Introducing the Gender Column
Obviously, our society is made up of women and men and many of us grow up knowing what roles to play as men and as women. The roles we play as men and women are fundamentally about gender and gender oppression. But in political life of left activists, gender is not so obvious.
Historically, gender analysis has largely been incidental in the platform of the left. Understanding gender and relations of power and control between men and women in society is the starting point. Nothing can be changed if the social, cultural, economic and political conditions underpinning gender oppression are not seriously analysed and addressed. And gender is not just women’s issues, gender is also about the relations of power and control between men and women in a capitalist society.
The new Gender Column in Umsebenzi is intended to fully integrate gender into our political thinking and action as communists. We ask readers to write to us suggesting an appropriate name for the gender column. The reader whose suggestion will be chosen will get a complimentary copy of the next Umsebenzi.
We also ask readers to suggest topics and write pieces for this gender column.
In this first issue Thenjiwe Mtintso discusses black women and poverty.
Black women and poverty
(By Thenjiwe Mtintso)
What does the SACP programme mean for the majority of South African black working class and rural women?
Ukuhlupheka affects different groups in different ways
Ukuhlupheka (poverty) is so common that it is accepted as a permanent feature of our lives. Sometimes it is assumed that ukuhlupheka is experienced the same way by all those defined as ‘poor´. Such assumptions lead to programmes addressing the needs of the “poor” as if these were universal. And yet different people are affected differently by poverty and strategies to address poverty have to be informed by the experiences of the poorest.
Women, especially unemployed women in rural areas, townships and informal settlements experience the worst effects of poverty.
But what is poverty and the experience of black women?
The United Nations´ Human Development Report says: “poverty means the denial of choices and opportunities for a tolerable life.”
South African black women in general, but African in particular, have rarely had the choice and opportunity for a tolerable life and this prevails even today. Nomitise Tsobiyelo, an unemployed mother of three living in the informal settlement in Cape Town says, “People say we must be patient about married life, so we put up with oppression. If you are not working, it is worse. What will I do if I leave this man? I must wait, even for a cent.” Many women like Nomitise remain in abusive relationships because they have no choices. Even if she walked away as some may expect her to, there may be no support systems or safe houses for abused women.
Choices are very limited when you live in rural areas, when you are uneducated, are unemployed, live under the rule of man and when customary law and some backward elements of culture bind you to the man.
Central Statistics (1998) found that 37% of non-urban women headed households were among the poorest fifth of households as compared with 23% of non-urban male headed households and 15% for women in the urban areas and 5% for men. Therefore, women headed households in the rural areas are poorer than those in the urban areas and those headed by men. This is a bleak picture for black women since they have limited access to resources such as water, wood, refuse disposal, work, fair wages, education, health facilities and so on.
The “Poverty Hearings” conducted by SANGOCO in 1998 revealed the following: - - Poor women are trapped in abusive relationships because of their economic dependence - The reproductive roles given to women limit their ability to conduct sustainable economic activity - Women get employed in the most exploitative areas of labour because of their low level of education and skills - Women have more difficulties in accessing land - And because of their subservient status are more likely to contract HIVAIDS more than men.
Redesigning how government, political parties, and civil society intervene and interact with impoverished communities is a priority. Often, those with more resources and power (mainly men) control and drive poverty eradication programmes. The dominant ideas are male ideas and these impact on the definition of what is poverty, what development is, how it must be carried out and by whom. Direct participation of women in people centred and people driven poverty eradication strategies is critical.
The SACP has to deal with poverty from the vantagepoint of poor women
The focus and starting point for defining and analysing poverty, understanding development and evaluating programmes will have to be poor women. A gendered developmental approach means that poor women themselves should be at the centre in the identification of their needs, formulating strategies, planning, implementing and evaluating programmes for the eradication of poverty. Any other approach will be welfarist, not developmental and unsustainable and will reduce women and indeed the poor, to be ever grateful, passive recipients of, amalizo from above. Is the SACP up to this challenge and shift in mindset?
iGoli 2002 will go ahead with or without labour
iGoli 2002 plan to restructure Johannesburg will go ahead despite the breakdown in mediation between the Council and the Unions, said City Manager, Ketso Gordhan, in a media statement on 20 January 2000. The November/December 1999 issue of Umsebenzi introduced iGoli 2002 through an extract from the SACP Jhb branch newsletter.
