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World Congress: CWI Majority becomes International Socialist Alternative

by Phemelo Motseokae

Featured in our latest uManyano lwaBasebenzi publication #2

In the past year, a shift in the shaky state of capitalism saw widespread mass struggles and advancing consciousness – growing anti-capitalist sentiment and internationalism. Worldwide, radicalised layers of women and youth took on struggles more militantly.

During this time, WASP’s international party, the CWI, had an internal crisis with long and unresolved political debates, leading to a split (see Issue #1). In spite of this, over 30 sections of our international party remain united as an active force in working class struggles.

At the 12th world congress held in Belgium in January, comrades from all over the world were energized as we sharpened our political analyses. The world party was unanimously re-named: International Socialist Alternative (ISA). An International Women’s Bureau was formed at the WC, which has launched an International Feminist network: ROSA. It aims to draw in radical layers of women to reach socialist conclusions in the fight for liberation.

ISA’s programme clarifies the tasks necessary to end capitalism and avert the impending doom facing humanity through climate change. We don’t claim to have ready-made answers, but by basing our programme on the worldwide experience of working class struggles and sharp Marxist perspectives, we maintain that the working class remains the revolutionary force that can end capitalism. Our sections are involved in struggles around service delivery, GBV, state repression, and workplaces.

A struggle to win the working class to a revolutionary socialist programme means intervening in workers’ struggles, recruitment, paper sales, internationalism, and political education. We prepare for the re-emergence of socialist consciousness and to link struggles of all oppressed groups with the struggles of workers. The revolutionary party remains principled and revitalised for the period ahead that – more than ever – requires a fight for a socialist world.

Delegates of 12th world congress of the CWI, now renamed International Socialist Alternative (ISA)

The Root of the Crisis in State Owned Enterprises

by Newton Masuku & Tinovimbanashe Gwenyaya

Featured in our latest uManyano lwaBasebenzi publication #2

The economy continues to plunge deeper into crisis as it enters yet another recession. For the second time since Ramaphosa’s ascendancy, the economy contracted for two consecutive quarters in the last half of 2019. Major companies like Glencore, Samancor and Telkom have announced that thousands of workers will be retrenched this year while state owned enterprises (SOEs) are reeling from relentless looting and plundering. SAA, Denel, Eskom, Prasa, Transnet and many others are all in a critical state. 

Heavily indebted, plagued by maladministration and outright corruption, South Africa’s SOEs are unable to provide even their most basic services effectively. The national power utility, Eskom, is drowning in debt to the tune of R454 billion, while Denel, the state’s armament manufacturer, is owing R2.7 billion. Similarly, the national carrier, SAA, entered into business rescue late last year following a long battle with R12.7 billion owed, despite numerous bailouts by the state. In each of these SOEs, the ordinary workers, who had absolutely nothing to do with their crises, are set to shoulder its burden – job losses are looming! SAA is scheduled to retrench 4600 workers. Eskom is wielding an axe, set to chop and render redundant many workers. The top management at the power utility are trying all sorts of maneuvers to circumvent union resistance. To rid the power utility of “excess workforce”, the top management at Eskom are proposing “voluntary retrenchment packages to non-core employees”. As if that was not enough, Denel, according to its management, is closing its Aeronautics division in an attempt  to return the arms manufacturer to profitability – leaving thousands of workers out to dry. 

The spokespersons of the bosses in the mainstream media place the blame for the dire state of SOEs squarely on the shoulders of the Zuma administration – the so-called nine wasted years. Some go so far as to argue that the crisis ravaging SOEs provides ample evidence that only the private sector can efficiently run these entities, and so call for their privatization. 

While it is true that rampant corruption and unrepentant looting contributed immensely to the near collapse of these entities, this is not the whole story. What is often not talked about in these celebratory claims of the efficiency of the private sector, is that these SOEs are, in the main, brought to their knees by the selfsame private sector! 

