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Can CR save the ANC in 2019?
by Shaun Arendse Executive Committee
The ANC has admitted that they could lose their majority in next year’s national elections. A leaked internal report says the possibility that the ANC will only remain in power in a coalition with other parties is “high”. It does not rule-out being forced out of power and into opposition. The report complains that the number of “loyal” ANC supporters shrinks at every election. Pointing-out what WASP has highlighted before, and the 2016 local elections confirmed, it says, “We [the ANC] face the possibility of losing majority support in most large cities and in much of the economic heartland of South Africa.”
The ANC have been in power for a generation. After 24 years this is the situation facing the poor and the working class: 9.5 million people (36.7% of working-age population) are unemployed; 3.3 million under 24-year olds are not in employment, education or training; 30.4 million people live in poverty on R992 or less per month; the richest 1% of the population owns 71% of wealth and the poorest 60% only 7%. These statistics are a sanitised description for suffering, brutalised lives and the unfulfilled potential of millions.
After Zuma’s forced resignation there was a big effort in the media to paint Ramaphosa as SA’s saviour. This was part of a conscious strategy by the ruling class. They wanted to reassure the imperialist countries that the corruption of the Zuma years would not threaten their investments through its damage to public finances. They also hoped to defuse some of the burning anger and frustration amongst poor, working class and even middle class people by channelling feelings of relief into the idea that “things will be better now”. But better for who?
The class character of Ramaphosa’s government is already beyond doubt – it is a bosses’ government through to its bone marrow. Ramaphosa’s first budget ensured that the poor and the working class will pay the main price for capitalism’s failures made worse by the disasters of the Zuma years. Government spending, including on school infrastructure, informal settlement upgrades and road development, will be cut by R85.7 billion over the next three years. But corporate tax on the profits of big business was left unchanged.
Instead Value Added Tax (VAT – a ‘sales tax’ on every purchase made in SA) is being increased by 1%. In an attempt to portray the budget as pro-poor, government has invited proposals for extending the range of commodities on which VAT is not levied (charged) beyond the 19 exempt basic food items, such as bread, milk, pap, mealies and eggs. But VAT applies to all goods and services, including administered prices like electricity. This increase will still hit the pockets of the poor hardest. In addition the fuel levy increase will lead to ever-rising market-related price increases resulting from higher transport cost. These costs will be passed on to consumers including on the VAT-exempt basic goods. Even some of the tax increases on so-called ‘luxury’goods will hurt the poorest – in the 21st century can a cell phone be considered a ‘luxury’? Good luck finding a job without one!
But more revealing than anything else of the continuity in character of Ramaphosa’s government are the amendments to labour laws. Proposed under Zuma’s presidency and set to become law under Ramaphosa’s, these amendments will increase the powers of the capitalist state over trade unions and make it harder for workers to defend themselves by going on strike. There is no greater proof of “whose side” Ramaphosa is on than his willingness to disarm workers and empower their class enemy – the bosses.
Plans to introduce a National Minimum Wage, masterminded by Ramaphosa when still deputy-president, should have been a pass book designating him as a‘champion of the poor’. But the campaign by the Saftu federation has upset this. It forced Ramaphosa to admit that the new minimum wage is not a living wage.
Even so, many will be watching Ramaphosa’s ‘clean-up’ of the state-owned companies – PRASA, Eskom, and Transnet etc. – with some enthusiasm. It is satisfying to see the Guptas on the run and entire boards of Zuma’s cronies dismissed. The ANC government itself estimates that Zuma-era corruption looted R100 billion from the ‘public purse’ via these companies.
But even if corruption is completely ended the parastatals will still not benefit the poor and working class in the main. Gordhan admitted this recently in a speech in parliament. He said their role was “reducing the cost structure in the economy so that other economic players become more efficient and competitive.” This can only mean the big businesses and multinationals.
A ‘clean-up’ of the state-owned companies in the interests of the working class would start by ending the regime of tenders and insourcing all workers on a living wage. It would extend the scale of public ownership across the economy so that the benefits the parastatals bring do not remain in the pockets of the bosses but benefit all of society. This would require a regime of workers’ control to replace the undemocratic appointees of the capitalist politicians. This will not happen under Ramaphosa.
Ramaphosa’s policies are in complete continuity with the ANC’s commitment to neo-liberal capitalist policies introduced decisively from 1996. If neo-liberal policies could not fix unemployment, poverty and inequality over the past 24 years, why would they do so now? The working class can expect nothing different under the Ramaphosa presidency.
Ramaphosa was able to move against Zuma fairly quickly. But as early as his post-Zuma cabinet reshuffle it became clear that he did not have unlimited room for manoeuvre. Whilst some of Zuma’s worst cabinet cronies were moved to different departments – for example Malusi Gigaba and Bathabile Dlamini – they still remained ministers.
But it has been the explosive developments in the North West from mid-April that have most sharply revealed the depth of the rot in the ANC. Government administration under Gupta-linked premier, Supra Mahumapelo, had virtually collapsed because of widespread corruption and out-of-control looting. This led to Ramaphosa’s unprecedented step of placing the entire province under the administration of national government.
The North West is not an isolated example. At local level 87 municipalities across the country (31% of the total) are classified as “dysfunctional” or “distressed”. Only 7% are classified as “well-functioning”! Corruption is the major driver of local government break-down. In KZN, the continuation of ANC political murders (24 since the start of 2016) is another extreme symptom of the rot. All of this raises a serious question about the viability of the ANC across whole swathes of the country as anything more than a looting machine for politically connected gangsters. Mahumapelo eventually resigned. But he remains ANC chairperson. The very fact that Ramaphosa had to use his position as state president to force the issue by suspending the North West government indicates a growing deadlock between the factions within the ANC.
Mahumapelo’s defiant game of resigning, ‘un-resigning’ and then ‘retiring’ was a sign of desperation. It almost certainly represents the new mind-set of the whole Zuma-clique. So whilst the Zuma-clique has been pushed onto the defensive, they are not defeated. Holding on to whatever machinery of government they can whilst avoiding court and prison is the narrow self-interest driving them. They need to consolidate a stronghold from which to defend themselves and launch a counter-attack to, in Ace Magashule’s words, “get our ANC back in five years”. The outcome of the tightly controlled Free State conference in May (though contested) seems to have been a step in the right direction for them.
The struggle for factional dominance will continue to playout throughout the ANC. The threat of orchestrated violence will remain a very real threat as events in the North West have shown. The Zuma-clique does not care if the ANC is stamped into the dust in the 2019 elections as a result. This takes the factional struggle into increasingly unpredictable and unstable territory.
The course of the factional struggle will have an important effect on the ANC’s 2019 performance. It is already taking its toll. The inability of Ramaphosa to deal a decisive knock-out blow to the pro-Zuma faction has prevented him from taking advantage of ‘Ramaphoria’ and the disarray in the DA by calling an early election as some commentators speculated he might. To do so now could strengthen his factional enemies through their control, especially in the provinces, of nominations for ANC candidate lists.
The DA’s suicidal behaviour around the ‘sacking’ of Cape Town mayor Patricia De Lille and the internal backlash against Maimane’s Freedom Day speech mentioning ‘white privilege’ will have confirmed in the eyes of many black voters that the party is an ‘old white boys club’. There could be a certain swing back towards the ANC from a section of the black middle class which flirted with the DA under Zuma.
Likewise, a section of the white middle class could be persuaded to vote for a ‘Ramaphosa ANC’. They would be voting for the man and not his party in the hope that his presidency can guarantee the economic stability they crave. Reflecting this, former apartheid-president De Klerk has endorsed Ramaphosa, saying he, “understands business, he understands the economy, and he is committed to achieving economic growth”. However, if Ramaphosa is unable to deliver at least a convincing appearance of victory in the ANC’s internal factional struggle his attractiveness to the middle class – both black and white – will be greatly reduced.
High levels of voter abstention among the poor, young people and the working class skews election after election and will likely do so again in 2019. Around 16 million people did not vote in the 2014 elections. In that sense the ANC lost its majority long ago – they ‘won’ 2014 with the votes of 35% of the eligible population. Given all of this, it is possible that the ANC could scrape the 50% + 1 needed to remain in government after 2019. This would not be a sign of the ANC’s strength but the opposite. Another ‘victory’ on a further reduced social base will only sharpen class contradictions and further prepare the ground for social explosions.
But if the ANC does fall below 50% the EFF leadership stands ready to assist. They have positioned themselves as a future ANC coalition partner. At Malema’s request there have been talks so that the two parties can “find each other”. With Zuma gone and the ANC formally backing land expropriation without compensation, Malema claims that the conditions for forming a coalition, such as after the 2016 elections, have mostly been met.
This just shows how superficial the EFF’s conditions were. Under Ramaphosa nothing has changed on the ground for millions of poor and working class people and nor will it. But for the EFF leadership the ANC is now sufficiently ‘different’ for them to change their attitude. This is entirely consistent with the analysis that WASP has made of the EFF since they entered parliament – theirs is not a struggle against capitalism, of which Ramaphosa is a near-perfect representative, but a struggle for control of the capitalist state.
At Winnie Mandela’s funeral, Ramaphosa ‘reached-out’ to the EFF in his speech. If he handles the presentation of land expropriation carefully he can provide the EFF with convincing ‘radical’ arguments to enter a coalition – ‘black solidarity’ to return the land to people against the racist white minority. Even so, in the run-up to 2019 the EFF will have to blow hot one day, and cold the next, on the ANC. They need to ensure the ANC falls below 50% and maximise their own votes to strengthen their bargaining position. At the same time they must be careful to leave themselves room to manoeuvre so that their embrace of the ANC the day after the election is not too obviously hypocritical and opportunistic as it was when they installed the DA in power in Tshwane, Joburg and Nelson Mandela Bay.
