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September 1997

 Only the Alliance can steer our Country

The national leaderships of the ANC/SACP/COSATU alliance met in a two-day summit on August 31 and September 1. It is no secret that over the past year the alliance has been involved in quite sharp debates on a number of key issues, including government’s macro-economic policy GEAR.

The first objective of the summit was not to suppress these debates, but to locate them within the context of our common overall commitment to a thorough-going national democratic transformation. The summit was preceded by extensive preparation by a combined alliance preparatory team. The tone and spirit of the summit was set by speaker after speaker affirming the view that the delegations were not meeting as three separate negotiating entities seeking to score points off each other. “We are meeting”, President Mandela told the summit in his opening address, “as a common national leadership of the alliance.”

As was noted in the alliance press release after the Summit, despite ongoing media speculation about an “imminent collapse of the alliance”, “it is precisely our political opponents who are falling apart, and who lack any strategic vision”.

These are some of the specific decisions taken by the Summit:

  • On GEAR, the debate continues, but with an important shift of emphasis and context. The joint statement of the Summit affirmed that “no policy is cast in stone”. More importantly, senior ANC comrades in government reaffirmed very clearly that GEAR cannot be seen as the totality of our economic and social policies. It is only one dimension of a much broader package of policies that must include, critically, a clear developmental industrial strategy, and a job creation strategy. To what extent GEAR is effectively aligned with our broader RDP process is what the debate is about.
  • The kind of state that we are building needs to be interventionist, active and developmental in character. All participants in the Summit criticised the neo-liberal, minimalist conception of the state. The role of the state in the economy is not merely to “create the right climate for private investors”.
  • However, to ensure that we do have an effective, developmental state means that the state apparatus has to be thoroughly transformed. It is in this context that the Summit resolved to set up a special alliance Task Team, to be headed by Deputy President Thabo Mbeki, to ensure that we are able to develop and drive a common alliance strategy on the transformation of the public sector.
  • One of the core reasons for recent difficulties within alliance relates to the basic fact that we have not, for the past two years, had a clear alliance programme of action, capable of uniting our forces and mobilising our constituency. The transformation struggle requires pressure from above, but also pressure from below. The Summit took decision to ensure that such a programme of action will be developed over the coming months.
  • We must, before the Presidential Jobs Summit, ensure that we have a common job creation strategy that we are able to drive through broader multi-lateral forums. In particular, we must ensure that big business does not, on this issue, turn government into a mere observer and arbiter between labour and business.
  • In the spirit of taking each other more seriously, the Alliance partners have agreed to play a more active role in our various forthcoming national conferences/congresses. Specifically, it has been agreed that both COSATU and the SACP should make formal inputs on the ANC’s draft “Strategy and Tactics” document, ahead of the ANC’s December national conference.

The national leaderships emerged with a strengthened conviction that it is only our Alliance that is capable of advancing, deepening and defending the breakthrough of April 1994.

  Land and Agriculture
New Bill Provides Too Little Security

The Extension of Security of Tenure Bill is intended to protect farm workers and tenants from evictions. Steve Greenberg and Vusi Madonsela argue that the protection provided is inadequate. They are both researchers for the Farm Workers' Research and Resource Project, (FRRP), an affiliate of the National Land Committee (NLC).

The Department of Land Affairs has introduced a Bill to Parliament seeking to improve tenure security for rural people. In essence, it grants security to certain categories of people, and sets up procedures which landowners must follow if they want to evict someone living on their land.
The core weakness of the Bill is that it accepts the status quo in rural areas.

The history of the rural areas is one of dispossession. Access to land was systematically limited and denied to the majority of the black population. Land is a means of production and a source of power, and the result is that there are now extreme imbalances of power in white farming areas.

Farm workers who live on commercial, white-owned farms are there through no choice of their own. Land dispossession and pass laws, which denied farm workers the right to seek other employment without the permission of the farmer, ensured that millions of workers and their dependents were trapped on land which no longer belonged to them. Their security was therefore in the hands of white owners, some of whom evicted, assaulted and even killed black workers with impunity.

The Bill doesn't adequately address the issue of workers and their families evicted before the "effective date", when the legislation was tabled in February 1997. Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced through evictions in the last two decades, with disruption of family life, breaking up of communities, and large-scale resettlement of people in overcrowded, unserviced, informal shanty towns on the peripheries of towns and cities.

These "surplus people" are not covered by the Bill. Of workers and their families still living on the farms, automatic right of tenure belongs only to those who have lived on the farm for more than 20 years, and are over 60 years old, or who have been disabled while working for the present owner - again, only if they have lived on the farm for 20 years and more.

