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Umsebenzi Online

Volume 10, No. 10, 4 May 2011

In this Issue:


Red Alert

Brics: A critical platform to advance and deepen the national democratic revolution?

By Cde Blade Nzimande, SACP General Secretary

The international terrain is not just an external reality, but is deeply embedded and intertwined with the national, just as the national terrain is deeply intertwined with the international.

On 14 April 2011, South Africa was formally invited to attend BRICSA (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) economic platform. This is indeed a very significant development, which the SACP should welcome as a potentially progressive platform through which we can advance the key economic growth and developmental objectives of the national democratic revolution.

It is important that the SACP, the Alliance, and indeed all progressive forces in our country to start a principled debate and engagement with the implications of South Africa joining Brics. It is important that we openly and honestly analyse both the dangers and the prospects for South Africa in joining this economic bloc.

It is well worth noting that both the liberal offensive and elements of the new tendency once more adopted a similar, and hostile approach, to some of these developments. Some from within the ranks of the national liberation movement have opportunistically attacked the role of China in our country and continent without at the same time advancing any strategic perspective or programme on South Africa's international relations and their importance in advancing some of our key goals in creating a new growth path for our country, to address the scourge of poverty and unemployment.

It is of course to be understood that liberals, and their offensive against the majoritarian and developmental character of our democracy will be deeply cynical if not oppositional to such developments. The substantive domestic agenda of the liberal offensive is to roll back any state intervention to transform the socio-economic conditions of the overwhelming majority of our people, the workers and the poor. It is an agenda that also seeks to delegitimize the ANC as a democratically elected organization that leads government. In this regard the liberal offensive will seek to rubbish any and all of the initiatives of the ANC-led government, including the joining of Brics.

The ideological foundations of the liberal offensive is that of seeking to permanently tie South Africa to western imperialist interests and to mortgage our economy to the highest imperialist bidder, working with domestic (predominantly white) capitalist interests. It is an agenda that seeks to subject South Africa, and reproduce its international relations, within the prism of the continued domination of European and North American economic and ideological interests in the political economy of post-apartheid South Africa.

The liberal offensive is therefore simultaneously colonial in its outlook. That is, for South Africa to develop, it must mimic and build even deeper relations with the West in general, and Europe in particular. This is daily reinforced by, amongst others, the large sections of the print media, whose paradigm in locating South Africa internationally is that of European imperialism. In addition, South African print media, with very few exceptions, is Eurocentric in its orientation, and only sees South Africa from the standpoint of literal downloads from European news sources e.g. Reuters and AFP. Recently one only has to look at the glowing praise of the British royal wedding, despite Zapiro's best efforts to characterize the wedding for what it is!

It is of course no wonder that South African media, and liberal, analyses of our international relations has been deeply cynical, if not outright oppositionist, to South Africa's joining of Brics. We are daily told that we do not have the 'market' reach of the other Brics countries, and we therefore do not, as a country deserve to be there. Yet no similar statements are made about the fact that our economic capacity in relation to North America and Europe is even worse, given the global strength of these economies. And instead there is an interesting silence: we do not belong in Brics, and yet nothing is said that in terms of these economic criteria we also 'do not belong' to the US-European economic axis. It is a silence that essentially wants to say South Africa should remain an 'economic (if not ideological) colony' of North America and Europe.

It is indeed a sad indictment that no serious analyses have been done thus far on the significance of the President's visit to all the Brics countries hardly two years into his term. But this is not accidental, as these relations pose a threat to the economic and ideological dominance of western imperialist interests in South Africa, and their South African domestic appendages.

The recent pronouncements by elements of the new tendency in our movement condemning the roles of China on the continent and in our country are informative, though not surprising. These recent outbursts against China may well be a reflection of the fact that elements of the new tendency have become deeply dependent on BEE benefactors who have very deep western imperialist relations, through, amongst others, the model of BEE that we have forged over the first 15 years of our democracy.

