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February 1997

The silence is broken


Our democratic transformation involves the democratisation of power, in the workplace and in the community. Jenny Schreiner MP, SACP central committee member and member of the the gender department, believes that the empowerment of women must be part of our campaign against the crime of rape. Here, she relates rape in South Africa to South African society as a whole, today.

"Ninety per cent of women who are raped asked for it," said a Johannesburg magistrate in January 1977. How do women ask to be violated? By wearing mini-skirts? By being beautiful and sexy? Or by being more vulnerable, less powerful, and more oppressed, than their rapists?

Rape is not about sex. It is about power. It is a violent expression of a system in which gender oppression intertwines with class exploitation and racial oppression; a system that creates the social space and psychological conditions for men to harass and rape women.

A woman is raped in South Africa every 43 seconds. By the time you have finished reading this article, more women will have been raped. One in four girl children is likely to be sexually assaulted before she is 18. The commercial media place stories of high-profile women and white women on the front page, while other rape survivors go hardly acknowledged, on the inside pages.

A silent crime

Rape has been essentially a silent crime, seldom reported, and socially suppressed. In our society, there is a lack of understanding of it; there are myths about who is to blame for it, and why men do it. They weave about rape survivors a suffocating web of silence, and a cloak of fear.

The SACP wants a campaign to break the silence, not only for the few. The extent of rape in this country must be publicly recognised. The methods used by the criminal justice system to handle cases of sexual violence must be corrected, for all the survivors.

Why do men rape?

Men are not born rapists. They are not born angry and violent. Overcrowded living conditions, poverty and the sub-culture of violence in South Africa, all promote rape, but these are not the only conditions that turn a man into a rapist.

Alienation, job dissatisfaction and militarism cut across class and racial lines. Rape will remain a feature of society while men suffer humiliation, alienation and authoritarian power, and while women are oppressed.

It is time for communist men, for our male national and provincial leaders, for religious leaders and sportsmen, to take a stand against rape. What are our boy children learning about the way to express themselves? How do we ensure that rape is no longer an outlet for men to express the violence and aggression that apartheid, capitalist exploitation and militarism have stored up in them? We need a new vision of what south african men do and say.

How do we eradicate rape?

We have to focus on the upbringing and education of boy and girl children, the role of the family in this, and the role of the education system. Domestic violence within the family, where we learn some of our most fundamental emotional and psychological patterns, provides conditions that promote rape.

We need a programme to change the criminal justice system, so that it addresses the interests of rape survivors. One of the central demands must be the legal redefinition of rape. At present, a woman is said to be raped only if the rapist has successfully penetrated her, but this is not the only way in which a rapist violates a woman or a child. Sexual violation can take many forms, and these must all be recognised in law.

Campaign in the communities

To be raped and then to be victimised by police investigation and court processes is to suffer twice. The saps has begun to change its approach to the investigation of rape cases, but this has not yet reached down to every police station and police officer.

The SACP, the alliance and the MDM structures should raise the issue in community police forums. Cpfs must be in touch with the complaints of rape survivors about local police practice. Branches should get copies of saps guidelines on the handling of rape investigations, and ensure that all police officers in their station are trained in how to carry these out.

Rape should be declared a national priority crime. This would bring the seriousness of the situation to the notice of the public, and ensure that the resources necessary to address the problem would be made available.

Dealing with the rapist

The minister of justice has called for stricter implementation of guidelines for granting of bail to offenders accused of sexual violence. The democratic party and the national party oppose this, since they argue it limits the human rights of the accused, who are innocent till proven guilty. We do not question that basis of the legal system, but the rights of the individual accused must be balanced against the collective rights and security of the community. Research has shown that rapists more often than not repeat violent crimes against women and children.

Prison is the appropriate punishment for the crime of rape, but a prison sentence alone does not stop a rapist. Rehabilitation requires counselling of the individuals about alternative responses to their own experiences of domination and power. It requires transformation of the social relations that the prisoner will be released back into.

The Alliance in the campaign

Parliament adopted a resolution in November 1996 that mandated the departments of safety and security, justice and correctional services to take steps to address the national crisis caused by violence against women and children. This initiative will involve institutional, legislative and budgetary measures. It needs the support of mobilised women, and of organisations.

