MONUMENT TO A HERO OF OUR PEOPLE
THE CHRIS HANI WATER SCHEME IN COFIMVABA
The name of Thembisile Chris Hani, ANC and SACP leader, will not soon be forgotten in our country. None of us need to be reminded of this brave fighter for freedom, who loved peace. Yet it is right that his name should be commemorated in the water scheme that will improve the lives of people in Cofimvaba in the Transkei, where he was born and grew up.
Cofimvaba, with about 5 000 inhabitants, is an impoverished rural district. "Life was quite harsh for us," Hani said, describing his childhood and his family. School was 20 kilometres away, and, at a very tender age, he walked that distance, on Mondays and Fridays, staying at school during the week. He walked it again, to church and back, on Sundays.
Till now, the residents of Cofimvaba have had to walk up to five kilometres to fetch water. The new scheme will be opened on April 9th, the day before the third anniversary of Comrade Hani's murder, and, after that, every household will have fresh water available less than 200 metres away.
Chris Hani's widow, his mother, President Mandela, Water Affairs Minister Kader Asmal, and others, will be present at the opening. Charles Nqakula, SACP General Secretary, and Thenjiwo Mthintso, of the Political Bureau, are among those who will represent the SACP. Also invited, are the survivors of the Luthuli Battalion of MK, who fought with the Zimbabwe People's Revolutionary Army, in 1967. Comrade Hani was there as political commissar.
The apartheid regime recognised Chris Hani as its enemy. There were three assassination attempts against him, the latest in July, 1992, there were disinformation campaigns against him, and, as late as 1993, spokesmen like Kobie Coetsee and Hernus Kriel were denouncing him.
But the vast majority of the people of this country, in their millions, loved and trusted him as a national leader. The two national stayaways, to protest against his killing, and to mark his funeral, were the biggest in our history, involving four million workers. Millions of students, too, and unemployed, observed those days.
He was held in high regard by the soldiers of MK. This wasn't only because of his personal courage, though his record in the armed struggle and in underground work within South Africa show he had plenty of that. It was because he respected the soldiers under his command as human beings, knew them by name, listened to what each had to say, dealt with them fairly. It was impossible to talk to Chris Hani without becoming aware of the humanity of the man, and to become aware that he didn't only talk; he listened.
At the time of his death, he was General Secretary of the SACP. He dedicated himself to the party, and, not long before his death, announced that he intended to stay out of the new government, in order to be free to protest when protest was necessary. He looked forward to peace as a time for upliftment, empowerment and development for the people of our country.
Soon after his death, the African Communist said of him:
"Communism, for him, meant, above all, simple but noble things, like:
- jobs for the jobless;
- homes for the homeless;
- a living wage for the workers;
- land for the landless;
- hope for the youth;
- a life of dignity for the old;
- free health care and relevant and free education for us all.
"Communism meant an end to the exploitation of the many
by the few."
WORKERS' RIGHT TO SAFETY
WHEELS ARE TURNING, CHANGE IS BEGINNING TO COME
There is talk about South Africa being "made attractive" to investors, but South Africa has been attractive to investors for a long time. They are attracted by high profits, and neglect of safety standards in South African industry has helped to create these profits. Too little regard has been paid, too little money spent, on preserving people's lives and health.
Change is now beginning, through the unions, through the Ministry of Labour and through Parliament.
The mining industry has been the most notoriously unsafe. The record of major disasters is grim; that of smaller disasters is no better. In the first six weeks of 1996, 40 mineworkers died, and the acting government mining engineer told the press that, in two of the accidents, there had been "minimal or no management involvement to ensure safety measures were being implemented."
The NUM played the major part in drafting the Mining Safety Bill, now before Parliament. It provides for four rights for mineworkers. One is the right to refuse dangerous work. This means that workers can't be ordered down the mine when they believe it is unsafe. Near Carletonville, in October 1995, six were killed and seven injured in a methane gas explosion, after the workers had told management that they could smell the gas, and didn't want to go down.