For other workers and their dependents, life will remain very insecure. Although a procedure must be followed by a farm owner who wishes to evict, the owner has the right to evict a worker who no longer works on the farm. The Bill explicitly allows farm owners to evict the worker's dependents as well. The rights of women, in particular, are tied to the fate of their spouses, and the Bill doesn't go any way towards undermining this patriarchal relationship.

The tying of tenure to employment in this way completely neglects the historical reasons why workers are living on farms. These historical factors should form the foundation of a rights-based approach, which sees farm dwellers gaining rights to land, in accordance with how long they have been living in the same place.

Some consequences of the Bill may actually weaken the position of farm workers. For example, the Bill treats workers who came on to farms after the "effective date," in a different way. allowing farmers to evict them once the employment contract has terminated.

The result of this will be that farmers will include an express clause in contracts, stipulating that workers must leave the farm after the contract has been completed, which in turn will lead to greater casualisation of the work force. For workers, casualisation means the undermining of organisational rights and the possibilities of unionisation: an erosion of working standards and decreased job security.

Even given all these limitations, farmers' organisations have lobbied the government to dampen the Bill further. The government has obliged, by, for example, weakening a clause that initially made it the responsibility of the owner to make a "reasonable" offer of "viable" accommodation, before an eviction takes place.

Apart from the fact that what is "reasonable" and "viable" are left vague, the latest draft of the Bill no longer puts the onus on the owner. Now, the court just has to consider the "efforts" the owner and occupier have made to find suitable accommodation. In other words, if the occupier is unable to look for other accommodation, this will prejudice the court.

The Bill is a classic example of the state attempting to play a neutral role, attempting to mediate social conflict. Instead of intervening directly to strengthen the organisational capacities and rights of farm workers and other rural dwellers, the state tries to balance the competing interests of the farm owners on one side, with all the power they gathered through their connections with the apartheid state, and farm workers on the other, in the powerless position they have inherited from apartheid.

The Bill as it stands does not provide farm dwellers with any basis on which to organise themselves in the longer term, to defend and secure appropriate tenure rights. This intervention by the state regularises the status quo, and will therefore only entrench the insecurity and misery of people who live in constant fear of eviction and landlessness.
(The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of FRRP or the NLC.)

  Political Education
Unmasking the New Economic Speak

Dale McKinley looks at another tricky term in the new language of politics:

ong before April 1994 the use of this term on a global level, generally referred to any process that involved institutional change, whether in relation to the state or other societal institutions. However, in South Africa over the last few years the term has taken on a predominately ‘state-centric’ character (this is how we will approach the term). And yet, because there are so many aspects to what is being ‘restructured’ and how, the ‘meanings’ of the term have been broadened to such a degree that it is difficult to know what is being referred to when someone mentions the word. Is it,

1. A bureaucratic process of institutional change that involves shifting (or acquiring) personnel and resources in order to increase ‘operational efficiency’ etc?
2. A simple economic process involving change of ownership, such as privatisaiton of state assets?
3. A more complex economic process involving different forms or ownership (and acquisition of capital), such as ‘joint ventures’ and ‘equity partners’?
4. A a broader political process of institutional change that is driven by a specific political (ideological) programme designed to alter fundamentally the character, content and ‘mission’ of the institution?

If we ask ourselves ‘which one is it?’, the most immediate answer might well be ‘all of the above’. As much as this might be the case ‘objectively’, the reality is something very different. For example, the ideological character of the political programme that guides the practice of any ‘restructuring’ process will ultimately determine:

  • how it takes place (e.g. – through privatisation or extended public ownership)
  • whom it benefits (e.g. – the capitalist or working class)
  • for what reasons it is being carried out (e.g. – to meet budgetary requirements or to provide basic needs)

Some comrades might argue that the kind of ‘restructuring’ that has taken place in South Africa cannot be seen is such ‘black and white’ terms. However, as much these comrades might wish that the process has been everything to everybody (as part of a broad ‘nation- building’ exercise), reality has a way of exposing utopian wish-lists. Unfortunately, for the workers and poor, the dominant character of the ‘restructuring’ process has most definitely been informed by capitalist ideology.

The kind of ‘restructuring’ we have experienced has not prioritised the development of a strong state, owned

by the workers and poor and capable of driving a fundamental transformation in material and social relations. Rather, the main course on the ‘restructuring’ menu seems to be large servings of privatisation. If the vast majority of South Africans are going to own and drive a ‘restructuring’ process then we must ground it in the core political programmes of the liberation movement. Let’s not ‘restructure’ our basic principles!