Through the inflation of prices of the commodities sold to SOEs; incentive schemes offered by the state in an attempt to woo investment; and exorbitant consultant fees, the parastatals have been left reeling and bleeding cash. In 2013, for instance, Fin24 revealed that Eskom lost R10.7 billion supplying Hillside, the biggest of BHP Billiton’s aluminium  smelters. Through a deal concluded in 1992, BHP Billiton pays only a fraction of what an ordinary consumer pays for electricity. In 2018 major consultancy firms like Mckinsey, Bain & Company and KPMG had to pay back R1 billion to the state following the controversies around the services they provided to the SOEs. Between 2017 and 2018, Transnet, Denel, the SABC, SAA, and Eskom spent a combined R3 billion for consulting and outsourcing of services. Even the former Treasury Chief Director for Governance, Compliance and Monitoring, Solly Tshitangano, admitted that there exists a great deal of “unnecessary outsourcing in SOEs, and a lot of it at inflated prices”. 

This all means that the public is in fact subsidizing private corporations. SOEs, in their current configuration, are piggy banks for profiteering by these privately owned industries, corporations and consultancy firms. The working class should not bear the brunt of the failure of SOEs under capitalist rule. We must fight back to stop the era of loadshedding, failing public transport services, and now mass retrenchments and the Corona Crisis. In a united campaign of  workers, communities and the youth, we must embark on a programme of rolling mass action to fight for genuine nationalisation of SOEs under the democratic control of the working class and in the interest of all of society.

WASP calls for: 

  •  the SOEs to immediately be placed under the direct democratic control and management of Recovery and Reconstruction Councils made up of their workers as well as communities that are impacted by their activities. These councils would bring in accountable expertise as needed and, removing the profit motive, would develop a turnaround strategy to reorientate the SOEs to serve the interests of our communities and not ANC fat cats and multinational consulting firms. 
  • An  end to outsourced sub-contracts and backroom  BEE deals – they are not in the interest of the black majority but benefit a few politically connected tender-preneurs and lead to the worst exploitation of workers in precarious employment 
  • An end to state-subsidised electricity to energy-intensive users. Trade unions and other working class organisations must struggle for the nationalisation of the banks, mines, manufacturing industries and mega farms under democratic control of the working class. In this way, we can plan our economy for the social good, including the production and distribution of our energy resources, in the most sustainable and equitable way, including urgent measures to address the climate crisis.

8 March: International Working Women’s Day

By Carmia Schoeman

Featured in our latest uManyano lwaBasebenzi publication

Initially a commemoration of the decisive strike action taken by the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, one of the largest unions in USA history, the formal institution of International Working Women’s Day (IWWD) was championed at the 1910 Second International Congress by German socialist, Clara Zetkin.

The initial intent of the day was clear: a day of coordinated international action by working class women to challenge the capitalist system founded on oppression.

Marching in a coordinated effort under IWWD’s banner against food shortages, the Tsarist regime and war, 90 000 working women initiated the 1917 Russian Revolution in Petrograd (now St Petersburg).

In a cruel twist of irony, women of today are encouraged to celebrate the 4% of female CEOs leading Fortune 500 companies, or perhaps the slightly more attainable, 24% representation in parliaments across the world. The obvious co-opting of the socialist working women’s struggle by the exploitative elite was exemplified in its rebranding as International Women’s Day.

Concerns of working class women, such as the increased cost of childcare, decreasing job security, racism, and attacks on bodily autonomy have been appropriated as insincere talking points to fuel the populist rhetoric of the ruling elite. The ANC Women’s League will make big scenes at rape trials and Gender Based Violence protests, whilst at the same time protecting powerful men accused of rape like Jacob Zuma and looking the other way when services that help victims of GBV are gutted.

Our international initiative, ROSA, is organising to reclaim International Women’s Day as a day of struggle and revolution. This year, ROSA organised and took part alongside millions worldwide on 8 March. The working class is starting to draw the conclusion that bourgeois feminists will not bring liberation for all oppressed by gender, sexuality, race, and class.

Click the banner below to find out more about ROSA 👇

Coronavirus: Quarantine Capitalism Now!

Our publication will feature the following statement on the coronavirus. See the bottom of the page for details.

WASP EC Statement

At the time of writing, the recorded spread of the Coronavirus spans 157 countries, with 62 known cases in South Africa, figures sure to be outdated by the time this is read. Within its few months of existence, this virus has begun to lay bare every fundamental failure of capitalism.

The spread of the novel Coronavirus (or SARS-CoV-2) and the disease it causes (COVID-19) has rapidly become a pandemic – a globally spread epidemic. There are still uncertainties about how best to contain and control the spread of corona.