In this campaign, the alliance must strengthen women's participation in our structures, and strengthen the anc women's league. The liberation of our women cannot be complete while rape is the order of the day. The liberation of our people cannot be achieved while the liberation of women is hampered. The challenge to eradicate violence against women and children from the face of our nation is fundamental to the success of our national democratic revolution.

The crime of rape cannot be overcome outside the reconstruction and transformation programme. Gender-sensitive reconstruction will provide a basis for the continuing struggle against patriarchal oppression in all its forms. Steps to solve the rape crisis without challenging patriarchy will be nothing more than tokenism.


Letter to the Editor

Dear comrade

In my ten months back in England, Umsebenzi, the African communist and Southscan (this last a news sheet issued in London) kept me in touch with events in South Africa, Southern Africa, and the continent as a whole.

The front-page message from the central committee, in the last issue of Umsebenzi, was an interesting statement. To give flesh and blood to the story, every reader should be a correspondent for Umsebenzi, reporting what is actually happening everywhere: in townships, informal settlements, rural communities, factories and mines, in education, job creation, housing and transport.

What is happening, what are we actually doing to make good policy a reality, in terms of quality of life for the mass of the people?

In December, 1994, the ANC 49th conference stated: "the major cause of instability in the country remains inequity, poverty and deprivation ... the foundation for stabilising South Africa must be based on a security doctrine which ... addresses the political, economic, social, cultural and stability needs of our people."

Many questions will be in the minds of readers. Every reader is a source of information. The paper needs to be deluged with letters and articles. Umsebenzi could be issued weekly. What's needed is cash.

Charlie Hall

Yeoville, Johannesburg
(Charlie Hall is a British comrade)

Carelessly handled chemicals are dangerous

Unions and environmental groups call for public control

One worker died, others were endangered, and people living nearby were put at risk by two serious accidents, involving dangerous chemicals, in Kwa Zulu-Natal over the recent holidays.

    * A train containing acetone was derailed near Mooi river on its way from Gauteng to Durban. There was no marking on the train to show that its cargo was poisonous, so the lives of rescue workers were doubly in danger. The press reported that acetone was leaking into the local water system. The next day, the train was put back on the tracks, and the press dropped the story.

    * A tanker carrying 42 000 litres of paraffin overturned on the m7 near Umbilo, and exploded into a fireball. Burning paraffin began to flow through storm water drains into the Umbilo river and Durban harbour. The heat melted insulators on lamp posts, leaving live wires exposed. Firemen battled for hours to control the situation. The driver of the tanker died of his burns the next day.

The environmental justice networking forum, based in Pietermaritzburg, says that such accidents happen often, but more often on the road.

The centre of the problem is Durban Bayside, with Engen and Mobil refineries, and other storage facilities. Bobby Peek of the EJNF, who lives in Wentworth, near the harbour, claims that the transport company, tanker services, continually use the roads to transport highly poisonous and inflammable substances to and from the docks: petrol, diesel, paraffin, fluidor 1501. He says the tanker trucks often take a route through the small residential streets of Wentworth and Jacobs in the area. There is very rarely a warning police escort. Recently, a youngster was killed as a result of an accident with one of the tankers.

Rory O'Connor of the wild life society in Durban reports that van ommeren tank terminals are building more storage containers on Maydon wharf, in the heart of Durban, near residential areas and the centre of town. The company has not sought permission from the Durban city health department, nor from local government authorities. The land belongs to portnet, not to the city.

Details about chemicals transported, times and routes are not available. The wls has tried in vain to get information, and Durban civil defence says it is "confidential". Rory O'Connor says: "section 23 of the constitution provides that information is to be released if required in the exercise of our rights. We need to know the dangers."

The transport and general workers' union emphasises that it has long been pressing for safe practices to be laid down in heavy road transport. Lereko Thamae, t&g organiser in Durban, says there are three fundamental precautions that should be taken, for the protection of drivers and the public.

  • Drivers should not be over-utilised, that is required to work dangerously long hours.
  • Long-distance drivers should never drive alone. (The driver who died in January was alone in his cab.)
  • Drivers carrying dangerous substances should get intensive and continuous training.

