traditional leaders collude with big business and multinational corporations in pillaging mineral resources, destroying the environment and exploiting rural populations. Black rural dwellers find themselves today as tenants on this communal land. They have no title, no right or means to develop the land and under constant threat of eviction.
The Royal Bafokeng Nation’s (RBN), control of platinum mines profits, is riddled with corruption the former public protector found. The Ngonyama Trust, of which King Goodwill Zwelithini is sole trustee, encompassing 30% of KwaZulu Natal’s most fertile land was given to the Zulu Royal House in secret by De Klerk the Inkatha Freedom Party’s Gatha Buthelezi, the king’s uncle, a week before the 1994 elections to persuade him to participate.
Tenants are given “Permission to Occupy” (PTOs) certificates – an apartheid invention. The Trust netted R96 million in 2016/17 from developer fees. The Trust now plans to replace PTOs with 40-Year lease agreements. Rent defaulters’ leases will be cancelled, their assets expropriated without compensation for improvements.
Ramaphosa’s insistence that EWC should not threaten “food security” is a signal to big business that they will not be subject to EWC. King Zwelithini has threatened to build up a financial war chest to resist any attempt to wind up the Ingonyama Trust Land as recommended by the Motlanthe-led HLP. Immediately after his State of the Nation EWC announcement, Ramaphosa reassured the House of Traditional Leaders that they remain the recognised custodians of traditional land. At the Land Summit, he apologized for Motlanthe’s description of traditional leaders as “village tin-pot dictators” in effect repudiating the HPL’s recommendations.
The RBN’s court action against the Department of Rural Development and Land Affairs shows traditional leaders consider themselves accountable neither to the government nor their “subjects”. The RBN insists it is the lawful custodian of over 60 properties and do not need to consult.
The EFF completely agrees with Ramaphosa on the property of big business traditional leaders. National spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi stated on Sharpeville Day that the EFF has no intention of touching private property (Huffington Post 21/10/18). Both the ANC NEC and the EFF have responded to King Zwelithini’s threats by offering conciliation and talks.
Only socialism can eradicate poverty, inequality and mass unemployment
It is possible, even likely, that there will be some land expropriation without compensation with or without a constitutional amendment. Facing a possible election defeat in 2019, the ANC is in desperate need to be seen to be doing something different, even radical, to secure electoral support.
But EWC will not eradicate inequality, unemployment, poverty or even homelessness. In embracing EWC Ramaphosa is not repudiating neo-liberal capitalism. He is renewing the ANC’s vows with it. His budget was the most savage austerity since 1994. The fear of a rating agency downgrade means there will be no increased social spending.
Land ownership does not provide jobs, access to decent health, education or affordable services. Ramaphosa’s commitment to protecting food security is meaningless for the 15 million who go to bed hungry every night or the 18% of African children (20% coloured, 7% Indian and even 7% white) who suffer from stunted growth due to malnutrition.
The Gauteng Provincial Government’s site and service scheme will not exempt title deed holders from the ever rising cost of services. It is also an abdication of its responsibility to provide housing. Those able to afford a mortgage are at risk of dispossession by the banks. 1000 houses are repossessed every month. The capitalists are in fact implementing their own EWC in both the farms and the cities.
The banks, agri-business, industry, construction, commerce are all inextricably linked together in the reproduction of poverty and inequality. It is not the constitution that stopped the ANC from implementing genuine radical economic transformation – the nationalization of the agricultural and financial cartels that dominate food production, distribution and sales under the democratic control and management of the working class. It is its commitment, shared with the EFF, to capitalism. The Property Clause is a diversion – an attempt to infect the masses with the constitutional cretinism they suffer from.
This article will appear in the upcoming issue of Izwi Labasebenzi.