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Umsebenzi Online

Volume 9, No. 10, 1 June 2010

In this Issue:


Red Alert

SACP Central Committee press statement

The SACP Central Committee met in Johannesburg on the 28th and 29th May. The CC discussed a comprehensive political report, and it reviewed the Party`s organisational gains and international work. Also on the agenda was an input to the CC by the Governor of the Reserve Bank, Gill Marcus.

The SACP wishes Bafana Bafana good luck

The CC joins fellow South Africans in conveying to our Bafana Bafana team best wishes. We are confident that they will do our country proud. The SACP also looks forward to a World Cup that will be celebrated and enjoyed by all South Africans and by the hundreds of thousands of guests coming from all parts of our continent and the world at large.

Let us make sure that the coming weeks will lay down a lasting legacy of goodwill, a sense of common South Africanness, and a platform for ongoing development in our communities and schools. The SACP urges all involved to ensure that this event also benefits the workers and the poor of our country. Let this be truly a World Cup for All!

Towards a new growth path

For several years the SACP has been advancing the perspective that the key strategic task of our democracy is to place our economy upon a new and different growth path that is job creating and more egalitarian in its outcomes. This requires, amongst other things, a break with many of the formerly dominant neo-liberal dogmas of the recent past. The CC is pleased to note that this general perspective is gaining ground within the broader ANC-led alliance and in government itself.

Part of what is impelling this is the undermining of previously held neo-liberal certainties occasioned by the global recession of 2007-9. The SACP said a year ago that, far from being over, the crisis was likely to break out in new epicentres. The deepening crisis within the European Union is evidence of this. Choked by the strictures of a monetary union that favoured bankers and undermined sovereign national social policies, countries like Greece and Spain are being forced into swingeing budget cuts that will only make recovery more difficult, with a very real possibility of major countries in the developed world going into sovereign default. Locally, some who still cling to the old dogmas, are insisting that the crisis in southern Europe is due to the fact that they "lived beyond their means", and that this is a "lesson for us in SA". While economic discipline is important, the question to ask always is: discipline on behalf of whose class interests? The UK actually has a much bigger deficit than Spain, but because it is not part of the monetary union, it has greater room for manoeuvre.

In the context of charting a new growth path policy, the SACP is active in its own right and within broader Alliance structures. The CC engaged with a discussion paper on the critical role of our mineral sector in a new growth path. The paper notes the central and ongoing strategic importance of this sector to our country. Contrary to the common view that the entire sector is now a "sunset" industry, a recent City Group study estimated that SA has the largest reserves of minerals (excluding oil and coal) by value, and is the second in the world in terms of estimated reserve life-span, at 184 years. This is a major national asset, and the key question is how to ensure that this asset is used wisely in ways that ensure a sustainable growth path that benefits all of our people and over many generations to come. In addressing this question, the CC was particularly critical of the role of narrow BEE interests in the mining sector, and called for major changes in the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act to address this and other issues. The CC discussion paper will be released shortly.

The CC also commended the leadership role played by the Young Communist League in convening a Youth Summit on Jobs which brought together youth formations from a wide range of sectors and political formations – including the ANCYL, COSAS, SASCO, the DA Youth, and Solidarity Youth. The struggle against the crisis of youth unemployment requires the maximum participation and mobilisation. The SACP will continue to support our YCL in playing a leading role in confronting the many challenges facing our youth in South Africa.

The fight against corruption

The greatest threat to any nation-wide effort at placing our country onto a new job-creating growth path lies in the corrosive impact of corruption in the private and public sectors. The red lights are flickering on this front. We require decisive action. Corruption loots public resources, it bedevils organisations and it saps the capacity of the state to play an effective developmental role. Corruption in the private sector robs our fiscus of billions of rands and becomes an added burden on the working class.

The CC received reports on the SACP`s April month of heightened activism against corruption. We also noted and saluted the role that SACP branches and provinces have been playing in this crucial fight.

As we take up this struggle, together with our allies and all others in our country who abhor the impact of corruption, we can expect fierce resistance. Already SACP lives have been lost. In Mpumalanga a fearless and outspoken critic of corrupt practices, cde Bomber ‘Radioman` Ntshangase, was murdered on the night of 4 May. Other senior SACP leaders in the province have been threatened. We are deeply concerned that no arrests have yet been made in these cases. We express our full support for our comrades in the province and together with them we resolve never to be intimidated.

In KZN the SACP has been active in mobilising against corruption. In particular, SACP structures in the province have been raising questions around the role of Ithala Bank. In our interaction with the Reserve Bank governor, the CC learned that, apart from two small mutual banks, Ithala Bank is the one bank in our country that has an exemption from Reserve Bank regulatory oversight. Why does it enjoy this exemption? The exemption must be lifted. Ithala is a very strategic development finance institution and must come under the full regulatory oversight of the Reserve Bank.

