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Umsebenzi Online

Volume 5, No. 53, 05 April 2006

In this Issue:

Red Alert

Long Live the Memory of Chris Hani ? rural struggles in South Africa and a visit to Lusaka

By: Blade Nzimande, General Secretary

For several years now, the SACP has marked April as ?Chris Hani Month?. Cde Chris Hani was assassinated on 10 April 1993, and we use this month to remember the cold-blooded assassination of this people?s hero, and to celebrate Cde Chris Hani?s outstanding life and contribution. We use the Chris Hani Month as a rallying point to take forward SACP campaigns, following the example set by Cde Chris Hani himself, to be always rooted amongst the workers and the poor.

During the 2006 Chris Hani Month the SACP will focus on mobilisation to build People?s Land Committees (PLCs), to take forward the struggle for accelerated land and agrarian transformation. People?s Land Committees should be organs of popular power to assist our people to take up land and agrarian struggles. This is part and parcel of building motive forces for rural transformation. The key drivers of land and agrarian transformation should be the landless, the farmworkers, workers from co-operatives and other progressive layers of rural society in our country.

The SACP is rallying its structures during this month to ensure that at least one PLC is established in each SACP district. We have chosen to focus on the building of PLCs for a number of reasons. The primary reason is that there must be a swift implementation of the resolutions of the National Land Summit held in July 2005. We are strongly of the view that the motive forces for the most thorough implementation of the resolutions of this Summit are the landless and working people themselves.

Our approach to building PLCs should not be a dry bureaucratic exercise where we simply convene a meeting and conduct elections for a PLC executive. Our programme should be driven by taking up, in a targeted way, the many problems that face the landless masses of our people, whether it is a struggle against farm evictions, racism or lack of grazing land. For instance, in one part of the Limpopo province a white farmer has fenced parts of a river in order to prevent livestock owned by black communities residing next to his farm from accessing water from the river. The SACP, as part of the Chris Hani Month in Limpopo, will be staging a demonstration at this farm with a view to forming a PLC in that area to tackle the many problems faced by the people there.

The SACP is also using the this year?s commemoration of Cde Chris Hani to celebrate his lifelong dedication to the workers and the poor in the struggle for socialism. Cde Chris was a versatile leader. He was equally comfortable in the company of farmworkers, landless rural people, the urban working class or professionals and other sections of the middle classes. But he had a particular passion for the rural masses. Building PLCs is a direct continuation of his work amongst the rural people. Let us ensure that his legacy lives on!

We have also chosen to focus on building PLCs to coincide with the 65th anniversary celebrations of the founding of that great union, the Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU), one of the prominent affiliates of our ally, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU). As part of commemorating Cde Chris?s legacy, the SACP will also be throwing in its weight behind FAWU?s attempts to organise farmworkers. We see organised farmworkers as the key pillar in building strong PLCs, especially in the white-owned farms of South Africa?s countryside.

Our focus on mobilising the landless and the rural working class is also informed by our 2005 Red October Campaign, whose focus is a struggle for food security in our country. The question of food security and the struggle against genetically modified foods should be an integral component of the work of the PLCs. The partnership between FAWU and the SACP is central to ensuring that farmworkers are organised to lead the building of strong PLCs.

Zambia - the effects of structural adjustment and bonds of people?s solidarity

We are commemorating the Chris Hani Month in the wake of a very successful visit by the SACP to Lusaka, Zambia last week. Lusaka was, of course, for some decades the headquarters of our movement, the African National Congress, a movement that Cde Chris served with total dedication and distinction.

The SACP was invited to Lusaka by The Post (of Zambia) newspaper, as part of the activities of its Press Freedom Committee. We delivered a lecture on current left advances in Latin America and lessons for Southern Africa. For the SACP this was a historic visit, it was the first official visit by an SACP delegation since thousands of our cadres, previously based in Lusaka, returned home in the early 1990s.