Red Star and Thumbs Down

  to the Zimbabwean liberation war veterans for having the courage and conviction to stand up to arrogant and corrupt bureaucratic elites. The real freedom fighters of Zimbabwe emphatically declared that enough was enough when they discovered that their pension fund had been defrauded by the new ruling class. Let their actions be a lesson to those who would forget where they came from and who put them there! (see page 4).

  to that old National Party war-horse, F.W. De Klerk, for finally realising that he had outstayed his welcome. Even though we had difficulty deciding whether to give the old boy a star or a thumbs down, we couldn’t help feeling that he deserved a little praise for making one correct decision in his life. Let’s hope that the rest of the Nats follow his lead!

4 THUMBS DOWN    to the infamous fascist assassin, Clive Derby-Lewis, for his insulting and farcical amnesty strategy before the TRC. By arguing that he was led to murder our late General Secretary, Comrade Chris Hani, because Cde. Chris was the ‘anti-christ’, Derby- Lewis convinced us that his politics are not the only thing that is off the deep-end. We suggest that Derby-Lewis be confined to a prison cell for the rest of his life, with a picture of the Hani family as his only companion. Maybe by the time he goes to meet his maker, he’ll understand the meaning of truth and reconciliation.

2 THUMBS DOWN   to Defense Minister Joe Modise for holding arms sales talks with the self- appointed ruling family of that bastion of democracy and human rights, Kuwait. Once again Minister Modise and his department have shown us that they do not yet fully understand the difference between democracy and dictatorship. We don’t believe that it is either desirable or necessary for our country to give the dictators more and better weapons to keep ‘order and stability’. C’mon Joe, lets get the priorities straight!

Lines on the Death of a Comrade

This is part of a poem by Kaya Somgqeza, lamenting the death of Lumkile Kulati.

You survived my dear comrade Hard days of our times Sparing every drop of blood In your veins to see our people free Now we live at the break of the dawn Where Mandela once vowed siyaya Siyaya noba siyaya

Like Commander Chris Hani's departure Your untimely death Tore our hearts into pieces Our eyes are now red Reddened by the last glimpse Of your last shy smile

Rest Nyamazane rest Rest my fallen comrade rest As sure as AK 47 Our proletarian historic mission Commands us to pick up Your fallen spear

Two Brilliant Comrades Lost

The reality of South Africa's high rate of road accidents has been brought painfully home to us by the loss of two comrades, both in road accidents, within a few days of each other.

Lumkile "Sheya" Kulati was ANC secretary in the Port Elizabeth region, and a member of the SACP regional executive. In his early thirties, he was killed on July 26th, on his way to a meeting. Elsewhere on this page, we quote part of an elegy written by one of his friends.

COSATU mourns the loss of its Organising Secretary, Comrade Dorothy Mokgalo, who was killed on August 2nd, when her car overturned on the N1 south.

Some of the positions she had held were: acting chair of the NUMSA education committee, NUMSA national gender co-ordinator, and national gender co-ordinator for COSATU. In 1996, she became the first woman from Africa to be elected to the governing body of the International Labour Organisation in Geneva.

COSATU said of her: "In her compassion, her hard work, her dedication, her sharp mind and her limitless strength, she personified the fundamental principles, values and culture of democratic trade unionism."

COSATU has called on provincial government to investigate the way Comrade Dorothy's death was handled by the police and the traffic department, who failed to use her car registration number and her ID to trace and notify her family. Though the accident took place early Saturday morning, it was only after the family and COSATU had searched and begged, that, on Monday afternoon, they discovered what had happened.

 Provincial Focus  
Western Cape

The SACP in the Western Cape wants to ensure that the Party begins to position itself as a movement to defeat the racist National Party, that holds the majority in provincial and some local governments (reports the Provincial Executive in the Western Cape).

Discussions within the Party, about strategic issues facing the national liberation movement in the Province, culminated at the Provincial Council of August 23rd 1997.

The debate has begun at a time when the Alliance organisations are all experiencing an increase in membership, when structures are being revived, and where capital, the strategic opponent of the working class, is undergoing its own structural crisis.

Most significantly, the largest political formation that represents capital, the NP, is in terminal crisis. Caught between the need to secure its base in the white minority through articulating racist positions, and the need to appeal to black voters, the party is splitting.

In a discussion document, the SACP argues for emphasis on building the movement among the working class. The ANC clearly represents the interests of the poor, the unemployed, women, youth and workers. It must therefore be popularised among these sectors, and this requires an organising programme, campaigns, and political education.

