MORE JOBS! BETTER JOBS!
More than four out of every ten South Africans of working age are today unemployed. This is the most serious of all the problems facing our country, and is directly related to every other social and economic problem, including poverty and crime.
Unemployment does not affect everyone equally. It has a race, gender, age and locality bias. It affects more than 40% of Africans, and approximately 7% of whites. More African women (around half) are unemployed, than men. Perhaps most critical of all, more than half our 16 to 24 year olds are unemployed. Unemployment in the rural areas is almost double that in the metropolitan areas.
Unemployment is a capitalist disease
Unemployment is not a "fact of nature". It is not some natural event, like the weather. To waste, as we are, nearly half our work-force is the height of economic folly. Only a warped free market ideology could make it seem normal.
Before the advent of capitalism, in earlier tribal societies everyone, who was old enough and fit enough, worked. That was natural. In the 20th century, whatever their shortcomings, socialist societies like the Soviet Union achieved near full employment. Many reformist, social democratic societies also achieved full employment, at least for some years.
Left to itself, the capitalist market always creates mass unemployment. Liberals like to give us sermons about the "inefficiency of socialism". What could be more economically inefficient than a system which creates millions and millions of unemployed world-wide?
Last year the South African economy grew by slightly over 3%; an important achievement. This is only the second year in over a decade that the economy has grown. Last year's growth is testimony of the confidence that the ANC election victory has generated.
But, sadly, this 3% growth was a jobless growth. Some jobs have been created in the formal sector, but many have also been lost in textiles, clothing and the appliances sector, amongst others. The long-term trend of job losses in mining and agriculture continues. President Mandela, in his state of the nation address to the 1996 opening of parliament, highlighted the reality of jobless growth in our country.
This reality debunks the whole neo-liberal argument. According to the ideologues of the SA Chamber of Business all we have to do is "grow, grow, grow the economy, and all else will follow". We are told to liberalise, privatise, and cut wages. We are told that this will make the economy grow, and so produce jobs. If we didn't know before, then 22 months of bitter reality should teach us different.
What is to be done?
We must never cease to note the apartheid and capitalist roots of our present unemployment crisis. But we in the SACP have to contribute actively to solve this terrible crisis.
We can only begin to do something about it if we confidently challenge the grip of capitalist ideas about the economy. We might not be able to abolish capitalism tomorrow, but we certainly have to start setting an alternative agenda.
Some hard questions must be asked
Every aspect of economic and financial policy must be scrutinised from the perspective of job creation.
- Are the Reserve Bank's present interest rate policies intelligent? Is defence of the currency the sole purpose of the bank? Shouldn't its policies be related much more effectively with our broader developmental objectives, including job creation?
- Can we afford to bring down tariff barriers without effective industrial policies in place? To what extent are clothing and textile bosses using liberalisation as an excuse to pursue their own agendas?
- Six hundred thousand new households have been electrified since 1994. The market for television sets has grown 14%. But at the very same time, TV assembly plants in SA are being shut down. Does this make sense?
- Are we approaching public sector employment levels simply as a cost-cutting exercise? Should employment levels in the public service not be approached from the perspective of the ROLE of the public sector? Shouldn't we exercise great caution in the poorest rural provinces, like the Northern Province and Eastern Cape, where civil service wages are virtually the only income within whole communities?
- Is there a clear South African (and southern African) industrial policy? How can we elaborate an effective, large-scale Human Resource Development programme without a clear industrial policy?
Some of the questions posed above don't have simple answers. But if we don't ask the questions, we are liable simply to follow the fashions of neo-liberalism. The question of jobs must be central on the agenda AT ALL TIMES.
Forward to a Jobs Conference
The SACP supports fully the recent ANC decision to convene, within the coming months, a major ANC/Alliance/MDM Jobs Conference. The SACP will be tabling all the above questions at such a Conference, and, together with all progressive forces in our country we shall work to develop clear answers.
THE STRUGGLE REMEMBERED
The Rivonia Story, by Joel Joffe: Mayibuye Books, UWC
Memoirs of a Saboteur, by Natoo Babenia: Mayibuye Books, UWC
Thirty-two years ago, the Rivonia trial, the most famous political trial in South African history, came to an end, when eight men were sentenced to life imprisonment. At the time, we knew they would never come out of jail till the government changed. The government did change. Now, one of these men, Nelson Mandela, is President of our country; another, Walter Sisulu, became Deputy President of the ANC, and a third, Raymond Mhlaba, is Premier of the Eastern Cape.
Joel Joffe was instructing attorney for the defence, and he tells a gripping story of the prosecution case, of the defence, and of the accused themselves, who pleaded not guilty, saying the apartheid government should be in the dock, and went into the witness box to make powerful political statements.
Natoo Babenia has been a political activist all his life: first in India, resisting British rule, and then in Durban. His story, too, is a gripping one: of underground organisation in Southern Natal, and of his life on the Island.
He was one of 18 MK men, who got sentences of between eight and 20 years. Some of them, like Ebrahim Ismail, Billy Nair and Curnick Ndlovu, are well known today.
The Mayibuye Centre at the University of the Western Cape is publishing a series of these records of our past. It's a pity about the occasional mistakes in editing, the spelling of names, and so on, because in every other way, these books are interesting and valuable, and an important reminder to us all, of how the new South Africa was made.
