South African Communist Party Political Bureau Press Statement
27 April 2008
The Political Bureau of the SACP met on the 25th April 2008 in the midst of a deepening crisis in Zimbabwe and with serious challenges confronting the working class and poor of South Africa.
Zimbabwe The SACP condemns in the strongest terms the state-sponsored violence and harassment directed against opposition supporters and communities in Zimbabwe. Zimbabweans are being punished for rejecting at the polls President Mugabe and the ruling clique in ZANU PF.
But the governments of SADC, including our own government, must also assume some measure of responsibility for the latest crisis. President Mbeki, in particular, stubbornly refused to learn anything from the previous electoral events in Zimbabwe. This time around, once more, SADC allowed Mugabe to run circles around it. Mugabe unilaterally declared an election date before the mediation process was anywhere near complete and in defiance of the SADC Protocols on elections. Notwithstanding this, in the run-up to the most recent electoral event we were being assured that everything was in place for free and fair elections and there were just a few "procedural" matters outstanding. This denialist complacency once more raised false hopes and once more exposed millions of ordinary Zimbabweans to the wrath of Mugabe`s police state.
But, of course, the main culpability rests with Mugabe and the ZANU PF leading clique. Now is the time for the maximum isolation of this regime. The SACP salutes the role played by our alliance partner COSATU, and specifically its affiliate SATAWU, in refusing to off-load and transport the Chinese arms shipment. We call for the consolidation of Southern African Zimbabwe solidarity networks that have increasingly emerged in the recent weeks. We call on the South African government to suspend visa waivers for Zimbabwean police and defence force personnel. The easy access that they enjoy to South Africa (in contrast to the majority of Zimbabweans) is shielding them from the worst of the all-round socio-economic crisis in their country. We say the Mugabe government must step down. Notwithstanding the flawed nature of the elections, it is clear they lost. We say that either SADC must urgently demonstrate in the following days its capacity to deal decisively with the dangerous impasse, or international intervention must be broadened to include the AU and UN.
Electricity The PB also discussed the serious challenges confronting workers and poor in South Africa – not least with food price hikes and electricity load shedding and Eskom`s proposed massive tariff hike.
It is common cause that the electricity generation crisis is directly due to the failure of our government to heed warnings that our electricity surpluses would be eroded by 2007. However, what is generally and conveniently forgotten, amidst media and DA calls for this or that minister to be fired, is the underlying reason for the failure to implement a major state-led investment in extending generation capacity. And yet this underlying reason is a matter of public record. The 1998 White Paper on Energy, in noting the looming 2007 shortfall date, reassured South Africans that "commercial energy sources will not become scarce in the short or even medium term." It told us that "the `limits to growth` school of thought has receded. Energy security is now being achieved, not through self-sufficiency, but through (…) cross-border energy trade. One of the implications of this trend is that national, uneconomic energy industries are no longer protected."
In its energy section, the Department of Public Enterprise`s 2000 "An Accelerated Agenda Towards the Restructuring of State Owned Enterprises. Policy Framework" echoed these sentiments. It told us that globally: "Greater emphasis is being placed on commercialisation, incorporation and, in some cases, privatisation. Energy markets are being restructured to encourage greater competition, even in the grid-based electricity and natural gas industries, which have traditionally been regarded as natural monopolies."
In short, this is the underlying reason why we dallied on investing in electricity generation. This is the reason why we neglected building as much national self-sufficiency as possible – we were being told that the global market, deregulation and privatisation would solve our supply challenges. Most of the media, the DA, and an ANC-aligned BEE elite were all complicit in supporting these disastrous views.
As we move towards a national energy summit, which must be urgently convened, we must learn this lesson. We must ensure that Eskom is not allowed to impose a massive and dramatic price hike. Government must absorb this dramatic increase. We must achieve much greater transparency on the politics of energy, including on pricing to the major mining and smelting conglomerates. We cannot allow for the workers and poor of our country to carry the main burden for these policy blunders.
Food price hikes Much the same can be said about the current food price crisis. The SACP agrees that the key drivers of these hikes are largely external factors – the oil price, biofuel subsidies in the US, changing dietary habits in fast-growing developing societies like China and India, and climate change.
But, once again, our vulnerability to these external shocks has been greatly increased by flawed agricultural and food processing liberalisation policies over the last decade. Excessive liberalisation and export orientation has seen one million farm workers and their families expelled from the land, and thousands of productive commercial food farms turned into game lodges, golf courses, or up-market housing developments. Liberalisation of the food chain has also seen, paradoxically, growing and unprecedented concentration in the silo, processing and retailing sectors – with all of the dangers of price collusion. A market-driven "willing-seller, willing-buyer" land reform programme has gone absolutely nowhere.
As emergency measures, the SACP calls for government intervention into areas and sectors that are most at risk through, amongst other things, social grant assistance and greatly improved school feeding schemes. Community based food purchasing cooperatives should also be fostered. Price collusion and other excessive profit taking at the expense of the poor must be criminalized and the state`s capacity to monitor the food chain greatly advanced. Medium term measures must include a greatly accelerated land reform programme with the emphasis on productive capacity, integrated rural development, and small-scale farming including agricultural cooperatives.
The SACP says we will not stand by while the workers, peasants and middle strata of Zimbabwe are plunged into an ever-deepening tragedy. The SACP says we will not allow the workers and poor of our country to bear the brunt of the energy and food price crisis. It is not too late to correct flawed policies, but this will not happen without popular mobilisation, democratic engagement, and decisiveness on the part of our own government.
As we celebrate the 14th anniversary of our first democratic elections, these are some of the immediate challenges facing our country. Much as we are proud of the achievements we have made thus far, but this capitalist assault on the poor through high food, fuel and electricity crisis threatens to erode many of the gains. Our freedom shall remain hollow if we do not ensure rising living standards fort the majority of our people.
The SACP joins the millions of our people in celebrating this historic day.
Issued by the SACP
SACP Spokesperson – 082 226 1802