Negotiations over iGoli 2002 started in June 1999 and ran until August 1999 when a dispute was declared as a result of bad faith negotiations by council.
The council consistently and frequently issued provocative statements and continued with restructuring that was subject to mediation. This included the sale of Orlando Stadium, Metro Gas and Metro Centre, as well as calls for tenders for equity partners for water and electricity. Furthermore, the council has been firm on the following issues which labour find highly problematic:
- The existing management cannot be transformed or retrained and the private sector needs to be brought in (external ring-fencing)
- The introduction of ethos derived from the private sector both in the field of delivery and the relationship with communities will help improve the city (client/contractor split)
- The programme as it stands is not up for negotiations but for consultation and labour must simply get on board.
iGoli 2002 and jobs
Notwithstanding the so-called guarantees around no increases to services and no retrenchments, international experience shows that once the honeymoon period is over, pursuit of profits will lead to massive tariff increases and retrenchments. In the case of iGoli 2002, the GJMC confirmed that up to 12 000 jobs may be lost in three years.
On 03 February 2000, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the largest union in Canada. The CUPE said that plans like iGoli 2002 have proved in Canadian cities to be a smokescreen for reduced service levels, channelling of hundreds of million rands to private consulting companies, and environmental hazards. Indeed, the iGoli 2002 plan has already spent over R40 million on consultants and experts have said that the plan to build twenty thousand pit latrines on top of porous rock above the water table could easily lead to cholera outbreaks.
Way forward - COSATU, SAMWU and SACP Jhb Central branch plan mass action.
The variety of problems outlined above has led to COSATU, SAMWU and the SACP Jhb Central branch developing multi-pronged approaches to unlock the current deadlock. This strategy includes the following steps:
Engaging the public
This must include clarifying the public about labour´s position on iGoli 2002. In engaging the public, the unions will emphasise on utilities, privatisation, the sale of Metro Gas, Rand Airport and Johannesburg Stadium.
Utilities – the council wants municipal business enterprises that seeks to introduce in all services such as water, electricity etc. - some form of external ring-fencing. This includes registering under the Companies Act with a CEO that is accountable to a board of directors that are not councilors. The role of council becomes that of a regulator that is merely to look at tariff structures etc. This will lead to a breakdown in public accountability and the commodification of services. SAMWU is arguing for an internal form of ring-fencing as this will ensure public accountability whilst allowing these services to raise the necessary capital and ensuring that some form of cross subsidisation across services is retained.
Privatisation – There are problems associated with both the ideology and the effects of privatisation. Specifically, the assets that are being put up for sale are critical in local reconstruction, development and improved service delivery.
Metro Gas provides a form of cheap energy that disadvantaged communities can use to supplement their energy resources. Currently this remains largely unregulated, as there is still uncertainly over both local and national regulations. Further, no attempts have been made to strengthen the already available local energy suppliers. The objectives are generally based on profit and not delivery.
Johannesburg Stadium may be sold to Louis Luyt!
The Johannesburg Stadium is a strategic recreational facility which can bring in much-needed cash to the city council. The key issue here is how recreational facilities are managed by the council. We need to develop mechanisms of using the stadiums to increase council revenue. The fact that the stadium will be sold to the highest bidder, and that this could very likely mean that the Stadium will fall into the hands of Louis Luyt Junior, is adding insult to injury. The Luyt family is already making enormous profts out of Wanderers, which they rent for less than R12 per year! This is an agreement they struck with the apartheid government. SAMWU has repeatedly requested the Greater Johannesburg Metropolitan Council to cancel this contract.
The Rand Airport is currently breaking even. Given the demarcation of local government, there are developmental possibilities here worth considerably more than the sale price. The airport is located in Germiston and the council has indicated an interest in buying into this asset. This council can be given the preferred buyer status and be allowed to acquire the asset.