The other provisions are the right to information, the right to safety training, and the right to representation on safety structures, so that workers have the technical knowledge to monitor their own safety, and can elect their own safety representatives.
Gwede Mantashe, assistant general secretary of the NUM, says the union is satisfied with the bill as it stands. He says the union supports the idea of a strong, highly trained, government inspectorate, in which the union is involved.
The chemical industry has been responsible for deaths and ruined lives, among workers and people in the environment. A recent case of environmental pollution was last December, when a fire in an African Explosives and Chemical Industries sulphur stockpile in the Western Cape sent off toxic fumes that have caused serious lung troubles among people of the neighbourhood.
COSATU spokesperson Khumbula Ndaba says COSATU policy is that chemical firms guilty of pollution should be liable to prosecution. With regard to workers' health, the Chemical Workers' Industrial Union says that scientific research must be done before precise legislation can be drafted. It is certain that legislation should include the participation of workers in guarding their own safety.
In the meantime, legislation already there should be enforced. Union spokesperson Shirley Miller says inspectors should be "empowered", by which she means they should use the powers they already have. She says, "If it's necessary to close an oil refinery down, they should close it down. Sometimes, they're intimidated."
In the construction industry, South African accident rates are the highest in the world. Mathews Oliphant of the Construction and Allied Workers' Union says a lot of organising has to be done in this field. Several unions are involved, and many workers are both unorganised and unskilled.
The Minister of Labour has set up a committee to investigate health and safety standards. We in the left and trade union movement should monitor the work of this committee, and support it. South Africa has a long way to go to protect its people, and, in the meantime, people are dying.
LETTER TO THE EDITOR
BLACK EMPOWERMENT CAN BE A MISLEADING CONCEPT
Our approach to addressing the social imbalance in our society reduces social upliftment to the creation of a black bourgeoisie.
While it is important to give profit-making opportunities to the previously disadvantaged business people in our society, we must remember that, the most disadvantaged, like unemployed youth and rural women, should be given priority.
I believe we should not be concentrating on creating a few black fat cats. Economic empowerment should be done in such a way that the state provides a kickstart for new, up-and-coming businesses, and, in fact, encourages them to form co-operatives - those who make bricks, for example, should come together and form a big brick-making project.
Our concentration should be on skills training and basic adult education, so that people are able to contribute to the economic development of our country.
Let us not wait until there are enough schools to begin a programme of skills training, because that time will never come. Let us use what we have now - community halls, church buildings -in fact, we must make sure that in every ward there is a place where people attend classes. Let's get college students, or even matric students, to teach people to read and write.
We should organise the unemployed youth, and train them as bricklayers, electricians, and so on. Mozambicans have all kinds of skills, from shoe repair to panel-beating. In this way, our youth will become more creative, and crime will be reduced, because among the crime that is terrorising our society, there is more crime of survival than crime of accumulation.
I hope this letter will provoke discussion in our structures, around the issue of development. As it is, we spend our time reacting to White Papers and Green Papers.
UNEMPLOYED WORKERS TAKE THE INITIATIVE AND ORGANISE
In spite of the name they have given their organisation, the members of the South African Loafers' Organisation (SALOFA) are not loafers. Definitely not. SALOFA is one of several organisations formed by unemployed workers, who are determined not to accept their situation, lie down and do nothing.
Any unemployed worker over 21 is eligible to join (people under 21 are deemed to be school-goers), and SALOFA describes itself as "a non-political but democratic organisation." The constitution requires all members to provide particulars, such as full names, addresses and ID numbers, and is strict about attendance at meetings.
The chief aim of the association is that the members should combine their knowledge and skills to strengthen themselves and each other. All members must be prepared to teach each other, and especially, those who can read and write should be prepared to teach those who cannot.
SALOFA was one of the organisations represented when the National Unemployed Organisations Forum was formed in January, at a meeting held in the Unemployment Insurance Fund building in Pretoria. Representatives were also present from the Kathorus Unemployed Workers' Organisation (representing unemployed workers from Vosloorus, Katlehong and Thokoza), and the Soshanguve Unemployed Workers' Organisation .