All of this underlines the huge political vacuum that exists. All of the parties in parliament support capitalism. Imagine the impact that a party with a bold socialist programme for a struggle to fundamentally transform society could have. Ending the cynical ‘window dressing’ measures of the capitalist politicians could inspire the 16 million ‘abstainers’; it could give another option to those still voting ANC because there is no convincing alternative; it could provide a genuinely radical programme to those willing to give the EFF’s rhetoric the benefit of the doubt.
The success of Saftu’s 25 April strike gave a small taste of what is possible. The turnout clearly scared the leaders of the ANC. If it were not for Saftu’s action, both the LRA and amendments and the minimum wage would have become law without a whisper of protest. The Workers and Socialist Party played an important role within Saftu in ensuring the action went ahead. Imagine if this was repeated on every issue. We could expose all the lies of the bosses and their politicians, linked to a mass movement fighting for a clear socialist alternative. This possibility should make Saftu leaders’ and members’ mouth’s water.
The capitalist class is carefully examining the different scenarios that could arise from 2019 and what they would need to do in each one to stabilise their control of society. Let our class answer this with our own preparations. Our class needs a socialist mass workers party. As a step toward its creation we call on Saftu to take the lead in convening an assembly for working class unity. This could bring together representatives of workers, trade unions, working class communities, young people and students to unite the vast number of struggles into a united political movement to challenge the bosses for control of society.
An edited version of this article will appear in the upcoming issue of Izwi Labasebenzi.
Trump dangerously raises tensions in region
Taken from the editorial of The Socialist (Issue 995), newspaper of the Socialist Party (CWI England & Wales)
Picture: CWI members protest in Haifa, Israel
Around the world people have watched in horror at the unfolding violence perpetrated by the Israeli state against Palestinian protesters in Gaza. Sixty were killed on 14 May alone, during protests against the moving of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
More demonstrations took place on 15 May, marking the Palestinian Nakba (catastrophe) – the forcing out of over 750,000 Palestinians from their homes 70 years ago, when Israel was founded.
The moving of the US embassy is just one of many provocative moves by Trump in the Middle East, where tensions are escalating on various fronts.
Trump’s unilateral repudiation of the Iranian nuclear de-escalation deal has plunged the Middle East into a serious crisis. Like a pyromaniac, he has poured oil on an already inflamed situation with Syria and neighbouring countries already devastated by a war that has lasted longer than World War One.
In its wake, new multifaceted wars and conflicts have broken out. On top of this, the recent Israeli missile strikes on Iranian forces in Syria could be a harbinger of a new war, initially between Israel and Iran/Syria but possibly leading to a new generalised regional conflagration.
There could also be ‘blowback’ for Europe with a new wave of refugees seeking safety in Europe as well as further terrorist outrages, which could spill over into the US itself.
Trump claims that in ripping up the current agreement this will end the threat of Iran “ever acquiring nuclear weapons”. However, the outcome could be the exact opposite: the eventual acquisition of nuclear weapons by Iran and others, such as Saudi Arabia, in response to this.
The Guardian wrote: “Mr Trump’s invective relies on assertions that reinforce prejudices but have no basis in truth.” It completely refutes the claim that Iran was on the “cusp of acquiring the world’s most dangerous weapons”.
The deal did allow Iran to continue to enrich uranium but “it neither allowed nor [was it] technically able to use this process to produce weapons grade uranium”. Moreover, under the agreement Iran could not reprocess plutonium as an “alternative path to a nuclear explosive”. The Guardian concluded that the Trump speech was “estranged from the truth”; a polite way of saying it was a pack of lies.
This latest example of overbearing arrogance by Trump representing US imperialism was preceded by an even further shift towards the right in his government, with the inclusion of CIA Director Mike Pompeo as secretary of state and particularly the Cold War warrior John Bolton who served in George W Bush’s administration. A long-term neoconservative, he played a prominent and disastrous role in the invasion of Iraq. His proposal to bomb Tehran was even too much for Bush to contemplate!
In 2000 Bolton said, “If I were redoing the UN Security Council today, I’d have one permanent member (the US) because that’s the real reflection of the distribution of power in the world.” The US, through Bolton, is prepared to put the rest of the world on “rations” – as Trump’s economic trade war against rival powers show. This in turn threatens a generalised tit-for-tat and a world trade war. Moreover, the repercussions of military action can have further negative economic fallout.
The deranged Bolton’s foreign policy goes beyond even Trump’s ‘America first’ policy. It is a naked assertion of ‘American alone’, a return to US unilateralism that was undermined by the failure of previous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The US met with ferocious mass resistance worldwide, which had an effect on some governments like Germany and France who were compelled to oppose the US. But Trump is prepared to ignore French president Macron, whose grovelling pleas in Washington went down like a lead balloon in France, with his ratings dropping. Chancellor Merkel in Germany, even Boris Johnson and the squeaks of ‘criticism’ emanating from Theresa May have all been pushed aside.
Regime change in Tehran
This is because Trump and Bolton’s ultimate aim is regime change in Tehran, not through military intervention, but savage sanctions which would bring in a new government.
Even the few military generals left in the Trump administration – like Defence Secretary General Mattis, who have been a ‘moderating influence’ on Trump – opposed this strategy which could have “unforeseen consequences” for the US.
They correctly believed that the nuclear agreement with Iran was working. They tried but failed to hold back Trump from feeding the inferno which he has already started.
Even before his latest outrage Trump had stoked up the rage of the Palestinians with the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Already at boiling point, their fury was then intensified, when according to Patrick Cockburn, “Israeli and American flags will flutter in the streets and there will be 150 giant billboards with the face of Mr Trump on them”. At the same time tens of thousands of Palestinians have sought to once more try and break through the fence surrounding Gaza, the “biggest open-air prison in the world”, with a large number of protesters killed by Israeli forces.
Trump and the neoconservatives that surround him may not score a quick and easy victory, as they imagine. Before his threats, the Islamic hardliners in Iran, and even the ‘reformist’ Rouhani government, faced a mass revolt, not least from the working class which has begun to reassert itself through strikes. There has also been continued open defiance on issues such as the refusal of women to compulsorily wear the hijab.
However, Trump’s actions are more likely in the short term to cement support for the status quo. This could push back for a time the movement for an immediate challenge to the Islamic regime through an independent movement of the working class and poor masses.
Even the intensification of sanctions – which undoubtedly would aggravate the already desperate economic conditions of the Iranian masses – would not automatically be blamed on the regime but the threat posed from outside.
The memory of its war with Iraq is seared into the memory of the Iranian people. British and US imperialism supported Saddam’s invasion of Iran, which resulted in terrible suffering on both sides. 300,000 Iranians were killed and countless maimed and injured.
No outside power will be capable of launching such an attack now. But it is possible that Israel – which has in the past bombed alleged nuclear sites in Iran – could at the behest of Trump and the US launch similar but more serious bombings on identified nuclear sites.
The Trump regime is threatening “devastating sanctions” against those such as the European powers who have said they will continue the treaty. There is no honour among thieves. Naked cash calculation – the amount of profit, loot, they can extract – along with their strategic interests is what matters and not the interests of the people of the region.
Look at the double dealing of Putin who had a cosy meeting, a friendly chat with Israeli prime minister Netanyahu in Moscow, while Israeli jets were bombing the military positions of his ‘allies’ Iran and President Assad’s Syria!
This demonstrates unequivocally that the working masses in the Middle East and elsewhere can only rely on their own forces, and their brothers and sisters worldwide, to show a way out of the nightmare in the region created by capitalism and imperialism.
They must organise and strengthen their own organisations, with class solutions to the problems of each country and the region as a whole.
The current elections in Iraq demonstrate that the masses are yearning for an end to sectarian-based parties, which have only served to compound the enormous problems created by capitalism and imperialism through the monstrous military interventions which have taken place.
The brutal assertion of US interests and the threat of economic retribution will intensify the inter-imperialist rivalry between the US and others, China for instance, which has a considerable amount of trade with Iran, particularly oil.
The US believes that its economic and particularly banking dominance will bring any opposition to heel. But that is unlikely in the short term because sanctions can take a long time to be effective. The US can face economic damage as those who are attacked take counter-measures.
The Iranian regime has declared that if the agreement remains intact they will continue support it. This is on condition that the original non-US signatories also stick by it.
Undoubtedly true to his word, Trump will attempt to impose “devastating sanctions” to those who continue to support and implement the deal.
No interference by outside powers: let the peoples of each country and the region decide their own fate, with the support and encouragement of the world working class and labour movement.
Additionally, the working class and the youth worldwide should raise their voices and prepare a new mass anti-war movement to help to thwart the arrogant and dictatorial actions of Trump, Saudi Arabia and Israel. This can help to prepare a movement in the Middle East which, like a giant broom, can sweep all the capitalists and imperialists, the sheiks, princes and sectarian politicians from the stage of history.
* Support Saftu’s action on 25 April
* Unite the working class in a campaign of rolling-mass actions
* Capitalist parties will give us laws for the bosses – workers’ need their own party
Download pamphlet here.
The bosses’ know that they are in a war with the working class. That is why they are upgrading their weapons. They want to make it harder for workers to defend themselves from exploitation, job losses and poverty pay by going on strike. For this the bosses need to undermine workers’ control in the workers’ movement and in its place increase the powers of the capitalist state over the trade unions. That is the essence of the changes the government plans to make to the Labour Relations Act (LRA) on their behalf.
Workers will no longer be allowed to decide how democratic decisions are taken in their own organisations. Even when workers are perfectly happy with a show of hands to start a strike, the new amendments will require secret strike ballots with unions required to keep the records for three years. There will be new rules for issuing strike notices to employers which include notifying them of the time and date that the strike will begin. This will allow the bosses to plan and stop strikes from being effective. New picketing rules will require the boss to agree about picket line rules. When agreement cannot be reached (which will always be the case!) an unelected commissioner can step in and impose picketing rules on the union.