Getting affiliates on board
There is a need to ensure that all COSATU affiliates are brought on board and become part of the broader campaign. We believe the struggle against iGoli 2002 needs to be taken up by all affiliates because it is related to other current problems which unions are facing. The roots of iGoli 2002, as is the case with many other struggles, lie in the macro economic framework (GEAR policy) which is based on fiscal constraint, slimming of the state and opening of doors to the private sector and profit-driven programmes. As long as we do not make these linkages, we weaken ourselves to the neo-liberal attack which is currently facing the working class.
The finalisation of the legislative framework for local government restructuring is extremely important. We must ensure that the principles of restructuring find expression in various chapters of the Systems Bill, especially the chapter dealing with municipal services. Already the council has declared they want to influence this piece of legislation through iGoli 2002.
The challenge to COSATU and the broader democratic movement is not only the iGoli 2002 plan. We need to prevent a neo-liberal legislative framework on municipal services from being promulgated. The implications for this are very clear. We need to include in our campaign the Nedlac agreement on negotiations of the Systems Bill, so as to create the necessary room for engagement, both at a political and parliamentary level.
Queenstown SACP calls for pay parity among all race groups
QUEENSTOWN -- The South African Communist Party here has called for pay parity among all races in the country, saying that blacks continue to receive poorer wages than other race groups.
SACP Queenstown region chairman John Kibi said at a regional meeting in Ilinge yesterday that media reports tended to indicate that "we live in a very rich and happy land, but we know that it is a land of suffering and starvation".
Kibi said it was a land where a large number of citizens was in jai, and a large number was murdered daily.
"The fascist government and its friends abroad talk about the wave of prosperity in South Africa -- prosperity for whom?" he asked.
He said while it was true that more goods were being produced than before, only the "big businessmen, financiers, mine owners and farmers" had managed to accumulate wealth -- as had foreign investors in South Africa.
White workers had also benefited from the boom, and had been given "a monopoly of skilled jobs", Kibi said.
"But the masses of non-whites, especially Africans, have not benefited at all from this so-called prosperity," he said.
Kibi claimed the payment gap between "white and African" mineworkers was also widening, and that, on a whole, the annual "African income" was up to 15 times less than that of the annual white income.
Blacks in cities were relatively better off than those in towns -- with a large percentage living below the breadline.
He said prosperity therefore only meant that "more and more profit was being squeezed out of cheap non-white labour".
The solution was equality in pay on all levels – from management to workers.
Durban Metro tried to evict Chatsworth poor
METRO council security officials and the Durban City Police enforcing eviction orders in Chatsworth, were sent packing by angry protesters and the Concerned Citizens' Group, headed by sociologist Fatima Meer.
In an attempt to evict a family from a block of council owned flats in Bayview, security officials, armed with teargas, dogs and semi-automatic weapons, were prevented from reaching the upper floor of the building.
The crowd forced the security officials to retreat for a meeting with housing department officials. The Concerned Citizens' Group's Ashwin Desai said the armed corps attempted to smash their way into the flat occupied by a Mr Mhlongo, but their attempts were thwarted. A group of mainly women residents formed a human chain blocking access to the building.
Chatsworth has a 65% unemployment rate. Many residents are recent victims of government's macro-economic policy that has led to thousands of job losses in the clothing industry. With job loss growth and the continuing spiral of retrenchments many of these people will never work again.
Council officials blamed the police, who in turn said that the eviction could have been planned more efficiently.
Adapted From the Durba Mercury
of 09 February 2000
African Woman Identity
Poem by Thandiwe Gulwa
I´m writing this poem because women are oppressed, suppressed and depressed. Women are living in pain with trauma and fear. Law makers are not implementers and implementers are not enforcing the law. Women are not yet beneficiaries. I am a member of the SACP and a South African woman who grew up in the liberaion struggle, particularly women´s struggles. I am woman worker, a poor woman, a black African woman.
