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Volume 7, No. 5, 2 April 2008

In this Issue:

 

Red Alert

Honour the memory of Chris Hani: Defend the living standards of the workers and the poor

Blade Nzimande, General Secretary

We are commemorating the 15th anniversary of the cowardly assassination of Cde Chris Hani, our late General Secretary. He was killed on 10 April 1993. The SACP refuses to let the memory of Cde Chris Hani and his ideas to die! Since his assassination, the SACP has officially declared every April as Chris Hani Month. On this 15th anniversary, we re-commit ourselves to intensify working class struggles on all fronts and to take immediate action on issues affecting the workers and the poor. This is part of deepening a working class democratic transformation process, and concretising our slogan ‘Socialism is the Future, Build it Now’!

A tribute to Cde Ncumisa Kondlo

We are also this month bidding farewell to one of the most outstanding women communists, Cde Ncumisa Kondlo – a brave fighter, a revolutionary, a gender activist and a truly humble communist. As we say farewell to this heroine, we shall honour her memory by deepening the struggles for women’s emancipation and gender equality as an integral part of the struggle for socialism.

In honour of the enormous contribution that Cde Ncumisa played in building progressive teacher and student organisations in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the SACP commits itself to deepening mass organisation on the education front. Our cadres will be at the forefront of building the local education committees agreed to by our Alliance.

Defend the living standards of the workers and the poor! Intensify the struggle against high prices!

We are in a period in which our revolution continues to be characterised by thoroughly contradictory realities. On the one hand, there has been some significant progress in consolidating our democracy and addressing some of the pressing socio-economic challenges facing the majority of our people but, on the other hand, a colonial type economy continues to grow.

Since our 1994 democratic breakthrough, an occasion brought about in the wake of Cde Chris’ assassination, the ANC-led government has made a number of advances, many of which Cde Hani would have been proud of. These include housing for masses of the poor, increased provision of clean water, expanded social grants and creation of democratic institutions through which our people can shape their own destiny.

We welcome these achievements as things that Cde Chris – a true champion of the workers and the poor - lived and died for, and which other communists have also helped to bring about.

We are celebrating Chris Hani month this year in the wake of one of the worst capitalist assaults on the already unacceptable living standards of the workers and the poor of our country. The current assault seriously threatens to erode the many modest gains made by our revolution since 1994.

We seem to have moved from one frontal assault of massive retrenchments and casualisation of the working class to another one of steep price hikes and price fixing, all seriously lowering the standard of living of millions of our people.

The latest assault on the workers and the poor is, amongst other things, characterised by the following:

High food prices

We are witnessing an astronomical rise in the price of food, including basic foodstuffs like bread and mealie-meal. These high prices are already worsening hunger in our poor urban and rural communities. We are also seeing food producers colluding to fix prices, which essentially amounts to the rich robbing the poor!

The SACP has consistently called for stiffer penalties and even criminal charges against those involved in price-fixing.

In line with Chris Hani’s understanding of socialism as the meeting of all the basic needs of our people, the SACP will commemorate Chris Hani Month by embarking on mass action to highlight and challenge price-fixing.

The SACP welcomes the new legislation aimed at expropriating land as a means to accelerate the transfer of land, especially agricultural land, to the majority of our people so that they can be producers of their own food.

The SACP will also use this Chris Hani month to call upon government to urgently convene the national farm-workers and farm-dwellers summit that was agreed to at the ANC’s Polokwane Conference.

Electricity pricing and the energy crisis

The SACP strongly condemns the planned electricity tariff hikes Eskom is demanding, as well as the support given by government to this totally unjust measure. The rise in electricity tariffs will worsen the misery of our people, thus further lowering their standard of living.

The SACP is totally opposed to solutions that punish our people for problems they did not create. The current power outages and load shedding is a direct result of the failure of government to invest in Eskom, due to its planned privatisation of state entities in the late 1990s. Government and Eskom must take full responsibility for our current energy crisis.

To this end, we support the call by COSATU for a moratorium on this planned electricity tariff rise, and reiterate our call for a national energy summit to emerge with a comprehensive response and policy on energy.

Part of the strategy to respond to our energy crisis MUST include expansion of electricity connections to poor areas of our country. We shall not allow the current crisis to compromise our commitment of ultimately ensuring that every South African has an electricity connection. At the same time, we should be aiming towards providing every South African with alternative, reliable, safe and inexpensive energy sources, such as solar power.

High fuel prices

The SACP is extremely concerned about the impact of the rising fuel prices on the living standards of our people. High oil and fuel prices have a huge negative impact on transport costs and access to basic necessities like paraffin, on which many of our people rely as a source of energy.

We have consistently pointed out that much as we locally produce about 40% of our fuel through SASOL, we are still being charged for oil and petrol at the international price. In the process, SASOL shareholders reap billions of rands in profits.

During this Chris Hani month we shall be reiterating our call for the re-nationalisation of SASOL. SASOL is a national strategic entity, and therefore must revert back to the hands of the state for the benefit of the people as a whole!

High costs of private health care

Many workers belong to medical aid schemes, and given the poor state of our public health system, many workers use private health facilities. The escalating costs in the private health care industry are putting a huge strain on medical schemes, thus making access to health even more difficult.