In fact the narrow BEE model we have followed during the first fifteen years of our democracy can be traced back to the US capital's Sullivan code of the late 1970s, whose objective was to co-opt the emergent black petty bourgeoisie in South Africa, rather than to transform the colonial character of our economy. The origins of the Sullivan code were to create a black (petty) bourgeoisie that would embrace capitalism post-apartheid, thus protecting the semi-colonial character of South Africa's growth path.

Brics, whilst not automatically and inherently, repositioning the economic trajectory of our country, it nevertheless creates huge opportunities for transforming the semi-colonial character of our current growth path through the deepening of mutually beneficial economic relations. Our task is how we consciously foster these relations in a manner that allows our revolution to pursue a progressive economic growth path that is capable of responding to the needs of the workers and the poor of our country. The question is not so much what Brics can do for us, but how to engage on this terrain robustly, in a manner that advances the objectives of our national democratic revolution.

The SACP is of the view that it is time now that all progressive forces honestly and frankly reflect on these potential opportunities to liberate our economy from a Euro-driven capitalist interest, towards a developmental oriented economy more closely linked to economies of the South.

The emergence of China as a global economic player, despite its contradictory relationship with the US economy, is a terrain upon which we can seek to pursue an alternative international economic strategy that could allow us to consolidate and develop an alternative economic trajectory for the NDR. It is a site upon which we can seek to end our colonial type dependence to North America and the West.

Could it be that liberal and new tendency elements that are resisting South Africa's closer relations with the Brics wittingly and unwittingly have to do with liberals' attachment to the West and a BEE project entirely dependent on western imperialist sponsorhip?

Party-to-Party relations and a progressive Brics agenda

In the light of the above, what are the tasks of the SACP and the working class on this critical international site of struggle? The SACP's medium term vision identifies the international sphere as one site of struggle in which we have to build working class hegemony and power.

The first task is ensure that the SACP actively engages with and analyse the politics of Brics. In engaging with the Brics reality, it is important that we consistently adopt a revolutionary rather than a liberal or tenderpreneurial approach to our international relations, in order to advance the agenda of the workers and the poor of our country. A revolutionary approach must be informed by the fact that Brics provides a huge opportunity, in the medium to longer term, to break our economic and trade dependence on western imperialism, and seek to advance mutually beneficial international economic relations for the sake of consolidating our national democratic revolution.

One political feature about Brics is the role that communist parties have played both in the past and present in the politics of these countries. This places the SACP in a rather unique position to engage the Brics countries from a much more informed left critical position, and in the interests of the workers and the poor of our country.

In Russia, the core of the former socialist Soviet Union, the Communist Party of the Russian Federation still remains the single largest party outside of the ruling party. This is an important platform through which we can seek to engage with the Brics' terrain. In China, the Communist Party of China, with which we have very close relations, is the ruling party. In Brazil, the Communist Party of Brazil, is an ally of the ruling PT, and also participates in the current Brazilian government.

Over the past more than 60 years of India's independence the two communist parties, notably the Communist Party of India (Marxist), have been in and out of state governments in that country, including participation in coalitions governments nationally.

The above calls for, amongst other things, deepening our communist fraternal ties in the Brics countries, as part of engaging these realities in the interests of developing a new growth path in our country, with and for workers and the poor.

The SACP, as part of the ruling alliance and not an oppositioinist force, has a uniquely important role in consolidating and deepening South Africa's role in Brics, as part of our overall strategic objective to consolidate the national democratic revolution.

On what major principal terrain should we seek to consolidate the Brics relationship? It is by, amongst other thing, focusing on developing the domestic manufacturing and productive capacity of our economy, as a principal platform upon which to transform the semi-colonial character of our economy and create jobs.

Our online edition will in future carry articles on Brics as part of taking forward this important debate. We urge all our structures to debate this matter.



The Industrial Policy Action Plan - a pillar of governments New Growth Path

By Cde Rob Davies, SACP Central Committee Member

The imperative for a New Growth Path driven by an overarching Industrial Policy has long been recognised by the SACP. Although many of the deep seated structural problems were inherited from Apartheid, it is a well documented fact that since our democratic transition unemployment has never fallen below 22% and is as much as 40%, if the broader definition of the unemployed is used. Income inequality remains amongst the highest in the world - and has even increased with the Gini coefficient measure of inequality having risen from 0.66 in 2007 to 0.679 in 2009. Enormous disparities of access to opportunities and services means that levels of absolute poverty have remained intolerably high.