– Note from Thandiwe
I talk of women of Afrika
I talk of rural African women
I talk of women at the countryside
I talk of women in farms
I talk of women in townships
I talk of woman who ae dying brutally
Do not cry mama Afrika
Oh! Mama Afrika, tars have turned to blood
Listen to the freedom fighters singing
Unite women and fight
The African woman is in pain
Oh! I see trauma in the veins
Fight! fight! fight!
Happy new year messages from various communist and worker´s parties
Happy new year of struggle – Workers´ Party of Belgium
Wishing you a year of peace, hope and success – Swiss Party of Labour
Season´s greetings and best wishes for the New Year – Communist Party of Sri Lanka
Wishing you a happy new year 2000 – CP Portugal, CP Nepal, CP Israel and People´s Progressive Party of Guyana
With many good wishes for happiness, prosperity and succes in your struggle throughout the New Year – Jordanian Communist Party
Greetings 2000 – It took mankind more than three centuries to turn Leornado Da Vinci´s conception of ‘Flying Machine´ into reality. The future is socialism. – Communist Party of India (Marxist)
Our warmest wishes for the coming year for peace, social progress and effective struggles – KKE
Looking towards many people´s victories in the new century – CPUSA
The 21st Century is the century of socialism – CP Australia
Best wishes and a happy new year, success in the struggle for freedom, peace and social justice – CP Sudan
Words by Eugene Pottier (Paris 1871) Music by Pierre Degeyter
There are many versions of the Internationale. On the right is the Zulu version of the Internationale here is a brief historical note.
The Internationale was written to celebrate the Paris Commune of March-May 1871: the first time workers took state power into their own hands. They established in the Commune a form of government more democratic than ever seen before. Representatives were mandated on policy questions by their electors, they were recallable at any time and were paid wages that reflected those of their constituents.
The Commune was a working body, not a talk shop. The distinction between legislative and executive arms of government was abolished. Marx's Civil War in France is a suberb account of the history and significance of the Commune. The Commune was drowned in blood by the conservative French government in Versailles, cheered on by the ruling classes of the world.
Workers have adopted a similar pattern of organisation whenever they have challenged the capitalist class for state power: in the form of the Soviets in Russia in 1917; collectives in Spain in 1937; the Workers Council of Greater Budapest in Hungary in 1956; the cordones in Chile in 1973; and, in many respects, Solidarity in Poland in 1980.
Victory for Cape Town hawkers!
– Adapted from SAMWU Daily Email news January/February 2000
The hawkers struggle for survival
On Friday 28th January 2000, hawkers from train stations across Cape Town, staged a mass protest on Salt River station against the eviction of hawkers from stations by Metrorail.
This protest led to an urgent meeting including Metrorail, the Minister of Transport and other stakeholders. This was after the start of a mass resistance campaign by the hawkers when Metrorail started evicting them from all stations during January 2000. Having initially agreed to put the evictions on hold while talks would be called for 15th February, Metrorail went against agreements and started evictions. By the end of January the Ministry of Transport publicly supported the method of talks to resolve this issue.
Metrorail claims to have cleared stations in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Durban, with evictions still pending in East London and Port Elizabeth. The Western Cape Metrorail head , Andre Harrison, has said that the government has given them the instruction to evict all hawkers from all stations across the country.
All they want is a living
On 01 February 2000, Cape Town station hawkers met with Transport Minister 'Dullah Omar to discuss ongoing evictions from stations across the Cape Metropole.
Minister Omar said it was not the policy of the government to evict hawkers nor to take the bread from the mouths of poor people.
The Minister listened to the impassioned words, among others, from an elderly grandmother from Salt River station, nearing her pension age that she had a 35 year old epileptic son to care for, as well as a young grand daughter. She has to play mother and father on R20-R30 per day. All they wanted was to earn a living.
As part of the stations fall under the jurisdiction of Minister of Public Enterprises, Jeff Radebe, Minister Omar promised to speak to him in order for all parties to come together around the negotiating table.
Within an hour of the meeting, it was agreed that Metrorail would immediately cease all evictions, the hawkers would return to their normal place of work and within 2 -3 days the respective parties would meet to start negotiations.
