Volume 6, No. 7, 18 April 2007
Rich country, poor people: The rule of law with and for the bourgeoisie!
Blade Nzimande, General Secretary
April is our Chris Hani month, when we commemorate the cowardly assassination of our late General Secretary, Martin Thembisile ‘Chris’ Hani, on 10 April 1993. We are writing this piece while criss-crossing the country to honour Hani’s life, sacrifices and what he died for - a democratic South Africa as an integral component of the struggle for a socialist South Africa.
Leratong Park: Minimum basic services for all
I am in the midst of an intense, albeit fulfilling, visit to the Northern Cape Province as part of the above-named commemorations. I have just finished a visit to the largest informal (shack) settlement in the Northern Cape, Leratong Park, which is just 10 kms outside of Kimberley. This informal settlement has about 5 300 shacks. In terms of our estimates, if each shack houses at least 5 family members, it has a population of about 30 000 people. One resident makes the point poignantly, that this settlement is almost as old as the democratic South Africa, but there are “no basic services, no water, no sanitation, no electricity, no roads, no clinic, no school. We are meeting in the open in drenching rainfall, as there is no covered place under which we can hold meetings.”
Leratong has been visited by President Thabo Mbeki, the Northern Cape Premier, Cde Dipuo Peters, the Deputy General Secretary of the SACP, Cde Jeremy Cronin, the Sol Plaatjie Mayor, councillors and practically everybody else over the last 3 years, and yet there is no improvement in conditions. I am struck by the fact that despite its desperate situation, the community has not made any unreasonable demands. They understand that development takes time. All they have been asking for are very basic things, that could be put in place in less than a month: high-mast lighting, more communal taps than the meagre three that cater for the entire 30 000-strong community, and scaling of roads so that transport is able to move easily in and out of the settlement.
Leratong is a breeding ground for criminal activity, and the community correctly attributes the high rate of crime to complete darkness after sunset. During our visit, the SACP committed itself to pursuing definite deadlines for installation of the necessary basic infrastructure. This is part of our campaign towards minimum basic services for all.
The Longlands community: Theft from the people!
If anyone wants proof of the criminality and brutality of capitalism, one has just to visit the Longlands community, some 30 kms outside of Kimberley on the way to Kuruman. This is a small community of about 70 households, staying on land that is rich in diamonds but living in dire poverty.
The Longlands community, African and coloured, is being held to ransom by a white, rich capitalist, Mr Chris Visser, who has used all his money to try to stop the community from engaging in community mining of diamonds. The central government has given the Longlands community the right to engage in small-scale mining of diamonds in the area. The whole area is populated by predominantly white small diamond miners, but it has been an enormous struggle to access the diamonds in the area.
Mr Chris Visser, who is illegitimately claiming the diamond rights of the area from the established black communities, has gone to court to prevent this community from exercising its legally granted rights to mine in the area. Under the apartheid regime, Mr Visser failed to access mining rights in Longlands, but under the democratic government he has managed to access a large community-owned piece of land to establish mining rights! The community attributes this to a developing corrupt relationship between sections of our own ANC cadre in the state and Mr Visser’s private accumulation interests. Mr Visser now is claiming more and more land to access diamonds in the area.
Even more disturbing is the behaviour of dominant (white) elements within the criminal justice system, who are siding with the interests of white mining capital in the area to harass and intimidate the community to surrender its mining rights legitimately given by government. In Longlands, a particular ‘rule of law’ has emerged, where the judiciary, the prosecution, the police, the white bourgeoisie and sections of our own cadre located within the state, are all colluding to deprive the local poor black community of exercising its mining rights given by government. Thanks to the presence of the SACP structures in these communities, these shenanigans are being exposed daily!
Some more fundamental challenges: Stop the commercialisation and commodification of the Freedom Charter!
The Freedom Charter says, amongst other things, that the mineral wealth beneath the soil shall be nationalised and restored to the people as a whole. Indeed, the SACP appreciates the fact that government has nationalised OUR mineral wealth beneath the soil! However, the reality is that the continued granting of rights to this mineral wealth still goes to the same old white capitalist class, albeit now with BEE dependants. It should instead be used to help restore the wealth of our country to the people as a whole. This does indeed require that we go beyond just the nationalisation of our mineral wealth, and begins to ask the question, nationalisation for what? It is pointless to nationalise in order to parcel out such resources to the very same old white capitalist class and its new compradorial black sections!
It is sad that the Northern Cape province, rich as it is in mineral resources, still remains an extremely poor province. Our visit has underlined the fact that this province is nothing more than a terrain for the white bourgeoisie to extract rich mineral resources, at the direct expense of the workers and the poor, and with no practical developmental benefits for its poor communities.
It is for these reasons that the SACP fully supports the relocation of the State Diamond
Trader from Johannesburg to Kimberley. This should be part of the developmental objectives of making diamond mining benefit the local working class and poor communities of this province. The Northern Cape still remains the leading diamond producer in the world and yet the people of that province have nothing to show for this. This underlines the importance of developing an overarching industrial strategy in order to ensure that diamond production in the first instance benefits the people of the Northern Cape.
Local governance and economic development and mobilisation as the mainstay of the SACP programme
The most instructive lesson from our trip to the Northern Cape is that capitalism and its so-called ‘free market’ are no solution to the developmental challenges facing our country. It is also a lesson on the importance of local mobilisation as the basis upon which to transform our country to create a truly better life for all.
Intensified local mobilisation of local communities and working class pressure from below are essential components to building working class hegemony in all key sites of power, in order to benefit the workers and the poor of our country. We will not transform the realities of Leratong and Longlands without this. Ours was never, and should never be, a struggle to ‘lower the costs of doing business.’ Rather, it is a struggle to lower the cost of living, create quality jobs and eradicate poverty, with and for the workers and the poor of our country.
These are some of the critical questions that we must take to both the ANC National Policy Conference and the SACP’s 12th Congress later this year.
Build strong SACP and ANC structures for the transformation of the Northern Cape and South Africa, with and for the workers and the poor!