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STOP PRESS: JMPD shoots and wounds street traders, arrests SERI attorney

In outrageous contempt of court, the City of Joburg’s Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD) officers have just attacked and shot at street traders in de Villiers Street, central Johannesburg, wounding several. The JMPD has also arrested Socio-Economic Rights Institute (SERI) attorney Nomzamo Zondo, who was one the scene. She has been taken to the Johannesburg Central Police Station. SERI lawyers and a large delegation of street traders have rushed to the police station. SERI has represented the South African Informal Traders Forum (SAITF), supported by thousands of street traders as well as the Workers and Socialist Party, in the long struggle which today finally resulted in victory at the Constitutional Court, granting the order that street traders immediately be allowed to return to the streets to trading. The City’s forced removals, harassment, confiscation stand confirmed as illegal.

The City’s and its ANC masters apparently believe they rule a banana republic. If the Con Court ruling has not been enough to relieve them of this sweet dream, they will have a rude awakening as we continue mass- and legal action to enforce our victory as well as take them on in the elections in 2014 and beyond.

Victory at last for Johannesburg street traders!

After two months of bitter struggle, the Workers and Socialist Party is today together with thousands of Johannesburg street traders and their organisations, celebrating a great victory: the Constitutional Court has granted with immediate effect our application for traders to return to the streets, for the City of Johannesburg to re-erect their demolished trading stands, stop all forced removals, harassment and confiscation of goods!

The interdict application, which was brought by the Socio-Economic Rights Institute (SERI) with the South African Informal Traders Forum (SAITF) as the main application, had been turned down by the South Gauteng High Court on November 27. This scandalous and clearly politically influenced judgment, which amounted to saying the City rendering 50 000 people destitute and hungry is not an urgent issue, has now been set aside by the Con Court.

We appreciate that the Con Court has applied the law of the land as it should. It remains an indictment on the state and the ruling party, however, that it had to take over two months of relentless struggle to achieve this victory. During this time, families deprived of their incomes have been evicted from their homes, mothers and children have fainted from hunger, learners have struggled to complete their schooling. Meanwhile the City never had a case for ‘Operation Clean-Sweep’ – the forced removal of about 8000 street traders. It was undertaken with complete disregard for the law.  In fact, as has now been confirmed by Con Court, the ‘Clean Sweep’ was a mere official cover for unrestrained and unlawful policy brutality, bureaucratic abuse and ruling party corruption.

This is a victory not only for the Johannesburg hawkers. It’s a victory for working class and poor people across the country. Struggle pays – but it needs unity, organisation and a clear fighting strategy to win.

The City of Joburg has been ordered to pay the legal costs of all the applicants. This unfortunately means that residents of Johannesburg must pay, through their taxes, for the blunders of the African National Congress local government. It is high time to act to put an end to this abuse – WASP calls for all concerned street traders, residents and workers to put forward their own candidates under the WASP banner, first in next year’s general election and then in the coming local government elections. It is time to move from defending ourselves to taking the struggle forward. Phambili ngomzabalazo, phambili!

A media briefing will be held Friday December 6, 10h00 at the street traders’ office, Bree Taxi rank (corner Gwigwi Mrwebi and Sauer Streets, opposite the park).

Behind the City of Joburg’s purge of street traders: ANC patronage, corruption and xenophobia

Over 5000 Johannesburg street traders have been left without an income for a month – parents and breadwinners who normally get by on a hand-to-mouth basis are now facing an unbearable situation. The havoc wreaked upon street traders lives is a result of the City of Joburg’s Clean-Sweep Campaign. A project championed by Mayor Parks Tau (ANC), the ‘clean-up’ has seen Metro Police remove registered and non-registered traders alike.

After over 4000 street traders from across the city marched on the Mayor’s office on October 24, and a further march took place the following day, the Mayor’s office met with street traders’ organisations and march organisers, including the Workers and Socialist Party, on October 25. Together with the South African Informal Traders Forum (SAITF), the African Traders Committee (ATC), the One Voice of All Hawkers Association and the South African National Traders Association (Santra), WASP put up a simple demand: that all traders must be allowed back on the streets. Any cleaning or improvements in the city, we are convinced, could be undertaken with the street traders on site and participating. In response, the various MMCs present at the meeting claimed they were ‘taking back [their] streets’ and turning Johannesburg into ‘a World-class African City’. While they acknowledged that they had failed to communicate with the street traders’ elected representatives, they claimed that the ‘clean-up’ is undertaken in the traders’ best interest and that it would require their removal from the streets for another six weeks.

