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  • Red Alert: Fight Hunger, Demand Food Security for All: The launch of our 2005 Red October Campaign

Blade Nzimande, General Secretary

It is that time of the year when the SACP launches its increasingly popular and highly successful Red October Campaign. This will be the sixth such campaign. Coincidentally, our first Red October Campaign back in 1999 was on halting the job loss bloodbath, and this year we are launching the campaign in the same month as COSATU intensifies its jobs and poverty campaign. There could have been no better confluence of programmes, at a time when society demands focused working class leadership to deal with the many problems that still confront our country.

Our Red October campaign has proved itself to be one of the premier campaigns in the political calendar of working class struggles in our country. Not only has it initiated important debates and discussions on the national agenda, it has also notched some important victories and advances over the last 6 years. Amongst these has been to place the transformation of our financial sector at the centre of economic debates, as well as to add an important voice and impetus on the land and agrarian question in our country. Other achievements include important pieces of legislation that are a direct offshoot of the Red October Campaign, including the Co-operatives Act, the Co-operative Banks Bill, and the National Credit Bill currently being debated in Parliament.
The focus of our 2005 Red October Campaign is the problem of hunger and food security in our country, under the slogan �Fight Hunger, Demand Food Security for All�. The primary aim of the campaign is to harmonise some of our major existing campaigns on transforming the financial sector, building co-operatives, accelerated land and agrarian reform and the struggle for a new growth path. Underpinning these campaigns is the struggle for the eradication of poverty in our country.

Our 2005 Red October Campaign comes in the wake of momentous developments in our country during this year, the Year of Commemorating 50 Years of the Freedom Charter. During this year our Party held its first Special National Congress, which adopted some far-reaching resolutions. The key resolution, deriving from our historic agreement with COSATU earlier in the year, was that of intensifying working class struggles in order to make the second decade of our freedom (2004-2014) a decade of the workers and the poor. Therefore our 2005 Red October Campaign should make a decisive contribution towards the realisation of this objective.

This year�s Red October Campaign, as pointed out earlier, could not have come at a better time. It is the month in which COSATU is taking mass action on the jobs and poverty campaign to higher levels. The SACP fully supports and is actively participating in COSATU�s campaign. This truly makes October 2005 a month of rolling red action, and an important platform to realise, in practice, the joint SACP-COSATU commitment to making the second decade of our democracy a decade of the workers and the poor. A key outcome of both our campaigns should be the transformation of the current accumulation regime with and for workers and the poor.
Why the focus on hunger? According to the United Nations Development Programmes� survey done in 2003, 48,5% of South Africans lived below the national poverty line. The Human Sciences Research Council National Poverty Line Survey of 2004 estimated that 57% or 25,7 million of South Africans live in poverty.

What is disturbing is that research shows consensus that notwithstanding government�s best efforts, there has been an increase in poverty between the mid 1990s and early 2000s. In fact, were it not because of the various state social grants for the aged, people living with disabilities, children in foster-care and for poor children, the situation would have been much worse. These levels of poverty should not be surprising given the extent of job losses in our country since the early 1990s. Despite the growth since 1994 of what is referred to as the informal sector, ordinary South Africans still depend on wage labour for any form of sustainable livelihoods. This is worsened by the fact that in the rural areas there are minimal sources of sustainable livelihoods due to a lack of access to productive land and the consequent decline in opportunities for subsistence agriculture.

The above picture is graphically illustrated by the UNDP�s 2003 measure of the human development index for South Africa. The UNDP research shows (on a scale of 0 to 1) a steep decline in South Africa�s human development index from about 0,73 in 1996 to 0,66 in 2003. The situation in some of the provinces is deeply disturbing, with the HSRC 2004 Survey showing that in 7 out of the 9 provinces more than half the population live in poverty, ranging from a high of 77% and 72% in Limpopo and the Eastern Cape respectively, to 52% in the North-West. According to this survey the only two provinces with poverty at less than half are the Western Cape (32%) and Gauteng (42%). With regards to food, according to the National Labour and Economic Development Institute (NALEDI) a number of surveys also show that for the poor and low income groups, the percentage of money spent on food is way above 50% of total annual income, whilst those earning R56 000 and more per annum (in 2000) spent only 17% on food.

