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March 1997

SACP Programme of action for 1997


The Central Committee meeting of December 1996 designated this year as a year for consolidating our socialist perspective.

What does this mean?

More than ever, we now say that socialism is not a distant, second stage, but a reality to be struggled for now. Consolidating our socialist perspective means: consolidating this perception of the struggle in the present. It means propagating our socialist point of view within our alliance, and the broader mass movement. It means struggling, right now, for elements of socialism.

We should be discussing and developing themes connected with our socialist vision. Some of these are:

The national democratic state.

  • The market: How do we transform it? How do we `roll it back'?
  • Alternative forms of ownership, like co-operatives, public sector, worker funds.
  • Democratisation - of management, through work place forums, and of distribution and consumption, through consumer watchdog organisations.
  • Internationalism in the new world situation; anti-imperialism; the position of South Africa, Southern Africa, the southern part of the world in general.
  • Gender: deepening our understanding of the link between gender and class struggles.
How do we do this?

There are three things we need to concentrate on: political education, developing women comrades, and connecting with ANC work in developing ANC cadres.

We need to work at developing policy, in local and provincial government, for example.

All these topics should be discussed in all our structures. We should discuss them outside the Party, too. Our socialist vision is something we should share with others, to spread a socialist and working class perspective, and to dispel the idea that the SACP is some kind of conspiracy.

None of this will be possible unless we make the Party self-sufficient in resources. That means taking the debit campaign forward, raising funds, collecting levies and membership subscriptions.

The human resources of the Party need to be strengthened, through programmes of targeted recruitment, and ways of working with people who are not in the Party, but close to us.

Our most important fronts for campaigning are in the broader Alliance campaigns.
  • Masakhane weeks or week-ends, where we mobilise members to renovate schools, clean up neighbourhoods, and so on.
  • People's forums, to discuss how local budgets will be spent.
  • Democratising schools, through democratic school management.
  • Mobilising ordinary people in the campaign against crime, through community police forums.
  • Democratising management, through work place forums.
  • The struggle against evictions in the rural areas.
  • Building an effective women's movement.

The Programme of Action gives check-lists, based on all these considerations, to be used by provinces, branches and individual members.

There are two further suggestions:

Branches should keep in touch with the Cuban doctors in the areas, show them hospitality where possible, and invite them to tell the branches about life in Cuba.

Each individual member should sell at least five copies of each issue of the African Communist and Umsebenzi. Selling Party literature is valuable in organising in the community and at the work place. It also raises funds.

More Topics For Discussion

Central Committee Suggestions

The Central Committee adopted the Programme of Action, and identified more topics that urgently need discussion within all structures of the Party.

  • What kind of organisation are we trying to build? How successful has our Party-building been, over the past three years?
  • What specific interventions are we prepared to make in the disussion about restructuring state assets? Generalities are not enough.
  • In the same way, generalities about GEAR are not enough. We should be clear and specific about the interventions we want to make in this debate, too. Exactly what elements in it do we agree or disagree with?
  • What do we mean when we speak of patriarchy, and the patriarchal state? Are the concepts valid for a Marxist party?
  • What kind of state are we building? The debate opened up in our CC discussion paper, "Let us not lose sight of our strategic priorities" is taken forward within the Party and the Alliance.

Who conspired to kill Chris Hani?

No Amnesty without Full Disclosure

The convicted killers of Chris Hani, Waluz and Derby-Lewis, have applied for amnesty from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. In a statement issued at the end of January, the SACP called on the TRC "not to approach this particular amnesty application in a routine manner."

The Party has always believed that the murder was the work of an extensive conspiracy, and insists that the details of this conspiracy should be fully revealed to the TRC. The statement says, "We believe that the assassination goes to the heart of the apartheid intelligence and disinformation machinery. At the very least, full disclosure of all the facts is imperative. If there is the least doubt that those applying for amnesty are holding back on information in this matter, amnesty must not be granted."

The statement warns: "There are those who will certainly try to throw up smoke and dust in the coming days and weeks ... As the date for the Waluz/Derby-Lewis amnesty applications approaches, we can expect the old apartheid intelligence networks to grind into operation, throwing out all kinds of red herrings."

This statement is in line with a Central Committee decision that the TRC should ensure a thorough investigation, and that the Head Office secretariat should monitor all developments, in conjunction with the ANC. The Party and the ANC have asked the media for help in gathering information about the murder.

The CC also decided that the Party should give the Hani family as much comradely support as possible over this time.

