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Umsebenzi Online

Volume 6, No. 6, 4 April 2007

In this Issue:

Red Alert

‘We want to be like Chris Hani’!

Blade Nzimande, General Secretary

The YCL recently organised a rally in Limpopo to commemorate the 14th anniversary of the assassination of our late General Secretary, Cde Chris Hani. In his address at the rally, the YCL National Secretary said that today’s South African youth must strive to be like Chris Hani. This is indeed a very appropriate call by our YCL, and underscores the importance of our youth emulating the heroic contribution and exemplary behaviour of Cde Hani in our national liberation struggle.

The SACP will be commemorating the assassination of Cde Chris, who was murdered on 10 April 1993, throughout the month of April – the Chris Hani Month. The SACP is committed to ensuring that the memory of Cde Hani should never be allowed to fade in the minds of South Africans. His legacy must be imprinted in our society for generations to come.

We are dedicating this year’s Chris Hani month to taking forward our struggle for the transformation of the financial sector to serve the interests of the workers and the poor of our country. The challenge for the transformation of this sector is indeed huge. Our main platform will be around three immediate demands: a once-off amnesty for people blacklisted by the faceless credit bureaux, a call for a new model to finance low-cost housing, and rejection of the banks’ attempts to charge bonds for low-cost housing at a higher rate.

On the once-off credit amnesty

According to government estimates, there are about 5,5 million people blacklisted by the credit bureaux; just under 10% of the population. But if we estimate that just 3 million of these have families of at least 5, this means that a whopping 15 million people are directly affected by the blacklisting; a third of South Africa’s population! This is indeed a national crisis!

Most of those blacklisted are the workers and the poor, many of whom have not been able to pay because they were retrenched. This was especially the case after the job-loss bloodbath of the 1990s. Those blacklisted cannot access credit to, for instance, start micro-enterprises in order to build sustainable livelihoods. Many of them cannot even access government programmes aimed at eradicating poverty and providing opportunities for self-employment. This directly undermines the struggle and commitment to poverty eradication.

Of more serious concern to us is that many of our people were in the past blacklisted willy nilly under a dispensation where there was no state regulation of the credit bureaux. Now that we have the new National Credit Act, it is simply illogical that old records are taken into a new dispensation without our people being given a fresh economic start.

We are therefore calling upon government to grant, through the regulations of the National Credit Act, a once-off amnesty. We are concerned that some of the senior departmental officials in the Department of Trade and Industry seem to be listening more to the banks, the retailers and the association of credit bureaux than to organisations representing the millions of our people on this matter.

A new model to finance low-cost housing

The SACP is concerned about the existing model for low-cost housing in our country. It is simply unacceptable for people earning low wages and salaries to be subjected to 20-year housing bonds, with compound interest. The SACP demands a complete review of this model. The aim should be for a shorter but affordable payment period. We believe that this can be done.

Given high levels of job insecurity and high levels of retrenchments in South Africa, many workers are simply unable to sustain long periods of bond repayments. It is incumbent for banks to match government’s own subsidy scheme for low-cost housing by designing a different model to finance low-cost housing.

We have noted with concern attempts by banks to try to abuse the National Credit Act, by wanting to link interest on bonds for low-cost housing to the 21% interest on general micro-credit as stipulated in the legislation. This basically means that the poor will now have to pay more for their housing bonds. This is simply unacceptable and runs completely counter to our developmental objectives of housing every South African. The poor pay more and the rich pay less! There are existing alternative models that can be followed to make housing loans more affordable for the poor.

Corruption in the financial sector

The SACP will also use the Chris Hani month to highlight the serious instances of corruption within the financial sector, especially in relation to retirement funds. The unfolding Fidentia scandal and the Leaderguard Spot Forex incident are some of the immediate examples that come to mind. In addition, sections of the financial sector have gone out of their way to try and corrupt union officials and shop stewards as part of securing business interests within the trade union movement. This is an issue we have jointly with COSATU agreed to pay particular attention to.

The SACP is strongly of the view that the Financial Services Board requires thorough transformation such that it is better able to protect the interests of the workers in relation to the financial sector in general and the retirement funds industry in particular.

It is scandalous that law enforcement agencies, especially the Scorpions, are unable to nab on time those who are stealing workers’ monies. Whilst the focus of the country is on violent crime, there are a myriad of so-called ‘white collar’ crimes being committed without any serious focus on these. The Scorpions are charged with this responsibility, yet even with their intelligence capacity, they could not detect the squandering of close to R1bn of widows’ and orphans’ money in Fidentia. Failure to decisively combat such crimes leaves one with the impression that crimes committed by the rich against the poor are not considered important.

It is around all these issues that we will be embarking on mass action during the month of April, so that we can truly be like Chris Hani!



Statement of the SACP on the recent launch of the ANC voters network.

The South African Communist Party has noted with concerns attempts to form a so-called ANC voters’ network. As part of the ANC voters, we fully support the stance taken by the ANC that its name and those who vote for it must not be abused for what are clearly dubious ends.

The SACP is of the view that this smacks of the same attempts in the 1970s to form what was known as a Marxist Workers’ Tendency of the ANC, an attempt to create different and unofficial ANC structures within the ANC and outside of the formal structures of our movement. This tendency has long been defeated in our movement and we should not allow such and other tendencies to rear their heads again.

We also strongly condemn attempts to speak for us, as ANC voters, outside of the structures of the ANC and/or those of our Alliance.

All genuine members of the ANC need to raise whatever issues within those structures, and ANC voters have access to ANC structures to raise whatever concerns they might have.

As the SACP we know that the ANC is perfectly capable of addressing such matters, but as ANC voters we cannot allow attempts to hijack the ANC in our name.

Issued by the SACP.