The Post very kindly used the occasion to organise meetings with various key role players in Zambian society. These included a meeting with the Republican Vice-President Mwape, First Republican President, Cde KD Kaunda, our South African High Commissioner to Zambia, Cde M Masala, the ruling party (Movement for Multi-Party Democracy), leaders of the four main opposition parties, business leaders, church leaders, civil society formations, the two trade union federations, and the directors and management of The Post newspaper. This gave us some very important and unique insights into the challenges facing Zambia today, and we sincerely wish to thank The Post for providing us with this opportunity.

Whilst our visit highlighted some differences between our two countries, there are many similarities in the challenges facing both South Africa and Zambia. We were warmly received in the same spirit in which the Zambian people hosted the leadership and cadres of our liberation movement for decades during the struggle against apartheid.

The one striking feature of Zambian society is the extent to which the structural adjustment policies pursued by the Chiluba presidency have rolled back many of the gains made during the first two decades of Zambian independence after 1964. We found, amongst many of those we met, a re-emerging nostalgia for the Kaunda Presidency and the advances made then in the fields of education, health and provision of other basic services. The Chiluba presidency privatised virtually all the state-owned enterprises, leading to massive job losses and the rolling back in the provision of education and health services in particular.

It is interesting that, as we write, both President Mwanawasa and former president Chiluba are receiving treatment in hospitals outside the country. This point was not lost on Cde Kaunda who was quoted by Zambian media as saying that, much as he wishes both of these leaders good health, throughout his entire presidency he received all health treatment inside Zambia. This is surely one sign of the extent to which Zambian health services have since declined.

An instructive lesson from the post-1991 period of multi-party democracy in Zambia is that, much as we support multi-party democracy, this should not be romanticised. Multi-party democracy may well be a necessary, but it is certainly not a sufficient condition for a thriving popular democracy. In many cases multi-party democracy becomes little more than a terrain contested by political elites controlling the competing political parties, interchangeably enjoying the backing of this or that imperialist or capitalist power, whilst the masses remain spectators.

It is important for all progressive forces in our region to undertake a very thorough analysis of the extent to which structural adjustment and other similar policies have devastated our region. Any attempt to reconstruct the region will have to proceed from a thorough appreciation of the havoc wrought upon millions of our people because of these policies.

What was disappointing in Zambia was the extent to which virtually all the major political parties that will be contesting elections later this year are effectively committed to a path broadly similar to that of Chiluba. The most progressive formation that we interacted with was, interestingly, the church, which seems to have extensive experience and insights into the impact of structural adjustment and the many socio-economic challenges facing the people of Zambia. We felt there was much in common between ourselves and many of the perspectives of the churches.

Our delegation was also disappointed by the state of the trade union movement in Zambia. Many of the leaders we met blamed Chiluba who, they say, immediately after riding on the back of the trade union movement to ascend to the State House began to divide and weaken the trade union movement. It was said that he did this to ensure that no one else used the movement to ascend to power as he had done. It is probably simplistic to blame an individual for the current state of the trade union movement. There is certainly a challenge for a federation like COSATU to consciously develop a strategy of supporting the building of a powerful and united trade union movement in the region.

We also used our visit to reassert the bonds of solidarity between the Zambian and South African peoples, and emphasised the extent to which, because of our history and being part of the Southern African region, our destinies are tied together. However, the many Zambian leaders we met raised a number of concerns about the relationship between our two countries.

The first major concern raised by leaders we met was that many felt the contacts between our two peoples were inadequate. Whilst we have diplomatic relations between our two countries, many Zambians felt that there was much more that South Africans needed to do to assist them with the challenges facing their country. This concern was not raised as some kind of ?pay back? for the many sacrifices made by the Zambians in support of our liberation struggle. Rather, there is a perception of South Africa being a better resourced country, that can do more to assist neighbouring countries. They felt there is a distance between our two peoples since the early 1990s.