The Central Committee noted that there are signs of a re-grouping of counter-revolutionary forces, seeking to destabilise, spread disinformation, drum up anti-Communist hysteria, and infiltrate our Party. The CC decided that the Political Bureau should monitor this situation, and provinces should report any developments.

A Crime Against the Public
Plan to Privatise Mpumalanga Parks

Matthews Hlabane, SACP provincial organiser in Mpumalanga, comments on the role played by developers, consultants and privileged government officials in the controversial deal between the Mpumalanga Parks Board and the Dolphin group of companies.

The agreement between Dolphin and the Mpumalanga Parks Board has nothing to do with the survival needs of our people. It is about taking the game reserves away from the public into the hands of a few.

The terms of the agreement are massively weighted in favour of the Dolphin Group. They give Dolphin power to exploit attractions, including the Blyed River Canyon, Bourk's Luck, the Blyed River potholes, and the Pilgrim's Rest. They do not give the Parks Board the right to adjust any Dolphin project on environmental grounds.

The agreement commits the Parks Board to try to ensure that the contracts for tourist sites in Board reserves - like the Aventura Lodges in the Blyed River Canyon and the Bongani Lodge in the Mthethumusha Reserve - are given to Dolphin when they run out. Dolphin can then sell these contracts to subcontractors for its own profit.

If, tourist arrivals drop over a period of three months, and, if the situation does not improve within a further three months, the agreement gives Dolphin the right to pay the Board only 7% of its revenue. The Board is also bound to consult Dolphin before making any internal policy changes that might affect Dolphin's profit.

In making this bureaucratic agreement, members of the Board have violated the key principles of democracy: transparency and consultation. The matter was secret till it was leaked to the press. The process that led to the deal frog-jumped organisations that express the opinion of our people, like the Multi-Stakeholder Forum for the Environment, and the Environmental Council.

The agreement needs to be investigated. The investigation should cover the role played by members of the Parks Board. All names of officials concerned should be disclosed. The investigation should also cover the manner in which the various Tender Boards conduct their activities in Mpumalanga.

Consultants and developers flock into the Province. Their programmes are sometimes protected and advanced by some of our own comrades. The RDP, which is supposed to be mass driven, is undermined by this sort of activity.

Some of the developers are members of the opposition. It is in their interests that the ANC in government should have problems, that ANC councillors should be divided from the members, and the ANC leadership divorced from the mass of the people.

After the people had shown they were opposed to the agreement, the MEC for Environmental Affairs appointed a commission to investigate. The names of the members of the commission were announced on February 13th 1997, and, on the same day, the Mpumalanga Provincial Legislature gave approval to the Dolphin scheme. This approval did nothing but legalise the crime against our people.

The government should reconsider the deal, and ensure that the process is driven from below. Information should be circulated to all stakeholders and to the public at large. The process of taking decisions should be taken in consultation, not behind closed doors.

If the Alliance in Mpumalanga does not challenge the developing bureaucracy, then it runs a risk of playing into the hands of its adversaries, for bureaucracy is like AIDS: it will kill our structures.

NEDLAC Negotiations Deadlocked

COSATU Plans Industrial Action

NEDLAC negotiations between labour, business and government, over a new law governing basic conditions of employment, have been deadlocked since August 1966. If the deadlock continues, affiliates of COSATU will engage in mass campaigns, culminating in a general strike on May 12th.

The basis of the negotiations is the government Green Paper on employment standards. Labour negotiators have made clear that they recognised that the Green Paper was progressive, but believed it did not go far enough.

The COSATU position is based on a mandate from the membership, as expressed in processes like the Living Wage Policy Conference, the COSATU National Women's Conference, and various meetings of the Central Executive Committee and the Executive Committee.

COSATU consulted its affiliates and their members on how to take the campaign forward. It held bilateral and trilateral meetings with the Ministry of Labour and business, but no agreement was achieved.

Night work, for example: COSATU maintains that night work begins at 18.00 hours. Employers propose that it should be defined as beginning at 23.00 hours, and they are opposed to a special night allowance. If COSATU agreed to this, it would mean a major compromise. The employers do not link night work to availability of transport: if a worker comes off shift at at time when there is no public transport, how is he or she to get home safely?

The Executive Committee has agreed on a bottom line in various other areas.