What is clear is that the virus spreads rapidly and that it can and will kill. With mortality estimates for now ranging between 0,7-3,4%, and estimations that 30-70% of populations will be infected, inadequate health care systems risk being overwhelmed, as evident from China to Italy.

Capitalism, its blind chase for profits and its neoliberal austerity are behind the failure to contain and respond to the Coronavirus.

For weeks, Chinese authorities suppressed and covered up, allowing the virus a head start in the interest of “stability” and profits-as-usual for big business. Its global spread has exposed the deadly impact of decades of austerity, deregulation and privatisation of health care in combination with precarious livelihoods.

South Africa is set to be extraordinarily hard-hit. With over 20% of the population aged 15-49 HIV-positive, one of the world’s highest TB infection rates, and widespread malnutrition, it’s fair to assume that the portion of those infected who will need critical care will be higher than in many other countries – which our class-divided, two-tier, understaffed health care system is not fit for.

Both rural and urban areas provide disastrously conducive conditions for the spread of the virus. On top of the unaddressed Apartheid legacy of “bantustan” devastation and massive inequality, ANC’s rule has meant decades of underfunding and mismanagement of water supply, infrastructure, housing, health care, and education. Climate change and the predatory mining industry mean destruction of water resources and rural livelihoods.

The results include mass unemployment, with desperate precarious workers who face the “choice” of going to work sick or going hungry. Overcrowded buses, trains and taxis stand for over 70% of transport. Millions live in packed townships and shacks.

In schools, standard class size is 40 learners, with the poorest schools which also routinely lack water and sanitation often exceeding this. The broken education system makes a mockery of the idea of effective online learning for the vast majority. 

Likewise, the basic hygiene recommended to protect from infection is a cruel joke to many. In rural areas, 74% get water from wells and pumps – many of which run dry amid the worst drought in a thousand years. In urban areas, many depend on taps shared by whole communities.  Water cut offs hit millions of those lucky enough to have piped water at home.

Workers must take action now to slow the spread and ramp up the capacity of health care. 

Capitalists and their governments will put profit before people, just as they are doing with the climate crisis. WASP calls on trade unions, students, communities and other movements of the working classes to organise for the following:

  • Allow all who can to work from home, special leave without loss pay for others, except workers essential for provision of health services, food and other necessities.
  • Safe working conditions for all: protective gear, anti-transmission training, regular testing, breaks for recovery, full pay and compensation, safe transport and accommodation.
  • No restriction of democratic rights like right to strike and organise.
  • Shut down schools, universities, colleges and pre-schools immediately to limit the spread; provide special childcare for essential services workers.
  • Roll out free testing at temporary stations in all communities; quality medical services and medication for all.
  • Free soap, water and sanitisers in every public space, workplace and poor community.  
  • Stop and reverse all water and electricity cut offs, supply water to all households.
  • No profiteering off the pandemic – nationalise all private health institutions, medical aids, labs and pharmaceutical corporations under democratic workers control; to produce test kits, medicine and protective gear according to need.
  • Price caps for all necessities – no opportunistic price gouging!
  • Avail hotels, guest houses, empty apartments etc to quarantine those in need.
  • Basic income grant and supply of free basic food and utilities for precarious workers and others forced to stay home and in need. 
  • Stop all retrenchments, nationalise any company that defies ban; halt the government’s austerity plan – all hands on deck to to fight the crisis.
  • Mass employment and training of health assistants and community healthcare workers to contain the spread and ensure treatment and services at point of need.
  • Suspend payments of rent, rates, water and electricity tariffs; emergency loans to small businesses in need.
  • A complete end to evictions. 
  • Set up import-substituting industries to ensure continuous supply of all essential needs for which the country currently depends on imports.
  • Permanent, secure and decent-paying jobs and training for all workers including in community health care, home-based care, food production, distribution and retail.
  • Build a single, public, national health care service for all.
  • Massive public works programme to overcome backlogs in housing, schooling infrastructure, hospitals and clinics, piped water supply, for safe public transport.
  • Reorganise the economy on the basis of public ownership of all key resources (eg banks, mines, big businesses) for a democratic plan to put need for health, education, housing, work, water, sustainable food and energy production first.