The Chemical Workers' industrial union claims that its members are often required to handle substances without knowing what these substances are. National spokesperson shirley miller talks of "the right to know" for workers and for the general public. She says there is a need for public forums, at local, regional and national levels.

She calls for clear legislation, says there is "no order" in procedures at present. She believes that the government should establish a policy, and see that it is implemented.

The problem of dangerous chemicals is not confined to KwaZulu-Natal. During January 1997, drums of dangerous chemical waste were found, illegally dumped, near redan station in gauteng, and there were reports of two trains exploding in the eastern cape. A ship carrying a cargo of toxic waste has recently sailed past our shores on its way from France to Japan.

SACP, NUM condemn terrorist crimes

Where did the explosives come from that blasted Worcester on Christmas Eve, and Rustenburg early in January 1997? What about other blasts - those in Johannes-burg before the 1994 elections, for example? There has always been a strong suspicion that explosives used in right-wing attacks are stolen from the mines. If there are other sources, what are they?

Those who exploded the bombs made an announcement threatening Indian South Africans, and a mosque was part of the Rustenburg target.

However, NUM regional co-ordinator in Rustenburg, Mahlakeng Mahlakeng, is firm in thinking that mineworkers are threatened, too. He said, "We feel bound to take a position on this, since these acts of terror could ultimately affect our members." NUM structures, both regional and national, feel that the peace and security of the whole region is threatened.

Soon after the blasts, union representatives met with senior mine management at Lonhro Platinum, to discuss the question of explosives found with the two Lonhro employees, Harmse and Jacobs, when they were arrested. The union was disappointed to find Lonhro unwilling to do anything more than suspend them, at this stage. A joint mass meeting was held on January 9th, and a protest march proceeded to Lonhro Platinum Division.

The North-West Region of the SACP said: "Rustenburg is a working class stronghold, and the SACP will not tolerate right-wing acts of terrorism there or anywhere else in this province, or indeed in South Africa ... The working people of South Africa view a revival of terrorism in a very serious light."

The NUM and the Muslim community in Rustenburg planned demonstrations for the court appearance of Harmse and Jacobs, and no doubt this is why the police took the two to court in Pretoria. Nevertheless, NUM members were outside the court in Pretoria, with placards saying: "NUM condemns this terrorism," and, "No bail, no amnesty."

There was no question of bail when De Wet, Barnard and Myburgh, the three charged with the Worcester bombs, went to court. They have already been sentenced for explosions in Johannesburg in 1994, before the democratic elections, and they face a further charge of escaping from Diepkloof Prison in March, 1996.

Bail for bombers contrary to law, say people of Rustenburg

Representatives of the SACP, the NUM, the ANC and the Muslim community in the North-West have signed a letter to the Minister of Justice to protest at the granting of bail to the two accused of the Rustenburg bombs.

The letter claims that the Pretoria magistrate who granted bail acted contrary to the law. It argues that people who constitute a threat to the public interest should not be released on bail, for this causess a sense of insecurity in communities that have been victims of bomb blasts, and might still be targets of more.

It points out that the evidence against Harmse and Jacobs was overwhelming.

Commercial explosives were found in the car they were driving when they were arrested, and in the home of one of them. Forensic tests showed that these explosives were exactly the same as those used in the bomb blasts. The two men and the car were identified as having been seen near the bombing sites just before the explosions. The vehicle had no registration plates.

About the fact that the bail hearing was moved to Gauteng, the letter says, "This act threatens the legitimacy of the judicial systems." It points out that several members of the National Union of Mineworkers were arrested while exercising their constitutional right to picket near the court. The letter accuses the magistrate of being too sensitive to right-wing perceptions of the judicial system.

South Korean workers fight globalisation

The courageous stand by south korean workers in december and January marks an important victory in the world-wide struggle against market-driven "globalisation".

All over the world, workers are facing attempts, in the name of "international competitiveness" and "labour market flexibility", to increase the power of the capitalist markets and to weaken organised labour.

In what the Financial Times of london called a "significant climbdown", the South Korean Government agreed on January 21st to revise a package of repressive amendments to labour and national security legislation.

Although the government back-down still falls short of meeting the original demands of the Korean confederation of trade unions (KFTU) that the amendments be scrapped, there is no doubt that the Korean regime has suffered a defeat at the hands of the union movement.