Even though the democratic, ANC led government has done much to alleviate the plight of the unemployed and the poor since the dawn of democracy in South Africa, the New Growth Path (NGP) acknowledges that post apartheid economic growth have not led to significant reductions in unemployment and inequality. This fact may be considered as the first point of departure for governments NGP and one of its principal pillars, the Industrial Policy Action Plan (IPAP2).

The structural problems which underpin South Africa's economy derive from the accumulation path established under colonialism and Apartheid. What emerged has been historically defined as a 'minerals - energy complex' in which low paid, generally unskilled labour was exploited to support an accumulation trajectory based primarily on capital intensive commodity based industrial activities and the export of basic commodities and low value add products. In the contemporary period this deep seated structural fault line has been exacerbated by the increasing financialisation of the economy. SA's growth in the recent past (before the onset of the 2008/9 recession) was primarily driven by unsustainable increases in private credit extension and consumption, and led to increased imports of high value added goods, including luxury commodities. The consumption driven sectors have grown 7,1% annually since 1994 in contrast to the production - agriculture, mining and manufacturing sectors which have only grown 2,4% annually over the same period.

As a result formal employment growth has come mainly from the services sectors particularly the wholesale and retail sectors and businesses services sectors, particularly outsourcing, logistics and private security. Because growth and employment creation in these sectors is considerably dependent upon credit extension and consumption both outcomes are vulnerable and unsustainable, evidenced by rapidly rising unemployment during the recent global economic crisis.

In other words growth along the existing path was not sufficiently under-pinned by growth in the production sectors of the economy. On the contrary SA experienced a phenomenon known as deindustrialisation in which its manufacturing sectors have declined and in some cases are near to collapse. These sectors, are of strategic importance to a sustainable economic growth trajectory because they are characterised by high economic and employment multipliers. Put another way the process of adding value to basic or primary commodities is both labour intensive (including at lower skills levels) and stimulates other economic sectors including by demand for inputs into the manufacturing process and in the downstream linkages in the production of other value added products, for export, retail and in the services sectors.

Related to the above, has been an insufficient and inadequate role of the state in promoting sustainable economic growth and development. SA's recent economic growth trajectory has been characterised by the following set of problems which have often negatively impacted upon the growth of the strategic sectors of the economy.

  • The limited allocation and high cost of industrial financing provided by SA's development finance institutions (DFI's) including the Industrial Development Corporation - particularly to the strategic sectors outlined above. South Africa's real interest rate is amongst the highest in the world.

  • The failure of the state to utilise massive state procurement, including in large procurement programmes such as the capital expenditure programme required to upscale SA's energy generation capacity, as a lever with which to support local manufacturing,

  • The very high prices of inputs into manufacturing arising from the existence of monopolies and anti-competitive behaviour. Steel for example is the most important input into the manufacturing sector. Despite the fact that SA has the lowest cost of iron ore and reductants as well as low labour and transport costs in the sector, the cost of steel is amongst the highest in the world. This has obvious and negative knock on effects for SA's manufacturing sectors.

  • The training system and skills provision is poor with a mismatch between the quantity and quality of those trained and the actual needs of the production sectors of the economy.

  • SA's rail and port infrastructure and operations is in many instances aged, inefficient and expensive.

Fourthly and in keeping with many other developing countries SA has suffered from an exchange rate that is both volatile and over-valued. This arises from the fact of large speculative movements of short-term or 'hot' capital inflows from the industrialised economies into the domestic economy as a result of the existence of large stocks of liquid global assets, low growth and returns in many markets, and high real interest rates in SA - as at December 2010 both our short and long-term real interest rates were amongst the highest in the world. This has played a large role in facilitating short term capital inflows into South Africa's financial market - which contributes to the massive recent appreciation of our exchange rate and which in turn hinders long-term fixed investment in the manufacturing sectors and undermines the viability of these sectors.