The Alliance in the Western Cape has already begun to discuss this, along with developing campaigns around fighting crime, mobilising for change in local government, housing delivery, and other matters.

In relation to PAGAD and CORE, the two organisations currently poised to go to war with each other, the Party is advocating a systematic intervention. The Party argues that the Alliance needs to pursue a vigorous, anti-crime campaign that does not reduce itself to vigilantism, but ensures transformation of the police service, and community involvement in preventing crime.

The campaign would also have to deal with the socio-economic problems that give rise to crime. These are the enormous disparities between rich and poor in our country, the high unemployment rate, and the lack of community facilities.

In relation to CORE, the Party's Provincial General Council agreed that a legal challenge should be made to the right of criminals to form political organisations, and operate in the community, using funds generated by criminal activity, particularly drug dealing, and, more recently extortion. We also need to ensure that threats to wage war on any section of the community are dealt with very decisively by government.

Secondly, there needs to be a political challenge to CORE. The organisation claims to be working to prevent crime. It should either establish a bona fide NGO, or preferably work through existing NGOs, such as NICRO and others, to make a real contribution to crime prevention, if it is serious about this issue.

Thirdly, CORE needs to commit itself to not involving itself in any further violence or criminal activity.

These, and other, issues are currently confronting the people of the Western Cape. The Party's view is that we, as Communists, should engage these issues, and provide solutions for them that advance the struggle for socialism. In this regard, we firmly believe that the real solution to crime lies in addressing the needs of the majority of people.

The enemy continues to operate in the Western Cape, sowing divisions among members of organisations, but the Party is advocating a political response.

International News in Brief

U.S. workers win significant victory

After one of the biggest and most costly strikes in U.S. labour history, workers at United Parcel Services (the largest private postal service in the world) have won a resounding victory. Workers at UPS, organised under the Teamsters Union and supported by many other domestic and international unions, won demands centred around guaranteed full-time employment, standardised benefits, better working hours and greater worker input in management decisions. Given the series of defeats that American workers have suffered over the past few years, this victory signals a welcome increase in worker militancy and a boost for workers the world over.

Mozambique workers under attack

Several thousand workers in one of Mozambique’s largest industries (cashew nut processing) have already been retrenched or are on the verge of losing their jobs. The Cashew Workers Union puts the blame squarely on the shoulders of the World Bank and the IMF, which have literally forced the government to privatise and liberalise the cashew nut industry. This has resulted in an unchecked exportation of unprocessed cashew nuts, leaving Mozambique’s own processing industry in tatters. The situation is not helped by the organisational weaknesses of Mozambique’s organised workers, reeling under the double blow of IMF-World Bank imperialism and the devastating effects of decades of war.

14th World Festival of Youth and Students in Cuba

From 28 July – 5 August over 12 000 delegates representing 2000 organisations from 132 countries gathered in Havana to discuss a wide range of issues including: imperialism; racism; women’s rights; the worldwide unemployment crisis; self-determination; peace and human rights. Despite attempts by the US government to undermine the Festival and block US youth from attending, the week produced strong resolutions in solidarity with many struggles around the world and a renewed commitment to defense of the Cuban Revolution.

  Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic
Silence is the Voice of Complicity

The Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR - better known as Western Sahara) is the last colony in Africa. Initially colonised by Spain in 1884 the SADR has been forced into successive anti-colonial struggles against Spain, Mauritania and Morocco since the turn of the century.

Illegally invaded and occupied by Morocco in 1976, the Saharawi people have since been waging an uninterrupted struggle for independence and revolutionary change. This struggle coalesced into an organised revolutionary movement with the formation of POLISARIO (the Saharawi Liberation Movement) in 1973. While there were several unsuccessful attempts during the 1970s and 1980s to institute an United Nations (UN)-brokered negotiated settlement, POLISARIO continued to wage a bitter guerrilla war against the occupying forces of Morocco’s King Hassam.

After the declaration of a ceasefire with Morocco in 1989, a settlement plan under the auspices of the UN peace-keeping force MINURSO (Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara) was set up. Given a mandate to organise a referendum of the Saharawi people on whether or not they preferred to be integrated into Morocco or to be independent, MINURSO has yet to implement the plan. A lack of political will on the part of the UN, combined with systematic ceasefire and human rights violations by the Moroccan regime and the forcible relocation of Moroccan settlers into the SADR has consistently scuttled the hopes of the Saharawi people.