We risk catastrophic consequences and must organise a general stay-away of workers, communities and young people if the government doesn’t take these and many other measures to mobilise society to combat the pandemic and save lives.

WASP’s statement on the coronavirus will be featured in our latest uManyano lwaBasebenzi publication. Grab your copy starting tomorrow!

Women rise up!

The fight against gender-based violence

Written by Ferron Pedro

Featured in our uManyano lwaBasebenzi publication

In September 2019, public outrage at the brutal murder of student Uyinene Mrwetyana triggered nationwide protests against the rising tide of gender-based violence in South Africa. Phemelo Motseokae, WASP Tshwane Branch Secretary, reported from the march to the Union Buildings: “Women are now more willing to take action. There was a large presence of young people at the march and they had so much anger and energy with slogans like #AmINext and #IsMySkirtAProblem?”.

The recorded number of women assaulted, raped and murdered in South Africa in 2017/2018 increased by 11% from the previous year to 36 731 cases. In 2016 the World Health Organisation reported that South Africa had the fourth highest female interpersonal violence death rate out of 183 countries listed.

Across the world, women and LGBTQI+ communities are taking to the streets to demand action against gender-based violence. On 25 November, International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, thousands of activists protested in South Africa, Spain, Guatemala, Russia, Sudan, Turkey, Bulgaria, France, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, Belgium, Switzerland and more. The feminist movement today is international in character with feminists around the world recognising the need for radical social change and using strikes as a weapon.

In 2016 millions of women went on strike to defeat a ban on abortions in Poland. International Women’s Day on 8 March in 2017 and 2018 saw internationally coordinated strikes in many countries. On IWD in 2019, close to seven million people went on strike in Spain. Feminist strikes and mass demonstrations have also swept across Latin America and India. The strength of the movement against women’s oppression has seen the significant presence of women leading mass uprisings in places like Sudan, Lebanon and Chile.

While the #TotalShutDown movement does not yet adequately include broader working class layers, there is an important recognition that shutting down the economy is a fundamental tactic in overcoming gender-based violence. From here, the understanding of how GBV is woven into the fabric of patriarchal class society needs to be developed so that we can organise on a socialist programme and transform society altogether.

Radicalised layers of women, LGBTQI+ communities and young people are recognising the need for collective action to transform society. It is vital that trade unions and civics actively turn to and take part in them, as part of reviving the working class movement for socialism.

Hierarchies are a necessary part of class society like capitalism. To overcome the exploitation of workers; racism and the oppression of women and LGBTQI+ communities, we must abolish capitalism. To abolish capitalism we must unite the working class, female and male, cis and trans, black, white, gay and straight. When we place the ownership of the economy under the control of society as a whole, we will make sure that all people access the necessities of life. This will form the basis of a new social order, free from oppression. To win genuine freedom for all, we need to build a mass movement with revolutionary leadership and socialist programme to challenge the economic system and the capitalist state. Ultimately, the working class majority must seize power and take control of the economy in the service of the needs of all people. That´s how we will create the material conditions for the full liberation of women, LGBTQI+ communities and all the oppressed.

Marxism and the Changing Climate

SYSTEM change, not CLIMATE change!

Written by Ndumiso Ncube

Featured in our uManyano lwaBasebenzi publication

Worldwide, science shows that climate change is speeding towards a point of no return; tipping points from which damage will be irreversible. Despite the wealth of scientific evidence, world leaders are doing nothing of value to act against this disaster, with COP25 in Madrid the latest example. To address climate change effectively, a united working class must lead the way to change the system.

Humanity is part of nature and depends on it for survival. Marx used the term “metabolism” to describe the necessary exchanges between humanity and our environment. He observed how the development of capitalism had opened up a “metabolical rift”, which today has grown into a gaping chasm that threatens our very existence.

Research shows the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere is increasing rapidly: in the past 19 years it has increased by 10%! In 2000, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere was 367 ppmv (parts per million by volume). Today is is 407 ppmv. The loss of polar ice, higher temperatures globally, rising sea levels, and drought are only some of the effects. The rate at which floods occur has increased 15-fold since 1950. Africa is the highest on the Climate Change Vulnerability Index, which measures the negative impact of climate change on human populations and the ability to cope with these changes. If business as usual continues, parts of Africa could be uninhabitable by 2100.

