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October 1996


It is nearly two and a half years since the April 1994 democratic breakthrough. Many gains have been scored since that time. Despite what much of the commercial media might say, government delivery is starting to gather pace.

But these past two and a half years have also been a period of some confusion. Especially in the last few months, we in our broader ANC-led liberation movement have too often allowed ourselves to be distracted from the main strategic tasks of our time.

Some of these mistakes have been caused by our own errors within our movement. We have allowed ourselves, too often, to be preoccupied with diversions, or with intra-leadership arguments and rivalry.

We are not, for instance, saying that the Holomisa issue was not a serious matter of indiscipline that required decisive action. We are saying that we have allowed issues of this kind to occupy too much time and attention.

Why has this happened? There are several reasons:

At times, as a movement, we have allowed ourselves to become too defensive. We should be prepared to admit errors when we commit them, and move on to the real issues.

This tendency to become defensive is partly rooted in a tendency to exaggerate the significance of our April 1994 breakthrough. Within weeks of the 1994 elections the central committee of the SACP was raising its concern about this. "Despite the historical significance of the elections," we warned, "it is entirely wrong to portray them as the culmination of the national democratic revolution." We said that the balance of forces remained complex, and that our power in government was real but limited.

A tendency to exaggerate our newly won governmental power had two unintended consequences:

It put us into a corner. If we are so much in power, where is the delivery? The ANC-led movement gets blamed for everything from crime to unemployment - while the capitalist class in our country is happy to let its own past role and its own present vast powers to be forgotten.

We tended to send a demobilising message to our broader constituency - "Thanks for the struggle. We are now in power, we shall deliver. See you again in 1999."

So what must now be done? There are major tasks:

The SACP, and all progressive organisations, must help to refocus attention on the key transformation tasks of our time. This means reasserting our commitment to a thorough-going national democratic transformation. It means resisting those forces who seek to confine change in South Africa to a "modernising" and "normalising" project, a project that would be about stabilising the present crisis within a new capitalist order. This is a project that sees its main task to be making the South African economy "more competitive" on the "global stage".

We must resist the agenda of those forces outside our movement who seek to use difficulties to stir confusion. These forces try to sow panic around the depreciation of the Rand, or about crime, to deflect us from our transformational, democratic and humanist revolutionary values.

We must resist the attempt to debase real and necessary strategic debates within our movement (around macro-economic policy or housing delivery) into leadership rivalries and squabbles.

We must fearlessly support the major task of transforming the state. We need a national democratic state that is capable of leading a major developmental effort within a broad alliance of democratic forces anchored amongst the working class and poor. This means a state in which there is an effective cadreship and not just thousands of bureaucrats enjoying privileges.

Above all, we must rebuild our mass formations, and their capacity to remain active forces in the struggle for all-round transformation.

Privatising State Assets Deprives The People

The debate continues over whether the government should sell the assets it controls, or some of them, or parts of some of them, to private investors. The SACP position, as agreed at our last Congress, is that, while we don't advocate wholesale nationalisation, we don't agree with wholesale privatisation, either.

COSATU made another contribution to the debate in a press statement issued after its Central Executive Committee meeting on September 14th. It said:

"There may be state assets which should never have belonged to the state sector in the first place, whose retention does not benefit the majority of people, or helps perpetuate the apartheid divide. These would need to be identified and sold.

"Others may require the involvement of private sector capital (in a limited form) based on the need for more capital, new technology, enhance delivery, etc. Where there is a compelling case for such an approach, the Federation is willing to consider them. In such a situation, the state should remain the majority shareholder."

The language is guarded, cautious, and rightly so. COSATU is clear about keeping an open mind on individual cases of privatisation, but makes no promises about accepting any of them. It demands "compelling" arguments.

State ownership is a form of ownership by the people. The state gets the profits, which it can then use for education, health, and other services. Through their elected government, the people can control and direct these resources. In the USSR, after the revolution of 1917, and, again, after World War Two, the system of state ownership accomplished amazing transformations.

The system can arouse enthusiasm and unleash creativity among workers on the shop floor. On the other hand, it can become bureaucratic, as it did in later years in the USSR, when control of industry was highly centralised, workers had little or no say in production, and consumers often didn't like what was produced.