The original amendments were furtively passed on December 26th - at a six a.m. sitting of parliament, from which opposition parties were excluded!

The amended labour law, in the name of "flexible labour utilisation", gave employers much more power to dismiss workers, replace strikers, and keep back overtime pay. It continued the ban on more than one union operation in any given workplace; denied teachers, bank, hospital and telecommunications and other public sector workers the right to organise and take industrial action; and prohibited political action by trade unions. It continued the ban on the kctu.

Korean labour law was originally made under a military dictatorship, and has since been used as a tool to oppress labour unions, and a means to dismiss and arrest many workers.

The amendments restored aspects of the national security law, which had been removed with a great flourish in 1993, as a triumph of democracy. All the powers the department of intelligence had during the military regime were restored, including the right to investigate the "crime of not informing 2the government about spies," and the "crime of praising north korea." these crimes were used in the past to trample human rights and as a means of political manipulation.

The government back-down followed weeks of worker action, in which hundreds of thousands of Korean workers - union estimates placed the number at nearly 750 000 - continued a strike that began on December 26th.

Earlier, the government had backed down on the order to arrest the trade union leaders who organised the strikes and who had defied government orders to appear for questioning by prosecutors.

At its peak, the strikes, organised and led by the outlawed KTCU, with some 500 000 members, closed hundreds of korean businesses, including most heavy industry, and enjoyed the support of the more conservative 1.2 million member korean federation of trade unions (KFTU).

While KFTU members bowed to rank-and-file demands of support for a two-day general strike on January 14th-15th, they were reluctant to authorise broader action in the face of government threats to arrest strike leaders.

Union organisations from around the world were quick to hail the action of their Korean colleagues. Along with Cosatu, the American federation of trade unions, the world federation of trade unions and the international confederation of trade unions sent messages of strong support.

These events took place in a country that is often praised as an "economic miracle", as a "tiger", that we, in South Africa should seek to copy. This makes the lessons we need to learn all the more significant.

Swaziland in crisis

Mass Stayaway planned

A comrade from Swaziland reports on the Swazi struggle for democracy and against the absolute monarchy.

A decree in 1973 banned all political parties and opposition. Freedom of speech and association is outlawed. The freedom of the press is constantly threatened. Electronic media is controlled by the state.

The struggle in Swaziland is led by the national liberation movement, PUDEMO, and SFTU (Swaziland federation of trade unions) within the SDA (Swaziland democratic alliance, comprising thirteen progressive organisations). The SDA held mass rallies and marches throughout the country, in 1996. AMD has declared 1997 the year of liberation.

As a response to massive internal pressure, a constitutional review commission has been set up. Eighty per cent of those appointed are conservatives who support the absolute monarchy. There was an attempt to co-opt PUDEMO and the SFTU by including Mario Masuku, president of PUDEMO, and a senior member of the SFTU.

PUDEMO demands a national convention, which will put an interim government in place. This should be followed by a constituent assembly, to write a new constitution for Swaziland, the king should be a constitutional monarch, and not have the powers he has now. Absolute power should be replaced by people's power.

The 1973 decree must be abolished first. PUDEMO cannot enter any negotiations or process while we are banned, our supporters harassed and brutalised, and our rallies dispersed by tear gas and bullets.

The next stage in our campaign is a massive strike the sda is planning, for February 3rd, 1997. We call on governments and international organisations to support PUDEMO, the SFTU and the SDA in their efforts to bring about change.


Special amnesty plan for KwaZulu-Natal

What does it mean?

There have been reports of an ANC plan for special amnesty in KwaZulu-Natal, for perpetrators of violence there. We asked sacp provincial secretary Magwaza Maphalala to clarify the plan, and state SACP policy. Here is a summary of his reply.

ANC thinking on this question is still not clear, as the plan has not yet been discussed in the alliance. I don't know what structures of the ANC have discussed it, but, as a member of th e ANC I only know it hasn't been discussed and agreed by branches and regions, sd directed by the provincial congress in December 1996.

One important question is: how does this amnesty differ from the amnesty already available from the truth and reconciliation commission? Perhaps the idea is to offer automatic amnesty on the giving of information. Otherwise, there's no point to it. It seems to encourage an anarchic situation.