As Earth’s temperature rises rapidly, scientists are concerned for human survival – with a mere increase of 1,2°C we already witness devastating cyclones such as Idai, drought such as in the Northern and Western Cape, and forest fires in Australia, the Arctic, Central Africa and the Amazon.

Industries continue harmful practices like deep mining, fracking, fertilisers, etc, even with green alternatives in existence, because spending on new machinery and technologies would impact their profits. 800 000 people die annually from breathing contaminated air. Millions of farmers worldwide are struggling to adapt to changing weather patterns, diminishing grazing fields, and decreasing crop yields, resulting in famine, drought, malnutrition and starvation.

The challenges confronting humanity require a coordinated global effort to shift the production of energy, agriculture, food, metals, textiles, as well as transport, construction and forestry – in short, every aspect of the economy.This is impossible under the capitalist logic which subordinates everything, including people and planet, to the profit motive. Marx explained, capitalism will remain in conflict with nature; to continuously expand it exhausts natural as well as human resources. Therefore, it is bound to come up against natural limits as resources are depleted.

Marx argued that the socialised human must actively manage the relationship between human and nature, taking rational measures to ensure the sustainability of life on earth. Only an international socialist society, run by the working class will be able to take the necessary steps in dealing with climate change.

 Global protests against climate change, sparked by the Fridays for Future movement, are taking place. In many countries, youth strike from school every Friday and millions have taken part in strikes calling for climate justice and system change.

Marxists need to stand with young people fighting for their future. As the workers movement awakens to the devastating impact of climate change, we must clarify that capitalism itself must fall, remaining resolute in our call for the working class to join and lead the struggle for system change – for a socialist alternative!

Capitalism is the Real Villain: A Review of Joker

Written by Phemelo Motseokae

Featured in our uManyano lwaBasebenzi publication

Joker was first portrayed as a criminal mastermind: a psychopath with a warped, sadistic humour and audiences grew to know him as the archenemy of Batman. In the 2019 adaption of Joker, he is the alias of a character named Arthur played by Joaquin Phoenix. A child abused by his father and neglected by his narcissistic mother who is oblivious to his suffering, he develops severe mental illness and is rejected and mistreated by society. Arthur resides in a ramshackle apartment, taking care of his disabled mother and barely surviving as a clown in precarious work. He has been to a psychiatric prison and is unstable. Unable to receive essential medical services due to budget cuts, his hopelessness turns into rage and drives him to become a murderer and a working class vigilante. He correctly identifies his class enemy as the “men in suits”. In our society, we’ve seen this anger and bitterness be directed against women, immigrants and queer people.

When the richest man in the city contests for mayor, expressing his disgust for the poor calling them lazy and “clowns”, a riot erupts. Working people rioting in clown masks remind of the Yellow Vests in France or the masked protesters in Hong Kong challenging state power. Arthur joins the crowd chanting slogans and thrusts his fist in the air with anger. He revels in the noise as if he has found a remedy for his fury and loneliness.

A capitalist society sees to it that people believe their suffering is their own making, despite society’s soaring wealth, inequality and the exploitation of workers earning less than a living wage. We see Arthur commit crimes, but he was not born a criminal. He was turned into one by a criminal system.

Joker is human, and the movie exposes the pitfalls of capitalist class society. As it falls short of pointing towards an alternative, it potentially leaves the audience feeling despair. In real life, we can fight for a worker-controlled economy which ensures that science and resources cater for humanity’s needs instead of being commodified. We must struggle for socialism – for permanent change. Together, we can organise to break from this capitalist system that alienates us from our work; from ourselves, and from each other.

Service delivery struggles unite and coordinate

Written by Trevor Shaku and featured in our uManyano lwaBasebenzi publication

On 14 January 2020, nine members of Ikgomotseng community appeared before Brandfort magistrate court on charges of public violence related to  a September 2019 service delivery protest. Due to the backlog in social services, unemployment and grinding poverty, the community of Ikgomotseng, just outside of Bloemfontein, embarked on a protest to demand jobs and service delivery.

From a chaotic runaround with police, WASP cadres re-orientated the protest and rallied the entire community behind the struggle, based on a clear fighting strategy.