Co-operatives are another form of social ownership, where all workers vote equally on use of resources, elect their manager, and share all profits. Late in his life, Lenin began to think about co-operatives as an alternative to state ownership, to co-exist with it. There's no reason why a socialist mixed economy shouldn't accommodate different forms of social ownership, and small-scale private ownership as well.

However, the co-operative movement is weak in South Africa. Nearly all the people's resources are at present in the hands of the state, and we are therefore forced to rely for transformation on the profits from state assets. Throughout its statement of September 14th, COSATU makes clear that it wants to see more, not less, government involvement in the development of this country.

While the government takes decisions about dealing with privatee investors, it should bear the following facts in mind.

When the state sells any asset, it gives up all possibility of ever being able to use the profits from what it has sold. And the possibility of profits will certainly be there; no private company will bid for a state asset unless its most hard-headed advisers believe money can be made out of it.

Even if the state keeps a controlling interest, the profits from whatever is sold will be lost for ever to the people of South Africa, and lost to transformation. The government will get the "revenue of privatisation" that is, the price for the sale, but that payment is a one-off, while profits go on year after year.

COSATU speaks of a "limited form" of private sector investment. Perhaps we should look at the example of China, which has accepted overseas investment, but on a very small scale, enough to allow exchange of technology and skills, but not enough to take control of industries out of the hands of the Chinese people, and not enough to allow a large-scale flight of profits from the country.

If overseas investors buy our assets, those lost profits won't remain here to circulate, provide employment, or "trickle down". They will be taken right out of the country. We're not likely to be dealing with small-scale investors, but with transnational companies. Precisely because transnationals are based overseas, the South African people and its government will have little control over them. The big transnationals have ways of getting round exchange regulations, where such regulations exist. The capital for Minorco, Anglo-American's offshore company, came from the copper mines in Zambia, in spite of Zambian laws against such a drain of resources.

In this way, the transnationals grow stronger, while governments in the countries they prey on are impoverished and weakened.

Our government is financially less powerful than Anglo-American, but Anglo-American has never had the aim of transforming South Africa. Of all institutions interested in transformation, the government has by far the most resources; that is, unless it forfeits those resources for quick cash.



Dear Comrade

The national democratic revolution is not a detour, but the most direct route to socialism. This was one of the slogans at a historic Party congress.

When are we going to advance to socialism as the party of the working class and of socialism?

In mid-June, Minister Comrade Trevor Manuel unveiled the government's macro-economic strategy. In the North-West, on the 75th anniversary of the founding of the SACP, John Gomomo strongly criticised this plan.

As the Party, we have to deepen and defend the democratic gains of 1994 and 1995. To my understanding, this has to happen at grassroots level. Apparently, there is already a culture within our ranks, that when government measures go against the interests of the working class, we condemn through the media, without following it up.

We want to reach a stage where the means of production belong to the whole of society. Socialism is indeed the future, and we must build it now.

Patrick Masiu


Dear Comrade

I am writing in reply to Dale McKinley's letter in the September 1996 issue of Umsebenzi.

It is really disturbing to note that our revolutionary leadership is under attack from individuals who are confused over the government's efforts to save our economy.

A government without vision will not correct the economic imbalances, or narrow the wage gap, and our first democratic government at last provides the necessary vision in its Macro-Economic Framework.

McKinley's amateur "economics", which he separates from politics, are incoherent, and ignore the need for government to provide a macro-economic lead, and to govern.

He disregards the National Framework Agreement, the Labour Market Commission and the extension of government influence over the Reserve Bank, when he complains of lack of consultation. He attacks the MEF for not guaranteeing workers' rights that have been secured in the Labour Relations Act. He shares the determination of the Finance Ministry not to become dependent on the World Bank for loans, but contradicts this by denying us foreign investment.

Has he not grasped the reality that potential foreign investment is deterred, not by crime or instability as much as by the blocking of distribution networks to foreign investors by local conglomerates who fear competition? Deconglomeration is a major strategy of the MEF.

