Statement of the SACP Augmented Central Committee
2 December 2012
The SACP Augmented Central Committee met in Ekurhuleni, Gauteng over the weekend of 30th November – 2nd December 2012. It has become the practice for the SACP CC in its final meeting for the year to broaden participation to include provincial treasurers, district secretaries, as well as additional office bearers of the Young Communist League of SA.
The important context in which this CC was being held was noted. 2012 has been a year of major political events within the ANC-led tripartite alliance. In July the SACP held a highly successful and united 13th National Congress. In September COSATU convened its National Congress, in which the leading labour federation in SA closed ranks in the face of a massive anti-union offensive including attempts to divide the federation itself. In June the ANC National Policy Conference took place, at which it was agreed that it was imperative to embark upon a second, more radical phase of our democratic transition.
We are now just two weeks away from the ANC’s critical Mangaung National Conference. The SACP has maintained a principled position of non-interference in the ANC’s internal electoral processes. This is not to say that we are disinterested observers. Many hundreds of SACP members will be attending the ANC Conference in their own right as ANC branch delegates and as delegates from ANC leadership structures at all levels. The SACP will also have a non-voting delegation at Conference. As a longstanding ally of the ANC over more than eight decades, the SACP wishes the ANC a successful and unifying national conference in this, its centenary year.
In the SACP’s view, after the 2007 ANC Polokwane Conference, the ANC’s collective leadership was at first slow to move decisively against a dangerous right-wing, narrow nationalist tendency that cost the ANC and its alliance dearly in the eyes of our own mass base and of a broader public. There was a point in time in which the SACP was virtually alone within the Alliance in exposing and boldly condemning this dangerous tendency. We have been pleased to note the growing preparedness from within the ANC itself, going back to its National General Council in Durban, to understand the threat and to deal with it. We believe that the Mangaung Conference can and must mark a further step in restoring the ANC to its traditions of revolutionary discipline, non-racialism and the condemnation of self-seeking factionalism. The CC commended the work of the ANC NEC collective for the work it has done often in very difficult circumstances in the preparations for the run-up to Mangaung.
Above all, we need to unite our alliance through a programme of action that re-connects with the struggles and aspirations of millions of ordinary South Africans facing the triple crisis of unemployment, inequality and poverty. It was in this context that the Augmented CC agreed that 2013 should be the “Year of the Party District”. We need to shift our focus, our resources and our activism closer to community and work-place struggles. One important focus of this closer attention to the local is the education crisis.
The crisis in education
The CC received a candid and extensive report from cde Angie Motshekga, Minister of Basic Education. The CC was provided with a preview of a major survey commissioned by the Department of Basic Education to be released in the course of this week. The input by cde Motshekga confirmed and expanded upon the many systemic challenges within the education sector – including high levels of teacher absenteeism, poor leadership in many schools, politicised appointments of inappropriate district managers, corruption in the procurement of many things from school buildings, to text books, to school-feeding. Despite these endemic problems, there are also inspiring examples in many schools, some in the poorest townships and rural areas. The turnaround in education requires dedicated principals and teachers, and constructive activism and engagement from communities, school governing bodies and parents. Cde Motshekga commended the Young Communist League for the student monitoring programme previously launched in the Vaal district. YCL activists trained students to keep class-room registers of teacher attendance, these were then shared and discussed on a weekly basis with principals and school governing bodies. According to the Minister, this programme quickly turned around a previously serious teacher absenteeism problem in the district.
The CC resolved that the SACP would play an active role with the teacher unions, and with student formations to foster seriousness and professional commitment to resolving the crisis in education. We call on all communists, whether as parents, learners, teachers or community members to set an example of constructive activism in this sector so crucial for the transformation of our country.
The mining sector
The CC held an extensive discussion on the challenges in the mining sector, and the onslaught against the trade union movement and our hard-won collective bargaining system. The discussion was introduced by inputs from CC member and NUM general secretary, cde Frans Baleni and Minister of Police, cde Nathi Mthethwa. The discussion centred in part on the events leading up to and following the still endemic violence on the platinum belt around Rustenburg in particular.