Finally, the amendments will allow the Director of the CCMA or the Minister of Labour to create an “advisory arbitration panel” to impose strike settlements. They can do this if they believe the strike may become violent, damage property or affect “the normal, social and economic functioning of the community or society”. The bosses’ propaganda already claims this about every strike! Now their biased point of view will be given legal standing.
There is nothing original in these amendments. Internationally, they are “best practice” for every neo-liberal capitalist government. The ANC is simply catching up with itself.
What lies behind this attack?
There is no end in sight to the crisis of the capitalist profit system. The economy is stagnant. Big business will not invest its huge wealth to create jobs or raise wages – leaving us stuck with mass unemployment and poverty. The anger of the working class, the poor and unemployed is ready to boil over. In places it already is. Just in the past week the national bus strike and the Mahikeng community uprising against corruption have shown the huge frustration in society. This terrifies the ruling capitalist class. They want to prepare better weapons now because they know they urgently need them to stay in control of the economy and society.
The trade union movement remains the biggest potential threat to capitalism. Until recently the bosses were able to rely on the ANC’s dominance over the Cosatu leadership to keep the working class under control. But Cosatu has suffered serious splits and lost its dominant position in the workers’ movement. It is also unclear if the ANC will keep their majority in next year’s elections. The old framework of bosses’ control has weakened.
The ruling capitalist class needs something more decisive to rely on. They understand that when the class struggle intensifies the corrupt and cowardly trade union leaders they rely on now will be swept aside. The long-stifled democratic structures of the workers’ movement could start to reflect the wish of a radicalised working class for fundamental change. Most dangerously for the ruling class the trade unions can organise this mood into a mass struggle.
To limit this and to try and stay in control it is better for the ruling class to strengthen the powers of unelected judges and commissioners over the trade unions. They calculate that in ‘normal’ times this will give them a way of ‘lowering the temperature’ of workers’ struggles. It will also strengthen their hold over conservative trade union leaders who will be able to hide behind the amended laws as an excuse for doing nothing. When this fails and workers’ struggle ‘crosses the line’, the bosses will be able to call on the armed power of the capitalist state in defence of ‘law and order’.
The 25 April strike organised by the new Saftu trade union federation is an important start to the campaign against the LRA amendments. The Workers and Socialist Party played an important role in campaigning for the action to go ahead. The strike must be used as a platform to reach-out to the workers in every union and federation. The members of the Cosatu, Nactu and Fedusa federations will be extremely angry that their leaders have gone along with this attack. Open and democratic co-ordinating committees should be established to lay the basis for a mass united campaign of rolling mass action until the amendments are scrapped.
The campaign must not end if the amendments become law. If this happens the entire workers’ movement must be prepared for a campaign of defiance to make the new laws unenforceable.
Open political front
The LRA amendments were proposed, developed and gazetted under Zuma’s ANC government and will become law under Ramaphosa’s. The Democratic Alliance supports the amendments. They only wish they were tougher! No party in parliament has championed opposition to the amendments. This is because there is no party in parliament that represents workers’ interests. These parties are all competing with each other to take over the management of capitalism which will always require weapons to attack workers.
The LRA amendments underline more than ever that the workers’ movement requires a ‘political arm’ – a socialist mass workers party. It would allow us to open another front in our struggle with the bosses. Workers’ MPs – strictly under the democratic control of workers – could use their platform to explain the real calculations of the bosses which lie behind the amendments. They could break the unchallenged lie that the amendments are to deal with “violent strikes” and expose the real views of the capitalist parties expressed in the closed parliamentary committees. This would be important assistance to the central task of building a mass movement.
These attacks show that under capitalism workers’ cannot rely on ‘the law’ or ‘the constitution’ to defend their rights. We live in a capitalist democracy where the influence of the bosses will always remain dominant because they own and control the economy. To defend capitalism the ruling class has no choice but to limit democracy and the rights of workers. All the legal gains of workers are temporary as long as capitalism exists – they can only be guaranteed in a socialist society where the capitalist classes’ control of the economy is ended, removing the source of the class struggle that requires the minority to hold the majority in chains.
by Weizmann Hamilton, Executive Committee
With the passing of Winnie Nomzamo Madikizela-Mandela, the ANC has lost arguably the most beloved and certainly one of the greatest of the leaders of her generation. Denied an opportunity in life to acknowledge her role, she is now being celebrated in death by the thousands. The magnitude of public sympathy has been such that a deeply divided ANC leadership, the majority of whom either actively or passively contributed to her isolation, ostracism and the erasure from history of her stellar contribution to the struggle that put them in power, are now putting on a display of nauseating hypocrisy in an attempt to bask in her reflected glory to avoid electoral Armageddon in the 2019 general elections.
This rogue’s gallery of latter-day Winnie praise singers includes the corrupt collaborator with the Gupta family on the run from the police, ANC Secretary General Ace Magashule and former Free State Premier. He has yet to explain what happened to the millions set aside ten years ago for the conversion of the Brandfort house in which Winnie served her banishment into a museum.
The drama that was Winnie’s life entailed being sent into internal exile twice. The first by the apartheid regime to separate her from and prevent her from fanning the flames of revolt of the youth uprising that began in Soweto where she lived; the second by her own party and its predecessors beginning in 1989 to clear the way for the ANC’s capitulation in the negotiations at the Convention for a Democratic SA (Codesa).
A hurricane of vilification and slander engineered by the apartheid regime completely engulfed the leadership of the movement. It saw Winnie being denounced by the ANC’s predecessor, the United Democratic Front, charged and convicted of the kidnapping and assault of Stompie Sepei, separation from Mandela in 1992, her exclusion from the VIP seats at Mandela’s inauguration as president in 1994, the subject of the reopening of the Stompie Sepei murder case twice under Nelson Mandela’s reign despite the conviction of the actual murderer, and the only ANC leader hauled before the TRC under instruction by her own government. The TRC hearing was calculated to humiliate in quasi-judicial proceedings that not even lowly apartheid police had been subjected to, and timed to take place shortly before the ANC’s 1997 conference where she had been nominated as deputy president and possible successor to her ex-husband.
Embarrassingly for the ANC leadership, confessions on radio and television by an apartheid era security police, the republication of an expose first published in 1995 in the Mail & Guardian and most of all the screening on a cable network this week of the Sundance award-winning documentary, “Winnie” , contain revelations of the astonishing scale of the apartheid regime’s State Security Council’s psychological warfare against the mass movement and the ANC with the discrediting of Winnie at the centre of the Covert Strategic Communications (Stratton) division’s Operation Romulus. Former apartheid security police Paul Erasmus, in an interview on television, said he had received a commendation, especially for drawing into this network half of British Prime Minister John Major’s cabinet and Baroness Nicholson, for the most successful such “Black Ops” in history. Social media has erupted with outrage with headlines such as all these years “we praised the wrong Mandela”, “Nelson Mandela sold out”. Even leaders of the corrupt ANC Youth League are demanding that the documentary be screened on the public broadcaster. (See accompanying article)
But her ostracism has not erased from the popular consciousness memories of her unbreakable defiance in the face of police raids on her home, twenty-four hour surveillance, repeated banning and house arrest orders, imprisonment and torture in solitary confinement. Throughout all this she remained unbroken and unbowed. She was the living embodiment of the slogan “wathinthi’ bafazi wa thinti’ mbokodo” – you strike a woman, you strike a rock. No other political leader in SA history, man or woman, has endured such persecution.
In one of the more touching tributes Shireen Hassim, Professor of Political Studies, WiSER, University of the Witwatersrand writes in The Conversation (03/04/2018): “No other woman – in life and after – occupies the place that Winnie Madikizela-Mandela does in South African politics. A stalwart of the African National Congress (ANC), she nevertheless stands above, and at times outside, the party. Her iconic status transcends political parties and geographical boundaries, generations and genders. Poets have honoured her, writers have immortalised her and photographers have adored her.”
The outpouring of emotion that has followed Winnie’s death is comparable to that for Chris Hani, leader of the South African Communist Party and Chief of Staff of uMkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing of the African National Congress (ANC), assassinated in April, 1993 –a year before the historic first democratic elections.
Throughout the period since the death of the “mother of the nation” at 81 years of age on Monday 2nd April, her Soweto home has seen daily pilgrimages, virtually entire radio and television programmes dedicated to providing tributes, commentary and blanket coverage of countrywide memorial services. Musicians and poets have come together to provide concerts and recitals. Thousands up and down the country have flocked to town hall rallies and church services to pay homage. Even the full squads of the country’s biggest football clubs, Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs, have been to her home to pay their respects. A ten-day official period of mourning will end the day before her burial on 14th April, after a special category one state funeral.
This outpouring of sympathy and her eulogizing is a reflection not only of the role she played in the struggle but also the current political mood. In circumstance where the economy is in the grip of a deep crisis, the masses facing searing poverty, equality and mass unemployment, and the country swimming in the sewage of corruption scandals, Winnie has in death as she did in life, partly acted as a lightning rod for the discontent of the masses. The eulogies have offered an opportunity, particularly for young black women, to deliver a public rebuke of the political class, especially the ANC elite for ostracizing her. Their greed, factionalism, and indifference to the plight of the masses are being counterposed to Winnie’s unflagging dedication to the masses, her selflessness and her sacrifices.
