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Umsebenzi Online

Volume 3, No. 3, 4 February 2004

In this Issue:


Red Alert

The DA/IFP Alliance: An elite pact of an apartheid type

By Blade Nzimande, General Secretary

The Alliance between the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) gives us a deeper insight into the extent to which sections of those who benefited from apartheid and its Bantustan system are contradictorily located in the new democratic dispensation. These two parties represent not only the interests of beneficiaries of apartheid and are reluctantly part of the new democratic order. They seek to retain as much of the elements of the old order, without being seen to be rejecting our new democracy. In essence the alliance is an attempt to create enclaves of old apartheid class alliances, power and privileges within a new democratic dispensation.

In essence the alliance between the DA and the IFP is an alliance between the elite of the IFP and a DA, which increasingly represents the most backward (racist and class) elements fostered and created by the apartheid order. It is an alliance that has less to do with the interests of the overwhelming majority of the black majority, but more to do a marriage between an IFP elite and sections of a white petty bourgeoisie (in the DA) that is scared of losing its class privileges accumulated under apartheid. It would however be wrong to simply project this coincidence of class interests as seeking to return to an old apartheid order. These parties know it is not possible now and in the foreseeable future to turn the clock back, and therefore they are seeking to create spaces for maintenance of apartheid type power relations and privileges within a new democratic dispensation.

The slave-like conditions of farm workers and the collusion between the DA and the IFP

During the SACP’s 2003 Red October campaign to mobilise the working class and our people as a whole to defend the more vulnerable workers (farm and domestic workers), some of our experiences in this regard made it even more clearer what the nature of the DA/IFP alliance is. Let us restate this experience to illustrate what we mean. In Bergville (in the heart of the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands) the SACP had organized a march to one of the most racist and reactionary white farmers. Our grievance was that this white farmer prevented an elderly black woman to be fetched by the local ambulance, or by his son (who has a car) to be taken to hospital for cancer treatment. He prevented all cars entering his farm, and instead insisted that a wheelbarrow take her to the gate of the farm (a few kilometers from her mud house owned by the white farmer), from where she could be picked up by either the local ambulance or his son’s car.

During our march the IFP-controlled local municipality refused to give the SACP marchers permission to march through the centre of the town to the white farmer’s house, as this would have conscientised and possibly led to the farm workers and the mass of the people of Bergville joining the march. The local white farmers’ association in turn decided that, on that Saturday of the march, all farm workers should work from 5.00 am to 17h00 in order to prevent them from joining our march, which was given permission by the local police and the municipality to start at 11h00 and finish by 14h00.

The aim of the march was in the first instance to protest against this (racist and sexist) farmer’s actions against this poor black woman. In addition we also wanted to educate farm workers about their rights in terms of the newly promulgated sectoral (government) determination on their basic conditions of employment and the new minimum wage, and the necessity of farm workers to join trade unions. With regards to the latter it is estimated by COSATU’s farm workers’ union and affiliate (SAAPAWU) that about one million farm workers are not organized into trade unions, thus threatening to undermine and erode whatever legislative gains have been made under the ANC government. Given that thousands of farmworkers also belong to the IFP, one would have expected the IFP council to be sympathetic, no matter how grudgingly, to our action.

This collusion between the IFP controlled municipality and the DA aligned white farmers was a classic illustration and eye opener to the real class basis of the DA/IFP Alliance. The reality in Bergville and in most white-owned agricultural areas is that the majority of the still oppressed and super-exploited black farm workers belong not only to the ANC but to the IFP as well. That an IFP controlled municipality could seek, in collusion with DA aligned white farmers, to undermine the SACP’s march and demonstration, was a classic illustration, and an instance reflecting, the extent to which this Alliance is an elite pact, at the direct expense of the very members of the IFP, who are farm workers and super exploited by the very same white farmers.

Though the above incident might appear to have been an isolated incident, it in fact captures the elitist nature of the relationship between the DA and the IFP. In the past this relationship expressed itself in the collusion between the IFP elite and the National Party apartheid regime and its security apparatuses, and, in the current period, through the DA/IFP alliance.

The class origins and agenda of the IFP

The IFP, after its inception at the instigation of the ANC in 1975, quickly became a political vehicle for an alliance between traditional leaders, warlords closely connected to apartheid security forces, the trading petty bourgeoisie, a small highly educated “modernist” petty bourgeoisie and the bureaucratic petty bourgeoisie at the helm of the then KwaZulu Bantustan.