The second major concern, which has been raised with the SACP by many other African leaders and progressive activists, is the extent to which foreign investment from South Africa, sometimes together with BEE partners, into the rest of the continent is not translating into meaningful development of these countries. One of the leaders we met put it more forthrightly: ?Why is it that, after helping you to defeat apartheid, you are now exporting apartheid back to the rest of the continent??

A major concern from a number of African leaders and activists is the role of South African capital in the rest of the continent. As of now this is predominantly, though not exclusively, white capital, seeking to exploit weak labour legislation in the rest of the continent, making super profits from casualised labour and other extreme forms of exploitation. In addition, sections of South African white capital seem to be investing in the region in order to escape black economic empowerment requirements here in South Africa. There are also now a number of South African and Zimbabwean white farmers who, using the neo-liberal policies in many other Southern African countries, are buying land for next to nothing, setting up private game reserves and other facilities which, to all intents and purposes, are used for whites only.

The question of South African investment on the continent, welcome as it might be, requires thorough analysis, as some of this investment, for instance in the commercial sector, is destroying black owned small enterprises in the continent. South African capital is seen as predatory in its operations. The issue that some of the Zambian leaders we met raised was that, irrespective of the subjective will of the ANC-led government, South African capital is objectively acting as a ?sub-imperialist? power, and NEPAD is now increasingly associated with this ?sub-imperialism?.

These developments also serve to underline the importance of people-to-people contacts. As the SACP we are looking forward to the planned activities of the Chris Hani Institute to create platforms to analyse and debate the political and economic trajectory of post-colonial Southern Africa, especially the character and role of former liberation movements now wielding state power.

We have a duty to engage on all these matters in the spirit and legacy of Cde Chris Hani?s internationalism!

Long live the memory of Chris Hani! Long live the bonds of solidarity between Zambians and South Africans!
in that historic march.

 


This article was written by Father Peter Henroit, one of the church leaders who met with an SACP delegation that visited Zambia last week. These are his reflections on that meeting and appeared in the Zambian The Post newspaper
on 4 April 2006.

?Father, are you a Communist??

?Father, are you a Communist?? That question ? half-serious and half joking ? was put to me last week when I was seen smiling approvingly and applauding at some remarks made by Dr. Blade Nzimande, general secretary of the South African Communist Party (SACP). Had I become ?Comrade Priest?? Well, in the light of all the discussions stirred by Nzimande?s widely-publicised visit to Zambia, it was a good question and one that deserves a good answer.

First, I would say YES, I am a Communist, in the sense of believing in the ideal Christian community described in the New Testament book of the Acts of the Apostles, Chapter Two, verses 44 and 45. ?All the believers were together, and had all things in common; people even sold their possessions and means of livelihood, and distributed them to all according as anyone had need.? For me that is a wonderful description of economic arrangements by which no one is left out but everyone contributes to the common good of everyone.

A real ?people-oriented? economy, isn?t it? Is it Communism? Well, it certainly isn?t Capitalism! Especially the neo-liberal Capitalism Zambia has been suffering under for the past 15 years. It?s a system I can identify with, even if some might say I was a Communist.

But second, I would say NO, I am not a Communist, in the sense of the historical association of that name with a lot of injustice and tragedy. We might think immediately of the hard-core, totalitarian Communism that afflicted so many parts of the world during the twentieth century.

Anti-God, persecutor of religious beliefs and practices, suppressor of individual human rights in the name of authoritarian dictatorship, wrecker of economic prosperity ? all the bad things we readily associate ? fairly or unfairly ? with the label ?Communism.? In that sense, who would want to be a ?Communist?? Not me!

DEEPER THAN LABELS:

But I think that the issue is really much deeper than labels attached to polar positions and simplistic descriptions. The issue merits careful attention. And that is the wonderful advantage of the visit of Dr. Nzimande and his colleagues (a team nicely balanced in terms of gender and age ? a lesson for all of us!) to Zambia.