McKinley should spell out his alternative framework, if he has one. He believes that the MEF will not provide for the workers and the poor. I believe he hasn't a clue what he is talking about.

Comradely yours
Reginald Dubazana
Member, SACP Diepkloof Branch.

(These letters have been shortened. Space is short in Umsebenzi - Ed)


The war in the township of Thokoza on the East Rand made national headlines from 1990 till 1993. For many people there, the war is not yet over. They are living with the fact that they cannot return to the homes registered in their names.

In early 1992, money was being collected from residents on both sides, to buy arms. Even rocket launchers were being bought and used. Residents remember shootings, murders, and the Internal Stability Unit encouraging the conflict, making trouble, rather than calming things down. Some families left Thokoza, preferring to camp, without shelter, in the open veld at Phola Park.

The most dangerous area was the battlefront round the hostel. In 1993, the hostel dwellers invaded the houses round about, and took them over by force. The residents had to flee in a hurry, leaving behind them most of their furniture and household goods.

These houses are now occupied by former hostel dwellers, and the registered owners are living with relatives, or in backyard rooms, or in shacks they have built themselves.

It's not only ANC supporters who are deprived of their homes. During the worst of the anger and violence, IFP supporters in ANC neighbourhoods felt unsafe, and left their houses. They, too, are now displaced, and their homes are occupied by others.

Earlier this year, a meeting was held between the local ANC and IFP structures. It was agreed in principle that the houses should be restored to the owners, but the meeting didn't decide on a time limit, and the situation hasn't changed.

It's clearly wrong that registered owners should not have access to their houses. Their homes should be restored to them as soon as possible. Yet the problem isn't easily solved.

The hostel has been painted and improved, to make it more attractive to the former residents, but Alberton Council has done nothing to turn it into family accommodation. In any case, as the hostel now stands, there isn't nearly enough room for all the residents and their families.

The scarcity of housing in Thokoza is the root cause of conflict between the people who live there. The need for more housing is urgent.



What follows is a press statement issued recently by the SACP in the Northern Province.

The Northern Province has been in the media recently about the multi-million rand projects to build houses for members of the Provincial Legislature.

The development plan, by Mr Demetrios Kourtoumbellides, allegedly plans 33 houses, which will cost R33 million.

As the Communist Party we have, throughout our 75 years of existence, stood for the working class and the rural poor, and there is no way in which we can support a policy that will benefit the elite, and leave our people in their state of extreme poverty; not in a province like the Northern Province.

It is politically scandalous to proceed with a project of this nature, which deviates from our election promises as an alliance. A better life for all, not only for elected public representatives.

A broad liberation movement promised our people jobs, better roads, electricity, water, better education, better health care, houses and a better life, not villas for parliamentarians.


In Welkom, the NUM and the SACP joined with a non-governmental organisation, the National Literacy Co-operative, to celebrate International Literacy Day on September 8th, at the regional office of the NUM.

About 300 workers were there, and heard speaker after speaker emphasise the importance of the literacy campaign. The keynote address was given by Frank Mollela from the provincial Ministry of Education.

The need for a literacy campaign is urgent. The mines have an obligation to implement basic education and training. Government and the employers have the resources. The Party and the unions in the Free State want to engage management and the government in providing tuition in the workplace and time off during working hours.

This campaign should be popularised, and older people should be encouraged to attend classes.



About 1 500 workers were present when the NUM and the SACP commemorated the mineworkers' strike of 1946 at a rally at Harmony Mine on September 12th. Speakers were Comrade Gwede Mantashe, deputy national secretary of the NUM, and the provincial secretary of the SACP, Comrade Tutu Ralane.

Comrade Mantashe stressed that what the mineworkers fought for in 1946 is not yet achieved. He uged workers to unite to fight their common enemy - the bosses.


A lively SACP branch of about 65 members is now established in Kimberley in the Northern Cape. Radiating out from there, more branches have been set up. This is good news, because organising in that province has been difficult.

Umsebenzi spoke to two leading comrades. One is Johannes Hlalele, chairman of the Kimberley branch and regional secretary of NUMSA. The other is Thabo Mohapi, an experienced comrade recently returned from the North-West, who is branch secretary, with a daytime job of private secretary to the provincial premier.