The CC reaffirmed the SACP’s full support for the Marikana Commission of Inquiry, and noted that in the course of the past few days a truer picture has begun to emerge of the reckless and ultimately tragic manipulation of popular grievances by demagogic forces who had originally been nurtured by mining capital. We are confident that in the coming period further dimensions of this reality will be exposed.
Having said this, the CC agreed that on all sides there are lessons to be learnt. The CC commended NUM for its own self-critical review of the challenges that have arisen largely as a result of its own and broader working class gains. NUM is taking active steps to correct for any tendencies towards a widening gap between full-time shop stewards and rank-and-file workers. On the side of SAPS the CC agreed that, while the police, themselves workers, are often exposed to extremely challenging situations – an ongoing review of policing methods, including public order policing, is imperative. Equally, it is absolutely important that, in raising constructive criticism, we do not undermine the morale and capacity of the police, rendering them toothless in the face of lawlessness, killings and a reign of terror imposed by gangsters on working class communities. The struggle to transform the police into an effective, community-oriented service is a key priority.
The CC resolved that we will be working closely with our allies and with government to restore peace and security to mining communities affected by chronic violence. 31 NUM shop-stewards and members have been killed between August 6 and the present. The CC in particular condemned the stripping and brutalisation of four women comrades, one of who is still undergoing surgery. The CC resolved to work towards establishing peace committees and to establish street committees and active community policing forums in affected communities.
Above all, we need to expose the underlying systemic features and strategic agendas that have led to the unfolding tragedy in the mining sector. Instability in this sector is a direct result of the strategic offensive against NUM and our hard-won labour-relations system. Pseudo-unions like AMCU, and before it the Five Madoda and their “Workers Mouthpiece”, and in KZN and Gauteng, UWUSA, were deliberately nurtured in an attempt to undermine the collective power of NUM. The mining houses are now reaping the whirlwind that they themselves sowed in the pursuit of short-term profits. We trust that they have learnt lessons. It is now imperative to push forward and secure a centralised bargaining council for the platinum sector.
Much of the instability in the mining sector is also directly attributable to the fault-lines between workers formally employed by the mining companies and those who are contracted and labour-brokered. Opposition parties like the DA, who have been smugly singing the praises of labour brokers and a flexible labour market, are unlikely to pause for self-reflection. As in the apartheid past, these pseudo-liberal Pontius Pilates will wash their hands of any responsibility. These forces who preach from Ivory Towers are irrelevant to the resolution of the challenges in mining sector, but it is now more imperative than ever to push forward to deal decisively with scourge of labour brokering.
The desperate financial plight of many mine-workers despite the fact that in nominal monetary terms they are better off, relative at least to many other sectors of formal employment, is directly related to the distortions of the migrant labour system. Many contract workers (between 30% and 50% of the platinum sector) are now stranded between two worlds. The progressive and commendable abolition of the old single-sex hostels has not been accompanied by any thoughtful transformation of other aspects of contracted labour. The “living-out” allowance is pitiful, given the market costs of housing and the absence of company or municipally provided housing and bulk infrastructure. There has been the mushrooming of informal settlements which often become easy terrains for all kinds of warlordism, shack-lordism and other anti-social tendencies. The “living-out” allowance also means that many workers are now supporting two households and two families. This lies at the heart of high-levels of indebtedness and the proliferation of loan-sharks, big and small, in these mining communities.
The SACP supports the NUM’s call for a thorough review and modernisation the migrant labour system. The reliance of impoverished rural areas on remittances from mining needs to be appreciated, but there is no reason why workers should not work much shorter rotation spells away from homes and families – as is the practice in many modern mining economies, Australia being an example.