LETTER TO THE EDITOR
I am writing about a provincial Party school that took place on December 16th and 17th at Giyani College.
This event was a revival and appropriation of our energies to the issues facing the Party and the province. To me, it was if I was rejoining the Party - I became a serving Communist. Even more appreciable was the morale amongst the comrades, and their participation throughout the sessions.
We met in a relaxed atmosphere, as comrades from all over the province, and discussed matters of the Party and the province. It will help us to build one coherent Party in the province and in the country as a whole.
I want to commend the way those who attended argued that negotiations are a good weapon.
Speeches and contributions made by our comrades from the Political Education Committee of the Northern Province, and from Comrade George Mashamba from the Central Committee, were moulding, encouraging, and, at the same time, soothing. They made me see the future as a challenge, but face it confidently and positively.
Thanks to the PEC for organising such an event. I hope they organise one every year.
BUILD WOMEN CADRESHIP
"We opened the way for you. You must go forward," Dora Tamana told the opening meeting of the United Women's Organisation in April 1981. The UWO was to become a leading organisation in the United Democratic Front, the great federation for resistance in the 1980s. Nogolide Nojozi, national gender organiser for the SACP, writes about plans for women to advance further.
This year, at the end of July, the SACP will be celebrating its 75 years of existence. The Party has always recognised that divisions of race, class and gender were enforced by the regime, and has a history of championing gender struggles.
This year, August 9th, will be the 40th anniversary of the great women's march on the Union Buildings in Pretoria.
The SACP Gender Department will mark these anniversaries with a campaign to remember, salute and honour our heroines and women stalwarts who fought for freedom and paved the way in the struggle for the emancipation of women. We pay tribute to them for the contribution they made in developing women cadreship inside and outside the Party, their inspiration and encouragement in building the new nation.
The focus of our campaign will be to ensure empowerment of women in all political sectors, within family structures, in civil society, in government and management, and in economic sectors.
We therefore call on all our Party structures to target recruitment and cadre development of women, particularly working-class women.
Forward to a progressive women's movement, in this anniversary year!
THE COMMUNITY MUST PARTICIPATE
The recently-published national policy framework for a District Health System for South Africa raises some interesting points about community participation, writes Peter Owen, of the SACP Health Committee.
Community participation at all levels of the health system is a stated objective of the National Health Plan of the ANC. The RDP base document says, "Communities must be encouraged to participate actively in the planning, management, delivery, monitoring and evaluation of the health services in their areas." It also says, "All providers of health services must be accountable to the local communities they serve, through a system of comunity committees."
The National Department of Health has stated in its document, "Towards a National Health System," that, among its goals is to involve communities in planning, management, delivery monitoring and evaluation of health services, to encourage accountability, dialogue and feedback, and to encourage communities to take greater responsibility for their own health promotion and health care.
The National District Health System policy document suggests the formation of Community Health Committees, which will participate in needs analysis, planning, implementation and education for primary health care in the area. They will also elect representatives to the management structures of the health facilities in their area, as well as to the hospital boards and the district health authority.
How are these Community Health Committees to be formed? This should be of interest and concern to all members of the Party, as it is important that the voices and needs of the communities, especially the most disadvantaged, be heard and be adequately represented.
Two methods have been suggested:
- From the Community Development Forum, which should include all interested community-based organisations: women, youth, civic, church organisations, and so on. It is suggested that this forum elect members to a Community Health Committee, and to other structures of the health system in the area. The representatives will be accountable to the Community Development Forum.
- A Community Health Forum be established, of individuals from relevant organisations, who have an interest in health. This would be a separate, independent structure, and so should be be represented on the Community Development Forum in the area.
There is room for debate in each area, as to the best method, and branches of the Party should get involved in this. The issue is really: what is the best approach to ensure accountability, and collaboration between different sectors?
We recommend that branch members should get involved in their local community forums, and encourage others to do the same.
Branch members should also take an interest in other social issues affecting their health. Too often, health tends to be separate from other social services. It is sometimes easy to forget that the social determinants of health - housing, water, sanitation, education, employment, income, the environment - can have a greater impact on improving people's health than just the provision of health and medical services.
NO COMPUTERS FOR SOCIALISTS SAYS THE US
Enforcing the United States blockade of Cuba, US customs confiscated nearly 300 computers from a 30-vehicle US-Cuban Solidarity Caravan when it was stopped at the Mexican border at the end of January. When volunteers tried to carry the computers across the border in their arms, the computers were seized by riot police backing the customs officials.
The computers were part of a scheme of humanitarian aid for Cuba, organised and donated by United States citizens.
During the Cold War, the US banned the export of computer technology to the Soviet Union.
INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY LINKS
- China: An SACP delegation to China in March will hold broad political discussions with the Communist Party of China; discuss strengthening of party-to-party ties, and study the role of the public sector and rural industrial co-operatives in the rapidly developing Chinese economy. The CPC is donating 3,000 books to the SACP
- Cuba: We welcomed the first batch of 120 Cuban doctors, who arrived at the end of February, and are being widely deployed throughout the country.
- France: The SACP helped organise tours of 2 groups of 50 members each from the French Communist Party, and supplied political briefings.
- Nigeria: The SACP is a founder member and participant in the Gauteng-based SA-Nigeria Support Group, which has worked to keep South African attention on the Nigerian situation. We are working with Nigerian democratic groups, and helping to facilitate a meeting of these groups, to be held in South Africa.