Comrade Mohapi is emphatic that the Party is building on a rich history of political resistance in the province. Sol Plaatje, first secretary-general of the ANC, was born in that region, and so was Professor ZK Matthews, an historic figure in the struggle for democracy, who first put forward the idea of the Congress of the People.

There have been problems. The chief one was logistical, for the province has been under-resourced. Distances are enormous, the Party has had no car, and organisers have been forced to beg lifts, or hitch-hike. Now, members and supporters are making vehicles available, and branches have been set up in Douglas, Barkley West, Ritchie and Warrenton.

The Party has mounted a recruitment drive, and local regions of unions are co-operating: NUMSA, which organises the engineering industry in Kimberley, and the NUM, which organises the Kimberley diamond mines and the lime mines in Delport. Lime mining is becoming more important, as the diamond mines now have only a short life left. Organisers are in touch with agricultural workers round Upington, and the Party hopes for fruitful co-operation with FAWU in organising agricultural workers in other parts of the province as well.

The Party is interested in the quality of members recruited. Comrades Mohapi and Hlaleli are both enthusiastic about an intensive programme of political education that has been set up to ensure a high level of political understanding.

Branches have discussed issues like the globalisation of capital, the nature of the Alliance, and the objections the labour movement has to the Governnment's macro-economic policy. A local advocate explained why the Constitutional Court has referred back certain aspects of the new Constitution, and what the effect on labour is likely to be.

Twice in the past, interim provincial structures have been set up to work towards a provincial launch, and twice they have collapsed. Comrades Mohapi and Hlalele and their committee are determined that this won't happen again. They plan the Kimberley district launch for the end of October, with a membership of about 800. They intend to go on from there towards launching a provincial structure that will stand.

Comrade Mohapi says they intend the Party to play a full role in local Alliance structures. "Till now," he told us, "we have been regarded as sleeping partners." He says, "We will come back with a bang, as a force to reckon with."


Spectators and participants enjoyed a day of sport and cultural activities at the Phuthaditjhaba Stadium in the former Qwa Qwa, on September 9th. It was followed by a memorial lecture in the evening. The event was part of the 75th Anniversary celebrations, and was held to honour Edwin Mofutsanyana, a son of Phuthaditjhaba.

Edwin Thabo Mofutsanyana was at one time general secretary of the Communist Party of South Africa, and was editor of the Party newspaper, Inkululeko, during the 1940s. From the mid-1930s till the end of the 1950s, he was central to all debates and campaigns. He held office in the ANC, and so helped form the alliance between the ANC and the Party. He saw the growth of the alliance between the ANC and the Indian Congress, which represented the beginning of real unity among the oppressed people of South Africa.

He was on the Executive Committee of the Communist Party of South Africa when it was banned and dissolved in 1950, and was one of the foremost among those who worked to build the South African Communist Party underground. He went into exile in Lesotho in 1959. In 1992, he returned to Witzieshoek, where he was born, and, in 1995, he died there.

SACP general secretary Charles Nqakula and national treasurer Kay Moonsamy were present at the event, and Comrade Nqakula addressed the gathering in the evening.


Progressive forces throughout the world are planning an International Day of Action on October 28th, to begin a campaign in support of human rights and democracy in Indonesia. A letter from an imprisoned leader, asking for solidarity, was recently smuggled out of gaol and brought to President Mandela.

Indonesia consists of a scatter of islands off the coast of South-East Asia. Before it gained independence in 1949, it was known as the Dutch East Indies. Centuries ago, people were brought from there as slaves to the Cape of Good Hope, and became the ancestors of many South Africans alive today.

Three struggles for freedom are now being fought in Indonesia, against the reactionary regime of President Suharto.

One is the struggle of the Indonesian people themselves. After many years of repression, Indonesian labour and democratic movements have recently regrouped, and launched a series of mass actions. These have been met by armed force. Two leading members of the opposition People's Democratic Party were arrested on September 12th.

Another struggle is for independence in West Borneo. This movement is still in its infancy, but is growing.