For street traders, a total of ten weeks with losses – e.g through confiscated and destroyed stock – and no income will be completely devastating. WASP as well as all the street traders’ organisations have therefore rejected this. Further mass action will be called shortly. We are also considering legal action against the City.

Behind the well-meaning façade of the City Council lurk very sinister real motives. During the Sep 25 meeting, Cllr Matshidiso Mfikoe (ANC), MMC for Infrastructure, Service delivery and Environment, argued that ‘people should work where they live’. On its own, this may sound like innocent common sense. But when echoed, as has been revealed to us through a report from an ANC member who attended an ANC branch meeting at Joubert Park earlier this month, by the ANC internally it becomes clear that this is code for ruling party patronage.

According to the report, the local ANC has set down that to be allowed to operate as a street trader in a particular ward in the new regime which shall be built on the ruins of the livelihoods of the removed street traders, you will not only have to be a resident of that ward but you also an ANC member. In other words, the alleged clean-up is really an attempt to crush the traders and start a process of primitive accumulation, replacing them with ruling party loyals.

The same ANC meeting reportedly proclaimed that it would put ‘our people’ on the streets, and it was said explicitly that ‘foreigners must go’. These shameful attempts at dividing the working and poor people of Johannesburg are also evident in the JMPD’s approach to the ‘clean-up’, which entails arbitrary arrests against any black African who is found without carrying an ID.

MMC Mfikoe also stated that ‘just because these foreigners have IDs it doesn’t mean that we have to treat them…’ Xenophobia, racism, patronage, looting and corruption – these are the pillars on which the ANC is really basing its so-called ‘clean-up of Johannesburg, and its rule generally. It is this ugly underbelly of capitalism that should be cleaned away.

As JMPD officers continue to harass traders and confiscate goods, in many instances irregularly – eg without issuing receipts, pocketing goods – WASP together with the various street traders’ organisations continues to mobilise for a people-driven clean-up. It is we who live and work in the City who need to take it back.

Workers and Socialist Party encourages AMCU workers to investigate corruption claims

The Workers and Socialist Party (WASP) has received reports from workers at Impala Platinum over corruption allegations against their trade union AMCU (Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union) representatives on shop steward level at as well as higher up in union structures. These allegations are of very serious concern to WASP, and we encourage AMCU to set up an investigation which must not only involve union officials but also a team of rank-and-file AMCU workers, who in our view should play the leading role in examining these claims in a transparent way.

Mineworkers have flocked to AMCU to escape the corruption and treachery within the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM). They need a union where getting into the pockets of the bosses is not only unthinkable but also made impossible through solid, democratic structures at every level – shaft, branch, region, province and national – and a ban on privileges to ensure that shop stewards and other union officials share the living conditions of the members they are elected to represent. This is what WASP has consistently encouraged workers to strive for in taking control over the building of AMCU, as well as other unions. As Marikana made clear, the task that has been thrown onto the shoulders of workers in South Africa is to rebuild and revive the entire labour movement on the principles of worker control, struggle and socialism.

WASP is not calling on the Impala management or the police to investigate AMCU or its shop stewards. We believe union officials must account to the rank-and-file members and that is the workers who must drive any investigation into misconduct.

Zero-tolerance for class collaboration, corruption and anything ‘about us without us’ will be critical for the maintenance of fighting unity as AMCU takes on the platinum giants in a battle for a R12 500 minimum wage. WASP wishes the union all the best in this struggle. As always, we will be active participants in and supporters of the upcoming strike action.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE WORKERS AND SOCIALIST PARTY CALLS FOR:

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

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

* Stop the evictions and demolition of shacks.

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

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

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

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

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

Mass Rally launching Limpopo structure

The Workers and Socialist Party to hold mass rally launching Limpopo structure

WHEN: Saturday August 3, 2013, 10h00 – 15h00

WHERE: Sefateng Stadium, Atok, Sekhukhune district, Limpopo (directions below)

The Workers and Socialist Party (WASP), Limpopo province, is this Saturday launching at a mass rally near Bokoni Platinum mine, Atok. Expected to be in attendance are thousands of mineworkers from the area, including workers struggling against their dismissal from the nearby Glencore-Xstrata Eastern Chrome mine, local communities who have organised in support of the workers as well as for access to services and education, and representatives from various organisations participating in the building of WASP.

