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Umsebenzi Online

Volume 2, No. 13, 02 July 2003

In this Issue:


Red Alert

President Bush’s visit to South Africa: Our people must send a firm message that we shall not tolerate US imperialism

By Blade Nzimande, SACP General Secretary

In the weeks before the US-led invasion of Iraq, the SACP joined the ANC, COSATU, civic, faith-based, and other progressive formations in a broad coalition under the banner: STOP THE WAR. We were aligning ourselves with millions of people worldwide.

Our demands were three-fold:

  • No to the invasion of Iraq;
  • No to global unilateralism – we called for the strengthening of the UN other forums for global dialogue; and
  • Yes to the global prioritisation of development.

In our approach to the impending visit to our country of US President George Bush, we remain guided by the same general principles.

Given our commitment to multi-lateralism and the pursuit of global dialogue, it would be mistaken to call for the cancellation of President Bush’s visit. President Bush should come to South Africa. He should learn how the people and government of our country feel. He should experience at first hand the terrible social deficit suffered by the countries of the South. He should ponder how the billions of dollars consumed by the US on weapons of destruction in Iraq could have been used to the benefit of humankind. Perhaps, the US president is incapable of making such a small leap of empathy? Then, at least, let us use this visit to impact as best as possible on the consciences of the American electorate.

It would, we believe, be a mistake to press for a cancellation of the visit. But it would be equally mistaken to present the invasion of Iraq as a “thing of the past”, as “something we’ve put behind us”, as we now return to bi-national US/SA business as usual.

The SACP has never believed in the benign nature of US-dominated globalisation. During the Clinton administration, the US refused to sign the ban on land mines, it bombed Yugoslavia and engineered regime change there, and it launched, but still on a limited scale, the “preventive” war doctrine with cruise missile strikes on Afghanistan and Sudan. No doubt the neo-conservative circle associated with the Bush administration marks a further, still more dangerous assertion of an unapologetic imperial ambition.

In his preface to the official National Security Strategy of the USA (September 2002), George Bush boasts: “Our world is divided in many ways: rich/poor; North/South; Western/non-Western. But more and more, the division that counts is the one separating America from everyone else.”

The SACP is sure that, during the Bush visit, President Mbeki will use the occasion to candidly convey to his US counterparts the overwhelming condemnation of the Iraq invasion by the great majority of South Africans. We are also sure that our president will use the opportunity to highlight the crisis of under-development in our country and continent; and the importance of reinforcing international multi-lateral forums, especially the UN system.

In raising these concerns, President Mbeki will be speaking for the majority of the world’s inhabitants, including many US citizens. Our demonstrations during Bush’s visit should precisely seek to further strengthen the hand of our President and government in pursuing its goals for a more just, humane and democratic global order.

In addition, in a recent meeting of representatives from about 16 communist parties (2003 AGM of International Correspondence, communist journal, held in Madrid on 28-29 June 2003), including the Communist Party of India (Marxist), Communist Party of Cuba, the South African Communist Party, and representatives from some of the revolutionary organisations from Latin America, one main conclusion was reached about the current global situation. Much as the aggression of the current George W Bush administration is a continuation of the US imperialist strategy, this US regime is one of the most dangerous ever to be put into the White House. If the mass of progressive forces in the world do not continue with mass mobilisation against US imperialism, the world faces a very bleak future indeed. It is also for this reason that this gathering concluded that we need to continue to engage as wide a variety of progressive forces as possible to build on the anti-Iraq war mobilisation. We agree, and this is one of the most urgent tasks facing all of progressive forces and humanity. As South African communists we will join protests against Bush, as part of building upon our Stop the War campaign, in order to sustain an anti-imperialist momentum in our country.

Not only has the Bush administration stopped with the invasion of Iraq. Instead it is threatening other countries with war and/or other illegal means in order to subject them to the US imperialist agenda. This includes the threatening noises against Iran, North Korea and Cuba. It is also for this reason that our people should come out into the streets and show Bush that they shall not tolerate his dangerous activities.

The SACP believes that Bush's visit to Africa is not about promoting democracy, peace and the economic well being of the peoples of Africa. Instead his visit is aimed at laying the basis for thorough-going and enduring US military and economic hegemony all over the world.

It is under his regime that two illegitimate wars against the people of Afghanistan and Iraq were fought. Thousands died in these wars and yet there is no democracy but US colonial domination and occupation in these countries. It is Bush's regime, which is undermining the international dialogue and multi-lateralism. It is Bush’s regime, which advances the narrow interests of US multi-national corporations at the expense of interests of people in developing countries. It is Bush's regime, which continues to undermine the legitimate freedom struggle of the people of Palestine. It is Bush's regime, which seeks to perpetuate a 44-year old illegal economic blockade against Cuba including the recent unjust incarceration of 5 Cubans in US jails. It is the US which continues to support Israeli aggression against the Palestinians allowing Israel not to implement any of the UN Resolutions thus undermining, once more, the liberation of the Palestinian people and multi-lateral institutions.