The oldest struggle is for the freedom of East Timor, a former Portuguese colony that became independent in 1975, and was then invaded by Indonesia. Since then, Indonesian armed forces have murdered hundreds of East Timor civilians: in 1991, 271 were killed in one massacre alone, and 200 in another in 1995. Between 500 and 600 people are at present in detention.

The liberation organisation of the East Timor people is FRETILIN. Our links with it go back a long way, through our allies FRELIMO and MPLA, and the fight against Portuguese colonialism. The FRETILIN comrades who came to see President Mandela to bring the letter from their imprisoned leader Xanana Guamao also made contact with the SACP.

FRETILIN says it is ready to enter into dialogue with the Indonesian authorities, under the auspices of the United Nations. The General Assembly and Security Council have adopted ten resolutions altogether, in support of East Timor's right to self-determination. Another smuggled letter from Xanana Guamao went to the UN Secretary-General.

The International Day of Action on October 28th, and the campaign that will follow, has been promised support from democrats in Asia, Europe and North America, and in Pacific countries, including Australia and New Zealand.

In South Africa, the protest on the 28th will be centred round the Indonesian Embassy. It will be part of a broader campaign in the media, to raise public awareness around the issue.



The Kurdish people of the Middle East are scattered across four countries, and are suffering in all of them. Their area, Kurdistan, lies fragmented, crossed by the borders of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey.

A letter from the Central Committee of the Iraqi Communist Party to the CC of the SACP tells the story of the fighting that broke out in August between the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.

Iran intervened on the side of the PUK, and bombarded KDP positions with heavy artillery. The KDP then asked for help from Iraq. Iraqi forces entered the "safe haven" for Kurds set up by the United Nations, and attacked the city of Arbil. Unarmed civilians were killed, wounded and made homeless by the bombardment that took place before the invasion.

In Arbil, Iraqi forces arrested and killed members of the Iraqi Communist Party, and other organisations opposed to policies of the regime, and destroyed their offices and equipment.

The Iraqi Communist Party says it has always stood against the use of force by the two warring Kurdish parties, and has twice succeeded in preventing fighting. It says that the Kurdish youth recruited by both sides suffer unemployment and hunger under the double blockade on Iraqi Kurdistan: the international blockade, and that imposed by Saddam's regime.

The US has since "punished" Saddam Hussein by bombing Kurdistan. The Iraqi Party blames the US for not having taken steps to prevent the invasion, during the week when Saddam's troops were massing on the border, and calls the bombardment, "only a punishment for our people."

The Turkish government has now announced it will set up a "security zone" inside Iraqi territory. The Communist Party of Iraq calls this a "pretext" for "occupying part of our homeland."

The Iraqi Communist Party calls for solidarity for:

  • Preventing Iraqi repression from remaining in Kurdistan,
  • Implementing UN Security Council Resolutions 688 and 986, aimed at protecting the Kurds,
  • Putting Saddam Hussein on trial as a war criminal,
  • Condemning Turkey's policies,
  • Exposing "the duplicity and contradictory stands of American policy, which only aims at consolidating its political hegemony over the area, and plundering its oil wealth."

On the subject of Turkey's policies, it should be remembered that 12 Kurdish political prisoners died two months ago, on hunger strike in Turkish gaols. Kurdish commentators claim that, though the 22 million Kurds in Eastern Turkey suffer greatly, the US and other western powers show no concern. The Turkish foreign minister recently stated that Turkey's interests in Northern Iraq are not only to protect Turkey from "Kurdish terrorists", but to protect Turkey's oil interests as well.



In the Greek elections on September 24th, the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) was the winner, with 162 parliamentary seats. The New Democracy came next, with 108.

The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) was third, with eleven seats.

There was majority support for left-wing parties. PASOK and the KKE, together with the small socialist Coalition Party, Synaspismos, hold a combined total of 183 seats out of 300, a gain of four seats since the last election in 1993.

The results also show a shift to the left since 1993. While PASOK now has eight fewer seats, the KKE has gained two: 11 as against nine in 1993, and Synaspismos, which held no seats at all, now holds nine.