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Umsebenzi Online

Volume 8, No. 19, 4 November 2009

In this Issue:

Red Alert

Taking our people seriously: Closing the launch phase of our 2009 Red October Campaign

Blade Nzimande, General Secretary

This Sunday we will be holding a rally closing the launch phase of our 2009 Red October Campaign. It has been exactly a month since we launched the campaign in Khayelitsha in the Western Cape. The closing rally does not close the campaign, but marks the successful national and provincial launches, thus taking the campaign onto a higher stage of intensified engagement with our people through the convening of red forums in every community where the SACP is organized, as well as into new areas in which we plan to build SACP structures.

We have had successful provincial launches in a number of provinces, including KwaZulu Natal, Mpumalanga, Gauteng, Northern Cape and Western Cape. The growing impact of our campaign has led to the voices of progress becoming louder in support of our campaign messages. However, the mainstream media continues to be the leading platform for cynics and those opposed to especially the introduction of a National Health Insurance.

Sections of the media have deliberately gone all out to do something akin to disinformation about government`s commitment to the implementation of the National Health Insurance. For instance the fact that there are no budget indications in the medium term budget projections by the Minister of Finance on the implementation of the NHI is being projected as meaning that government is reneging on this commitment. Yet there are significant budgetary commitments on revitalization of the public health system, including hospitals, as well as the fight against HIV/AIDS. These measures and commitment are an essential foundation and component of building the National Health Insurance.

Already we have held a number of red forums on our Campaign, with KZN in the lead so far. Through these forums, our people are expressing themselves clearly on matters of corruption, the NHI and the dangers of the state being captured by business. There are major concerns around issues of greed and corruption in broader society, and including within our own structures. In instances of corruption within our own ranks, they raise the fact that some of those involved tend to hide their actions by claiming that exposure of their greed and misdeeds will compromise the organization.

Our people also continue to raise concerns about lingering allegations about corruption, but with little effort to go into the bottom of the issues. Much as they warn that we must not take everything that the media reports as some of these allegations are often smear campaigns, especially against our leadership, at the same time they insist that it is imperative that some of these allegations need to be looked into in order to get to the truth. In parts of KZN some of the participants in the red forums for instance have strongly raised the matter of persistent allegations over years now about alleged corruption at Ithala Bank, and that it is time that this matter is confronted in order to lay it to rest.

In discussions on matters relating to outsourcing, a new matter has arisen in some of the red forums; the matter of the growing phenomenon of public-private partnerships. Concern is being raised that some of these public private partnerships are becoming a new form of privatization of the state, through government`s long term commitments to buildings built by the private sector but for use by public institutions. This is a matter that will have to be taken further in our structures, including at our forthcoming Special National Congress in December.

Much as it is still early days to get a fuller picture of the range of issues emanating from the red forums, one striking thing emerges clearly. There are less and less platforms through which our people are engaging with government, especially at local level. There are many complaints about councilors not holding report-back meetings and major decisions at local level taken without meaningful involvement of our people. One primary lesson from this is that it is critically important for our organizations to work hard in maintaining contact with our people and ensuring that consultation structures, like ward committees, are revived and made to function. The appreciation of the SACP`s Red October Campaign by many people on the ground is that it has become an annual platform through which our people could engage on the many matters that affect their livelihoods.

It is for this reason that as we engage, we simultaneously build local people`s committees to take up the many issues that arise out of these red forums. Another striking lesson thus far is that talking openly about matters relating to corruption gives our people more confidence to tackle these issues.

Going forward it is absolutely imperative that the SACP strengthens and resources its own structures to sustain mobilization and be able to make concrete follow ups on matters raised in the red forums. Of even more importance is the necessity to build alliance structures on the ground and carry out joint campaigns and programmes. In many ways our Red October Campaign is one such platform through which we can build strong alliance campaigns on the ground. But we have also come across instances where some of our allied structures develop a negative attitude to our campaign, especially where they feel that it is raising issues that are uncomfortable to some of those leaders implicated in the problems being raised on the ground.

As the SACP, our primary concern is to protect and advance the interests of the working class who are at the receiving end of poor performance by government structures and prejudiced by the looting of resources. Therefore as we close the launch phase of a highly successful 2009 Red October campaign, we need to intensify the battle against corruption and greed, particularly amongst those who serve in public office. We need to send out a clear message that the SACP is the eyes and ears of the working class and is prepared to speak up on behalf of those who are voiceless.