  • Maternity leave. We have demanded six months fully paid, but have now decided on a minimum demand of six months with four months fully paid.
  • Hours of work. In the past we demanded a 40-hour week with immediate effect. Now we are prepared to accept a phased introduction, with time frames for achievement.
  • Sunday pay. Labour argues that double pay should be retained, and extended to all workers. Government has no special provision, and business prefers flexible arrangements, such as the averaging of working time over long periods.
  • Child labour. COSATU maintains that age 16 should be a threshold. Government proposes 15 years.
  • Variation of standards. This means "flexibility", that is, doing away with firm standards altogether.

COSATU's position over variations is that standards laid down by law should be varied only through bargaining councils, and should always be upwards, that is, in favour of the workers. Government proposed that variations should be done through collective or individual agreement, though collective agreements override individual agreements.

Variations can happen through the Minister, on the advice of the Employment Standards Commission, or at the request of employers. COSATU says this gives too wide a power to the minister, and could push labour standards down, particularly for unorganised workers.

Variation can undermine labour standards, and reverse the hard-won rights of workers. COSATU head of negotiations Khumbula Ndaba says: "It is important that we put up a fight on this area, lest we lose all our rights."

The COSATU programme of mobilisation began in late February with shop steward meetings, and will continue with pickets, marches, demonstrations and rallies in industrial areas and major centres. This activity will culminate in the general strike on May 12th.

The decision to call a strike is reversible, depending on the progress of negotiations. The COSATU Central Executive Committee will meet on April 7th-10th, evaluate progress, and decide whether to call off the strike or go ahead with it.


Letters to the Editor

Solidarity, Friendship, From United States Socialists ...

(The writer of this letter is a health worker from the US, who recently visited South Africa.)

Dear Comrade

On the wall of the SACP office in Kingwilliamstown there is a clipping from the African Communist, showing Chris Hani with Angela Davis in 1991. It quotes Angela: "We'll be watching you. You cannot let us down."

I would like to think my visit of the last several months was an extension of this "watching", by our socialist movement in the United States, of your indomitable movement for democracy and socialism. The entire world is watching South Africa - we believe you will lead the way towards a renewed world socialist movement.

I want to especially thank the SACP Head Office staff, the Eastern Cape region (particularly the SACP organisations in Port Elizabeth, Umtata and Kingwilliamstown), the Western Cape, Gauteng and Free State regions for making my visit especially enriching.


Marilyn Albert
Committees of Correspondence

... And from Germany

Dear Comrade

I have just finished reading the booklet, The Red Flag in South Africa, which made me want to know more about the position of the SACP in today's South Africa.

In spite of the collapse of Communist-oriented political systems in Eastern Europe, I stick to my Marxist-Leninist beliefs, and still think that socialism is the future.

I would like to get into contact with comrades in South Africa, and correspond with them in English. I would appreciate it if you will publish my request and my address in Umsebenzi.

For a Communist future!

Wolfgang Kaiser
Altenburgstr. 29
81243 Munchen

Self-Employed Women workers

Are They All on Their Own?

Women in self-help economic projects are achieving a certain level of economic independence, and are now less powerless than before. Jack Matlala, in the Northern Province, argues that they need support from organs of civil society and government.

For decades, women have remained in villages, supporting their families by subsistence activities, while menfolk migrate to urban areas in search of work in the mines and factories.

Gender stereotypes, racial discrimination, and class bias have marginalised these women from the labour market. Consequently, they are forced to work in self-created niches of employment.

After the April 1994 breakthrough, masses of people joined the RDP and Masekhane (Let's Build Together) campaigns.

Among many projects linked to the campaigns is a bread-making project at Moletji (Matamanyane village), where a collective of women produces, distributes, and markets bread across a number of rural villages. A similar project is the Tshisaulu Community Project, where a group of unemployed Party cadres came together and mobilised a local community to build a clinic and a creche.

These are not isolated cases; they typify the everyday life of thousands of self-employed workers around the poverty-stricken villages and cities of our country. These are workers who do not have access to bank credit, seldom get support from organised industry and services, and certainly have no access to modern technology. All they have is their hands, and a determination to be economically active.

We haven't given sufficient support or attention to self-employed women workers. Like all workers in the world, they are vulnerable to exploitative forces that viciously torment and control their lives. Let us note that they may represent an important component of our revolution.

Theirs is a struggle to survive and support their families. To do that, they need support. Some realise that they can mobilise support through association around common interests, a realistic viewpoint which should be encouraged.

The ANC-led government should recognise these enterprising collective initiatives. More than that, we should provide a strategy that co-ordinates all existing role-players, addressing the needs of women in production, directing financial, and other, resources needed for the success of this sector.

