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Umsebenzi Online

Volume 5, No. 55, 03 May 2006

In this Issue:

Red Alert

May Day and national reconciliation in a democratic South Africa

By: Blade Nzimande, General Secretary

The SACP has during the month of April successfully commemorated the 13th anniversary of the assassination of our former General Secretary, Cde Chris Hani. Most heartening was the very high levels of commitment by many of our cadres to strengthen the Party, and build upon the values that Chris Hani represented, including dedicated service to our people without expecting any favours or personal gain. There is also a keen sense of awareness amongst many of our cadres of the historical role of our Party, not just in the past but in the present into the future, especially given the rampant and predatory nature of South African capitalism.

The Chris Hani commemoration was crowned by our effective participation in the Cosatu-led 2006 May Day celebrations that were held throughout the country. Reports from SACP provincial structures indicate that these celebrations were highly successful and our Party cadres and leadership actively participated in most of these events. Feedback also indicates that the SACP May Day message was well received by the workers. In particular, our position that public service (whether through government or Alliance leadership) should be separated from private business interests, our stance on Swaziland and our commitments to the fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

We also used the May Day celebrations to reassert our full solidarity with the legitimate demands and strike by security workers. We do of course join COSATU in condemning acts of violence by some of the striking workers as this can only serve to divert from their very legitimate demands. However, at the same time, police behaviour in the course of this strike needs to be subjected to serious scrutiny.

We should however accept the reality that security guards, and indeed workers in many other sectors, are extremely angry about the conditions under which they work. This is by no means meant to condone the acts of violence. But simple condemnation without understanding the basis of this anger would not deal with the underlying problems.

This anger principally derives from the nature of the security industry in our country. It is an industry that has absorbed many of the former apartheid securocrats, who are trying to undermine the new labour market and labour relations dispensation. These employers are also using divide and rule tactics to divide and weaken the workers and the trade union movement. Security workers are amongst the worst paid and mostly work under inhumane conditions that require radical transformation. For these workers their working conditions have hardly changed since 1994.

The SACP?s view is that workers in the security industry cannot afford to lose this battle, as this has the potential to take us back into the apartheid type labour dispensation. The SACP solidarity with these workers is therefore unwavering. It is for this and many other reasons that the SACP will also fully throw its weight behind COSATU?s jobs and poverty campaign.

General Pierre Steyn?s report

On the eve of the May Day celebrations a long suppressed document on the atrocities perpetrated by the apartheid repressive security organs came to light for the first time through the media. This was a report compiled by the then apartheid regime?s South African Defence Force chief of staff, General Pierre Steyn, after being asked by the then President F W De Klerk to investigate ?covert? activities by the apartheid security forces in 1992.

The substance of what is in that report, as covered by the Sunday Independent newspaper, is not something new to us and in fact vindicates some of the SACP?s own analysis of the counter-revolutionary violence of the apartheid regime in the 1980s, especially during the negotiations period in the early 1990s.

The SACP, and indeed the movement as a whole, had characterised the violence unleashed in KwaZulu-Natal from the early 1980s as the apartheid regime?s war against the oppressed people in general and the ANC and the democratic movement in particular. In fact the SACP had always been uncomfortable with the characterisation of that violence as being perpetrated by a ?third force?. We had always believed that that was not a ?third force? but a ?first force?, direct counter-revolutionary violence by the apartheid regime itself to try and weaken the liberation movement prior to and during the negotiations process.

Incidentally, it was because of this approach by the SACP, that during the early 1990s, the SACP released Cde Chris Hani to focus building of self-defence capacity by communities against this apartheid counter-revolutionary violence, whilst at the same time overseeing participation of the SACP in the negotiations. It is therefore no coincidence that Cde Hani, for this and other reasons, was assassinated through what we believe was part of this broader counter-revolutionary strategy of the apartheid regime. Hence our call for the re-investigation of the circumstances through which Cde Chris was killed.

It is because of these perspectives by the SACP that I find former President De Klerk?s response to the Steyn report, as covered by the Sunday Independent, extremely contradictory, and a vindication of our thesis that it was the apartheid regime itself that was co-ordinating the intensified counter-revolutionary violence in the 1980s into the 90s. Whilst De Klerk says ?I accepted overall responsibility for the period of my leadership and together with the cabinet and the state security council accepted joint responsibility for all the decisions that we took and the instructions we gave?, he quickly distances himself from the counter-revolutionary violence unleashed by his very same state security council as ?actions that were taken outside the framework of proper government decision-making, which I was not aware of?.

Further exposing the contradictory nature of his responses to the killing machinery of his own regime?s security forces, De Klerk continues to say ?Neither did I abandon the vast majority of, the ?foot soldiers? who served with the former security forces. I have always had the greatest admiration for the manner in which the overwhelming majority of members of the security forces carried out their duties in very difficult circumstances?.

De Klerk is in essence selectively accepting responsibility, and conveniently trying to distance himself from activities that we have always known were directly carried out by his covert, but nevertheless official, killing machinery of the apartheid regime. It is indeed strange that De Klerk can take overall responsibility for his leadership of the last apartheid regime, including actions of his foot soldiers, and yet distance himself from some of the murderous actions of the very same security forces and its ?foot soldiers?.

We also find it incredible that a president can ask one of his senior army generals to investigate allegations of violence against his own forces, and only accepts a verbal rather than a written report, whilst such a written report exists. This, untrue as it sounds, incidentally betrays the casual attitude with which De Klerk and the apartheid regime approached a serious matter of killing of black people in their thousands. And when such a written report is exposed he again conveniently claims that ?I was not aware of these activities until they were revealed by the media?!

To prove that De Klerk is hiding more than he is conceding, he has the guts to say that ?The previous (apartheid) government was not a ?criminal regime?. Although they condemned apartheid in the most unequivocal terms, the great majority of western states? did not regard apartheid as a crime against humanity and did not accede to the anti-apartheid convention?. This is despite the fact that the United Nations and many other international bodies had actually declared apartheid as a crime against humanity.

Another revealing comment by De Klerk is that he had high admiration for the apartheid?s security forces also because ?They held the line against Soviet expansionism in Southern Africa until circumstances were propitious for constitutional settlements in both Namibia and South Africa?. Of course we know that this was a euphemism for intensified repression, costing thousands of lives of our people and cadres of the liberation movement. It was also a cover to try and weaken the liberation movement as it was becoming clearer that the apartheid regime had no choice but to enter into negotiations.

To raise these issues is not to be vindictive, but to highlight the fact that much as De Klerk has been credited with the role of a peace-maker, there is a lot that he, and his generals, has not revealed about the last years of the apartheid regime, over which he presided.

The SACP has always maintained that whilst the Truth and Reconciliation played an important role in our transition to democracy, its modus operandi focusing mainly on individual confessions, remorse and forgiveness did not adequately expose the systemic nature of apartheid oppression and violence, including the role of business in propping up the apartheid system. The Steyn report provides us with a new opportunity to understand this broader reality.

It is for these reasons that a full investigation surrounding the details provided in the Steyn report is of utmost necessity, and for appropriate legal action to be taken against all those implicated. Our national reconciliation shall remain incomplete until and unless such an investigation is carried out and the perpetrators are brought to book. The statement by national police commissioner Jackie Selebe that he is going to look into the report should be welcomed by all.