It is our view that the Minister of Health must be supported by all progressive forces in her plans to immediately regulate the private health care sector. This includes regulating user fees.

The SACP will also embark on demonstrations against private hospitals during this month in support of the Minister, and also demand that all emergency cases be stabilised at the nearest health facility, irrespective of whether it is private or public, and irrespective of whether such patients have medical aid or not!

Inflation targeting and high interest rates

On top of all the above expenses, the rising interest rates further erode the living standards of our people.

The SACP rejects the fact that it is the workers and the poor who are the ones who have to pay the price for the ‘sins’ of the wealthier sections of society. We are calling for a revision of the inflation target and will also be tabling this matter very strongly in the forthcoming Alliance Summit.

Intensifying the struggle against racism

The latest incidents of race hatred and racism, manifested at the University of the Free State, and in many other incidents on farms and at other workplaces, call for intensification of the struggle against racism on all fronts. This clearly shows that despite abolishing racially-based statutes, racism remains a reality in our society.

The foundations of racism continue to be found in the capitalist system itself and the continuation of racism is largely a reflection of the failure to change the colonial type economy in our country. For as long as the economic foundations of colonialism of a special type are in place, whatever advances we may be making against racism will always be reversible.

We are concerned about and strongly condemn the instances of xenophobia rearing their ugly head once more in our society. Xenophobia is not acceptable to us.

The SACP needs to intensify the education of our people, so that they are aware that it is not the ‘economic refugees’ from the region who are the source of their problems, but the capitalist system itself. An especial problem is the lack of transformation of our colonial type economy for the benefit of the majority of our people.

The financial sector must align with BBBEE codes

One of the principal instruments to fight poverty and unemployment is access to affordable micro-finance for the workers and the poor. As we have consistently argued, the big banks are failing to respond to the challenge of micro finance for co-operatives and other SMEs.

We are also having a dispute in the Financial Sector Charter Council over the implementation of the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) Codes of Good Practice. The financial institutions are refusing to meet the minimum 25% black share ownership in the financial sector, instead preferring the 10% agreed to prior to the promulgation of these codes.

But the increased shareholding we are calling for must not be for narrow BEE and for the benefit of the same narrow circle of black businesspersons. The additional 15% must be reserved for worker provident funds, stokvels, community development trusts and such other entities that will directly benefit millions of our people. We will intensify our struggle on this front.

Our campaign for affordable and accessible public health system

The SACP is using the month of April to intensify its campaign on this front. Cde Hani was passionate about the struggle for a free and well-resourced public health system. We will continue with our campaign of visiting public health institutions to better understand their state of effectiveness and the conditions of the workers. We will work towards the formation of strong and democratic community health forums and hospital boards.

We call for an end to the outsourcing of services in our hospitals, and for outsourced services to be returned to the public sector. Such outsourcing has not only lowered the quality of services in our public hospitals, but is also a source of widespread corruption in the award of tenders. In many instances, we seem to have placed the objectives of narrow BEE above quality public health services for our people.

The SACP is strongly opposed to the downgrading of public health facilities located in poor communities. The transfer of key services from community hospitals into hospitals based in city centres has the danger of seriously depriving our people of accessible and affordable health care, as is the case with the downgrading of Cecilia Makiwane Hospital in Mdantsane.

The SACP is committed to continuing with the struggle against the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and further commits to work with government, the trade union movement, our communities and all other progressive organisations in confronting this scourge. It is also our strong belief that a well-resourced, affordable and accessible public health care system is central in the struggle against the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

Don’t downgrade, but upgrade, health facilities closer to our communities!

The Chris Hani Month is a month for escalation of mass mobilisation and activism

The President of the ANC, through the January 8 Statement, has called for the re-establishment of street and village committees throughout our country as one important weapon in fighting crime. This call is in line with our own 2008 programme of action, that of building safe communities throughout South Africa.

The SACP will therefore throw its full weight behind the building of such committees, and we call upon all our people to focus on this task. Street committees must act to reinforce and strengthen (and not replace) the community police forums.

However, such street and village committees must progressively be strengthened to act as the nucleus for broader community development in our localities. The state of our local government, lack of capacity and corruption, threatens to erode the many gains we have made on this front. Therefore, street and village committees must also act as an oversight over councillor performance and generally mobilise communities to drive development.

Indeed, the central pillar of our work in the overall struggle to advance a radical national democratic revolution is that of working class-led mass mobilisation. Like Cde Chris, the SACP believes that the answer to the many problems facing our revolution is the escalation of mass campaigns.

The SACP welcomes the outcomes of Polokwane, including the commitments in the ANC NEC January 8 statement, to strengthen and rebuild the ANC as a campaigning organisation.

We were indeed concerned that since 1994, the ANC had gradually downscaled mass mobilisation, except during election campaigns. This recommitment by the ANC to mass campaigns is a welcome development, and must be used also to rebuild our alliance from below.

Our Alliance, as Cde Oliver Tambo was fond of saying, was not an Alliance built on paper, but on joint actions to advance our struggle. The ANC can only effectively lead the Alliance through mass struggles on the ground, not through Alliance boardroom meetings and summits, important as these might be.

Indeed, the Chris Hani Month shall be a month of renewed mass mobilisation and activism!

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