Winnie’s passing has also provided the occasion for an acknowledgment and criticism even from within the ANC itself, of her marginalization by her own party, for howling along with the wolves in the sullying of her reputation. In an article headed “Winnie Mandela was deserted by the movement”, Ayanda Dlodlo, Minister of Public Service and Administration and former MK operative, points an accusing finger at her own party, reminding it of the great risks MK operatives and Winnie took to be in contact with her undergound: “It is a stain on the ANC flag that Mam’ Winnie hoisted outside her house for decades, that our organisation ostracized her, and sought to banish her from the collective life of an organization that means so much for her and around which her identity was built.” (Sunday Independent – 08/04/18)
In a sense Winnie’s death is a new, more palpable phase in the demise of the ANC. With her passing, the last flame of what was once progressive about the ANC that flickered in Winnie, has been extinguished.
Drawn into struggle young
Winnie experienced her political baptism as personal tragedy. Pondoland, in the Eastern Cape, where she was born in 1936, formed part of the Transkei homeland headed by Kaizer Matanzima. In 1951, the apartheid regime introduced the Bantu Authorities Act. This was one of the legislative cornerstones for the construction of ethnic entities, “homelands” – bantustans located in the remotest, barren, and under-developed 13% of the land reserved for blacks to exercise their “citizenship” as “independent” states outside the 87% appropriated for whites by since 1913.
Her father, Columbus, would not cooperate with the people in the resistance against this measure. The resistance, organized as Intaba by the elders, attacked the family home, burning the hut to the ground and assaulting Winnie’s step-mother so severely that she was paralysed, later succumbing to her injuries. The struggle against the apartheid regime had exacted its first sacrifice from her. The family was split by her father’s betrayal. She lost her second mother – her first, biological mother having being claimed by tuberculosis along with her elder sister when she was only nine years old.
Winnie’s independent identity
Winnie may have been catapulted to national and international fame through her marriage to someone who would become the world’s most famous political prisoner, Nelson, but she carved out from this political marriage her own independent political persona.
Her journey into a lifetime of political activism, however, preceded her marriage to Mandela. Her independent involvement began not long after she had come to Johannesburg, starting work as the first qualified black social worker at Baragwanath Hospital. She joined the ANC Womens League and the Federation of SA Women. She participated in the 1958 march from Soweto to Johannesburg to protest the introduction of pass laws for women organized by Adelaide Tambo and Lillian Ngoyi.
Although her marriage to Nelson was without doubt the most significant factor that shone the political spotlight on her at the time, Winnie’s role, especially after his imprisonment, assured her the place she rightly occupies as a colossus of the struggle against apartheid in her own right. As she wrote in one of her letters to Mandela in prison 12 years after their marriage, she recalled the: “trembling little girl of 23 in a shabby little back veld church… it was not to you only that I said ‘I do’. It was to you and all you stand for. The one without the other would have been incomplete for me. ” (Sunday Times — 08/04/18)
The little time there was in the first 6 of her 38-year marriage was constantly disrupted by police harassment. Nelson’s political activism required him to go underground to evade arrest before the first Treason Trial in which he and his comrades were acquitted. For the first two years of their marriage, she was regularly attending the Treason Trial, effectively a single parent to their two infant daughters. After the Sharpeville massacre in March 1960, a state of emergency was imposed and Nelson was detained for five months. Despite the acquittal of the Treason Trialists, Mandela was again detained in July 1962 where he was to remain until he was found guilty and narrowly avoided the death penalty, sentenced to life in 1963. This meant that Winnie, who described herself as the “most unmarried of married women”, hardly ever experienced the “normality” of married life.
In the same letter she wrote “We were hardly a year together when history deprived me of you. I was forced to mature on my own. Your formidable shadow which eclipsed me, left me naked and exposed to the bitter world of a young ‘political widow’. I knew this was a crown of thorns for me but I also knew I said ‘I do’ for better or worse. In marrying you I was marrying the struggle of my people”.
As Nelson Mandela and his comrades were thrown into jail to begin began their life sentences, she was thrust into the role of a living symbol of the liberation struggle. She became not just the unofficial representative of the leadership on Robben Island and in exile, but the Olympian bearer of the torch of resistance and defiance that played a critical role in retying the knot of history between the generations of the 50s and the 70s. If anyone demonstrated, when confronted with adversity, the meaning of the Sesotho idiom: “Mma ngwana o tshwara thipa ka bohaleng” (A mother holds the knife by the blade), it was Winnie.
This role was thrust upon her by the callous, vengeful cruelty of a white minority regime enraged by her unbreakable will and defiance. But she embraced it as a duty imposed on her by history, doing so fearlessly, courageously and with complete devotion. Whilst Nelson was doing hard labour in the lime quarry on Robben Island, Winnie was subjected to relentless persecution.
In 13 years there were only 10 months when she was not under a banning order. Even before Nelson’s trial was over, Winnie was slapped with her first banning order on 28 December 1962. It restricted her movements to the magisterial district of Johannesburg; prohibited her from entering any educational premises and barred her from attending or addressing any meetings or gatherings where more than two people were present. Moreover, the banning order also stipulated that media outlets were no longer permitted to quote anything she said, effectively gagging her voice too.
At this time she became the subject of continuous surveillance and spying by individuals who befriended but were agents of the security police. One such was Gordon Winter who posed as a journalist and published a book about his exploits. She was subjected to increased police harassment and intimidation, with regular police raids. In 1965, a new more severe banning order followed, barring her from moving anywhere other than her neighbourhood of Orlando West. This made it impossible to keep her job at Baragwanath Hospital in Diepkloof. The police intimidated prospective employers denying her even menial job opportunities.
Torture in Solitary Confinement
In 1969 Winnie was to undergo her most harrowing experience of all. The security branch raided her Soweto home at 3am and took her away after denying her the opportunity to ask her sister to look after her nine and ten year old daughters who were alone with her .
She was detained under the Terrorism Act which allowed for indefinite detention without trial or legal representation. She spent 18 months at Pretoria Central, in a concrete cell located close to the gallows furnished with three thin bug-infested and urine-stained blankets, a plastic water bottle, a mug and a sanitary bucket without a handle. The electric light bulb was left on constantly, robbing her of any sense of night or day.
For 469 days she was kept in solitary confinement with one interrogation lasting for five consecutive days and nights. She was not allowed to wash or go out for exercises. She was denied sanitary towels and water to wash when she had periods, so the blood caked on her. The “crown of thorns” metaphor she used in her letter to her husband was to prove prophetic. The barbarity of her persecutors descended to the level of making her parade in front of male prison officials and police naked with only a crown of thorns on her head.
This level of humiliation would have broken a lesser person. But Winnie maintained her pride. “She experienced blackouts, panic attacks, abnormal bleeding, bronchitis, anaemia, a heart condition. She received heart treatment, anti-depressants, and injections for the bleeding. At one stage she expresses fear that she may be becoming addicted to the drugs. Some of her physical conditions were clearly the result of acute psychological stress.
Yet her defiance never deserted her.” A psychiatric interview, with a ‘Dr Morgan’, was arranged. “Do you hear God’s voice sometimes telling you to lead your people?” Winnie was asked. “Would you ask Vorster’s wife the same question if the situation was reversed?” she shot back. “(Daily Maverick – 03/0418)
To keep her sanity, in a prison where the screams of prisoners being beaten were constant, she made friends with cockroaches. She was released after the police failed to sustain a case. Despite this barbaric treatment, Winnie did not break. This experience merely reaffirmed her political convictions, strengthened her resolve, and deepened her hatred for the regime.
Almost immediately after her release Winnie was served with another, even more stringent banning order. This time it was valid for five years and forbade her from leaving the house between 6pm and 6am making it impossible to see her husband on Robben Island even on the spiteful twice-a-year basis then in force. At the same time the police raids continued relentlessly, sometimes up to four times a day. Her house was routinely burgled, vandalised and even bombed.
In May 1973 Winnie was arrested again, this time for meeting with another banned person, Drum magazine photographer, Peter Magubane. She was sentenced to twelve months at Kroonstad’s women’s prison, but was released after six months. By July 1976 Winnie was back in jail. She had thrown herself fully behind the youth following the eruption of the Soweto Uprising. She helped establish the Black Parents Association, to unite parents, organize legal representation for the detained, and support for families of those killed by the police. Her house became a refuge, a political gathering place, and also a conduit for sending recruits to MK.
Released in December 1976, she was served with another 5-year banning order the following January. Fearful of the potency of her influence on the youth, the regime this time elected to remove her from Soweto altogether banishing her into internal exile in what she described as the “living grave” of her “little Siberia” – Brandfort in today’s Free State. This dusty town in the middle of nowhere 350 km to the south west of Johannesburg was to be her prison of the next eight years.
Banishment to Brandfort
But Winnie was not going to bow her head in the face of this latest act of repression.” When they send me into exile, it’s not me as an individual they are sending. They think that with me they can also ban the political ideas. But that is a historic impossibility… I am of no importance to them as an individual. What I stand for is what they want to banish” she said.
She set about immediately working on winning over a community who had been subjected to a six months long campaign of intimidation to dissuade them from interacting with this “terrorist” and “communist”. Although required to report to the police station twice daily, she found the time to successfully put pressure on a local white-owned clothing store to allow blacks to try on clothing using the same change rooms as whites. She had demanded to know how black people money was different from that of whites.
“We were in the dark about what we needed to do to fight for liberation” says Selialimo Makhwe, who was 17-year old at the time and now chairperson of the Brandfort ANC Womens League. “After she arrived people became rebellious.” (Sunday Times- 08/04/18)
With the aid of Albertina Sisulu, Lillian Ngoyi and Sally Motlana, she raised resources to establish a local gardening collective, a soup kitchen, a mobile health unit, a day care centre, a vehicle and an organisation for orphans and juvenile delinquents as well as a sewing club. The crèche and clinic were run from her backyard.