Finally, the CC agreed that these measures need to be located within a wider strategic transformation of the mining sector through the finalisation of the amendments to the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act and the implementation of the key proposals of the ANC-commissioned State Intervention in the Mining Sector (SIMS) report.
The CC also received a report from CC members who have been actively involved in seeking to facilitate a progressive resolution to the desperate plight of farm-worker communities. The unprecedented strikes and community protest actions in 16 Boland towns signal that the fear factor and sense of hopelessness have been definitively broken. The genie is out of the bottle and there is no way that a return to rural baas-skap can succeed.
A remarkable feature of these protest actions is the high-level of unity between Coloured and African workers, and between long-standing locals and those recently from outside of the Western Cape, including workers from Lesotho and Zimbabwe. The DA leader tried to blame the protests on “ethnic tensions” among farm-worker communities. She should hang her head in shame. An equally misdirected allegation is that the protests have been sparked by the ANC for narrow electoralist reasons. In actual fact, the ANC has had a minimal presence and the sector is characterised by very low-levels of unionisation. The strikes and protest actions, and the high levels of solidarity, do not have their roots in any external agenda. These are communities for whom the post-1994 democratic advances have passed them by.
Latest reports reaching the CC suggest there are prospects of a settlement being reached between the farm-worker communities and employers. The minimum wage determination is, precisely, a MINIMUM, and nothing prevents a negotiated agreement well above this minimum. We urge progress in this regard and we need to ensure that the current efforts lay the basis for a long-term consolidation for effective structured bargaining between employers and farm-workers, in which the farm-workers have effective (rather than indirect) representation. We salute the heroic stand of farm-worker communities in the Boland, and urge them to consolidate their organisation and to ensure that any future militant actions are disciplined and avoid violence and destruction of property.
SACP mobilisational activities
The CC received reports on various mass mobilisation activities led by SACP provinces – among them the important intervention of the SACP around the demolition of homes in Lenasia and the mass mobilisation in KZN for rural development, and mobilisation for the transformation of the SABC.
Successes in the fight against HIV/AIDS
The CC briefly marked World Health Day yesterday, and noted the very important advances that our country has made in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Recent statistics indicate a dramatic decrease in mother-to-child transmission from 8% in 2008, cut by half by 2010, and down to 2,7% in 2011. According to a report released on Thursday by the prestigious UK medical journal Lancet (a report neglected by most of the local media) life expectancy in SA has risen in the space of just three years, between 2009 and 2012, by a remarkable 6 years. Census 2011 further indicates an important reduction in mortality rates in the younger adult cohort. These are all indications of the critical importance of decisive political and government leadership in addressing the social challenges of our society. They are also a sobering indicator of the tragic consequences of the previous AIDS denialism.
Solidarity with Palestine
The Central Committee congratulates the Palestinian people on the outcome of Friday’s UN General Assembly’s overwhelming vote according the Palestine Authority the status of a “non-member observer state”. The vote was carried with 138 countries in favour, 9 against and 41 abstentions. Those shamefully voting against were the US, Israel, Canada, the Czech Republic, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and Panama. The vote underlines the increasing isolation of the US and its inability to marshal any significant geographical blocs to support its retrograde diplomatic stance.
While the status of “non-member observer state” is only a very small step towards the achievement of full Palestinian state-hood, it has potentially important consequences. Among these is that it enables the Palestinian Authority access to the International Criminal Court and the possibility of bringing charges of war crimes against the Zionist State of Israel. The SACP joins the great majority of South Africans and peace-loving people all over the world in condemning the increasing illegal settlement of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The Central Committee congratulates the Chinese Communist Party on their successful congress and orderly leadership transition. The CC also noted the important International Communist and Workers’ Parties Meeting on the 24th and 25th November. The SACP was an active participant in this meeting and we shall popularise the resolutions taken over the coming period.
Finally, the Central Committee wishes the membership of the Party and all South Africans well over the festive season.
Issued by the SACP Central Committee
SACP Spokesperson – 082 226 1802