It is for all these reasons, amongst others, that both the NGP and the IPAP point to the need for a strategic shift in emphasis in governments approach. Employment creation and a more labour absorbing growth path capable of generating decent work are at the centre of economic policy. The NGP articulates interventions across the range of production sectors - agriculture, mining, manufacturing, tourism and high level services- and the need for the coordination and integration of these interventions.

The IPAP in turn reports on the progress already registered and sets out a range of interventions which dovetail with the objectives set out in the NGP, which aim to address the structural weaknesses of the economy and craft and implement the industrial policy interventions which are required to reverse industrial decline, create decent work and begin the long and complex task of placing SA's economic growth on a more sustainable foundation.

In summary the recently released second phase of the IPAP reports on progress registered to date and a further set of measures as follows;

  • The provision of concessional industrial financing, particularly by the IDC, to support NGP and IPAP sectors, which subject to proper process and conditions will stimulate investment in these sectors. The IDC has already set aside R66bn for this purpose and further policy directives in this regard are being processed.

  • The revision of government legislation to ensure that all government procurement is weighted in favour of local production and the scaling up of local capacity, without prejudice to cost and BEE considerations. Regulatory amendments in this regard are at an advanced stage with further interventions in the pipeline.

  • An intervention to ensure that a developmental steel price is put in place to ensure that SA's comparative advantage in this regard is passed on to the manufacturing sector has been processed and will be implemented in the near future. SA has fared relatively poorly when it comes to a clear strategy to ensure that our national minerals endowment is utilised to maximise sustainable growth and development. This is why government is committed to ensuring that a stronger minerals beneficiation strategy leads to practical interventions which can add value to our primary commodity exports rather than simply allow for the extraction of massive profits by transnational mining companies and 'rents' by a domestic elite. Work in this regard is underway.

  • The strengthening of SA's developmental trade policy interventions to lock out sub-standard products which undermine local production capacity and a tariff regime which lowers tariffs on products used in manufacturing and increases those for products which require protection from cheap, often low quality imports. The IPAP also lists a range of interventions to minimise the ever increasing and very damaging effects of the illicit economy including against smuggling and import fraud of one type or another.

  • A wide ranging set of practical interventions across a range of sectors, including in the automotives and clothing and textile sectors, aimed at scaling up the productive and competitive capacities in these sectors as well as with respect to skills, innovation and other interventions required. This includes a set of interventions in the strategically important renewable energy sector involving energy generation, saving and the localisation of production for these new sectors.

Finally it may be worth stressing that governments' Industrial Policy Action Plan is no magic wand. Firstly SA's economy is part of an increasingly hostile global economic environment. The economic recovery in our traditional trading partners to which we exported relatively more of our value added products - Europe and the US - have been very slow to emerge from the global recession. India and China, to which SA exports much of its primary commodities, have continued on high growth trajectories. This necessitates a shift in the emphasis of our trade efforts.

Secondly both the NGP and the IPAP involve complex government policy coherence and integration - objectives which require sustained effort. The success of governments interventions also require that government works closely with the private sector, which itself is often hostile to efforts by government to initiate policy interventions which place the economy on a more sustainable path.

Nevertheless the considerable progress already achieved over the last year since the launch of IPAP, the opportunities which have emerged from SA's inclusion in the BRICS group of countries and our efforts to secure regional economic integration, amongst other positive indicators and factors means that there is growing confidence that the battle to place SA's economy on a more labour intensive, sustainable and equitable growth path in the future can be won.



By Cde Mawethu Rune YCL National Deputy Chairperson


The article which appeared on YCL on as "issue 4; volume 8; on 11 April, titled 'Lets enlighten, educate and civilise these backward, uncultured and barbaric Africans" did justice on giving analysis on class contents of what is currently obtaining before Equality Court but I thought it's important to take the discussion further and examine the role of courts in its conventional context and complication of its contemporary developments.