Just as revolutions are not chaotic riots but disciplined and organised struggles to wrestle power from the ruling elite, Marxists use interventions in day-to-day mass struggles to instill revolutionary organisation and discipline. This creates new traditions for working class actions, and also acts as education and preparation for the ultimate struggle for socialism. Revolutionary programme and discipline are vital to make our struggles sustainable.

The community submitted a 14-point memorandum with demands such as: the allocation of residential sites, state (RDP) housing for the existing shack dwellers, completion and opening of community hall and library, fencing of the landfill and sewage, eradication of the bucket system and unemployment.

These demands are similar to those of thousands of community protests that have engulfed the political landscape for years.

The backlog in service delivery is not only created by rife corruption, but by the structure of the political economy itself. Public funds serve to make the system just about work for the capitalist ruling class but do not match the needs of the vast majority. Raising funds through tax collection has severe limits in an economic system built on exploitation of workers, with mass unemployment and poverty wages as key pillars – especially in the era of neoliberalism where governments have bowed to big business by cutting corporate taxes. Municipalities are largely funded by electricity and water tariffs, fundamentally a tax on the poor. Many state-owned enterprises are bankrupt and rely on state bail-outs.

This leaves the state with little in its coffers to deliver basic services like those required in Ikgomotseng. Its interest in doing so only awakes when it fears that the pillars of the system may be shaken. But the resources are there – in the pockets of the super-rich.

The 6 303 people in Ikgomotseng make up 0.8% of Mangaung’s 787 930 population, out of whom 3 415 are neither ”economically active”, nor in any form of education. This includes pensioners but many are youth, ‘Not in any form of Education, Employment and Training’ (NEET). Less than 10% of those who matriculate in Ikgomotseng make it to higher education.

The high number of NEET youth in the community is not surprising – Ikgomotseng is a microcosm of the nation which has 10 million ”NEETs”.

The ANC government has no solutions for the crisis that has resulted in the high unemployment rate, widening levels of inequality and grinding poverty for the majority. Not because it has leaders who cannot think, but because of the structural makeup of capitalism – a system they have fought to preserve since coming into power in 1994.

Since government cannot voluntarily solve this backlog on service delivery – if anything, they have been privatising provision of these essential services to corporates – what will?

When we organise and fight, communities can force through change, but to go beyond rage to concrete gains, coordination is needed. There were on average four protests a week in 2018. Communities are up in arms fighting for service delivery, but their struggles are isolated from one another and from the crucial force of organised workers. This has weakened their ability to make concrete gains despite the high levels of fierceness and determination.

WASP calls on the Ikgomotseng community to ally with other communities within Mangaung Metro, appealing for trade union solidarity in action, in order to launch a coordinated and powerful movement to fight for service delivery and jobs.

Can Eskom leaving SA in the dark be the spark for rebellion?

Written by Mametlwe Sebei and Newton Masukuu

Featured in our uManyano lwaBasebenzi publication

Eskom’s load-shedding has once again plunged us into darkness, marking the beginning of a ‘black Christmas’ season for South Africa. This time the ‘black Christmas’ nightmare will not be limited to the most ‘unfortunate’ – the entire working class and many middle-class people are affected.

Implementing Stage 6 load-shedding in order to cut a record level 6 000 megawatts from the grid has pushed the country over the cliff. Major mining corporations, including Sibanye, Impala and Harmony, as well as big manufacturers, and other high energy users have announced interruptions in operations. This is costing the economy billions and can push it into another devastating recession.

Eskom is only a fraction of the deepening and prolonged agony of South African capitalism plagued by a vicious cycle of multiple ecological, economic, social and political crises.

Corporate ruling class cheers aside, business confidence in South Africa is lower than during the “lost nine years” of Zuma and capital formation has plummeted from 9% annual growth to 0,6%, meaning capitalists are not investing in new equipment, machinery and businesses. The claims of sabotage behind load-shedding serve only to deflect attention from the growing disillusionment with his ‘crusade’ against the ‘state-capture’ blamed for all the grave ills of the economy and the country. The extreme volatility in SA economy since the Great Recession of 2008/9 has been due to a stagnation and instability in the world economy, especially due to weak recovery in advanced economies and the slowing down of China. If Zuma’s regime was a period of dangerously low growth, Ramaphosa’s is characterised by downturns. These economic crises have aggravated a social crisis.