Build hawkers´ co-operatives!
The Cosatu transport affiliate, SATAWU, joined the struggle in support of the hawkers. The Cape Town hawkers´ victory shows that with united action, we can build working class power for job creation and job retention.
The hawkers have developed a plan for the upgrading of stations. This entails the building of structures on platforms, bridges and in the property on the stations themselves.
Such structures would remain the property of Transnet but in return a minimum of a 50 year lease at a nominal rate would be given to the hawkers.
The hawkers´ organisations are currently discussing ways of closer co-operation so that they could jointly manage the lease arrangements.
short term victory, bad faith evictions at some stations by the
Metrorail security continue while all parties concerned, including the
Ministries of Public Enterprises and Transport have agreed to meet
urgently so that talks can take place over how best the hawkers can best
be accommodated on the stations and upgrading of stations
Hawkers are holding mass meetings.
Forward to Jobs for all at living wage!
Do not let them murder Mumia!
Campaigners are planning worldwide protests over the next three months against the threatened execution of radical black journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal in the US. Mumia was framed for shooting a police officer 19 years ago. He has been on death row ever since. The Philadelphia police targeted Mumia because he exposed and campaigned against police racism and brutality.
He is appealing for a retrial, the last stage open to him in the legal process. A judge is to decide in March whether a retrial will go ahead or whether Mumia will be executed.
Mumia continues to speak out, and recently wrote in support of the Seattle protests against the World Trade Organisation.
Protests continue in the US
Two hundred fifty people came together on January 17 at New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit for a Martin Luther King Day rally to demand a new trial and no execution of Mumia. Speakers from unions, religious groups and community organizations spoke out about the fight to free Abu-Jamal. Many denounced the prison-industrial complex and the death penalty. The crowd also gave its unanimous approval after a message was read expressing solidarity with the Texas prisoner hunger strike.
Among organisations represented were Africa 2000; the New Marcus Garvey Movement; the Labor Party; the Xicano Development Center; United Auto Workers; the Gray Panthers, Active Transformation, the National Lawyers Guild, South Asians for Mumia, Students Organizing for Labor & Equality at the University of Michigan, and Workers World Party.
At its January meeting the Detroit Federation of Teachers had passed a resolution in support of a new trial for Abu-Jamal.
What about South African solidarity action?
Defend Mumia and all political prisoners!
Revolution in Ecuador?
This piece is adapted from the editorial Feb. 1-14/2000 issue of People´s Voice, Canada´s leading communist newspaper.
When truly radical social change happens – as it may be in Ecuador today – the powerful word “revolution” has to be reclaimed by the working class movement. For us, revolution means the change from private ownership of productive wealth, to collective ownership and control by the working people, along with the sweeping range of democratic changes which place real political power in the hands of the working class and its allies.
During January, in Ecuador, a rising tide of people´s struggle dumped the hated Mahuad government. This temporarily blocking his plans to further enslave the country to the demands of the transnational corporations. The indigenous people´s movements played a critical role in defeating Mahuad, a stunning change in a country where brutal anti-Indian racism has been the reality for centuries.
This is not yet revolution in the full sense of the word, of course. Even if moves to privatize the petroleum industry and to make the US dollar the national currency are stopped, the economy remains in the hands of foreign corporations and the Ecuadorian elite, and the working class and peasants are not in power.
But this process does have a profoundly revolutionary potential. The initial successes gained by Ecuador´s indigenous and non-indigenous working people against Mahuad´s neo-liberal agenda will encourage them to struggle for more radical changes, which can only be fully achieved in the course of socialist revolution.
Along with the growing strength of democratic forces in Colombia, the election of the radical Chavez government in neighbouring Venezuela, and increasing support for left and democratic forces in many other countries, the events of January 21 in Quito are a warning to Washington: the people of Latin America are preparing to throw off the chains of Yankee imperialism and sellout “leaders” who willingly submit to every demand of the International Monetary Fund. The same process is starting in North America, as the huge anti-WTO protests in Seattle showed.