I depart on appreciating that it will be grotesquely distortion to contemplate that it is inherent for courts to be neutral or fair arbitrators that uphold justice regardless of property power relations in society. For their location and evolution must be understood within conceptual framework of base and superstructure. If were to agree as I suspect we should that the base of society is the way people relate to one another in the production of their lives and their means of life, in other words, the productive relations.


Classes are an aspect of productive relations, therefore it follows that people do not relate on just any basis. But relate to one another through their mutual relation to property. If then what is above is true as I anticipate then this in turn defines the society. But what is important for purpose of this paper is that it will then be also true that a state, a legal system (underline legal system), social institutions, and ideas arise on this base. These elements make up what we call the superstructure. The superstructure reflects, protects, organizes and strengthens the base. They are a superstructure because they can only be understood, in the final in terms of a society's economic base.

To bring this closer to home, the force removals of African majority from productive lands, the concentration of masses of Africans in Bantustan's, their super exploitation and segregation even apartheid which was crime against humanity was legislated and courts presided to hand down harshest sentence to those who dared question this crime against humanity. The point we seek to make is that courts have been reflection not to dispense justice but reflection of material property relations in society, as to protect the interest of the ruling class.

Strategy and tactics as adopted in 1969 ANC Morogoro Conference makes this observation "South Africa was conquered by force and is today ruled by force. At moments when White autocracy feels itself threatened, it does not hesitate to use the gun. When the gun is not in use legal and administrative terror, fear, social and economic pressures, complacency and confusion generated by propaganda and "education", are the devices brought into play in an attempt to harness the people's opposition. Behind these devices hovers force. The spectre is falsely raised of a threat to the White men's language and culture to "justify" a policy of cultural discrimination and domination, by economic bribes and legal artifices".

On philosophy & class struggle -Dialego point out "In so far as economic realities come into conflict with pet schemes of this or that apartheid ideologue, it is the ideas and not the realities which suffer! It is the basis which ultimately determines the superstructure".


Now that we have established the point that courts as component of super structure were established and used to legitimise the segregation, oppression and crime against humanity then it follows that their transformation cannot be complete without overhaul of production patterns and system. To demonstrate further that judiciary had existed as super structure to perpetuate material property interest of ruling class in South African context, the governing laws whom Africans presided on over for centuries upon arrival of colonisers such legal system was chastised and relegated to judiciary museums without any prospect of development. This had resulted in Roman - Dutch & English laws being imported as best suit to protect the interest of the ruling class. Even when Act 108 of 1996 was introduced as a constitution of the Republic the Roman - Dutch English law still triumphed and our laws, African had practised for centuries was relegated to be a source of law only when all laws of our former colonisers cannot find suitable law for application, such injustice is still justice in South Africa till to date.

Post 1994 with the strategic political breakthrough the ANC Alliance seek to build non-racial, non-sexiest, democratic, united and prosperous society and among other tenants of democracy it committed to doctrine of separation of powers, with judiciary being independent as to resolve any dispute and be institute to exercise check and balance of democracy.


Right to critic & Transformation

However few aspects warrant some interrogation in a manner in which the judiciary component of had evolved. Firstly while it has become a signal of fearless to critic the executive and legislative even at times without substance and base but such is praised as participatory democracy that must be guarded from lazy and corrupt politicians but any critic of judiciary is often as taboo that threatens the credibility and independence of judiciary if not democracy. This unwritten rule which seem popular is in fact misleading and dangerous in that judiciary as other leg of state must remain accountable to broader society and expression of opinion even if it's critical can never be threat to democracy but the opposite is true.

The process to transform judiciary appears very slow. The focus has only been put on the form, which itself is very slow as the top echelons of judiciary are still occupied by apartheid jurists but more concerning is the content of what prevails as South African law to date. We had made mention earlier that no significance is given to African indigenous law with has been relegated to oblivion while Roman Dutch English law continue to hegemonic and improved. This may be undermined but it's important if we are serious about self-determination, state sovereignty and restoring dignity and pride to law that is not based on retribution but on restoration.