Unemployment is at its highest since the 2008/2009 recession, with over 10.2 million people unemployed, which includes everyone who could be working. Poverty levels plunged to record lows. A total of 56% (30.4 million) South Africans are living on less than R41 a day, according to the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity Group. Hunger, homelessness, physical and mental illness are skyrocketing. Gender-based violence (GBV), child abuse, crime, drug and alcohol abuse are on the rise too. The quality of life of the working class is violently plumme-ting to new depths every day.

Devastating floods in the Tshwane area in December resulted in deaths, loss of property, and swept away shacks from the informal ‘Marikana’ settlements in Mamelodi. This, along with floods earlier this year in areas like KZN, highlight the increasingly cata-strophic impacts of climate change. At the same time five-year droughts have plagued the Western Cape, Limpopo, and Eastern Cape. In the Eastern Cape, five out of seven districts were declared ‘disaster areas’ in the 2015/16 season. Now, in the worst affected areas of Nelson Mandela Metro, Sarah Baartman, Amatole and Chris Hani Districts, loss of livestock (cattle, sheep and goats) totaled 310 000. Weather authorities project drought conditions to continue into 2020, threatening almost 4 million animals.

R30 million per day is required to aid the worst impacted 1440 commercial, 8700 small-scale, and 55 000 subsistence farmers. To provide animal feed for the province, R1,8 billion is required, and tens of billions for the entire country. At the same time, it is reported that R220 million is ‘missing’ from the State’s emergency relief fund. In the meantime, chronic water shortages and dramatic loss of livestock continue across the country, in spite of heavy rains and floods.

Lack of relief funds for the farmers, working class people and the poor is in-deed a major problem in a context of an estimated R1 trillion lost to corruption and state-capture in the past decade. However, it is secondary to public debt.

The national debt equals R3 trillion and is expected to grow to R4,5 trillion in the next four years. In February, Mboweni reported the projected debt-to-GDP ratio (how much we owe compared to how much we produce and earn) of 60.8% for this financial year. This means what is borrowed makes up two-thirds of what is produced. This is likely to increase faster than expected with the looming recession in the global and South African economies.

High unemployment rates have eroded the tax base that grew by only 3.7 % this year. It is becoming increasingly difficult for the state to raise enough money to meet its expenses. As the state fails to collect enough revenue, the cost to service SA’s growing debt has reached R204 billion a year. During his medium-term budget statement, Mboweni warned that if nothing changes, “by the end of the three-year framework, debt service costs will be bigger than spending on health and economic development.”

Government itself is bankrupt and incapable of bailing out farmers and millions of starving people. The bankruptcy of many departments, municipalities, and SOEs responsible for providing essential public services meant to relieve the people in worsening crises, will do the opposite – aggravate an already dire situation.

Capitalism has no way out of these crises except through brutal austerity. This will mean mass retrenchments, growing levels of poverty and with it, xenophobia, GBV and ecological disaster of unimaginable proportions. Eskom’s rolling blackouts could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, where we say enough is enough.

The working class must fight back and wrestle power from the elite. Struggles to save SOEs, to defend jobs and public services against corrupt politicians and their decaying capitalist system are vital.

The worldwide radicalisation of women and youth, fighting for their lives and for a future, mark a turning point in the development of the forces digging the grave of capitalism, forces that will revive the working class movement for socialism.

We have to organise and rebuild a united workers, youth, and civic movement against privatisation, unemployment, poverty, climate change, and GBV. Together we must demand free quality public services, including free education, health care, and decent housing for all. To ensure that production in SA is based on the needs of the vast majority of the country without further environmental destruction, and not the profits of the capitalists, we must nationalise the SOEs, mines, the banks, and large-scale agriculture to be democratically controlled by us, the working class. To move outside of struggles in isolated silos, we need to build a mass workers party that will campaign and unite the working class on a programme for a socialist alternative and do away with the decaying capitalist system, its crises and growing barbarism

SAFTU: Confront GBV in the federation and workplaces! Fight for working class unity!