The Reserve Bank and vulture share-holders

In what Reserve Bank governor Gill Marcus concedes is an anomaly; our central bank has private share-holders, although the bank is a legal personality in its own right and is not owned by these share-holders. Nonetheless, a small clique from among the current share-holders has been running a campaign, trying to force the bank to buy them out (to "nationalise" their shares) at a hugely inflated price. Other central banks have faced similar "vulture" share-holder raids.

It is in this context that the SACP fully supports the intention behind legislation currently before Parliament`s Finance Portfolio Committee. It is legislation that seeks to avert the danger of this kind of predatory behaviour.

In our interaction with the Reserve Bank delegation, the CC welcomed the refreshing openness and spirit of engagement of the governor and her team. We respect the constitutional operational independence of the Bank. However, it was agreed that this necessary independence of the Bank does not mean that the Bank should or could operate in ignorance of the key challenge of placing our country onto a job-creating and more egalitarian growth path.

We call for stability in the SABC

The SACP is concerned that the SABC is once more showing signs of returning to its chronic instability of previous years. The SACP calls for stability in our public broadcaster and for good governance and collective rather than individualistic approaches. We need a public broadcaster that indeed represents the broad public of SA and particularly the great majority of workers and poor. Poor governance in the SABC also sets a poor example for governance in all of our public sector entities.

Freedom of speech and respecting cultural diversity

The SACP has noted Friday`s back-down and apology from the Mail & Guardian and its cartoonist Zapiro. The newspaper has conceded that it needlessly offended many members of the Muslim community. In welcoming this apology, the SACP believes that both the Mail & Guardian and Zapiro (and indeed all of us) should use the opportunity to consider other instances, affecting other communities, in which cartoons, for instance, have displayed gross insensitivity.

The SACP certainly upholds the critical right of freedom of speech. After all, it was the SACP that was the very first victim of apartheid-era banning and attempts to silence our members and our publications. Many of us went to jail for defying these anti-democratic measures. We certainly all need to have a sense of humour and be able to laugh at ourselves. But any journalist or graphic artist with a general commitment to building a non-racial and tolerant democracy in SA should always weigh the right to freedom of speech against the responsibility for not perpetuating demeaning racial or other stereotypes – whether intentionally or otherwise. As many progressive and moderate members of the Muslim faith have commented over the past week, gross insensitivity simply aids and abets chauvinism and backwardness on every side. But what applies to the Muslim faith also applies, and with even greater force in our situation, to racial stereotyping.

It is in this broad context that the SACP welcomes President Zuma`s proposed national dialogue aimed at promoting a country-wide discussion on our cultural unity and diversity.

100 years since the Union of South Africa

Monday 31st May marks 100 years since the establishment of the Union of South Africa. While it is not exactly an anniversary to celebrate, it is an occasion to look back and reflect upon a key moment that shaped our shared and often highly conflictual reality.

The Union of South Africa for the first time established the geo-political space that we now take for granted as our country. Its formation was preceded by two-and-a-half centuries of colonial wars of dispossession and, in many cases, genocide. The 1910 union was also preceded by a major war pitting two semi-feudal Boer Republics against a British Imperial Army and two local British colonies. It was essentially a war for control over the gold and diamond mines and over the super-exploited labour required to work them.

Following the defeat of the Boer republics, in a pattern that was to be repeated somewhat in its own way many decades later, Boer generals and Randlords made peace and formed, in effect, the first government of (white) national unity – the better to ensure profits and stabilise the accumulation process.

The Union of South Africa bestowed a common citizenship on white South Africans and excluded the great majority of blacks. 1910 marked the beginnings of a shift from external colonial domination to what the SACP was to describe as colonialism of a special type – in which the colonial power and the colonised majority occupied the same national territory. The unjust exclusion of the majority in 1910 was the immediate catalyst for the formation of the ANC in 1912.

While the Act of Union changed the state form in SA to a special colonial state of white minority rule, this politico-juridical change served to strengthen and perpetuate the capitalist accumulation path set in motion in the last quarter of the 19th century with the mining revolution. That accumulation path integrated us into a global capitalist system as a primary commodity exporter and an importer of capital and luxury goods.

The 1994 democratic breakthrough abolished the special-colonial state of white minority rule and replaced it with a new, non-racial democracy. However, 100 years after Union, and 16 years after the democratic breakthrough, the same fundamental accumulation path that reproduces racialised inequality remains hard-wired into our reality. Placing our economy onto a radically different trajectory is now the central task of our democracy.

Issued by the SACP


Malesela Maleka
SACP - 082 226 1802