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Blade Nzimande, General Secretary

The two attempted COSATU solidarity visits to Zimbabwe and the spin-offs from them have generated much debate both within the ranks of our Alliance and in the public arena. We welcome this deepening of debate about Zimbabwe. One positive outcome is that it has enabled our Alliance to identify areas of difference and commonalities in our understanding of the realities and challenges on Zimbabwe. Most importantly, it has also seen an increasing convergence around our perspectives and on the respective roles of government, each of the Alliance partners & other progressive social forces in contributing towards a lasting political solution in Zimbabwe.

There is now a tacit understanding that, whilst we should strive to forge a common approach to this question, Alliance partners and government will have distinct, albeit complementary, roles. It is, for instance, correct for government to pursue a diplomatic engagement and solution to the problem, just as it is important for COSATU and the SACP to express solidarity with the workers and the poor of Zimbabwe.

However, it is crucial that we also broaden this debate and begin to look at some of the wider questions that arise. This debate needs to be broadened to include a general reflection on the political economy of post-independence/liberation Southern Africa, and, for that matter, of the continent as a whole. There are very pertinent questions raised by the Zimbabwe debate that need to be surfaced about the character of a post-independence or, as some would argue, post-colonial state in Africa, especially in our region. These matters should be frankly debated by all the progressive forces in our country, the region and the continent. It is from this perspective, for instance, that we should be seeking to engage with, and analyse, the African Union, NEPAD and generally the very important peace and development initiatives.

Much as our analysis here aims to make some general observations, we are aware that each country has its own unique features and the manner in which some of these general features express themselves varies from country to country. We are, however, convinced that there are many common patterns that need to be properly analysed and understood.

What are the tasks of former liberation movements now in power, and what is and what should be their relationship to their national liberation allies, especially the trade union movement and mass organizations? One of the key problems in Zimbabwe is that ZANU-PF has lost much of the support and certainly its hegemony over most of the main motive forces of any national liberation struggle, especially the workers and progressive intellectuals and middle strata. It has also lost whatever rural base it had in Matabeleland.

However, the question of the dissolution or decline of national liberation alliances, and tensions between former liberation movements in power and their erstwhile allies in the trade union and mass movements is not only found in Zimbabwe, but in many other parts of our region and continent. It seems as if one of the first ?casualties? in post-independence Southern Africa, with the (partial but significant) exception of South Africa, is the mass movement. If truth were told there is not much of a mass movement to speak of in our wider region.

What seems to have been a pattern is that the mass movement, and the degree to which a mass movement existed prior to independence also varied considerably, is either incorporated into the state, or shrinks into NGOs, often funded by Western donors and increasingly positioning itself as oppositionist. Indeed, many of these NGOs become vulnerable to imperialist agendas. However, it would be wrong to paint all NGOs in this way, and it would be wrong to deny that many play a vitally important role in human rights struggles and in poverty eradication programmes. But precisely because they operate in a context where there is no vibrant mass movement (energetically taking up bread and butter issues affecting communities), they are vulnerable not just to external agendas, but also to repression from some of the governments.

The Zimbabwean government has piloted draconian anti-NGO legislation, but it would have found it very difficult to accomplish this had the NGOs been more organically linked to, and part of, a vibrant mass movement taking up issues of poverty, rent, land reform, prices, basic services, women?s and youth issues, etc. This is, however, not to underestimate the difficulties in Zimbabwe to undertake these struggles. Our own experience in South Africa in the 1980s is that the effectiveness of NGOs was based on their links to a vibrant mass movement. These relative isolation of NGOs in the contemporary reality has made it easy for repressive actions by governments to be ?justified? on the grounds that these NGOs are ?agents of imperialism?.

There seems to be a general pattern that there is a rapid decline of progressive and vibrant mass movements (where these existed) after independence. Such movements sometimes re-emerge in response to repression post-independence and decline again once there is a change of government, after electoral defeat of unpopular post-liberation governments (eg Zambia, or Kenya). Perhaps the lesson out of this is the tendency to channel all the mass energies of such movements narrowly into an electoral effort, with a singular focus on an electoral victory or, for that matter, an ?electoral regime change?, at the expense of sustained mass activism on the ground even after such elections. Both ZANU-PF and the opposition in Zimbabwe for instance seem to be facing a similar problem.

Perhaps the only significant mass organisations post-independence are trade unions. It is for this reason that any independent mass activity or resistance to unpopular governments tends to arise from, or be led by, the trade union movement. This has sometimes led to the argument, found in sections of a number of former liberation movements in our region, that the trade union movement is being used by imperialism to roll back the gains of liberation.

