|Volume 3, No. 6, 17 March 2004|
The most pervasive form of violence in farms is that against black farmworkers
In memory of Nelson Chisale and a challenge to Agri-SA
By Blade Nzimande, General Secretary
The hammer and sickle is in full swing
The SACP election machinery is now in full swing! The hammer and sickle is now unstoppable towards an overwhelming ANC election victory! Last weekend the SACP intensified its election campaign in support of the ANC through a number of activities. We focused on the mobilisation of farmworkers, and next week we will be having our Red Thursday, 25 March 2004, focusing on industrial workers.
On Thursday 11 March 2004 we visited the grave of our late Chairperson, Cde Joe Slovo. We were pleased and honoured that that hero of our revolution, Cde Nelson Mandela was the guest speaker at this ceremony. Cde Helena Dolny, the widow of Joe Slovo, and senior alliance leadership, joined Cde Madiba.
During this ceremony we launched the Joe Slovo election trail, starting with door-to-door work in Soweto and other parts of the country, culminating in farmworkers forums, marches and mass meetings throughout the country. SACP leaders and activists literally reached out to thousands of farmworkers. Included in these activities was a march by hundreds of farmworkers in Utrecht to deliver a COSATU memorandum. The memorandum amongst other things, demanded that the police must scrupulously investigate all complaints by farmworkers against violent abuse by farmers. (see www.cosatu.org.za)
The SACP in Limpopo organised mass meetings in Hoedspruit to express our solidarity with farmworkers in that area in the wake of Nelson Chisale’s being thrown alive into a lion’s den. We were moved by the commitment of workers in Richmon Farm, near Hoedspruit, to work towards launching an SACP branch and naming it after Nelson Chisale. Agri SA, representing most of the farmers in South Africa protested that those who threw Chisale into a lion’s den were not farmers. Frankly this is neither here nor there, as this captures the worst of what workers in white-owned farms and rural hinterland are subjected to. It is to this question of the farmworkers that we would once more like to return by posing some challenges to AgriSA and all other farmers’ organisations.
Violence against black farmworkers
From our campaign with farmworkers, since October last year, we have come to one major and disturbing conclusion. The most pervasive form of violence in South African farms is that directed against black farmworkers. This is largely racist violence perpetrated almost on a daily basis by a number of white farmers against black farmwokers, including torture and murder. This is not something new. The findings of the South African Human Rights Commission and inspections by the Department of Labour reach the same conclusion. Yet, AgriSA, supported by other (white) farmers’ organisations tend to speak only crimes against farmers, but silent on those against workers. Even where they mild speak about the latter, there is no systematic plan of action is in place to combat this racist abuse and violence.
As the SACP we do not condone any form of violence, whether against farmers or workers. But when one reads most of South African newspapers and listens to parties like the Democratic Alliance, the New National Party and the Freedom Front Plus, it is as if the most pervasive form of violence is that against white farmers. Even more disturbing is the collusion between some senior white police officers, sections of the justice system and some white farmers in many parts of our country. As things stand now the justice system in the white farm areas is heavily stacked against ordinary farmworkers.
What is happening in Utrecht, in northern KwaZulu Natal, captures this reality most starkly. We marched, in soaking rain, together with farmworkers to protest about the behaviour of the police. Never, since prior to 1994, had I witnessed such hostility by black people against the police as I saw in this march. We were also marching together with widows, orphans and the disabled whose partners or parents were murdered by white farmers in the area. Even more disturbing we were marching together with witnesses to murder, but who had not had an opportunity to go to court to tell their story, because many police dockets simply disappear. Yet, the workers told us, any threatening situation involving a white farmer, a number of police vans would be immediately dispatched and investigations would start without any delay. Throughout the country similar stories are told repeatedly!
It is also for this reason that we call upon the Ministers of Safety and Security and Justice to act swiftly to investigate and act on these matters. We challenge AgriSA and other farmers’ organisations to act urgently on the Utrecht and other cases, and fully co-operate with the police and take decisive action against these racist and criminal activities.
As the SACP we are also deeply disturbed that each time these issues are raised AgriSA and other farmers’ organisation take a defensive stance and accuse those raising these matters as fuelling hatred against white farmers. We find this defensive and a rationale for condoning such behaviour from some of their members. AgriSA cannot hide any longer. If it is serious about law and order it must act similarly in all cases of violence, whether they involve farmers or workers!
We demand concrete action
It is time now that we focus on all forms of violence, particularly that perpetrated by farmers. Many of them commit criminal activities and yet walk freely as “law-abiding” citizens. This is a ticking time bomb.
Also of concern to us is lack of free political activity in many of these farms. Many workers told us that they were not allowed to register to vote. Even those who are registered expressed serious concern that they might not be allowed to vote as many farmers know many workers will vote for the ANC. We were however pleased to note that thousands of farmworkers appreciate the sectoral determination on farmworkers and are aware that this was an initiative of the ANC government. Our call for them to vote ANC so that we can together defeat racist and violent abuse was widely welcomed wherever we went.
Even in KwaZulu Natal there is a growing sentiment by farmworkers towards the ANC. One worker aptly put it “I was a staunch member of the IFP. But when the IFP failed to act to protect us as farmworkers despite repeated appeals, I started questioning why I should continue being in the IFP, but kept on hoping that the organisation will come to our rescue. The last straw for me came when the IFP entered into an alliance with the DA. Our experiences here is that many of the white farmers, including those who are perpertrating some of the worst abuses against us, are prominent members of the DA and in other instances even DA councillors”.