The first in a series of provincial launches in the next few months, the main focus of the rally is the launching of a mass action campaign in defence of the 2000 dismissed Glencore-Xstrata workers and for the creation of 100 000 jobs in the Sekhukhune district at the expense of the mining companies’ multibillion profits. The 2000 workers were in effect dismissed for taking action against racist abuse in the workplace.

This rally is to announce the firm presence of WASP as a centre for working class resistance and struggle in Limpopo, says Mametlwe Sebei, WASP spokesperson.

A Limpopo-wide day of action for the reinstatement of the Glencore-Xstrata workers, for the massive expansion of decent jobs, education and services will be announced at the rally. This will also be linked to WASP’s call for a national day of action against mining retrenchments, for jobs and service delivery.

WASP calls for the nationalisation of the mines, banks, big farms and factories under democratic control by workers and working class communities.

INQUIRIES:

Mametlwe Sebei, WASP spokesperson, 081 368 0706

Jonas Magedi, WASP-Limpopo, 076 317 6955

DIRECTIONS TO SEFATENG STADIUM:

From Polokwane, take R37 towards Burgersfort, follow it for about 70km, at first sign towards Bokoni Platinum Mine, turn right (opposite Mpusheng Sports Complex), drive straight about 1,5km until arrival at Sefateng Stadium;

From Burgersfort, take R37 north towards Polokwane, turn left at first sign towards Bokoni Platinum Mine (opposite Mpusheng Sports Complex on your left), drive straight about 1,5km until arrival at Sefateng Stadium;

From Witbank, take R555, pass Steelport, take left into R37, follow the above;

From Tshwane, take N1 north towards Polokwane, exit onto N1/R71 towards Louis Trichardt, get onto R37, follow for about 65km, take right at first sign towards Bokoni Platinum Mine (opposite Mpusheng Sports Complex), drive straight about 1,5km until arrival at Sefateng Stadium;

Alternatively, from Tshwane, go via kwaMhlanga, Marble Hall and Mathibela (from Mathibela, take R519 east, turn left onto R579, then right at T-junction onto R37 east, at first sign towards Bokoni Platinum Mine, turn right (opposite Mpusheng Sports Complex on your left), drive straight about 1,5km until arrival at Sefateng Stadium

Thula ‘Mntwana residents to challenge eviction

Suffering as elderly, infants are stranded in the winter cold with no water, with tents as only shelter

Inline image 1Several families are spending their third week out in the cold after they were evicted on July 11. The 27 people who are now stranded with tents as their only shelter include a three-month old baby, a pregnant mother and elderly people. The cold and the lack of water cause suffering not least to the children of the community.

The Workers and Socialist Party is supporting the Thula ‘Mntwana residents, who are organised in the Masakhane Transformation Forum which unites several communities south of Johannesburg, in challenging the eviction legally as well as through mass action. WASP and Masakhane have formed part of the Thula ‘Mntwana residents’ struggle against the rampant housing corruption for some time.

The 27 were the last remaining residents in the 300 RDP houses which were occupied in March in protest against the corrupt sale of the houses; the majority having been compelled through intimidation led by the City of Johannesburg MMC for Housing, Dan Bovu, to move out and resettle in squatter camps.

– The court order that has been used to evict the residents is a fraud, says Zweli Ndaba of the Masakhane Transformation Forum.

– Neither the applicant, the ‘Grace Christian Fellowship’, nor the respondents in the case are known to the Thula ‘Mntwana residents, and there are several different dates on the court stamps, including from last year, before the houses were even occupied.

– WASP calls for poor communities across the south of Johannesburg to unite in joint action for a massive expansion of the housing programme to provide for the needs of all, under the democratic control of communities and workers to put an end to the corruption that runs through-and-through in the housing department, says Liv Shange, the Workers and Socialist Party.

INQUIRIES:

Zweli Ndaba, Masakhane Transformation Forum/ WASP, 071 139 0659

Bulelwa Mgqadaza, evicted resident, 078 426 9273

Cynthia Mzileni, evicted resident, 078 502 1011

Liv Shange, Democratic Socialist Movement/ WASP 081 3931914