The latest in these accusations is that directed at COSATU by the Zimbabwean government, that COSATU is being used by the CIA, by virtue of its affiliation to the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU). The SACP has correctly rejected this ridiculous characterisation of COSATU. Perhaps this is a reflection of much deeper problems; the tendency of the national liberation alliances to fragment after independence, and what seems to be growing mutual suspicions between former liberation movements in power and the trade union movement in the region. Our own work as the SACP in the region shows a disturbing uneasiness by some of the former liberation movements in government about the role of the trade union movement.

The Chiluba experience in Zambia is often held up as the ?paradigm? case. Here, the trade union movement was used as a mass base to defeat President Kaunda, but subsequently, the Chiluba government pursued a heavy neo-liberal agenda and ran a corrupt administration. Of course, the Chiluba experience represents one (the worst) potential trajectory of a trade union movement being used as a mass base for political engagement post-independence. It certainly shows that a trade union movement can be hijacked towards an anti-working class agenda, used for narrow electoralist objectives and to satisfy the personal ambitions of some of its (former) leaders, rolling back the gains made after independence. It is the responsibility of the left and the working class movement in the region to guard against this kind of danger. But it is certainly not the only potential trajectory. Progressive forces need constantly to engage constructively with the trade union movement. Throwing insults or delivering patronising lectures at the trade union movement is not going to help. Painstaking revolutionary work amongst the workers is essential.

The tensions between post-independence governments and trade unions also has its roots in economic policy decisions. During the 1980s and the 1990s, virtually all Southern African governments were pursuing some form or another of economic structural adjustment programme (ESAPs). These ESAPs were characterised by large scale privatisation of state assets, economic liberalisation and the rolling back of social programmes aimed at the poor. This led to large-scale destruction of jobs and sustainable livelihoods. These programmes were a wholesale failure, and it was the workers and the poor that suffered the most, thus leading to resistance from, amongst others, trade unions. The Zimbabwean ESAP, as ZANU-PF itself now readily admits, marked the beginning of the serious strains between itself and a variety of social and class forces.

A related problem has been that the domestic elites have zealously driven and benefited enormously from the ESAPs at the direct expense of the workers and the poor. This has seen the consolidation of a bureaucratic bourgeoisie, controlling the levers of state and the meager economic resources in these countries. The mutual suspicions can therefore also be traced directly to the impact of structural adjustment programmes, and resentment at the accumulation by a domestic bureaucratic elite through parasitic capitalism. Zimbabwe, while it is not necessarily the worst example of this trend, represents what is possibly the biggest rupture between a former liberation movement and the main motive forces of the revolution.

Whilst not underestimating the extent to which imperialism can (and actually does) engineer or exploit the fallout between former liberation movements and the main motive forces of the revolution, the challenge is for former liberation movements to frankly examine themselves as well. It is wrong to simply blame trade unions as useful tools in the hands of imperialism, without thoroughly examining the mistakes of the former liberation movements now in government. The key challenge and lesson from all of this is the role that liberation movements should be playing in mobilising the main motive forces for reconstruction and development post-independence.
In the case of Zimbabwe for instance, the ZANU-PF government, during the first decade after independence, pursued very progressive social policies. However these policies later became unsustainable, not because they were populist (they were absolutely necessary), but because the Zimbabwean government left the mainstream capitalist economy untouched, including the land and agrarian question. These early gains became vulnerable to complete destruction by the structural adjustment programme. Progressive social policies in the context of a persistent capitalist economy, retaining all of its colonial features, become unsustainable. The market economy itself undermines and rolls back these progressive social programmes.

Another important lesson out of this is that state power not buttressed by mass power is vulnerable. Many Southern African governments could not resist the structural adjustment programmes partly because there was no mobilised mass force on the ground to defend whatever gains had been made immediately after independence. The Zimbabwean situation should be a reminder of the dangers of bureaucratisation of former liberation movements, and their growing distance from their mass base and main motive forces for transformation. It is precisely this phenomenon that strengthens the hand of imperialism, and not the trade union movement as is sometimes claimed. It is a weakened movement, with a bureaucratised state that isolates and weakens the capacity of many governments to resist imperialist impositions.

There is one broader and important consequence flowing out of the blocked COSATU solidarity visits to Zimbabwe. COSATU is now engaging the whole Southern African trade union movement through the Southern African Trade Union Coordinating Council (SATUCC). The SACP greatly welcomes this initiative. We suggest that the federations grouped within SATUCC should not position themselves in a primarily oppositionist role in regard to the collective of SADC governments. This may result in a closing of ranks among governments, whatever their specific views on the situation in Zimbabwe might be. Instead, given the impending March 31 Zimbabwean election, we suggest that SATUCC unions should support the SADC principles and guidelines and, in expressing solidarity with Zimbabwean workers, our regional unions should call on the collective of SADC government to ensure the implementation of these principles and guidelines ? which ALL of our governments (including the Zimbabwean government) have solemnly endorsed.