Why should there be a special amnesty in KwaZulu-Natal?

The idea suggests that the situation in this province is something special. But the conflict here is just one aspect of a broad political strategy of destabilisation of democracy throughout the country, planned and orchestrated at a central point, by the Inkatha freedom party and the national party. And if these central planners are outside the borders of the province - what about them?

The TRC has performed tremendous work in writing the history of our country. Victims and perpetrators have informed the public who did what. We don't want to deprive the people of Kwa Zulu-Natal of this knowledge. People want to know who killed their fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, wives, husbands. We should strengthen the TRC, instead of replacing it.

Next, perpetrators of the recent bombings are going to demand amnesty. We should review past peace initiatives, and build on them. We have seen the saps special task force finding perpetrators of violence, and arresting them. We say all perpetrators of violence must be punished.

When do we begin to say: government must govern?


Building a broad movement for transformation

This report on the tasks and aims of the SACP in Gauteng comes from the provincial working committee.

Political and organisational challenges continue to face our province. One of these is the need to elaborate on the issue of building a broad movement for transformation, which came to the fore at the Provincial Congress in May 1996.

At the provincial council on November 24th 1996, the matter was discussed again. Following the discussion, we agreed a guideline on key tasks.

1. A broad movement for transformation will help spread the political and moral influence of the Alliance.

2. The RDP should be affirmed as our guide, given the financial constraints.

3. Our focus areas should include:

  • economic transformation and delivery of services
  • decommodification of basic needs (water, electricity, health and education)
  • efficient and effective governance at all levels
  • combating crime.

The following process was agreed on:

1. Branches and districts would discuss these guidelines.

2. Branches should define key tasks at local level.

3. Branches should initiate meetings with alliance structures and fraternal organisations at local level.

4. Branches should organise round key tasks at local level.

5. Reports are expected at the next provincial council on February 9th 1977.

This discussion will feed into the current national debate within the party.

To strengthen our ability to meet challenges, and to plan for the year, we organised a productive provincial executive committee retreat on January 17th-19th 1977. District secretaries and chairpersons also attended, comrade Sam Shilowa was invited from the central committee. The retreat focused on the following issues:

  • The state of the organisation at branch and district level.
  • An assessment of the alliance in Gauteng.
  • Political challenges facing the SACP.
  • An assessment of governance in Gauteng.
  • The political report from the central committee.

    There was a lively discussion on the following questions:
  • social change and class contradictions
  • the working class and working class interests
  • economic and socio-political complexities
  • the state and social transformation
  • the alliance and working class interests
  • the role of the SACP

The meeting noted a number of organisational weaknesses in all the districts. It agreed on the need for effort to consolidate the membership in the province.

It was agreed that priority will be given to the key areas which emerged during the discussions. We are also to look at the 1996 congress resolutions, and the proposed national programme of action for 1997. This will form the basis of our 1997 plan of work, which will be presented for adoption at the provincial council on February 9th.

Mining industry

New era dawns

The Mine Health and Safety Act, launched on January 15th, is seen by the national union of mineworkers as a law reversing practices that have been in place for over a century. The union says that health and safety measures have never been implemented in the mining industry. Until now, it says, "the industry has dealt with health and safety of the miners with impunity.

According to a report issued by the department of labour in December 1996, nearly two miners die underground every working day. Gold mines account for 80% of injuries and 72.7% of deaths. "Mine managers have tended to view a high accident rate as an unfortunate but inevitable consequence of South Africa's mineral deposits," the report says.

The basis for the new law was laid when the Leon commission enquired into the Vaal reefs disaster in 1995. It stated that boards of companies, shareholders, and mine management had a responsibility to make a special effort to overcome problems of safety. It recommended that workers should take part in guaranteeing their own safety.

The act stresses training as a means to improve health and safety, and grants extensive rights to elected health and safety representatives AMD committees. Mine management will have to consult with these committees.

Mine owners are now required to monitor health hazards, and take steps to control accidents and health-threatening incidents. A national mine health and safety inspectorate is created, with streamlined powers.

The NUM foresees that transforming the workplace will be an uphill struggle, in an industry where uneven work relations still exist, where whites are still arbitrarily appointed the seniors of blacks, and where most black workers are classified as unskilled or semi-skilled.