We therefore openly challenge AgriSA and all other farmers’ organisations, to come up with a comprehensive action plan to combat violent and racist abuse of farmworkers, as key to any strategy to deal with all other forms of violence on farms.
We also call upon AgriSA to open their farms to trade union organisation and ensure that on April 14 workers are given time to go and vote. AgriSA should publicly issue a call to all their members in this regard. As the SACP we have committed ourselves to make this struggle with farmworkers rolling mass action beyond the election. Where we identify abuses and interference with the right of workers to vote we shall expose these. We therefore challenge AgriSA to publicly commit itself to dealing with such cases when we raise them in future.
VOTE ANC…WITH AND FOR THE WORKERS AND THE POOR
Since 1994, together, we have begun to change our society
On the factory floor, in the countryside, in our townships and places of learning, through parliament, government departments, in municipalities…as progressive forces, together we have begun to roll back racial power and privilege.
We have extended workers’ rights. Everyone is equal in the courts of law. Land is returning to dispossessed communities.
We have provided millions with formal housing, water and sanitation, electricity and health-care.
But the bosses are still sabotaging our democracy
Apartheid is abolished… but apartheid lives on in kitchens, on farms, on the factory floor.
Baas-skap still stalks our land in the way workers are treated, in the board-rooms where decisions get made.
Pass-laws have been swept away…but at every turn the capitalist market demands: “Hey, you, where’s your credit rating?” “What’s your bank balance?” “Where’s your work experience?”
We have rolled out democracy, but the bosses continually undermine it.
We have extended workers rights with the Labour Relations Act, the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, the Security of Tenure Act and much more. Together, we have made minimum wage determinations for domestic workers and farm labourers.
But the bosses have retrenched one million workers. Hundreds of thousands more have been casualised and outsourced. Farm workers are displaced. Safety regulations are defied. Minimum wages are ignored.
Women workers, in particular, are often the first to be fired, the first to be outsourced and casualised.
For the ANC-SACP-COSATU alliance the agenda is: A better life for all.
For the bosses the agenda is: A better profit margin for the few.
The bosses ask for financial liberalisation so they can “grow the economy”. Then what do they do? They disinvest billions of rands out of South Africa. Profits made in South Africa are fleeing our new democracy.
The bosses make solemn promises at the Growth and Development Summit, but then fail to implement labour intensive methods. They prefer to import foreign machinery and retrench South African workers.
The banks red-line our communities and black-list the poor. Food retailers inflate prices. Cell-phone networks over-charge. Vultures push for privatisation of public goods.
Roll back profits - Build worker power
Together, we must enforce safety regulations. We must use state and worker power to ensure our rights are defended and advanced.
Together, we must organise in our communities to monitor prices and fight over-charging. In our work-places, we must mobilise to advance our rights.
People first… profits last.
Down with food inflation. Down with high medicine prices. Down with land-price speculation.
With an overwhelming ANC elections victory,
Sustainable livelihoods, sustainable households, sustainable communities
Since 1994, capitalism has been restored to profitability in our country. Yet four out of every ten workers in our country is now unemployed! More and more, capitalism shows itself unable to address the basic needs of our people.
We cannot fold our arms and wait for capitalism to deliver jobs that will never come.
We must ensure that everyone at least lives in a sustainable community, in a sustainable household, with sustainable means, protected from the worst ravages of the capitalist market.
With an overwhelming ANC elections victory
In everything we do, we must ensure that our programmes reinforce each other. Government spending and popular mobilisation must go hand in hand.
The expanded public works programmes must be linked with local development, popular involvement with land reform. Those who will benefit from land reform tomorrow must be those who are mobilised into the local public works irrigation scheme today. The builders of infrastructure must be the beneficiaries. The beneficiaries must be those who know how to maintain it.
We should think of a pension or a child support grant not as a hand-out, but as seed money to access training, to establish a co-op, to maintain a sustainable home.
Build sustainability! Build self-reliance! Build community power!
With an overwhelming ANC elections victory
Working together, government, health-workers and communities, we will:
With an overwhelming ANC elections victory
We will struggle for international peace and development; we will consolidate our friendship with the people’s of Africa and the world.
We will live in an unjust world. Big power unilateralism runs rough-shod over smaller third world countries. UN resolutions are defied. Countries are invaded on the basis of lies. The imperialists’ own World Trade Organisation agreements are flouted when profits are to be made.
Genocide in Palestine is condoned. In this unjust world, weapons of mass destruction are fine, as long as they are in the hands of big powers, or Israeli militarists.
Every day, each European cow is subsidised by more than the daily income of the average person in sub-Saharan Africa.
We are living in a cruel world. A divided, fragmented South Africa, a democratic government without massive, mobilised popular support behind it would be very vulnerable.
Which is why we say: Close ranks, Vote ANC.
Major battles lie ahead
Since April 1994, and before, the capitalists have waged an incessant struggle to shake the SACP loose from the ANC; to weaken the influence of progressive ideas on government; to sow confusion and demoralisation about our new dispensation.
Sometimes they flatter the SACP (“You’d make a lovely opposition”, the hypocrites tell us). Mostly they vilify the SACP.
They want a confused and factionalised national liberation movement. They want splits and demoralisation. They want our mass base in townships and on the factory floor to be divided and quarrelling.
The SACP will never play into this agenda. The SACP will build its branches and take forward struggles of poor and working people where we live, where we work and where we study.
Close ranks! Build worker power! Build the Party! Build the Alliance! Forward to a massive ANC victory!
VOTE ANC, WITH AND FOR THE WORKERS AND THE POOR!