Implicit in all of this is the exciting prospect that workers throughout our region will increasingly become a significant force to advance, deepen and defend democracy, without necessarily being drawn into narrow electoralist and often oppositionist politics, which easily lends them to abuse and internal careerism. If the gains of independence and liberation are to be defended, and for transformation to be taken forward, it is essential that progressive left forces should focus on building the capacity of the main motive forces for social transformation.

It is for all the above reasons that working class and progressive forces in the region need to deepen worker and working class solidarity to defend and advance thorough-going democratisation, worker rights, human rights and pro-poor policies thereby safeguarding and advancing the achievements of the national liberation movements. The former liberation movements need to go back to the basics that saw them lead heroic struggles against colonialism and imperialism for the sake of defending and advancing the Southern African revolution. It is also the responsibility of progressive forces to work towards the rebuilding of the mass movement, strengthening the trade union movement and build cross-border solidarity.

As the SACP we will seek to make our own contribution, and we will continue to engage all progressive forces in our region on these perspectives.

State of the Nation Address underlines challenge of under-development & the need to change accumulation regime

The South African Communist Party (SACP) regards the State of the Nation Address by President Thabo Mbeki as an important moment & speech which starkly captures the key challenges facing our country. We welcome the overall thrust of the speech & its emphasis on the leading role of the state & the parastatal sector in economic growth & development. We welcome the commitment to expand employment in the public service and through the Expanded Public Works Programme. We are also pleased with the record of government in achieving many of the targets set for last year, especially in the delivery of essential services to the poor. However, the address did not go far enough to discuss some of the fundamental reasons for the failure to achieve certain targets.

In the view of the SACP, this strategic & leading role by the state is critical in stimulating economic growth & development aimed at job creation, infrastructure development & poverty eradication. The state must use its power, through legislation & regulation, to direct investment by private capital. Lack of investment by private capital is a major constraint on economic growth & development & a manifest failure of the so-called first economy. Market failure is a general feature of the current accumulation regime in South Africa which does not just apply to the steel & chemical industries only as the President noted. It is generalised, structural & systematic market failure which manifests itself in the job loss bloodbath in key sectors of the economy in particular the textile sector, lack of investment in job-creation & ongoing accumulation by a small elite which controls the economy. In other words, any intervention in the economy by the state must be based on understanding of the structural inter-relationship between the first and second economies, and the committment to recognise that the first economy needs further transformation in favour of the workers & the poor.

For these reasons, it is not sufficient to merely depend on the assumed goodwill of, & possibility of consensus with private capital which is not committed to the people of this country & their needs. Decisive action by government, the workers & the poor is required to change this accumulation regime including transforming the so-called first economy.

We are therefore concerned about the potentially narrow focus on exemptions for small businesses with regard to taxes, levies, as well as central bargaining and other labour arrangements. Indeed, there are many impediments which affect small businesses: lack of access to finance & credit, unnecessary red-tape, lack of effective support institutions, undue emphasis on the cost of living at the expense of a focus on the cost of living, etc. Addressing these impediments must not be conflated with the rolling back of workers? right, thereby creating a two-tier labour market & leaving the so-called first economy untransformed.

In line with the SACP-led financial sector campaign, we welcome the President?s announcement on the intention to pass legislation on co-operatives this year & the meeting of the targets of the Financial Sector Charter. This Charter, however, is subject to the overall NEDLAC Financial Sector Summit Agreement of August 2002 which provides a stronger basis for the mobilisation of domestic resources in private hands for state-led economic growth & development. We therefore call on government to play its role in the realisation of this NEDLAC agreement.

We are also pleased with the commitments to speed up the public sector delivery of housing, electricity, water & sanitation. The SACP is concerned that the President did not say enough on what government is doing to accelerate land & agrarian reform in light of the inadequate resources for land reform & the deadline to finalise land restitution claims by December this year. The announcement by President Mbeki of the socio-economic survey of the so-called second economy is welcome & important to understand & appreciate this reality & thereby contribute to promoting sustainable livelihoods. The land reform programme & the socio-economic survey will be points of significant engagement for the SACP in the coming year.

The SACP also specifically welcomes the commitment of the South African government to contribute to the democratisation of Zimbabwe & Swaziland.

We will engage in mass campaigns & in the alliance to ensure that the objectives & challenges set out by the President are met