The newly-formed Forum made a statement saying that its aim was "to mobilise and empower the broad unemployed community by helping people to realise their own potential, and to assist them to start own businesses."
The Forum has set up a UIF Stakeholders' Working Group "to recommend restruc
turing of the Unemployed Insurance Fund's long-term issues to the Minister of Labour."
The Forum invites all unemployed workers' organisations to join it, and to include themselves in its activities. It says, "Co-ordinating our various organisations to a united effort, able to address the plight of the unemployed community, is of utmost importance."
Contacts are: Thea at 011-903-7111, or Deon at 011-903-8080.
"Never mind the wind and the rain, we'll fight." Comrade Florence Matomela said this while under banning orders imposed on her by the apartheid regime. Nogolide Nojozi, SACP national gender organiser, recalls the life of this heroine and member of the Communist Party.
Florence Matomela was born in 1910. She sought to focus attention on the part women could play in the national liberation struggle. She was President of the ANC Women's League in the Eastern Cape, and one of the four vice-presidents of the Federation of South African Women. As one of the organisers of the 1952 Defiance Campaign, she was among 35 leaders arrested and charged under the Suppression of Communism Act, spending six weeks in prison for civil disobedience.
Florence was among the original 156 defendants in the Treason Trial of 1956. She was arrested in 1959, banned in 1962, and was later detained under the 90-day law. In 1964, she was among 161 Port Elizabeth residents sent to prison for belonging to the ANC, and further charges of promoting the ANC were later brought against her.
While she was in prison, her health deteriorated badly, because she was sometimes deprived of medical attention, like insulin injections. In 1965, her husband died, and, cruelly, the prison authorities kept this information from her until her release in 1968.
After her release, she was banned again, and she died in 1969,
while under those banning orders.
The SACP Gender Department, inspired by this gallant fighter, calls on our women cadres to take her work forward. We are calling for the real emancipation and empowerment of women.
POSITIVE ACTION IN THE FREE STATE
The SACP is planning to launch a provincial structure in the Free State. This will involve a merger of the two districts of Bloemfontein and Welkom. Comrade Tutu Ralane is administrator in our Welkom office, and spoke to Umsebenzi about the state of affairs there.
Comrade Ralane sees regionalism as a problem in his part of the country. He says there has been some concern in the Alliance, because of disagreements among Alliance councillors. In Welkom, in February, in an attempt to strengthen the local council, The Alliance and the councillors held a meeting called the Local Government Summit. The Alliance is now planning a similar meeting at regional level, a Regional Local Government Summit, with the view of bringing about unity among councillors from different towns.
The Alliance has also initiated two campaigns: to prevent crime, and to revive the economy.
Comrade Ralane says crime is escalating in Welkom, and the committee on crime is working to ensure that the whole community is involved in preventing it. The committee intends to popularise community policing, and, though some people are afraid to participate, successful meetings have already been held with the local Community Police Forums, POPCRU, and police senior management.
"So far," says Comrade Ralane, "they have agreed with our proposals, but some police seniors are resisting our involvement, on the basis that we are politicising the CPF. But politics doesn't come into it; the whole of Welkom should be involved, and we all want to assist the police."
The committee on the economy is concerned about 10 000 threatened retrenchments on the gold mines, and a public meeting was organised by comrades in the provincial legislature, to discuss the future of the goldfields.
The committee is seeking ways of saving the economy of the region. It has asked the Free State Goldfields Development Centre for a report on the economic situation there, and is looking at the draft of a report commissioned by the NUM: "Possibilties for Restructuring the South African Mining Industry." It will then engage in serious debate on options.
In the days of apartheid, the Free State was an NP province, and now it is ANC. We asked Comrade Ralane whether democratic forces there are experiencing resistance from white NP voters. He replied:
"There is some resistance, especially from the farmers, who are dismissing workers daily, and telling them to go to Mandela for employment. Of course there is resistance generally, but if we can work hard politically, we can win many of them to our side. This resistance is not well organised."