This should be a focus of the Masakhane campaign. If women are empowered, their capacity to take part in economic growth is increased, and their contribution to national development is maximised.

Our strategy should be multi-pronged at all levels. Various departments should be urged to support community-based initiatives.

At present, the banking system in South Africa does not extend credit to poor, illiterate and self-employed women workers. This we need to change. The government has a task to intervene. In India, the Women's Co-operative Bank (Manila Sahakari) was registered in 1974. This is the sort of creative initiative we need to consider.

Our commitment to the RDP is drawn from our experience in struggle which was, and still is, nourished by our confidence in people-driven initiatives.



Building the Working Class

The Western Cape Provincial Executive Committee has developed a programme for 1997, based on cadre development (particularly the development of women cadres) and promoting unity of the working class in the province, by strengthening organisations that represent the working class.

The Party plans to intervene on key issues affecting the province, including the Olympic bid, developing an industrial policy biased towards the working class, and working to ensure that the issue of the moving of Parliament does not affect the province detrimentally.


Cuban Doctors and plans for a Community of Health Workers

The SACP plans to co-operate with NEHAWU in building a community of health workers throughout the province.

In Welkom, the Party recently had a meeting with five Cuban doctors working at the GRH Goldfields Regional Hospital outside Thabong. The doctors live in hospital accommodation, for which they pay R500 a month, and there is there is no transport into town apart from the hospital transport.

The SACP plans to hold further meetings, and to help relieve the Cubans' isolation by putting them in touch with other doctors, and other health workers in general, in the Free State.


SACP Praises Matric Results

The SACP Provincial Executive Committee in the North-West has expressed pride in the provincial matriculation results, and the fact that there were no exam leaks, or delays with the issuing of results.

The PEC statement congratulates the provincial MEC for Education, Sport and Recreation "for a job well done," SADTU for "establishing a culture of learning and teaching," and COSAS, for "ensuring responsible student leadership."

The PEC believes that a socialist future can be built only on the basis of a well-educated and productive working class.

The decision to call a strike is reversible, depending on the progress of negotiations. The COSATU Central Executive Committee will meet on April 7th-10th, evaluate progress, and decide whether to call off the strike or go ahead with it.


      SACP sends message

This is an extract from the message the SACP sent to Comrade Jian Zemin, General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, on the occasion of the death of Deng Xiaoping, the Chinese Communist leader:

"Comrade Deng Xiaoping was a courageous Communist, who understood the the socialist ideal was not a mechanical blueprint. He understood that socialism needed adaptation to local national conditions, and that it required continuous renewal ...

"As South African Communists, we are pleased that Comrade Deng Xiaoping lived to see the important strategic shift in diplomatic relations between our two countries."

Threat to Press Freedom In Britian

Demand is going up for the London Morning Star, the world's only English-language socialist daily paper, but the big monopolies are squeezing it out of the distribution network. Editor John Haylett reports.

The Morning Star is menaced by the growing monopolisation of newspaper distribution by the big proprietors, notably Richard Murdoch.

The system that once guaranteed distribution to local wholesalers by rail has been disrupted by the big boys. They cancelled the rail contracts, and have developed their own delivery network by road, forcing smaller titles, including the Morning Star, ethnic minority papers, religious publications and other small-circulation papers, to negotiate carriage on those networks.

Where space or time is squeezed, the small titles come off worst. Too often, they are dropped. Independent wholesalers and local newsagents have also been hit.

The Morning Star has been instrumental in setting up a Committee for Diversity and Pluralism, which has won support from MPs of all political persuasions, trade unions, newsagents, religious and other bodies. It is organising a petition to the European Parliament, asking for abuses of monopoly power to be investigated.

Our goal is a guaranteed distribution system, as exists in other European countries. Democracy is incomplete without the availabiliy of all points of view.

Sudan & Zaire: The return of National Democratic Alliances

This is the first part of a two-part article. In the next issue we will look at the main actors leading the new struggle, whom they are struggling against as well as the existing and potential role of South Africa in the region

Despite decades of brutal oppression and inhumanity suffered under the combined weight of dictators, greedy capitalists and western imperialists, the people of Sudan and Zaire are gradually reclaiming the offensive. What we are witnessing now is much more than regionalised armed rebellion, historically held hostage to the divide and rule tactics of successive dictatorial regimes backed by imperialist interests.