NALEDI comes to the conclusion that although between 1995 and 2002 there might have been a slight decline in the number of poor people, there has been an increase in the number of people who can be described as chronically poor.

It is because of the above realities that we are currently witnessing increased working class militancy, particularly informed by the growing gap between the rich and the poor, also manifested in the workplace by the growing wage gap between executives and workers. In the midst of this there has been an increase in the category of what is known as �the working poor�, due to the neo-liberal restructuring of the workplace through casualisation and outsourcing.

The SACP has identified four key immediate arenas of struggle for the working class if we are to significantly change the current realities. These are the struggle for sustainable job creation, provision of basic services to all, access to affordable credit, and acceleration of land and agrarian reform. The NEDLAC-convened conference on promoting sustainable livelihoods to be held on 14-16 October is an important initiative by the Community Constituency of that body to focus on the question of a strategy to promote sustainable livelihoods in South Africa, and the need to mobilise communities towards this end.

There are four key pillars to our 2005 Red October Campaign:

  • Access to land for food production and food security � the focus here being to take forward our campaign for accelerated land and agrarian transformation through, amongst other things, the building of people�s land committees to translate the resolutions of the land summit into reality for our people.
  • Basic provision of proteins, vitamins, etc, especially for the poor � in this regard we will be campaigning for food gardens and the provision of extra free water for poor households with such gardens. In addition, our campaign will focus on release of urban land to build community gardens.
  • Highlighting the problem of high food prices, especially basic foodstuff for the poor.
  • Expansion of school feeding schemes and a focus on the more vulnerable children � particular attention will be paid to a campaign to expand the school-feeding scheme through to high schools, fighting against corruption in some of the existing school-feeding schemes, and the building of co-operatives around these schemes. Our campaign will also seek to lend a hand to the national campaign of the Department of Social Development to identify and provide basic needs for the more vulnerable children, including orphans.

Our 2005 Red October Campaign is a continuing point of mobilisation within our broader objective of struggling for a growth and development strategy that will benefit the workers and the poor of our country. It will also be a rallying point to underline the fact that capitalism is failing our democracy.

In addition, we will use Red October to intensify our campaign for a call for a credit amnesty for all, including pickets and demonstrations at the offices of the Credit Bureaux.

We have declared 8 October 2005 a �Red Saturday� during which we shall launch our campaign, through symbolic occupation of land. There will be nine such events in all the provinces, in order to highlight access to productive land as a key dimension to fighting hunger and demanding food security for all. This will also act to take further our campaign on land and agrarian transformation. The national launch will take place in Brits in the North-West province, preceded by a night vigil on 7 October 2005 to highlight the hunger for land by the majority of our people.

This year�s Red October Campaign is also part of the celebration of 50 years of the Freedom Charter, through taking up concrete issues facing our people, towards the realisation of the clauses of the Charter.

Most importantly, we will use our 2005 Red October Campaign as a platform to prepare for an overwhelming victory of the ANC in the forthcoming local government elections. Our campaign will continue into November to undertake intense work amongst our people and to allow us to hold people�s forums.

The Alliance has fully endorsed and pledged its support and participation in our 2005 Red October Campaign. Within this context we have specifically agreed to co-operate with the Food and Allied Workers Union in order to use the campaign as a platform to take forward the struggle to organise farmworkers, and take up the issue of their living conditions together with their families. In our co-operation with FAWU we also hope to take further other critical issues around the struggle for food security, particularly the issue of genetically modified food and the issue of the ownership of food and its production in our country.

Communist Cadres to the Front� To fight hunger and demand food security for all!