He says: "Some of those who voted NP, and who are working on the mines, would like to join the NUM. They feel that the NUM will look after their interests better than the Mine Workers' Union, which has never engaged management in a successful manner."
He also says, " Only last week, a businessman was in my office here, saying he would love to join the Party. He even signed a debit order. He is a member of the ANC, and says his father was a communist during World War Two. I am told there are others in Bloemfontein, who would like to join the Party."
ANC WOMEN'S LEAGUE DURBAN
SACP GENDER DESK SENDS MESSAGE
This is part of the message the SACP Southern Natal gender desk sent to the launch of the ANC Women's League in the Durban West region, on March 24th. It was delivered by gender convenor Comrade Phumzile Bekwa.
We women , as well as men, have come a long way in our struggle for liberation. We still have a long way to travel in the transformation process, and the total emancipation of women and the working class.
We salute the heroic struggle, led by Helen Joseph, Jabu Ndlovu, Lilian Ngoyi, Dora Tamana and many others. Among males, we would like to respect the leadership of Comrades Chief Luthuli, Oliver Tambo, Chris Hani, Joe Slovo, and all those who encouraged the liberation of women from the kitchen. And we sing praises to the dynamism of the South African President, Comrade Rohihlahla, for the entrenchment of women's rights in the country's constitution.
There are two immediate tasks that women and non-chauvinist men under the alliance leadership have to take up seriously and enthusiastically:
* A landslide victory in the local government elections on May 29th. These local governments should be democratic, and transparent in the delivery process.
* The proper implementation of the Reconstruction and Development Programme, in a truly people-centred and working-class-driven context.
Women need to have a clear programme to ensure that the mass democratic movement, under the leadership of the ANC, drives a strategically co-ordinated transformation process through multi-party forums: health forums, community policing forums, parent-teacher-student associations. In some of these forums there are forces which are not supportive of the RDP aim of transformation.
We need to co-ordinate all these activities in broader forums in different areas. In areas which we cannot reach, we need to work through community-based organisations and civic movements which are not antagonistic to the RDP principles of equality and non-sexism.
Women's struggle is the struggle for democracy. The struggle for democracy is the struggle for majority rule. The struggle for majority rule is the struggle for a more than 50% working-class women's victory.
THE IMBIZO NEEDS CAREFUL PREPARATION
What are the implications of the forthcoming imbizo in KwaZulu-Natal? What are the prospects of such a gathering of the Zulu people? Umsebenzi consulted Comrade Ephraim Ngcobo, the SACP provincial chairperson in Kwazulu-Natal, Comrade Important Mkhize, the deputy chairperson, and Comrade Magwaza Maphalala, provincial secretary.
In the words of Comrade Mkhize, "the majority of the people of KwaZulu-Natal are tired of senseless violence and killing of innocent people." All three comrades believe that, if the imbizo is carefully organised, it will help to bring peace. Comrade Ngcobo says he thinks it will "create a space for free political activity and political tolerance."
They are cautious, though. They agree that there are dangers, and emphasise that, to protect the lives of all the people taking part in the gathering, there should be very careful preparation beforehand.
Comrade Mkhize says that the people can gather together only in a climate where hostilities have ceased, and he believes that this cessation "will not be automatic", but must be worked for. He thinks the imbizo should come at the end of a process of very serious meetings, "to discuss clearly identified issues", and that this process "should be used in conjunction with all other strategies that could bring peace and stability in the province and the country as a whole." During the course of this process, he says, agreements should be reached which the imbizo itself would then endorse and ratify.
Comrade Ngcobo identifies issues he says need to be addressed: the safety of people at the gathering itself, and mechanisms to ensure that the gathering doesn't become a fighting field; safety for people before and after the imibizo, especially those from rural areas controlled by the amakhosi; and the question of traditional weapons, and whether there will be a mechanism to disarm those who are attending.
Comrade Mkhize says a wedge is being driven between the people, by forces that are opposed to democracy and progress, and that these forces represent a tiny minority of the people of KwaZulu-Natal.