As was historically the case in most of Africa, much of the repression was a direct result of Cold War rivalries. Sudanese regimes (under Nimeiri, Mahdi & Bashir) have, at different times, been seen as bulwarks against communism and buffers against radical African nationalism. On the other hand, Zaire's megalomaniac dictator, Mobuto, has been given a blank cheque by western imperialists to pursue an internal and regional campaign of terror in order to preserve the interests of capital and stamp out the so-called scourge of communism in Central Africa.

Recent changes in global political economy though, have seen the playing out of inter-imperialist competition to retain political influence and economic control. In Sudan we see the USA opportunistically supporting 'democracy' now that the long-running 'fundamentalist' Islamic regime no longer serves its interests. Likewise, in Zaire and surrounding countries such as Rwanda, the Belgians and French desperately cling onto reactionary forces for fear of losing their slice of the imperialist pie.

It has been in the midst of these imperialist 'games' that the mass of Sudanese and Zairean people have begun to forge a collective challenge to both external intervention and internal autocracy. Recent events in both Sudan and Zaire point to the formation of broad national democratic alliances in an ongoing effort to reclaim both national sovereignty and a popular, democratic government. It is these alliances that are now bringing together mass-based opposition forces with armed formations in a concerted struggle to forge a viable challenge to neo-colonialism and imperialist control.

Having experienced the severe repression meted out by successive dictators (Nimeiri, Mobuto, Bashir) and western imperialists (Britain, Belgium, France, USA), the message coming from the people of Sudan and Zaire is clear: we have had enough.

Embili maSwati! Viva PUDEMO!

Report from the Front Line

A PUDEMO comrade writes:

There was rejoicing in Swaziland when, after three weeks of the general strike, the magistrate in charge of the case released the imprisoned leaders of the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU) and the People's United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO).

The leaders were imprisoned under a dubious law: the so-called `Public Order' law, passed on the eve of the strike. There is no bail, those arrested were tortured, and they faced a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

They included SFTU President Richard Khumalo, Vice-President Themba Msibi, General Secretary Jan Sithole, and Assistant General Secretary Jabulani Nxumalo. Some had begun a hunger strike.

In spite of harassment, the people of Swaziland are holding strong in their struggle for democracy. The sugar belt and the pulp industry have all but shut down. Internal pressure is building momentum. PUDEMO, as leader of the Swaziland Democratic Alliance, has pledged to continue with rolling mass action as long as democracy is denied to the Swazi people.

We welcome the support and solidarity of COSATU and the SACP, and the positive role played by President Mandela in seeking negotiations to resolve the crisis.

We call on all progressive organisations internationally to join forces with the Swaziland Solidarity Committee in Johannesburg. (Telephone: 011 339 3621/2. Fax: 011 339 6880 (ask for Sipho).

Cosatu Solidarity with Swaziland Workers

COSATU has consistently supported the struggle for trade union rights, led by the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions, and has extended solidarity: media coverage; missions to Swaziland; pickets at the Swaziland High Commission in Pretoria; and opening a web site on the Internet to seek international solidarity with the SFTU.

Through the Southern African Trade Union Co-ordinating Council (SATUCC), COSATU was part of a call to President Mandela, as President of SADC, to intervene.

COSATU was part of the SATUCC mission to Swaziland on February 13th-14th 1997. The delegation's assessment was that the pressures on the Swazi government had not been sufficient.

The SATUCC Secretary General has announced March 3rd 1997 as a day of solidarity with the SFTU. He has called for action at border gates and Swaziland High Commissions: including blockades, protest marches, pickets, and workers' refusing to handle Swaziland goods. COSATU has called on members and supporters to ensure a total shut-down of all Swazi borders on March 3rd. These plans will go ahead, though the leaders have been released.

These have been the central demands of the SFTU, and of the Swaziland Democratic Alliance:

  • Unconditional release of all SFTU leaders unlawfully arrested. Though they were released on February 26th, the other demands still remain.
  • Immediate repeal of all legislation preventing the free exercise of trade union rights, and new legislation to normalise the operation of trade unions, in line with ILO conventions.
  • Immediate repeal of the 1973 decree outlawing democracy and opposition parties.
  • A transparent and representative National Convention to agree constitutional reform and to lead the process of democratic transformation.

The Swaziland government has accused COSATU of interfering in its internal affairs. We reject such accusations. Solidarity knows no borders. We cannot allow human rights to be abused, and workers' fights to be undermined. The Swaziland government has ratified core ILO conventions, and we expect it to uphold those same conventions.