The class composition of this elite still manifests itself in the current period. The dominant and most influential component of this IFP elite is the traditional leaders and the warlords. The warlords have been progressively displaced since the end of the politically inspired and apartheid sponsored violence in KZN since 1994. But the core of the IFP elite had always been the traditional leaders who, under the apartheid Bantustan dispensation, benefited immensely from the structures of the KwaZulu Bantustan. The IFP warlords have now sought to deepen and strengthen their relationship with the traditional leaders who still control vast areas of land in KwaZulu Natal. This is the main survival area for the IFP, hence its fight for the constitutional recognition and rights of traditional leaders to have control over land.

Another layer of the IFP elite is a “modernizing” elite, which has accepted the reality of democracy and have sought to transform the IFP into a modern electoral party. But this “modernist elite” has had minimal power and influence in the IFP, except when it came to occupying positions of power in the national Cabinet and provincial government executive, as it possesses the knowledge to function better in these spheres. However, this layer has no distinct social base within the IFP, as it is principally traditional leadership that brings the rural vote for the party.

Given the warlord and traditional leadership base of the IFP, this “modernist” faction has felt frustrated and marginalized. The IFP still remains a party based on (and imprisoned by) the power of traditional leaders, backed by the warlords, using the ideology of Zulu identity and tribalism. Yet for this power to be translated into IFP rule over KwaZulu Natal in a democratic South Africa, it must be protected by all means, hence the IFP’s huge energies it has put into the protection of the role and original powers of the traditional leaders. However there is an objective limit to which the IFP can appeal to traditional leaders, Zulu identity and tribalism, without addressing the real (class based) poverty suffered by the overwhelming majority of its rural constituency.

Given the very real possibility of the IFP losing the next election in KZN despite all its control over most of KZN traditional leaders and its Zulu tribalist ideology, it needs allies, who are equally threatened by a modernizing democratic state, hence the alliance with the DA.

The DA is the class and racial representative of the most backward (apartheid) white layers of South African society

The DA tries hard to ideologically project itself as the foremost spokesperson for the white bourgeoisie and its neo-liberal ideology in South Africa. However in its core it is not this. It essentially represents the most reactionary sections of the white petty bourgeoisie (including some civil servants, white traders, sections of small white bourgeoisie) which is most threatened by black majority rule and the transformation process in South Africa. Since the dawn of democracy the big white bourgeoisie in South Africa has essentially become a global player, less dependent on the type of politics pushed by the DA. Instead it has sought to engage the ANC government in its attempts to create the necessary conditions for its domestic and global goals. The ideology and petty concerns of the DA are, for the big bourgeoisie, not that different from those that led to its constraints under apartheid. Whilst sections of this big bourgeoisie would support the DA only in so far as to constrain the “undiluted” majority political power of the ANC, it does not directly see the DA as its political representative.

The DA has essentially replaced the old National Party and some of the smaller white right wing parties, hence its opposition to affirmative action, black economic empowerment and transformation in general. For the DA to have any meaningful voice in society, and to try and hide its naked racial and class interests, it needs to project itself as increasingly representing black interests as well. It is for this reason that it has drawn into its ranks a minority of disgruntled black leaders, and sought to enter into an alliance with an organization like the IFP.

The contradictory character of the DA/IFP Alliance

Whilst the IFP elite has entered into an alliance with the DA, the interests of ordinary IFP members are directly threatened by, and are a threat to, the (class) interests of the DA’s constituency. The class interests and aspirations of black farm workers in Bergville stand in direct contrast to the interests of the white small to medium (white) farm owners. Much as the DA needs to create a base within the black community, the ANC government’s transformatory measures are in direct contradiction to the DA’s core constituency. Yet these very measures are in the deepest interests of the IFP’s mass base. It was because of this contradictory reality that the IFP sought to prevent the President from visiting IFP strongholds recently as he would raise and give an account of what the ANC government has done to advance the very interests of the IFP’s constituency.

The tasks of the national liberation movement

It is clear from the above that the DA/IFP alliance is an alliance of (objectively) contradictory interests, in so far as the interests of the majority of the members of the IFP and the immediate and longer term (class) interests of the core of the DA’s constituency. It is an elite pact born out of fear of a loss of power because of democracy and transformation. That is why by its very nature this alliance primarily expresses itself as an anti-ANC alliance.

It is therefore important that the liberation movement exposes this contradiction consistently. It is also important for the liberation movement to seek to reach out to the IFP mass constituency to highlight the fact that it is only ANC policies and programmes that are best able to advance their interests. The basis and the foundation for undertaking this task is that of the mobilization of the working class, in both the urban and the rural areas, and to reach out to the rural poor. This must be done continously and on a sustained basis.

The immediate terrain on which this battle must be fought is in KZN. Given these above realities and approach, it is indeed possible for the ANC to win an outright majority in KZN, in order to defeat this elite class alliance of a special type.


Equity Aviation is Iniquitous!

Jane Barrett, policy research officer of SATAWU (SA Transport and Allied Workers’ Union)

Workers world-wide have been arguing for years that privatisation invariably leads to cuts in wages and working conditions, and that multinationals in their quest for profits compound the problem.