Comrade Maphalala defies the trouble-makers to come forward: "Let those who do not want peace demonstrate against the initiative, and prevent it from taking place, negating themselves in the process."
Comrade Ngcobo says: "Our objective must be to stop violence and unite the people of Natal, and it must be ensured that this objective is achieved. It must be kept in mind that the imbizo can be utilised by those elements that are against democracy, and who want to ensure that blood is still bleeding in this province.
Mechanisms have to be worked out to identify elements deployed to disrupt the imbizo, and to destroy the image of our President and the Alliance leadership."
He believes that the people need to feel that the police are protecting them. He says that, if the imbizo is to produce good results, police, magistrates and prosecutors need to play their roles very effectively. "They need to be reorientated," he says.
IS THE LEFT REGAINING SPACE IN EUROPE?
CHANGES IN THE GLOBAL DISORDER
Langa Zita, SACP National Political Education Officer, recently spent four months in the United Kingdom, on a scholarship. Here, he gives his impressions of the European political situation.
In 1989, when the Berlin Wall fell, it seemed as though radical and socialist forces were in terminal decline. Existing socialism collapsed, and even social democratic parties seemed to meet serious setbacks in a number of European countries, notably Sweden.
However, after five years of IMF, World Bank and Western haemmorhageing, there has emerged a definite change to the left in the former Eastern Europe. The recent electoral victory of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation is a nodal point in this development.
The same seems to be taking place in Western Europe. There is improved performance by the new left in some countries, and social-democratic and labourist forces seem to occupy a key position in their countries.
Italy had to depend on the PDS, the Party for the Democratic Left, to stabilise the situation, after the demise of the Christian Democrats, due to corruption. It's early days, but it seems that the PDS and the Rifondazione, both successors of Gramsci's Italian Communist Party, are poised to play a central role in the government for the longest spell since the foundation of the Italian Party in 1921.
In Germany, the former East German communists, the PDS, have emerged as a strong electoral force. Oskar Lafontaine, recently elected militant leader of the social democrats broke a long-standing taboo in his party, and raised the question of coalition with the PDS.
Also reflecting the leftward shift, the Labour Party in the UK seems to be assured of victory in next year's elections. Their chances seem to be enhanced by the continuing self-destruction of John Major's Tories.
This trend is also expressed by growing criticism of some shapers of the global scene, in particular, the overbearing media moguls, like Rupert Murdoch. His media empire includes Sky Television, whose lucrative contracts with sporting organisations mean that most Britons find themselves unable to watch football matches, unless they are connected to his cable network. There is a frightening possibility that broadcasting for the public good is being jeopardised.
Recently, scenes reminiscent of 1968 have been played out in Paris, as workers in the left-wing CGT, and other unions, were fighting to re-negotiate the welfare state. French workers inspired workers the world over in re-stating clearly that, in an exploitative society, class struggle will continue.
Linked to this renewal of left politics is a process that is coming out against the European Union. It is becoming increasingly clear that not all European economies will be able to sustain the rigours of integration, and many are now clamouring for domestic space within the framwork of integration. This rebuts theories that globalisation has rendered the nation state obsolete.
No doubt we can learn a lot from this experience about the real character of the global community we are supposed to be part of.
The shift to the left is primarily a resounding rejection of neo-liberal society, in its uncaring, alienated politics, as well as
its free market economics of unabashed profiteering.
US PERSECUTION OF CUBA INTENSIFIES
The Helms-Burton law, recently passed by the US Congress, threatens economic sanctions against countries, companies and individuals who maintain friendly relations with Cuba. It is an attempt to extend the US blockade of Cuba by enforcing it on the international community.
The Cuban government has declared that this law violates international treaties, and the agreements of the World Trade Organisation, that it violates the United Nations Charter, which is based on the principle of self-determination of nations, and that it violates the sovereignty of all states of the world.
A government agency in Havana has said that the US administration is assuming "the right to tell all nations what they can or cannot do, by granting itself the right to punish those who do not follow their dictates."
The same agency points out that aggressive policies like this have long been a feature of US electoral years. "Examples are endless," it says.