While the SADR (which controls over half of the territory of Western Sahara) is officially recognised by the United Nations, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) and dozens of countries the world over, Morocco continues its illegal colonial occupation and obstruction of a democratic referendum. By last year less than 10% of the potential voting population had been placed on the official voters roll. Saharawi President and POLISARIO leader, Mohamed Abdelaziz, recently stated that at current rates of progress, registration of voters for the referendum would take another nine years. This is obviously unacceptable.

The reactionary regime of King Hassam, no doubt, harbours illusions that it can maintain its colonial control by frustrating MINURSO and wearing down the will of the Saharawi people. Just like other imperialist pretenders before him, the King and his courtiers are sadly mistaken. POLISARIO has warned that it will resume the liberation war unless MINURSO moves ahead speedily with the implementation of the referendum.

And yet, there has been a conspicuous silence on the Saharawi struggle over the last few years from both the West and other, more progressive countries. Just as the Moroccan occupation is unacceptable, so too is the silence. Not only have the Saharawi people been engaged in one of the most enduring and brutal struggles against a reactionary and decrepit colonialism, they have always practised the most principled internationalism in support of anti-colonial and anti-imperialist struggles.

One recipient of this internationalist solidarity has been the national liberation movement in South Africa. Let it not be forgotten that it was POLISARIO who supported tirelessly the anti-apartheid struggle and donated large amounts of captured weapons to the armed struggle waged by Umkhonto we Sizwe. It is thus an embarrassment to all South African revolutionaries to now see our government failing to officially recognise the SADR (despite prior promises to do so) and instead, establishing close relations with the reactionary Moroccan regime.

Continued silence can be no more than the voice of complicity. The Saharawi people deserve the same internationalist support that they have willingly given. It is time to break the silence!

Viva POLISARIO!! Down with the Moroccan regime!!

People's Anger threatens Mugabe and bureaucratic elites

The question on many Zimbabweans lips these days is how long President Mugabe and his band of bureaucratic elites can last? It is a question that would never even have been asked a few months ago, such has been the success of Mugabe’s government in suppressing growing popular anger over declining living standards and government corruption, worker struggles and political opposition. But recent events have begun to shake-up what many ordinary Zimbabweans now refer to as the ‘Mugabe dynasty’.

Mugabe and his cohorts in the ruling party (ZANU-PF) have held power ever since Zimbabwe gained its independence over 17 years ago. Much like the experiences of other newly liberated post-colonial societies, early indications pointed to a government committed to substantive socio-economic transformation in favour of the majority. By the late 1980s however, the Mugabe government had signed on to a World Bank – IMF sponsored structural adjustment programme (SAP), opening the way for an all-out attack on the workers and poor. In recent years the plight of the majority has worsened as de- industrialisation has led to massive job losses, international corporate capital has trampled over worker rights and the government has become increasingly corrupt.

Despite its depiction as a ‘stable’ and relatively ‘prosperous democracy’ with ‘socialist’ leanings, the truth of the matter is that Zimbabwe (regardless of its potential) is better described as a classic neo-colonial state. Behind the opportunistic ‘socialist rhetoric’ lies a government that has virtually sold its soul to international capital, reaping enormous financial rewards for those in favour with Mugabe and the bureaucratic elite.

Meanwhile, structural unemployment has risen above 50%, land redistribution has been hijacked by corrupt government officials and prices of basic goods are virtually out of the reach of the average Zimbabwean. As a result, the last few months have seen a wave of strikes by workers in both the private and public sector, mainly centred around demands for a living wage. Once dormant unions are emerging as strong voices for socio-economic change, accompanied by an upsurge in activism from community structures.

The main weakness of left forces in Zimbabwe though, has long been their inability to forge a viable political presence. The weak opposition that does exist offers little beyond a recycled (and reactionary) populism. However, the most recent and blatant example of bureaucratic greed in defrauding the liberation war veterans pension fund has spurred the one constituency that might serve to politically unify the fractured left.

The resultant anger of the now-destitute ex-freedom fighters has been personally directed at Mugabe and his ruling ZANU-PF elites. Early August saw the liberation war veterans march on Mugabe’s palacial mansion, disrupt a large government-sponsored investment conference, shout-down Mugabe at a Heroes Day commemoration speech and storm the ZANU-PF headquarters (expressing their outrage by urinating in the corridors of power). Criticism is now openly and collectively being directed at the political system.

While the extent to which this growing anger and opposition will be translated into political organisation remains to be seen, it is clear that things can no longer continue as they are. The real question is not whether political and socio-economic change will happen, it is when and how?