On 23 January, General Secretary of SAFTU, Zwelinzima Vavi, released a statement outlining that the National Spokesperson for the federation, Ntozakhe Douglas Mthukwane, had had his employment withdrawn after a series of background checks revealed that Mthukwane is currently on trial for three rape charges and was convicted in 1995 of attempted rape. 

We applaud SAFTU for acting swiftly in suspending and ultimately dismissing Mthukwane upon learning of this information. There are however serious problems regarding the commencement of his employment and the discovery of this information and subsequent actions taken.

As the Workers and Socialist Party we are outraged that a man charged of several cases of sexual assault, even convicted, has worked for SAFTU – a trade union federation where all workers, irrespective of gender, should feel welcome and safe. SAFTU as a fighting union federation building to overcome the very issues that divide the working class, and striving towards a society free from sexism, racism, and exploitation at work places, could have completely prevented the storm it finds itself in now.

That Mthukwane worked at the head office of SAFTU, as the voice of the federation, is particularly disturbing. The question as to how an alleged serial offender, in the wake of growing movements against Gender Based Violence (GBV), could be appointed by the leadership of a federation that claims to seriously fight against GBV should be closely examined. 

Unfortunately the statement released by SAFTU does not shed any light on how Mthukwane came to be employed when his unacceptable history is easily revealed by a google search. In the statement SAFTU also fails to indicate what further actions will be taken to prevent such lapses in judgment taking place in the future. 

The recorded number of women assaulted, raped and murdered in South Africa in 2017/2018 increased by 11% from the previous year to 36 731 cases. In 2016 the World Health Organisation reported that South Africa had the fourth highest female interpersonal violence death rate out of 183 countries listed. The appointment of Mthukwane in October 2019 came in the wake of the national outrage against these very statistics, triggered by the gruesome rape and murder of UCT student Uyinene Mrwetyana in September last year. Even in June 2019 we were inspired by the  brave strike action of the Lanxess mine workers against sexual harassment. It must be stated in no uncertain terms that the fact that Mthukwane flew under the radar of SAFTU regarding his past, in the context of mass awareness campaigns and uprisings worldwide, is a grave injustice to all victims of GBV and those of us fighting against it. 

The consequences for Mthukwane’s actions should not only end with his dismissal, he should also be brought to justice before he is able to victimise anyone else. We must however question why someone like Mthukwane is afforded bail for such serious charges as 3 separate rape allegations, after a conviction. The oldest pending case is from 2016, which is an absolute indictment on the bourgeois legal system’s inability to deal decisively with cases of sexual assault, allowing individuals with serious convictions free reign no matter the danger they pose to society. Between 2016 and today, Mthukwane has been confronted with two more charges of sexual assault. 

And the danger someone like Mthukwane poses to SAFTU is also important. If SAFTU is serious about becoming the fighting weapon for all workers and their communities in South Africa, including the growing number of precariously employed women, it must ensure that every single member and potential member feels safe from harm in the federation. The only way for SAFTU to overcome this storm is to face it head on and learn from it, which must necessarily include confronting the culture of patriarchy that permits GBV and sexual harassment that is unfortunately still a problem in the federation and her affiliates.

WASP calls on SAFTU to launch a thorough investigation into the mistaken appointment of Mthukwane. It is crucial that this investigation is conducted by committed, active members of the federation, with women at the helm. In order to prevent re-victimisation of the survivors of Mthukwane’s actions, SAFTU must take an all-encompassing, principled gender-sensitive and political approach to the matter. In addition to this we call on SAFTU to work out an internal programme to make visible and combat the full spectrum of gender oppression – from GBV, rape, sexual harassment, derogatory language, ridiculing, belittling, silencing etc – in the work place. This will assist the federation in advancing gender consciousness, which is clearly lacking in fatal ways. This programme must ensure that concrete processes are set in place to aid the membership in reporting violations against them within the federation, and that these processes are sensitive and supportive of the victims.  

Our main enemy is the capitalist class, who super-exploit women workers through low wages and insecure employment, as well as undermining the standing of women in society in other ways – through objectification and commodification of women’s bodies, unequal pay, lack of social services etc. 

In order to usher in a socialist world free from oppression, SAFTU must unapologetically be a federation that consciously fights for the liberation of society from the ills of all violence, including GBV – an integral part of class society and of the divide-and-rule through which the capitalists manage to keep the working class in fear, confusion and submission.