It is for all the above reasons that we call upon all our people to join us in these protests against Bush.

Guest Column: Preparations to celebrate the first decade of freedom - Debate in National Assembly, June 26 2003  

Jeremy Cronin, ANC MP and SACP Deputy General Secretary

48 years ago the Congress of the People at Kliptown adopted the Freedom Charter. Over many, many months before the actual event, volunteers had gone into rural villages, into factory canteens at lunch-time, into the dusty streets of our townships, they went to mine compounds and traditional izimbizo. They were collecting demands for a Charter of the People.

The volunteers went with a very simple question – “What would YOU do, if YOU were the government?” In 1955 this was an audacious question to ask in a squatter camp, or a road-side construction site. These were, remember, the first granite years of apartheid. It was an unthinkable, audacious…but profound and liberating question.

Hundreds of thousands of ordinary South Africans, most of them disenfranchised, spoke about land and housing, about education and health-care. They said (remarkably) they wanted to live in a South Africa that belonged to all, black and white.

As we move towards the first decade of freedom, the vision of that Charter becomes an important reference point, to assess our progress, and to grasp the long road that lies ahead. My ANC comrades have spoken movingly and in detail about their personal experiences and about the important advances we have made, not just as the ANC, but as a country, since 1994.

For us, in the ANC, the profound process of transformation in which we are engaged is a national democratic revolution.

This transformation process is national – because it is about nation-building, constructing a common sense of citizenship, and constructing the infrastructural scaffolding for a single nation – towns, cities, suburbs that are deeply integrated.

This transformation process is national – because it is about overcoming the terrible scourge of national oppression, not as an act of charity, but because to build a prosperous South Africa, we have to build on the liberated energies, aspirations, and traditions of struggle of millions of black compatriots who have tasted the bitter bread of daily oppression, who have survived and who have prevailed.

This transformation process is national – because it is also about national self-determination – our collective struggle, as South Africans, to be able to decide on the policies and the quality and character of our own democracy, free of the bullying and manipulation of powerful external forces.

The key nation-building challenge we face in the present is, however, surely the imperative of pushing back the frontiers of poverty.

Now, these frontiers are not natural phenomena, they are not mountain ranges, or rivers. They are socially constructed barriers, and many of them are being built and re-built as we speak. That’s what we have to push back.

These socially constructed barriers are:

  • The continued accumulation of wealth in the hands of a small minority;
  • The R54 billion of capital that flowed out of our country between 1994 and 2000. That was surplus produced by the sweat of the brow here in South Africa, surplus converted into profits, and then profits running away from democracy;
  • These barriers include the resistance of affluent suburbs to attempts to establish more equitable rates polices in our cities;
  • The use of capital intensive technologies in cases where labour absorption is perfectly possible, and absolutely necessary;
  • The retrenchment of farm-workers in Limpopo to by-pass a minimum wage determination,
  • The casualisation of workers everywhere (in the name of the “free market”, of course – freedom for whom?) to under-cut progressive labour legislation,
  • It’s resistance to BEE – or the perversion of BEE into little more than shuffling up around the board-room table to pre-emptively make a little more space for a few dark faces;
  • It’s red-lining of communities and whole regions by the banks;
  • It’s loan sharks, the mashonisas, exploiting people’s desperate financial straits…

These and many more realities are the “frontiers”, the “barriers” that we must resolutely push back.

The barriers we have to push back are also international realities. A cow in the EU receives $2 a day in public subsidies. That’s more than a majority of individuals receive in our continent. That subsidised cow is not just a spoilt cow, that subsidy is part of the structured and daily reproduced global inequities, a barrier to the export of African commodities.

Which is why (by the way), we DO need a government and a president active on the international scene.

We are constantly told that we need foreign investment. Yes, of course we need foreign direct investment. Of course we cannot cut ourselves off from global markets. But the DA’s economic policies are built on advising us to deepen our dependence, our reliance on foreign multi-nationals and external investors.

The DA’s economic policies amount to advising us to strut our stuff on the global kerb-side, seeking to attract passing traffic.

Which is why (wittingly or unwittingly) they so grossly misinterpret policies like GEAR. For them GEAR is entirely about making eyes at foreign investors. They want us to do more of that.

But actually government’s macro-economic policies are exactly the opposite. They are about lessening our dependency, lessening our vulnerability to external shocks in a volatile global economy. Getting us off the global pavement.