This time, the excuse for further US persecution of Cuba was the incident of the two light aircraft shot down in Cuban air space in February. The Cuban government's account of what happened has been given so little publicity in the media, that we will quote from the official communique that was issued in Havana the next day.
"On February 24th, 1996, between 3.21pm and 3.28 pm, two Cessna planes were shot down by our armed forces. They were coming from trhe Opalocka airport in the state of Florida.
The communique states that, earlier, between 10.15 am and 11.27 am, three planes of the same kind had invaded Cuban airspace, and a Cuban plane had gone to chase them away. The communique continues:
"At 3.21 pm, while they were returning to Cuba, one of the planes responsible for the incursions was warned by air traffic control in Havana that they had activated areas of airspace north of the capital, and they were warned of the risks they were running by doing this.
"In response, the pilot of the pirate plane said it was clear he couldn't fly in that zone, but he was going to do it anyway. At 3.14 pm, it was known through the internal communication of one of the pilots that they were heading towards Havana."
The planes shot down were not passenger aircraft; they were light aircraft, belonging to a Cuban organisation in the US, called Brothers to the Rescue. The violation of Cuban air space on February 24th was the latest of a great many violations over the past few years.
The UN Security Council, at present under the presidency of the US, met to discuss the incident early on February 27th. The Cuban Minister of Foreign Affairs was on his way to New York to present the Cuban side of the story, and was in Mexico City, waiting for a US visa, but the Security Council continued without him. It issued a statement, which, incidentally, invokes an international protocol on civil aviation, which has not yet been ratified. The Cuban Minister was granted his US visa an hour later.
Thais brought in to do Arabs's jobs
After the Hamas suicide bombings, Israel closed its borders with
the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. This has meant that 70 000 Palestinians
who used to cross the border each day to work in Israel have lost their
means of livelihood. Lately, Israel has begun to replace them, by organising
airlifts of Thai workers, on a one-year contract.
RUSSIA PREPARES FOR PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
WESTERN ATTEMPTS TO INTERVENE
The leader of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, Gennady Zyuganov, candidate for the presidential elections on June 16th, now has the support of a coalition of smaller left parties, including the Russian Workers' Communist Party, and the People's Power bloc in the Duma, led by Nikolai Ryzhkov, former prime minister of the Soviet Union.
Zyuganov is therefore front runner in the elections, and, at present, it looks as if he has substantial electoral support among the Russian people. President Yeltsin is a long way behind.
The West, concerned for the fate of its loans and investments, has come out in support of Yeltsin. President Clinton has made public his wish for Yeltsin to continue standing as candidate. Chancellor Kohl of Germany has also entered the campaign, and has begun to advise the Russian people on how they should vote. During a visit to Moscow in February, he told German television that Boris Yeltsin was "the best president for Russia." In response, Yeltsin referred to Kohl as "my dear friend, Helmut."
Fortunately, neither Clinton nor Kohl will be voting in June. It's the Russian people who will be voting, and the "free market reforms" under Yeltsin's presidency has given them reason to feel differently. These are some of the results of that system.
* Before the December elections, Zyuganov announed that 20 million in Russia were unemployed, 15 million were living below the poverty line, six million were refugees, and 50% of taxes were unpaid.
* According to official Russian sources, a total of 2.5 million crimes, including 20 000 were registered in Russia in 1995, a 5.6% increase over 1994.
* According to a study done at Harvard University in the US, 25% of Russian businessmen pay regular protection money, and about ten billion dollars disappear each year from Russia into private foreign bank accounts.
* The Russian news agency, Itar-Tass, reports that the cost of a basic monthly basket of 19 essential goods rose 130% during 1995, that the price of heating (vital in Russia) rose to four times the 1994 level, and the cost of urban public transport more than doubled.
* Workers haven't been getting their wages. In December, workers at a shipyard at Polyarni on the Kola Peninsula refused to allow a submarine they had repaired to leave the yard. They hadn't been paid since August. Unpaid coal miners and teachers came out on strike at the end of January.