The increased human traffic provided Winnie with the cover to deceive the police who watched
the house from a nearby hill. Using a local woman as a double to maintain the pretence she was in the house, Winnie was able to drive to and from Soweto overnight where she could meet her comrades and continue her political activities.
These political activities, which entailed maintaining contact with the exiled ANC leadership in Lusaka, Zambia, recruiting thousands of recruits to join the ANC’s military wing, was to elevate her to the position of the ANC’s most senior underground MK leader in the country.
Return to Soweto
Removed from Soweto to prevent her from fanning the flames of the youth uprising, Winnie was allowed to return in 1986 — in the middle of the countrywide state of emergency the regime had declared. However, despite intensified repression, including occupations of the townships by the army, mass arrests, torture and killings, the limitations of the regime’s power was becoming increasingly evident.
Whilst Winnie was in Brandfort, the United Democratic Front had been launched. The UDF spearheaded the campaign to boycott the elections for the Tricameral Parliament – a toy telephone parliament which provided for special chambers for Coloureds and Indians alongside the white one to break their solidarity with blacks. 77% of Coloureds and 80% of Indians stayed away from the polls dealing the regime a severe blow. Even more ominously for the regime, Cosatu had been launched in December 1985 with over 500 000 members in the middle of the partial state of emergency. The regime conceded to Cosatu’s demand for the scrapping of the pass laws and to declare May Day an official holiday.
Secret talks and armed struggle
In 1986, the ANC’s January 8 instatement declared it “The Year of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the People’s Army”. It called for the destruction of local councils, and looks forward to ‘the gathering collapse of the apartheid economy’. The government, it said, had lost the strategic initiative and its attempts at reform were collapsing. The slogan for the year, coined by Thabo Mbeki, is ‘Every patriot a combatant, every combatant a patriot’.
Winnie became even more central to MK’s operations in this period. She coordinated weapons importation and distribution. She was part of the planning of internal MK activities the identification of strategic infrastructure installations for sabotage like Sasol. The ANC also launched Operation Vula an underground operation aimed at facilitating the infiltration of MK guerrillas into South Africa and maintaining open communication links between the ANC leaders in exile, at home and in prison. Amongst some of its operatives are Mac Maharaj, Ronnie Kasrils, Pravin Gordhan, Siphiwe Nyanda and Billy Nair.
Yet the ANC had neither the political strategy, programme nor military means to contemplate the overthrow of the regime. However heroic and willing to make the ultimate sacrifice the MK cadres were, as they were to discover when the leadership unilaterally suspended the armed struggle, the strategic role of the armed struggle was as armed propaganda – to bring the regime to the negotiating table. It is precisely at this time that the apartheid regime’s intelligence services, the government and big business took the first steps in secret talks with a willing ANC leadership, in prison and exile that would ultimately lead to the negotiated settlement at Codesa, the formal end of apartheid and one-person-one-vote.
The tactic of the regime was to combine the granting of political concessions as slowly as possible diluted as much as possible whilst stepping up the repression. “Black-on-black” violence, the dirty tricks, “Black-Ops” operation to vilify, slander and completely discredit Winnie, and the assassination of Chris Hani with whom she had developed a close collaborative relationship, formed different elements of the regime’s strategy to neuter the ANC and to secure a negotiated settlement on as favorable terms as possible.
Albeit posthumously, it is fitting that evidence is now emerging that exonerates her from responsibility for Stompie Sepei’s death Winnie’s criminal record must be expunged posthumously.
The attainment of the right to vote for the black oppressed was an historic victory. It liberated the black majority from chains of national oppression and ended one of the most hated systems of racial discrimination on the planet.
Although Winnie was ostracized by her own party, demonized by the bourgeois in SA and internationally, was excluded from the warmth of the immediate after-glow of the democratic victory, it was the masses far less than the leadership that made that victory possible.
Long before the ANC was officially unbanned, Winnie was its personification under apartheid. It was banned everywhere except wherever she appeared in ANC colours at the head of rallies, marches and funerals of activists. For her role as a figure of hope determination and defiance, she has earned her place in their hearts.
Winnie’s critique of Codesa agreement
But there are two sides to the reality of the Codesa negotiated settlement. It was at one and the same time a triumph of the black majority in the quest for democratic rights to be full citizens in their country, as well as well as the successful preservation of the economic dictatorship of the capitalist class. Capitalism had been placed under new management, through the engineering of a transition from white minority rule to majority rule.
Nelson Mandela’s role in the 1950 Defiance Campaign as volunteer-in chief, his declaration during the treason trial that he was prepared, “if need be” to die for freedom, his nearly three decades in prison, his leading role in the establishment of the ANC’s armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe, his defiant rejection of an offer of release conditional on accepting in effect the citizenship of a bantustan – all of these, earned him his place in history.
However, this is overshadowed by the central political role he played in the imposition of the neo-liberal capitalist post-apartheid order. Far more than the allegations of personal infidelity, it was the differences over the approach to the negotiations that sowed the seeds of their separation and divorce. It was Mandela’s political infidelity to the Freedom Charter rather than her personal infidelity that explains the end of their marriage. So determined was the ANC leadership to clear the path to power to take their turn to eat that they issued Mandela with an ultimatum: Winnie or the presidency.
Yet it was Winnie who had seen through the regime’s scheme of manipulating Mandela. After his hospitalization in 1989, they separated him from his fellow prisoners at Pollsmoor moving him to a fully-furnished house at Victor Verster prison offering an excited Mandela the privilege of his family moving in with him. Winnie, understanding immediately that the idea was to soften up Mandela ahead of the negotiations, rejected the opportunity to become “glorified prisoners”. In his last discussion with Mandela before his release, head of the Bureau for State Security (BOSS), Neil Barnard warned Mandela that Winnie was a problem. In his first speech he should not make any reference to the armed struggle, apartheid, or anything from the past. He should simply issue a call to forge the past and to move on.
Under Winnie’s watchful eye at his first speech after she accompanied him from prison, Mandela stated that the conditions under which the armed struggle had commenced had not yet changed, shocking the establishment. Winnie was able to accompany Mandela on his first visit to the US, only after pressure for the US civil rights movement. Stratcom had ensured she was placed on the US terror watch list. In an interview on the Phil Donahue show she stated it was true that she was much angrier than Mandela and trusted the apartheid regime far less. She made it clear that she was watching the negotiations very closely. Should they go wrong she would be the first to pick up her gun to back to the bush and fight.
Winnie was to refer scornfully to the negotiated settlement that ensured the continuation of the very servitude Mandela had, in 1956, condemned colonialism and apartheid for plunging the people into for centuries, as “an agreement between the elite of the oppressors and the elite of the oppressed to get into bed together.” She went even further and described Mandela as a sell-out and the TRC as a farce acting on behalf of Stratcom.
Winnie’s criticism of the direction the ANC had taken was not limited to the negotiated settlement. She sided publicly with the Treatment Action Campaign demanding anti-retrovirals, marching with them during the 2000 World Aids conference wearing a TAC t-shirt. She exposed the arms deal corruption and was the author of the so-called “De Lille Dossier” – the information then PAC leader Patricia De Lille handed in parliament becoming the first MP to be suspended from parliament.
Her proximity to the EFF’s Julius Malema, whom she defended at his disciplinary hearing, lends credence to the belief that she played a role in its formation. Her public efforts to encourage a reconciliation between the ANC and the EFF is consistent with the efforts she made to prevent a stand-off between Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma at the Polokwane conference in 2007 which she feared, rightfully would precipitate a split.
Alarmed by the crisis in the ANC which she said only those who are fooling themselves would deny, she stood by those who were persecuted. “For African Democratic Change leader and former ANC MP Makhosi Khoza, the loss of Madikizela-Mandela was a very personal blow.“When I was facing persecution, she was phoning me on a daily basis,” she told Timeslive. “She actually gave me the strength to go on.” (DM 03/04/2018).
Only socialism can resolve impasse
Dedicated as Winnie was to the plight of the poor, however often she visited informal settlements, however warmly she was welcomed there, and however much she suffered for the post-apartheid dispensation, and continued to suffer under it, she was a radical left nationalist rather than a socialist. Her criticisms of the betrayals of the ANC were accordingly subjective. She could see no further therefore than to fight for unity in the ANC and to be a voice of moral rectitude. Heroic as her radicalism was, its weakness was precisely that it was nationalist. Although she discerned that the main opponent in the negotiations was in fact Capital, she had no answers to overcome the problem.
In common with the rest of the leadership, from the radical to the moderate wing, the ultimate objective was not to overthrow the regime, but to negotiate a settlement with it. She returned to Soweto at a time when the struggle against apartheid was on the cusp of reaching insurrectionary levels. Having no developed understanding of socialism, she located herself amongst the youth. She did not understand the centrality of the role of the working class. Despite the SACP”s “the working class is the motive force of the revolution” rhetoric, they did not point her in the direction of Cosatu at its most powerful organizationally and radical ideologically.
Whilst the working class had drawn the conclusion that apartheid and capitalism were “two sides of the same bloody coin”, that “only socialism means freedom”, the SACP captured Cosatu ideologically, secured the surrender of its class independence and therefore political independence, and subordinated it to the capitalist aspirations of the ANC leadership to fight the National Democratic revolution, that is a democratic non-racial non-sexist capitalism, that would clear the way for the development of a black capitalist class. In the final analysis, unfortunately, that was the logic of Winnie’s position.
Her sympathies for the EFF’s radical rhetoric, understandable as it was, were mistaken. She may have believed that the corruption allegations against Malema were part of the same kind of plot as against her, but this is not true. The EFF may justifiably claim they were her “children”, but operated, at best with the same illusions as Winnie had in the possibility of a capitalism that could meet the needs of the people. Malema is corrupt and is shamelessly appropriating Winnie’s legacy as a negotiating tool, possibly to secure a way back to the ANC with the aim of not only ensuring himself a cabinet position but also amnesty.