Well in South Africa right now we need look no further than the dispute in Equity Aviation to find evidence of this fact.

Equity Aviation was born when Transnet, on the directive of government, sold a 51% stake in the company Apron Services. The buyer was a Joint Venture between British multinational service specialist Serco and a consortium of six BEE companies combined to form Equity Alliance. Transnet continues to hold a 49% share of the company. The deal was completed in April 2003, coinciding with the time when annual wage increases fell due in the company. The transfer contract between Transnet and Equity Aviation specified that “unless otherwise agreed with the representative union”, wages and working conditions would not be varied downward by the new majority owners for at least 18 months. This is in line with Section 197 of the Labour Relations Act. The company employs 1500 workers, 500 of whom are contracted via Labour Brokers.

The ink was hardly dry on the transfer agreement when Equity Aviation management tabled a set of demands to Satawu for some major changes in working conditions. Satawu represents the majority of the company’s workforce. While the labour broker (casual) workers are members of the union, they are currently not on strike as they are not formally employed by Equity Aviation and their conditions are unaffected by the dispute. The union is the largest transport union in South Africa, having 100,000 members in the transport, cleaning and security industries. Satawu is an affiliate of Cosatu.

Management’s opening wage offer was 0,5% combined with a performance bonus of up to 3%. The wage offer was conditional on a range downward changes in conditions including an increase in hours of work from the hard fought for 40 hour week to a 45 hour week, with no compensation; those whose shifts do not add up to 192 hours per month to be paid pro rata, instead of a regular monthly wage (resulting in less overtime pay); the abolition of a shift premium of 6,75% for all shift workers and the introduction of a shift allowance limited to nights which will benefit mostly white workers; a change in the way in which overtime is calculated so that overtime would no longer be calculated on a daily basis but a monthly basis (resulting in a further loss in overtime pay); a ban on weekends off i.e. no worker to have Saturday and Sunday off in any one week; and sick leave to be reduced from 60 days over 3 years to 37 days. How Equity Aviation thought they could get a negotiated agreement on these downward changes remains a complete mystery!

Satawu’s opening demand was 10% subsequently dropped to 8%. On management’s attempts to downward vary working hours and other conditions, Satawu has been consistent in arguing that it would be willing to talk about these proposals outside of the wage bargaining process.

Negotiations dragged on for months, delayed for a long period by management’s refusal to disclose financial information requested by the union. This became the subject of a dispute on its own. Deadlock in the wage negotiations was eventually declared by the union in November last year. The matter was referred to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) but little progress was made in the talks. By mid December Satawu had issued notification of intention to strike. The strike started on 18th December. 950 workers have been on strike ever since. On 22nd December Equity Aviation applied for an urgent interdict against the strike, but their application was denied with costs.

The strike continued over Christmas and New Year with no movement from management. Management’s next tactic was to take the unprecedented and illegal step of selectively dismissing around 150 workers for striking. The workers were selected for dismissal on the basis that they were “not union members of long standing”. The dismissals became the subject of another separate dispute, with the union applying for an urgent interdict. On the eve of the court hearing the company backed down and withdrew the notices of dismissal. Their withdrawal became an order of court.

Since early January there have been two further rounds of negotiation at the CCMA as well as a number of informal talks brokered by the leadership of Cosatu. At the time of writing management had marginally shifted its wage offer to 4% plus a 2% performance bonus. However all their other conditionalities involving a downward variation of conditions remain.

There have been two major problems in the process of negotiation. The first is that management has not maintained consistent representation in the negotiations. Faces have chopped and changed, and indeed the Human Resources Executive manager was on leave for a full month in Australia from the point at which the strike started. The second problem is that management has constantly altered its offers, never once reducing them to writing. The union considers this to be a form of bad faith bargaining.

In the absence of any progress through negotiation, Satawu has moved its focus to the mobilising of solidarity – both local and international, as well as to putting pressure on the shareholders. Letters sent by the union to the three major shareholders (Serco, Equity Alliance BEE consortium, and Transnet) on 19th January had not been answered at the time of writing, so clearly bolder tactics are required to wake them up. Pressure will also be put on government as the shareholder of Transnet and as the agent which effected the part sale of Apron Services in the first place. Minister Radebe’s statement in the Sowetan on 26th January has not gone down well in the union. He stated that: “We protected the employment of workers. The issue is between the employer and the employees”.