This is also why the Growth and Development Summit did not sit down and ask, as its key question, how do we attract foreign investors? The key question was: “How as South Africans, as government, as business, as labour, as the community sector – how do we marshal our own resources for growth and development?”

And this is why the DA has been so off-balance, so silent around the GDS. They are unable to contribute to this economic nation-building effort.

Side-lined by their own inept policies, it comes as no surprise to hear the Leader of the Opposition calling (from the side-lines) for the substitution of NEDLAC...he wants to get on the field. He thinks he is on the reserve bench, but actually he has been sent off, not by a race card, but by a red card.

Democratic Revolution

Our’s is a national revolution, but it is also a democratic revolution.

And here, too, we find sharply polarised positions.

As the ANC, but together with many other South Africans, we are actively committed to deepening and enriching the democratic breakthrough of 1994. Our’s is a vision of a developmental state. The DA’s vision of the new South African government is of a neo-colonial state. They want government to be lean and mean.

Lean, so that the wealthy (who can afford private health-care, private transport, private schools, private security) don’t have to pay too much tax. (For the poor, by the way, there IS no health-care unless it is public health-care, no transport unless it is public transport, no education unless it is public education).

Mean, because the “native” masses have to be disciplined.

You think I exaggerate?

Well consider NEPAD. The founding NEPAD document is an extensive analysis of the crisis of underdevelopment in our continent. It deals with the failure of the aid/debt nexus. It envisages massive infrastructural programmes, the changing of terms of trade, food security, the reversal of the brain drain from our continent and much more.

In all of this, what is the single thought that the DA plucks out with a tiny pair of tweezers?

…The peer review mechanism. For them, that is the alpha and omega of NEPAD. They want to convert our new democratic state into a prefect state. In the time-honoured traditions of colonialism, with its perversion of traditional leadership, “boss-boys” and “indunas” in the reserves, in the compounds, in the colonies, in the region. “What is YOUR president doing about the next-door president?”

For them, that’s NEPAD.


But the same applies to their current theme-song, their whole approach to crime in our own country. This campaign amounts to saying: “The ANC government must sort out ‘their’ people – the mini-bus operators, trade unionists, the disorderly masses living in the townships…”

“But”, they say, “give US the statistics. We’ll do the thinking. We’ll do the white collar work.”

Blue Downs

In the last several weeks, four noteworthy events happened in the constituency in which I work. Blue Downs is a mainly Coloured working and lower-middle class township, across the N2 from Khayelitsha.

A few weeks ago, sadly, all the musical instruments were stolen from Silversands Primary School. It’s a very poor school, with an enlightened principal and teaching staff, and music and dance are taken up passionately.

A few days later, but unrelated, the DA chose Blue Downs as the site for launching their Crime Campaign. Now, because the honourable Leon and the Honourable Gibson can’t sing like Peter Marais, in order to attract attention to themselves they had to hire in a Cape Minstrel band.

While all of this hoopla was going on, while messrs. Leon and Gibson were pouring out all of their suburban cocktail hour lamentations on the good folk of Kleinvlei, Blue Downs, who had come to listen to the Minstrel Band, barely a kilometre away, the community policing forum and the neighbourhood watch from Silversands were recovering the stolen musical instruments, and returning them to the school.

And then last week, the fourth noteworthy event occurred. The Ministers of Justice, Safety and Security and Public Works participated in the unveiling of a major new court complex, in an event co-hosted by the local Community Policing Forum. The Blue Downs court complex is part and parcel of bringing, physically, justice closer to poor communities.

And there, encapsulated within a few weeks, in the life of a poor community on the Cape Flats, you have the realities of our new South Africa. Schools principals, teachers, parents and students making music in adverse conditions. But getting on with it.

There you have a Community Policing Forum and six affiliated neighbourhood watches. Getting on with it.

A national government, a developmental government, transferring resources into historically neglected communities, and working closely with local structures. Getting on with it.

But of course this tableau would not be complete if we did not also have one hired band, and two choir-boys incanting their litany of suburban lamentations.

48 years ago

48 years ago, as apartheid tightened its grip on our country, volunteers went out to ask: “If YOU were the government, what would you do?”

I don’t think people answered: “I would be Lean, I would be Mean”.

Interestingly, they did not even answer: “Government must govern”.

They said something much richer, much more transformational. They said: “The People Shall Govern”.

And now, today, in izimbizo, in school governing bodies, in Community Police Forums, in Nedlac, in Growth and Development Summits, in Ward Councils, in shop stewards councils, in Parliament, unevenly, in the face of many barriers that have to be pushed back…collectively, millions of South Africans are answering the question: “What would YOU do?”


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