His clear and forthright discussions made us, Zambian and non-Zambian alike, do some serious thinking, especially when he asked, ?Zambians, what is your vision of the country 15 years from now?? Is it accurate to observe that this country has had very few visitors of late who have stirred such serious thought and debate among so many sectors of society in such a short time?

High-level government officials, MPs, heads of opposition parties, trade union leaders, civil society organisers, religious community leaders, youth, media officials, and general public ? all found time to meet and discuss with this astute politician whose SACP is part of the coalition (with ANC and COSATU) that governs South Africa today.

It is true that The Post Press Freedom Committee did excellent coordination work (even if some of us might have felt a bit out of place discussing Communism in the rather Capitalist surroundings of the Intercontinental Hotel!). But the success of the visit, I believe, was the substance of the issues he raised with so many different audiences.

SOCIALIST ECONOMIC VISION:

First, the vision that Dr. Nzimande has of the economy is decidedly socialist ? e.g., more, not less, government involvement in economic management, free social services of health and education, workers? rights promoted through employment generation and good wages, etc.

He spoke of ?economic growth ? with development!? ? that is, with concern for what was happening to the people, especially the poor. It reminded me of Pope Paul VI?s classic definition of development: ?movement of people from less human conditions to more human conditions? ? in all spheres of life. It?s also what the World Bank emphasises in its 2006 World Development Report, entitled Equity and Development. You simply won?t have the sustainable development that enables economic growth without attending to issues of equity such as empowering the poor, promoting gender considerations, opening up access to land, etc.

This emphasis on people-oriented development is what the churches have strongly emphasised here as Zambia underwent the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) that hurt the majority of people in so many tragic ways. It is an emphasis that has motivated the team I am part of at the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR) to campaign for the Jubilee debt cancellation, promote a Basic Needs Basket, lobby for inclusion of economic, social and cultural rights in the new constitution, and push for a social justice perspective in dealing with HIV/AIDS.

POPULIST POLITICAL VISION:

Second, Dr. Nzimande?s political vision is decidedly populist ? e.g., promotion of popular movements of workers and the poor, an activist state that controls the power of both local and international capital, linking up with countries and parties with similar progressive views, etc. Again, I was reminded of the recurrent theme in the Church?s social teaching that gives a positive role to government, the role of promotion of the common good. The state is not an enemy but a friend ? yet a friend that needs always to be at the service of the people. If the state is not serving the people, then it loses its legitimacy.

This emphasis on people-oriented governance has motivated the JCTR to campaign with others for constitutional reform that is genuinely popular, both in process and content. Hence we have strongly supported the Constituent Assembly. Moreover we have emphasised the role of civil society as central to effective democracy. Nzimande made three key points in his presentations that impressed me.

First, he stressed that genuine democracy is much more than elections. It requires economic and social democracy ? participation of the people in decision making throughout the year and not just on election day.

Second, he reminded us that civil society?s role is neither simply opposition to the government?s policies nor substitution for the government?s responsibilities, but creative cooperation where that is possible.

And third, he cautioned against government?s too wide and deep an influence and control over people?s lives and institutions. Indeed, he acknowledged that this over-extension was one factor accounting for the collapse of the Soviet Union. At the JCTR we see this caution to be the result of the principle of ?subsidiarity? ? decisions should best be made by the people who will most be affected.

SO WHAT ARE YOU?

It might be a bit ironic or surprising that the head of the communist party of a foreign state would offer such wisdom to Zambia during a brief visit. Hopefully the wisdom will encourage our politicians do a bit more thinking about how to highlight policies and not simply abuse personalities. And those of us who aren?t politicians can push more of this ?vision? thing in dealing with the day-to-day demands for greater justice and equity in the country.

As I reflect back on the people-oriented development and people-oriented governance that Dr. Nzimande emphasised in his talks, I?m aware that it really isn?t the label that counts but the substance of what he offered us during his visit.

Maybe call it Communism. Or socialism. Or humanism. Or Christianity. Whatever we call it, it surely is needed in great amounts in Zambia today and tomorrow!
phenriot@jesuits.org.zm

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