However true it was that the selflessness of the struggle days amongst the best of them had given way to greed, corruption and obsession with self-enrichment, the ANC’s betrayals are rooted in its class character. Herself from the middle class, whose aspirations the ANC was created to fulfill, she was unable to point a way out of the impasse of capitalist society for the working class and the poor.
Even at its most radical, after the ANC had adopted the Freedom Charter, it remained committed to capitalism as Mandela made clear unambiguously in an article in New Age in 1956. By the time the ANC was unbanned, neo-liberalism was the dominant form of capitalism worldwide. The undertakings the ANC had given in the secret talks throughout the 80s, were translated into ANC government policy at Codesa and adopted before the elections to be implemented after its accession to power. It abandoned the Freedom Charter but moved very rapidly, after a brief flirtation with the Reconstruction and Development Programme to the adoption of the brutal neo-liberal capitalist policy Gear.
After nearly a quarter of a century of democracy, the results for the working class and the poor have been catastrophic. SA is the most unequal society on the planet; 30 million live in extreme poverty, 15m go to bed hungry every night and unemployment stands at 40%.
All the major parties, the ANC, DA and EFF, have embraced Winnie and sought to bask in her reflected glory. But, as parties committed to capitalism, they cannot provide a solution to the fundamental problems facing society.
The masses saw in the defeat of apartheid the opportunity not just to end national oppression but to achieve their social emancipation. The bosses saw in the end of apartheid the means to consolidate capitalism and the class subjugation of the working class. The irreconcilable contradictions between the two main classes in society have created an impasse in society. The only way forward is through the overthrow of capitalism and the socialist transformation of society. The task therefore is the creation of a mass workers party on a socialist programme.
Winnie approached the struggle liberation of the masses, even within the limitations of the ANC’s programme, with fearlessness, passion and dedication to the end. Not the least of her contributions was to set a living example of the role of woman in the struggle capable of more than matching that of any man.
As socialists we must draw on that example of the commitment required to overthrow capitalism and bring about the socialist transformation of society.
International Women’s Day 2018: Women’s oppression in Nigeria under patriarchy and oppression
by Women’s Committee, Democratic Socialist Movement (CWI Nigeria)
We women in Nigeria live in utter privation. We still face oppression of various kinds both at home, work, schools and in society – such as the refusal to legalize abortion (abortion rights), divorce rights, rape/harassment and so on. All these cannot be disconnected from the capitalist system – a system that reinforces patriarchy and creates inequality and discrimination. It is a system that survives mainly by oppressing and exploiting the vast majority, including women, to further enrich the tiny minority.
Indeed, for women it is a double tragedy. In addition to being exploited as workers under the capitalist system just like men, women again suffer gender oppression in a patriarchal society like ours. Women are discriminated against in almost all areas because we are viewed as the ‘weaker sex’; i.e. in the education system, health, political representation, labour market and in many other areas.
In Nigeria, many girls do not have access to adequate education beyond a certain age. There are many reasons for this i.e. cultural, religious factors etc. For instance in the North, for cultural and religious reasons, a great proportion of girls are not enrolled in school. Instead they are married off to older men as soon as they reach puberty. But the most significant factor is the soaring cost of education, arising from government policies of underfunding and education commercialization, which forces working class and poor parents to decide on which of their children the family will invest its lean resources in to educate. Usually the male child is preferred to the female child when choices of this nature are to be made.
Of course, there has been some improvement in terms of enrolment in the past few decades. For instance, not only has the proportion of girls enrolled in primary school increased (from 45.7 % in 2010 to 48.6% in 2015), also the completion rate for girls in primary schools has increased from 46.7 % in 2010 to 48.3% in 2015. Similar trends can be observed in the secondary school enrolment of course with allowance for local and regional peculiarities. However, enrolment into tertiary institutions across the country remains male dominated on average.
Currently, the female adult literacy rate (ages 15 and above) for the country is 59.4% in comparison to the male adult literacy rate of 74.4% (National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) “Statistical report on women and men”, 2015). In 2010, the percentage of females completing tertiary institutions decreased from 41.3 percent to 38.4 percent in 2015. Unless a mass movement is built with the active participation of women to fight for improved funding of education, provision of free education at all levels and democratic management of schools, the situation can get worse over the next decade.
Nigeria had the world’s second highest maternal mortality rate of 1,100 per 100,000 births in 2007. This scary statistic has not significantly improved as the most recent estimate in 2015 put it at 814 deaths per 100,000 live births. It is the underfunding of the health sector that has led to this high mortality rate of women during childbirth and the pregnancy period and the deaths of women with curable diseases. Lack of access to prenatal and postnatal care, obstetric services and family planning information contributes to the high maternal mortality rate. Other contributing factors include unsafe abortions, inadequate post-abortion care, early and child marriages, early pregnancies, inadequate family planning services, the low rates of contraceptive usage, lack of sex education etc. Also, about 59 percent of deaths from HIV/AIDS are women.
Since abortion is illegal in Nigeria, many women resort to unsafe abortion methods, leading to abortion-related complications and increasing mortality and morbidity rates. Research has revealed that only 40% of abortions are performed by physicians with proper health facilities while the remaining percentage are performed by non-physicians. Consequently, abortion accounts for 40% of maternal deaths in Nigeria, making it the second leading cause of maternal mortality in the country.
Female genital mutilation in Nigeria accounts for the largest number of female genital cutting/mutilation (FGM/C) cases worldwide. Nationally, 27% of Nigerian women between the ages of 15 and 49 are victims of FGM. In the last 30 years, prevalence of the practice has decreased by half in some parts of Nigeria but it is still prevalent in the rural areas where cultural practices are strong.
As a group, women do as much work as men, if not more. However, the types of work, as well as the conditions under which women work, and their access to opportunities for advancement, differs from men. Women are often disadvantaged compared to men in access to employment opportunities and conditions of work.
In 2015, the Labour Force Participation Rate (LFPR) was 65.1 percent for women and 71.4 percent for men (National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) “Statistical report on women and men”, 2015). This reflects the changes that have taken place in the structure of society over the past three decades. Increased access to education and the impact of capitalist neo-liberal attacks on living standards are undermining some of the cultural and traditional beliefs that have consigned women to the home. In any case, given the fall in real wages, many working class households can only survive each month by relying on the income of both parents. As a result many women are now going out to work.
But instead of this constituting the basis for the full liberation of women, it has further increased our yoke because we now have to combine taking care of the home and children (unpaid care work) with our jobs. This is aside from the fact that the jobs readily available to women are low paid, contract jobs in industries producing garments or hair attachments or as teachers, nurses, bank cashiers, market traders, office assistants, petrol station attendants. A big proportion of women still work on the farms tilling small plots that can barely yield enough to feed the family.
Also, despite increased participation of women in the labour process, gender inequality still persists. At the primary level of education, female teachers constitute the highest proportion, where the pay and conditions are poor, while constituting just about 25 percent of teaching staff at the tertiary level of education where the pay and conditions are relatively better. For the period, 2010-2015, on the average, 72.3 percent of senior positions in State Civil Service were occupied by men compared to 27.7 percent occupied by women. At the junior level and across the staff, a similar pattern was maintained. The proportion of men employed in the reference period was consistently higher than that of women.
In addition, women earn less than men in both manual and non-manual jobs, where there is work of equal value. All these are clear evidence of the double exploitation women experience under the capitalist system. Women also face lots of challenges in the workplace such as insecurity, sexual harassment, inequality in pay, insufficient maternity leave.
Rape and sexual assault
Rape, sexual harassment and violence against women are prevalent in Nigeria. Physical and sexual violence against women affects mostly females in the age bracket of 20-24 years old. A few cases of domestic violence leading to death have dominated the headlines in recent years. Some of these cases involved middle class families. But the situation is even more tragic for women on low incomes who may not have the choice of leaving violent relationships due to the inability of affording decent housing and adequate means of livelihood. In other words, poor women are at risk of suffering greater domestic violence.
Likewise, sexual harassment is prevalent on the campuses. Male lecturers often compel female students to have sex with them in exchange for good marks. If they refuse, they stand the chance of failing their courses. There was a case last year at Auchi Polytechnic, Edo state, where male students were compelled to hire sex workers at a cost between N10, 000 and N20, 000 to sleep with lecturers on their behalf in order to pass courses or plead with their girlfriends to sleep with the lecturers if they could not afford the cost. On their part, female students often had no other choice but to yield to the desire of the lecturers or keep failing the courses. Several schools and even the students unions have no mechanism or programme to deal with these issues. Also most victims are afraid of the stigma and also do not trust that anything will be done.
Cases of women being brutalized for infidelity, especially in the North, cannot be overlooked. Whereas if their male counterparts commit the same “offence” they are never questioned rather they are celebrated, defended and praised for showing their power and control.
All these attitudes and practices are rooted in a patriarchal view and way of life which has to be fought. Also religious ideas like Sharia law further reinforces patriarchal beliefs by portraying women as the property of men.
As the mass misery in Nigeria intensifies, trafficking is rising. This is because while young men who leave the shores of the country to escape poverty may have the choice of selling their labour power, the girls, mostly uneducated or half-educated, have only their bodies to sell. Consequently between 2010 and 2015, more females were trafficked, with the proportion of females trafficked for prostitution as high as 70.8 percent for people aged 18-27 years. This reflects the worsening conditions of women and the working masses in general under capitalism.
Women have also suffered atrociously from the violent crises breaking out across the country. The herdsmen versus farmers clashes have made women on both sides widows meaning they now have to take up the burden of the whole family. Several women have also been killed and had their farms and livestock destroyed in the unfolding crisis.