Nobody can predict all the twists and turns of this vast popular movement, but we can safely say that the tide is beginning to turn against big capital across the entire hemisphere.
Indian trade unions oppose privatisation
from Ganashakti Newspaper, 01 February 2000, New Delhi, India, joint press statement from AITUC, CITU and HMS – Indian trade unions
The government of India decision, on the eve of the 50th year of Indian Republic, to sell-off the national carrier, Indian Airlines, is against national interests, which will also impact the defence requirements of the country. The Indian Airlines, with over 65% of market share of domestic air travel, has made a turn-around, recording profit during the last three consecutive years. This shows the anxiety of the present BJP led NDA government to fulfill every requirement of international financial institutions and MNCs in post-haste.
Similarly, the government decision to hand over the Modern Food Industries (MFIL) to the multi-national, Hindustan Lever Limited is aimed at helping the MNC to take over the manufactured stapled food market in the country, after its complete grip over soap and cosmetics regments. The agreement concluded with the HLL amply testifies that the MFIL had been offered to them on a platter at throwaway prices.
We call upon all sections of the working class-irrespective of affiliation to oppose these decisions of the government and build up a nation wide struggle through sustained campaign amongst the public to resist and defeat the policy of senseless privatisation and sell out of precious national assets.
Swazi youth fight for democracy!
The Swaziland Youth Congress (SWAYOCO) held its 5th General Congress in February 2000. We interviewed Comrade Bongani Masuku, the outgoing president of SWAYOCO. He is based in the offices of the Swaziland Solidarity Network which is housed in the SACP head office.
Umsebenzi – What is SWAYOCO?
BM – SWAYOCO is the youth wing of the People´s United Democratic Movement of Swaziland. SWAYOCO was formed in 1991 to mobilise Swazi youth to fight for democracy in Swaziland and to address interests of young people. SWAYOCO understands that young people have an important contribution to make in Swazi society. SWAYOCO also works for the full development of young women so that they can take part in the political struggle and other aspects of Swazi life.
Umsebenzi – What is the political situation in Swaziland?
BM – Swaziland is run by an un-elected government led by the king under the tinkhundla system. This system is based on the abuse of traditional and cultural institutions as part of the political and judicial institutions. There is no multi-party democracy. The tinkhundla system thrives on patronage and gives no space for women to take part in active political and social life. Women are still subject to very backward institutions.
Since the late 80´s Swazi women, workers and youth have become more political and mobilised against this system and for democracy. But the regime has responded with suppression, violence and attempts to co-opt people´s leaders.
Umsebenzi – What did the SWAYOCO Congress discuss?
BM – The Congress was held under the theme “Towards the liberation of Swaziland through popular and militant youth struggles”. The Congress discussed and adopted several resolutions on building SWAYOCO, building student organisations, the state of the nation, empowering young women, the role of youth is the struggle for democracy and international solidarity work.
Building SWAYOCO is very key in our future work. Over the last 8 years we have seen branches of SWAYOCO being formed and subsequently getting weakened. We have developed strategies and tactics to build youth political cadres through political education and mass campaigns. Important in this work is financial and fund raising work which we also discussed and adopted a programme on. As part of this work, SWAYOCO wants to build a base of young political activists to lead and initiate popular and militant struggles throughout Swaziland. Student organisations will need to be built, politicised and strengthened as part of building a broader youth movement.
Our strategy also includes dealing with difficult and repressive organising work in rural areas of Swaziland. We are confident that the Congress laid a firm basis for the democratisation of Swaziland.
Umsebenzi – What is your message to democratic youth in Swaziland, Southern Africa and the world?
BM – The greatest weapon at the disposal of the enemy is the ignorance of our people. Let Swazi youth go to the rural areas, workplaces, schools, communities, social and entertainment centres and churches and educate the people about democracy and why we need it.
The support of Southern African and world youth for our struggle is important. An injury to one is an injury to all. You have been with us all throughout. Our struggle is a contribution to the world struggle against dictatorships and imperialism.