On Friday 23rd January solidarity secondary strikes took place nationally at SAA, Acsa, SAA Technical, LGM, SA Express, and Equity Aviation itself (workers who currently fall outside of the bargaining unit). 450 strikers picketed the Equity Aviation headquarters for four hours and a memorandum was delivered to management. The company was presented with a set of five demands namely that the company:- drop its demand for an increase in hours of work and other downward variations of conditions, and wait for a proper timing should they want to engage; sends consistent representatives to negotiations, comes to the table when required, and bargains in good faith; stops selectively dismissing striking workers and that it adheres to the court order for the re-instatement of selectively dismissed workers; releases all outstanding payment to workers and issues pay slips for November wages; and drops its attempts to challenge the right of workers to picket. While Johannesburg workers were presenting the memorandum of demands, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth workers were loudly protesting at the airport.

At the time of writing the company was starting to use desperate measures. They have threatened to again challenge the legality of the strike by using the Satawu constitution. Satawu sees this as yet another strategy to avoid good faith bargaining and is confident that this new legal challenge will be dismissed. Meanwhile the Director of the CCMA has taken new steps to mediate a settlement. At the time of writing he had met separately with Satawu and was about to meet with Equity management.

Whatever the final outcome of the strike, there will be some important issues for Satawu and Cosatu to reflect on. The first will be how to step up the struggle for a 40 hour week at a national level, so that the issue is not left to surface only in the course of individual disputes. The role of labour brokers in increasingly “casualising” employment is an issue that has been somewhat hidden in the dispute but which is nevertheless important to reflect on and strategise a response to. The development of strategies of engagement with BEE shareholders will also be necessary at a Federation level. Some reflection on strategies for building international solidarity in the context of increasing multinational involvement in our economy will also be useful. It would also be important if the experience of the Equity Aviation strike contributes to the formulation of proposed further amendments to Section 197 of the LRA. Clearly the wording of the Section has given Equity Aviation the space to put unreasonable demands on the table for a downward variation of conditions. There is also the issue of the structure of collective bargaining to be reflected on. Currently there is no centralised bargaining forum in the Aviation industry. The breakup of SAA into a myriad of different services (many of which have now been privatised), combined with the entry of many new players in the industry, has resulted in a fragmentation of collective bargaining. This has placed excessive demands on the union and has fragmented worker solidarity. Centralised bargaining in the industry is therefore likely to become a key Satawu demand in the next year. Finally, and most sobering, the strike holds many lessons for the Federation on the consequences of privatisation for workers.


The World Movement for Democracy provides space to Cuban counter-revolutionaries  

By Che Matlhako, and Carmen Baez Matlhako is the Secretary-General of the Friends of Cuba Society (FOCUS-SA) and a member of the SACP Central Committee. Baez is the Deputy Secretary-General of FOCUS-SA.

FOCUS-SA is indeed saddened by the developments taking place at the World Movement for Democracy gathering in Durban. Participating at this gathering, whose key theme is 'democracy', are groups and individuals who have worked against the majority of the peoples of Cuba and their right to choose their own social and political, economic and cultural development. These are exiled-Cubans, whose sole purpose is seek to restore and return Cuba to the pre-1959 era of Batista's dictatorship.

It is also common knowledge that among Cuban-Americans in Miami, terrorism is a familiar story, according to the headline of an article in The Washington Post that affirms that some expatriate Cubans have received CIA training to fight against the communist enemy. The most extreme among them have been accused of committing atrocities for what they believe to be a just cause.

Miami has been the home and support point for Orlando Bosch, who served 10 years in a Venezuelan prison on charges of heading and masterminding the sabotage of a Cubana passenger plane in 1976, which cost the lives of the 73 people on board. He was freed, says the journalist - who would appear to be unaware that he escaped from the Caracas prison - in 1988 without having been sentenced, and Bosch, now aged 74, lives in Miami.

By providing a platform such émigré groups, we are legitimizing their actions and intentions, which have been declared publicly - to do whatever necessary to unseat Fidel Castro. That there have been numerous threats to his and other Cuban leaders lives is a direct result of this support to groups, which are not interested in choice of the majority, but their private accumulation.

This gathering should not be a camouflage for those seeking to impose a uniform understanding of 'democracy' and 'democratic system' throughout the world because it benefits particular superpowers and therefore declare that is the only system the world should embrace.

We reject with contempt suggestions that Cuba is autocratic and reject the disinformation about the Cuban reality and the achievements of the Cuban Revolution. We oppose the illegal and immoral blockade and sanctions against Cuba and all foreign intervention, which attempt to undermine the social, economic and political achievements of the Cuban people.

The Friends of Cuba Society (FOCUS-South Africa), a progressive, volunteer non-government organization, committed to among others the expansion and strengthening of friendship and solidarity between the peoples of South Africa and Cuba, upholding the right of South Africans and Cuban peoples to self-determination and national sovereignty.

We call on all progressive organizations and friends to rally behind the Cuba Revolution.

As Alice Walker said; "Whatever its imperfections, in Cuba the poor have not been held in contempt; they have been empowered"


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