Boko Haram attacks
Perhaps more than any, the Boko Haram crisis which started in 2009 has affected women and girls disproportionately. In fact women, especially girls enrolled in school, have become targets of the Islamic fundamentalist group which is against western education. Just a few days ago on Monday 19 February 2018, 110 girls were abducted by suspected Boko Haram militants from their dormitories at the Government Girls Science Technical College (GGSTC) in Dapchi, Yobe state.
This comes about four years after a similar abduction of 276 girls on the night of 14 to 15 April 2014 from a boarding school in Chibok, Borno state. All these attacks have had an enormous impact on school enrolment, rolling back recent progress made in girl-child education. Also, many women have been turned into widows and many have lost their homes and means of livelihood. Many are now at Internally Displaced Persons camps (IDPs) as a result of the insurgency.
The labour movement must fight for women
Organised women constitute a sizeable portion of the labour movement especially the teachers’ union, nurses’ union etc. Unfortunately, the trade unions rarely reflect in their propaganda or agitation issues concerning women. Also the trade unions have no active campaign targeted at the sexual harassment, unequal pay, sexism and rape that many female workers undergo. Also on the campuses, the students’ unions and education workers’ unions have no programme to campaign against these issues even when their members are affected.
The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) – CWI Nigeria – calls for active campaigns led by the labour movement and students’ movement against women’s oppression and discrimination in workplaces, communities and campuses.
We need active campaigns that link the discrimination and oppression women face with the fight against attacks on public education and heath, for increases in the minimum wage and improved working conditions, against privatization, deregulation and all anti-poor capitalist policies.
Crucially too, we need a campaign that is fully conscious that women’s oppression can fully end only when patriarchy and the capitalist system that reinforces it are defeated. This means a workers’ and poor people’s government coming to power armed with socialist policies of the public ownership of key sectors of the economy under democratic public control and management as a step towards mobilizing and using the resources of society only for the benefit of the vast majority of the populace.
International Women’s Day 2018: Capitalism oppresses women – fight for socialism!
by Hannah Sell, CWI International Secretariat
When the twenty first century dawned young women in the US and much of Europe were being told that equality was within their grasp. They didn’t need feminism because capitalism was offering a glittering future based on growing prosperity and gender equality.
Today that illusion lies in ruins. Worldwide the myth of capitalist progress – of young people having greater opportunities than their parents – has been shattered by the world economic crisis of 2008 and its aftermath. Young people from working and middle class backgrounds are facing a world that does not meet their expectations – dominated by mass unemployment, low paid and insecure work, cuts to public services, and unaffordable housing. War and conflict are on the rise, leading to millions risking their lives as they are forced to flee their homes. For women this is combined with the sexual discrimination which remains embedded in the fabric of society and means that, in a world of low pay, globally women still earn on average 10 to 30% less than men.
In the neo-colonial world, where most wages are pitifully low, women are super-exploited. They work sometimes 12 hours or more a day on the land, in the markets, in textile and shoe factories. In many places, women and their children work as modern-day slaves.
Far from there being an automatic gradual dying out of sexual discrimination, in a number of countries governments are acting to exacerbate it. In Russia, for instance, where it is estimated a women dies of domestic abuse every forty minutes, domestic violence has been partially decriminalised. Austerity has impacted directly on the amount of violence and harassment women face, and their ability to fight back. In Britain, for example, more than 30 refuges for women fleeing violence have closed due to lack of funds, with many of the rest facing closure or, at best, severe cuts. At the same time the complete absence of affordable housing leaves women with nowhere at all to go if they flee violent partners. Or look at the 9 out of 10 workers in Britain who work in bars, restaurants and hotels who report having faced sexual abuse from employers, managers or the public but who are told that ‘it is part of the job’ which they should put up with because they are lucky to have work. Today, no less than in the past, improvements in women’s rights will not happen automatically but only as a result of mass struggle.
IWD more important than ever
That is why International Women’s Day, over a century after it was first initiated in the US, is more important than ever. Attempts to transform it into little more than a sales opportunity for the big corporations – with campaigns to buy the women in your life 8 March gifts – lie increasingly forgotten as 8 March becomes an important event in the burgeoning global struggle against women’s oppression. This year the young women of the Spanish state will be leading the way when, on 8 March, millions of young women and men will be taking part in strike action called by Sindicato de Estudiantes (students union) in which Izquierda Revolucionaria (the section of the CWI in the Spanish state) plays a leading role.
The final death knell to the fairy story of seamless progress towards equality was the election of the blatant misogynist Donald Trump as US President. From day one, however, his presence in the White House has acted as a recruiting sergeant for struggle against racism and every form of oppression; not least the fight for women’s rights. Following the women’s marches last year – the biggest demonstrations on one day in US history, and the biggest globally since 2003 – the 2018 marches were attended by up to 2.5 million in towns and cities across the US. Nor are the US and Spain alone. In many countries around the world new women’s movements have developed, or are developing.
Some of these are in response to the oppression that women have long suffered – like the continuing movement against rape in India and the ‘Ni una menos’ (not one less) movement against gender-based violence that has mobilised hundreds of thousands onto the streets of Argentina and other countries. Others are to stop new attacks on the rights of women – like the partially successful movement that developed in Poland in 2016 against a government attempt to completely ban abortion. Others, however, are going beyond trying to stop things getting worse and fighting for an improvement in their rights. This is also true in Poland – where protests took place at the start of this year for the introduction of abortion on demand up until twelve weeks.
In Southern Ireland, the state – intertwined with the Catholic Church – has since its inception taken an extremely reactionary attitude to the rights of women to control their own bodies, including a complete ban on abortion. Following the appalling death of Savita Halappanavar in 2012, after she was refused an abortion, there has been a groundswell for change. The Socialist Party in Ireland has played a central role in mobilising and organising that groundswell, alongside the socialist feminist campaign initiated by Socialist Party members – ROSA. Now the capitalist politicians in Ireland have been partly forced to change their tune under the impact of the movement. A parliamentary committee has recommended unrestricted access to abortion up until 12 weeks of pregnancy, and a referendum on repealing the existing ban will take place on 25 May this year.
2017 was also the year of #metoo. What began in Hollywood – with actors speaking out against the sexual assault and harassment they suffered at the hands of film mogul Harvey Weinstein and others – has spread around the world. Virtually every capitalist institution from the media, to the major corporations, to parliaments, to charities has been damaged by an avalanche of accusations. This outpouring, largely via social media, is an indication both of the continued all-pervasiveness of sexual harassment and assault and an increased confidence to fight it.
We give no ground to those who try to say that this phenomenon has ‘exaggerated’ the extent of sexual harassment and abuse. On the contrary, it has revealed only a little of the day-to-day reality for countless women, above all the most oppressed including the lowest paid, those without job security, and women workers from ethnic minorities. That does not, of course, mean that every single accusation made via #metoo can be taken as proven; all individuals should have the right to a fair hearing before being judged guilty. Regardless of the guilt or innocence of particular individuals, however, #metoo has clearly revealed the guilt of the capitalist system which allows millions to suffer sexist abuse.
It is no surprise that so many of the accusations being made are against men in positions of power over their victims. Capitalism is based on a tiny minority of society – above all the capitalist class, the billionaires who own the major corporations and banks – having enormous power to exploit the majority. We live in a world where the richest eight people own as much as half the world’s population. Inevitably in such a society among those with power will be people who habitually try to use their status to sexually abuse or harass women and men with less power than them, not least their employees. But this does not, of course, mean that working class men are exempt from such behaviour. Sexism is woven into the fabric of capitalism and affects every strata of society.
Without doubt 2018 will see the development of further movements to defend and extend women’s rights. This is the inevitable result of women’s expectations and the propaganda of equality from a section of the capitalist class, butting up against the sexist reality of capitalism.
Male dominance linked to class society
Sexual oppression is deeply ingrained, but it is not innate or unchangeable: for the majority of human history it did not exist. Male dominance (patriarchy), both in its origin and in its current form, is intrinsically linked to the structures and inequalities of class society, which came into existence around 10,000 years ago. The rise of male dominance was linked to the development of the family as an institution for maintaining class and property divisions as well as discipline. While, today and in the past, individuals families were often made up of the people with whom they were closest and felt safest with, the institution of the family nonetheless, in different forms, acted as an important agent of social control for all class societies. The hierarchical nature of society was echoed in the structure of the traditional family with the man as head of the household and women and children obedient to him.
While today more than ever the capitalist institution of the family has its weakest hold on working class people, millions of women around the world remain ‘the slaves of slaves’ and the idea is still deeply ingrained that women are possessions of men who need to be loyal and obedient to their partners. The whole of society is permeated with propaganda endlessly re-emphasising the ‘proper’ role of women – as home-makers, mothers, sexual objects, and so on.
Burden on family
For capitalism one important role of the family is to carry the central burden of bringing up the next generation and caring for the sick and elderly. In the second half of the twentieth century, at least in some European countries, this was partly alleviated by the gains won by the working class such as free or cheap healthcare, nurseries, elderly care and so on. Today in every country those gains are under threat, leaving families, particularly women, carrying a horrendous load, often at the same time as working full-time or more in low-paid insecure work, desperately struggling to make ends meet. Socialist feminism fights for equality between the sexes. Our role, however, is not to accept the impossible burdens that capitalism places on families – only arguing about who carries the greater share – but instead to wage a determined struggle for properly-funded universal public services, and well paid jobs with a short working week, in order to lift the load of tasks laid on working class families and give people the chance to enjoy life; including spending time with their loved ones.
This struggle is connected to the struggle for reproductive rights, because only on this basis is it possible for women to win a real right to choose when and whether to have children. Socialists fight for women to have control over their own bodies – so they can decide if and when they want children – but also for women to have affordable high quality homes, free childcare, a decent income and everything else that is necessary to be able to freely to choose to have children.