Access to courts

Access to courts is also another concerning area in that majority of South Africans whom do not command resources have little or no access to courts let alone justice. In South Africa exist a cruel relationship that those who have money can afford to buy justice and access courts up to the highest in the land but for those who do not have money must forget about such prospects. While this is glaring in the civil cases in that those who command resources can do as they please because they afford best jurists and provide all security needed by courts but even in criminal cases, I have witnessed denial of justice on basis of being poor.

For example in area of which I reside there has been more than one killing of young person's wherein perpetrators are known and do appear one or two times before court and the case after that disappears and life goes on because that life was not rich enough for courts to care but for those who command resource often white the mere stabbing receive best the court can provide, this phenomenon cannot be allowed to perpetuate.

The doctrine of separation of powers

The doctrine of separation of powers among executive, legislative and judicial is founded as tripartite of democracy with each independent but complimenting the other. We have come to be accustomed to loud noise every time the is rumour that executive wants to interfere or compromise the independence of judiciary the dissolution of Scorpions and Judge Hlophe Saga with Constitutional Court Judges being cases in point.

The legislature is praised every time it criticise the executive or disapproves of this or that legislation. Little attention has been given to those instances wherein the judiciary actually interferes with the executive and pronounce on budget allocation or what should be priority of government wherein elected government have taken an executive decision on the matter. This situation is equally untenable!

Courts being political players

The recent development poses a serious threat to credibility of courts in the long term, in that we are beginning to see courts being either used by wealthy minority to subvert the majoritarian aspiration using courts or courts being active political players in political battles.

The first of the above phenomenon is being used largely by right wing sections of our population whom every battle they loose on the street or at ballot want to subvert that which is an aspiration of majority or supress the majority from exercising its democratic right by using court of law. While the are many case in points but the recent Equality Court case on banning of singing of struggle song is a case in point where the heritage of South Africa was hanging in balance and infact the movement had to put a serious defence within and outside court otherwise the threat or deleting the history that informs our future was real. The same is true on many instances on policy and government programs that regardless of popular support but insignificant minority always remind government of its power in court and then government cannot help but retreat we saw such even with Appropriation Bill on land question.

The threat in this regard is that once society arrives in a determination that courts have allowed the subverting majority aspiration and are representing the interest of particular sections in society. Then their role of being fair arbitrators gradually dissipate and society lose confidence in credibility of courts which can culminate in their role being undermined.

The second component is has been aggressive lately where courts allow to be political players, cases in point include but not limited to the submission of ANC candidates to the IEC for the 18 May local government elections. Effectively in Eastern Cape were endorsed by Court, the Judge was satisfied that constitution of the ANC had not been violated. Surely ANC knows its constitution and application far better than learned Judge. The cope leadership is not going to be decided by their congress or any of their platform but court, Magwaza Msibi D.C by IFP had to confirmed by court etc. the point is that courts have become active players in political processes and this development poses danger to its credibility and level of confidence to which it enjoys from the society as whole.


While it is true that state is a class contested terrain which is not in stagnation but forever responsive to balance of forces at a particular trajectory, it is also true that material property relations greatly influence on how people relate. Therefore as progressive forces wrestle among other sectors for hegemony of working class aspiration within the state, it is imperative that such participation must never be driven as to perfect the state apparatus in its prevailing circumstance but in the immediate it must seek to transform it in something new that in its form and content respond to interest of majority. The sustainable transformation of state apparatus is when the material property relations alter from hands of few to enjoyment of the majority, with alternate of production patterns departing from dictates of capitalism.

It is therefore prudent that as we uphold the independence of judiciary, in our daily struggles we must equally be vigilant in safeguarding our democracy. Importantly in that project is that judiciary must equally earn and sustain its credibility as a dispute arbiter, we must never fold arms when aspiration of the societal majority are subverted by abusing court processes. The separation of powers and right of society to critic or expresses opinion must be defended. We have to constantly persuade the court to clear from being political players that makes determination on party political differences.

In the final analysis the total lasting transformation of courts/judiciary to reflect the organisation of majority it's only when material property relations are enjoyed by people as a whole.