The struggle for women’s liberation is at root part of the class struggle, in which the struggles by women against their own specific oppression dovetail with those of the working class in general for a fundamental restructuring of society to end all inequality and oppression.
Capitalist feminism no answer
We disagree with capitalist feminism because it does not take a class approach to the struggle for women’s liberation. To put it simply, working-class women have more in common with working-class men than they do with Margaret Thatcher, Theresa May in Britain, Hillary Clinton in the US, or Sheikh Hasina Wazed in Bangladesh. This does not of course mean that only working class women are oppressed. Women from all sections of society suffer oppression as a result of their gender, including domestic violence and sexual harassment. However, at root, to win real sexual equality for women, including for women from the elite of society, a complete overturn of the existing order is necessary in every sphere: economic, social, family and domestic. The necessary starting point for such an overturn is ending the system which Thatcher, May, Clinton et al defend – capitalism – and bringing the major companies into public ownership in order to allow the development of a democratic socialist plan of production. The working class, the majority in many countries, is the force in society capable of carrying out such an overturn. This does not preclude, of course, individual women from the elite of society – even daughters of the capitalist class – deciding that the only way to end the sexism they suffer is to break with their class and to join the fight for socialism.
Role of workers’ movement
Socialists in no way suggest that the struggle against sexism be postponed, as something only to be dealt with after the end of capitalism. On the contrary, it is vital that every aspect of women’s oppression is fought now, including sexual harassment and abuse. The most effective means to do this is via a united struggle of the workers’ movement. Recently in London ferry workers took militant strike action against a bullying management, including the systematic sexual harassment of one female secretary. The workforce – overwhelmingly male – won a victory. For the countless millions of people facing sexual harassment in their workplace worldwide, the single thing that would most empower them to fight back would be to be part of a collective organisation involving a majority of their workmates – a fighting trade union – prepared to back them up when they took a stand. On a broader scale the working class needs mass parties, politically armed with a socialist programme, which put fighting for gender equality central.
Of course, the workers’ movement is not immune from sexist behaviour, and it is vital that socialists fight for all such instances to be dealt with as part of a campaign for a working-class struggle for women’s equality. The working class has the potential power to bring this rotten, sexist capitalist system to an end, but this will only be possible on the basis of a united struggle of working class women and men. This cannot be achieved by ignoring or downplaying sexism but only by consciously combatting it.
One hundred and one years ago in Russia, on International Women’s Day, a strike and demonstration of working women set off the mighty revolutionary events that led, in October, under the leadership of the Bolshevik Party, to the working class taking power into its hands for the first time in history. The later Stalinist degeneration of the Soviet Union included, along with the crushing of workers’ democracy an unwinding of many of the gains won by women after the revolution. Nonetheless, what was begun in 1917, in an isolated poor country, gives a glimpse of what socialism could mean for women today, when all the enormous wealth, science and technique created by capitalism could be harnessed for the good of humanity. Legal equality for women – including the right to vote, and to freely marry and divorce, was introduced long before they were in the capitalist world along with abolition of all laws discriminating against homosexuality. The right to abortion was introduced in Russia after the 1917 revolution. Free nurseries, laundries and restaurants began to be created.
A century later and the growing movement for women’s rights will once again be intertwined with the struggle for a socialist world.
We fight for:
- No to all discrimination on the grounds of race, gender, disability, sexuality, age, and all other forms of prejudice.
- For a mass campaign, spearheaded by the workers’ movement, against sexual harassment, violence and all forms of sexual discrimination.
- For fighting trade unions, democratically controlled by their members.
- For mass parties of the working class with socialist programmes, including the fight for gender equality.
- A mass struggle for equal pay, as part of the fight for a living wage for all linked to a shorter working week with no loss of pay.
- No to ALL cuts. Decent jobs, pay, and housing for all. For massive expansion of public services.
- For maternity and child benefits that reflect the real cost of bringing up a child.
- The right to paid parental leave.
- The provision of free high-quality flexible public childcare facilities available to every child.
- For a woman’s right to choose. Freely available free high-quality contraception and fertility treatment for all who want it. For the right to abortion on demand.
- Public ownership of the pharmaceutical industry.
- Bring the major corporations and banks into public ownership under democratic workers control and management, with compensation paid only on the basis of proven need.
- A democratic socialist plan of production based on the interests of the overwhelming majority of people, implemented in a way that safeguards the environment and lays the basis for establishing genuine equality for all in a world without class division and war.
by Weizmann Hamilton, Executive Committee
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 himselfnwhilst 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.
This article appeared as the editorial of Izwi Labasebenzi in Issue No. 2 of 2017.
Cover image: the image of the worker holding a placard with the slogan “we would rather stick with ‘corruption’ that feeds our kids, than ‘change’ that starves them” appeared on a march in Tshwane on 26 January organised by various ANC organisations. We do not agree that the only options that working class people face are to accept corruption or face job losses, as we explain below. But the message underlines the huge vacuum that exists with no party genuinely representing the interests of workers.
A dress rehearsal for propping up capitalism
In 2016 the EFF assisted the DA to power in Tshwane, Johannesburg and Nelson Mandela Bay (NMB). In recent weeks they have threatened to collapse the same DA-led minority administrations. This has raised important questions about the tactics needed for using elected positions in the capitalist state to push forward the interests of workers, the poor and youth.
The working class needs its own party. But it could not be ‘like all the others’ – asking for a vote once every five years and then simply leaving everything to councillors and MPs in between. A party genuinely representing the interests of the working class and poor majority would first and foremost be a party of struggle – organising and mobilising workers, the poor and the youth to campaign for permanent jobs, living wages, decent service delivery and free education.
The role of workers’ MPs and councillors would be to support struggle. Elected positions would be used to expose the capitalist parties and politicians; to reveal how undemocratic today’s ‘bourgeois’ (i.e. capitalist) democracy is; and, to “speak to the windows” – to the masses outside, popularising the ideas of socialism and the methods of struggle.
Is the EFF the kind of party that the working class needs? Unfortunately, we would have to say no. We believe that the recent experience, especially in Tshwane, has given hard evidence that the EFF is not fundamentally different to the other capitalist parties.
Some might ask: then why talk about them? That is determined by the EFF leadership. It is they who insist that the EFF is a radical alternative. Further, within the new Saftu trade union federation EFF supporters are positioning themselves against the idea of a new workers party on the basis that “we have the EFF”. It is therefore our duty to examine this claim.
The DA-led City of Tshwane is terminating contracts with outsourced security companies. As a result up to 3,000 workers will lose their jobs. But workers have organised to fight. Many are EFF members and expected the EFF councillors to come to their defence. So it came as a shock to find out that the EFF supported the DA’s plan! This is not an isolated episode. The Jozi@Work and Ace Parking workers in Johannesburg also faced job losses at the hands of the DA, with the EFF remaining quiet.
At a mass meeting in June senior EFF leaders and councillors pleaded with workers to agree that new tenders should be issued. The only ‘strategy’ they offered workers was to go and apply for jobs with the new companies! But workers were clear that they wanted to be insourced. EFF leaders were forced to abandon their speeches, shouted-down by a furious crowd. We believe that the EFF leadership hopes to benefit from the new security tenders. But we stand to be corrected. We would welcome a statement from the EFF clarifying that they are opposed to outsourcing in principle and that none of their councillors or leaders will benefit from this super-exploitation of workers.
The EFF was nevertheless forced to place itself at the head of the security workers campaign but at each step they have acted to divert attention from the inaction of the EFF councillors. When WASP members pointed out that the EFF holds the balance of power in Tshwane, and should use that to save jobs, we have been accused of “playing politics”. We asked the simple question: is the DA mayor’s job more important than the jobs of 3,000 workers? The EFF believes so.
Workers understood that the EFF had the power to force the hand of the DA. At WASP’s suggestion it was agreed to draft a council motion guaranteeing the workers’ jobs. It would only take two councillors to force the council to debate it. We argued that surely the EFF would sponsor the motion. Then it would be for the DA and ANC to vote it down. However, we suspected that the ANC would support the motion in order to frustrate the DA. This was a danger for the EFF leadership – that the motion might succeed!
Confirming our suspicions, WASP members were then removed from the security workers’ WhatsApp group and the committee meeting venue changed. To our knowledge the motion was thrown in the bin to protect the EFF councillors and their business aspirations.
But the EFF was willing to threaten the collapse of all three DA-led minority administrations over the sacking of NMB UDM deputy mayor Bobani. In response to this, EFF councillors boycotted council meetings paralysing the DA administrations. They said this was to teach the DA how to work with small parties. But this was posturing and not part of a serious strategy to bring down these anti-working class administrations. The EFF were in their seats for the September council meetings without any explanation of why they were again able to work with the DA.
In Mogale City, Julius Malema himself publicly threatened disciplinary action against EFF councillors who voted with the ANC to pass a budget. It was not the content of the budget that was the problem it was that the councillors gave support to the ANC.
The EFF’s tactics are focused entirely on squabbles with other capitalist parties over who is to profit from control of the capitalist state. They have no vision for how to use their councillors to advance the struggles of the working class. On the contrary the EFF appears to be using its local government positions as a dress rehearsal for the role they hope to play nationally after the 2019 elections. There is a strong possibility that the ANC may not be able to win enough votes to govern on its own, forcing it to look for coalition partners. The EFF’s actions in Tshwane, Joburg and NMB show that their leadership has no problem with bending principles to fit opportunist objectives. If the EFF is prepared to prop up neo-liberal administrations in the metros why would they not be prepared to play the same role in a pro-capitalist coalition at a national level where the spoils of office are much greater?
The need for a socialist mass workers party with accountable and recallable pubic representatives, earning no more than the average wage of a skilled worker, has not been answered by the EFF.