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RED ALERT
Reconfiguration from below: SACP takes responsibility, builds democratic popular power, contests elections in Metsimaholo
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Umsebenzi Online

Volume 13, No. 40, 25 September 2014

In this Issue:

   

Red Alert

Emulating counterparts in a reckless competition: Anti-ANC opportunism and foolhardy liberal inclination

By Comrade Jeremy Cronin

Recently we've been treated to the sorry spectacle of DA MPs seeking to emulate their EFF counterparts in a reckless competition to be the most brazenly objectionable in parliament. If a callow Floyd Shivambu can defy the Speaker and be asked to leave the House, why should David Maynier from the DA benches not follow suit? Watching this unfold, I was reminded of a recent interview by DA leader Helen Zille. In the UK, soon after the May elections, she spoke candidly to a journalist. The interview received scant local attention. That's a pity.

Whatever the electoral rhetoric might have been, Zille explicitly conceded in the interview that her strategic calculations aren't based on any hope of a medium term DA national electoral majority. Rather, she is seeking to position her party as the catalyst for a major political shake-up. In particular, Zille envisages a decisive split within the ANC. "The battle is on in the ANC…a huge contestation", she told her interviewer.

The rift line along which Zille aspires to polarise the ANC is curious: "The battle within is: who gets to hold onto the biggest political brand in SA's history? Is it the people who support the constitution or people who support the National Democratic Revolution (NDR)?" Are the two things incompatible? Is an ongoing commitment to the NDR not central to the ANC "brand"?

"Eventually", she told her interviewer, "the realignment of politics will happen around the principles espoused in the constitution …our job is to be a catalyst…to bring all the people together who support the constitution and rule of law, genuinely support non-racialism and support an open market economy…" (Let's bracket support for "an open market economy" for the moment.) Leaving that aside, in Zille's analysis our collective democratic challenge is to defend the constitution, the rule of law and non-racialism. At face value, I'd agree. I'm happy to make common cause with anyone genuinely espousing these values.

But how then explain the tactical parliamentary alliance between the DA and the EFF? The latter's leadership openly disparages the constitution, is contemptuous of parliament and the rule of law, and, when not momentarily sucking-up to a swooning liberal audience at Kelvin Grove, constantly spews out anti-white invective. Indeed, how do we explain the fawning reception Malema received at that Cape Town Press Club event? The answer is: anti-ANC opportunism on all sides and the foolhardy liberal inclination, in Germany in the early 1930s, in SA in 2014, to appease right-wing hooligans in order to deal with the left and defend "market economies".

Which brings me to the nub of the issue - Zille's sleight of hand in her UK interview is to map into the constitution a so-called "open market economy". You'll find no such reference whatsoever in our constitution.

It's precisely the massive post-1994 "open market economy" liberalisation of exchange controls, dual listings, runaway financialisation and globalisation of former South African corporations, along with transfer pricing and illegal capital flight that have drained productive investment out of SA, deepening de-industrialisation, unemployment, and racial inequality. These realities have spawned, in turn, alienated constituencies vulnerable to demagogic mobilisation, ready to believe their predicament is due to the rule of law, or the constitution, or to whites in general.

Advancing a national democratic defence of our country's popular sovereignty (in other words an NDR) in the face of the corporate plundering of resources, and the suborning of a majority electoral mandate is, in fact, the only safeguard for our hard won constitutional dispensation.

Comrade Jeremy Cronin is SACP First Deputy General Secretary, this piece was first published by the Cape Times, "Left Turn" column (24 September).

 

The politariat, greedy politicians and the fragility of coalition governments: The case of Lesotho

By Cde Solly Mapaila

At the inception of the Organisation of Africa Unity, it was agreed that Africa should accept the borders imposed by the European colonialists as conflict over border disputes could be devastating. Lesotho needs to be understood within the specific historical context, under which it was established as a British protectorate in 1860 within SA borders. Lesotho, Botswana and Swaziland were separated from SA, and granted independence.

Lesotho's economy was the poorest compared to Botswana and Swaziland. The country also lacked economic independence and viability. It relied heavily on the SA economy and mining industry as a source of employment and income. It thus became a source of cheap labour for the development of capitalism in SA. The decline of mining in SA especially but not exclusively in Johannesburg has coincided with an emerging demand for domestic workers by a growing SA middle strata after the 1994 democratic breakthrough. Basotho women are increasingly becoming the new migrant labourers from Lesotho in SA compared to men.

About 40% of the Basotho live in poverty. Like SA, Lesotho has one of the highest HIV prevalence rates in the world. It has life expectancy of 50 years for males and 48 years for females, who bear the brunt of its social ills. In 2012 the World Food Programme declared the worst food crisis in Lesotho's living memory. The country has taken long to recover from menacing long term drought which hit it between 2001 and 2004, leading to former Prime Minister Mosisili to declare state of emergency and call for food aid. In 2007 the country was hit by another drought.

More recently, huge water resources within Lesotho have been developed, with SA as the sole buyer, and has become a battlefield for economic and political control, as well as a source of corruption. The current Deputy Prime Minister, Mothetjoa Metsing, has been facing corruption charges, for which he has allegedly been using the military and other channels to try and squash.

While the crises of world capitalism has plunged millions into abject poverty and peripheral subsistence, Lesotho, like other developing countries, faces huge challenges of colonially engineered under-development and poor economic performance which are reflected in internal politics.

In an unprecedented action of greed, two politicians have driven Lesotho's central government to the brink of collapse and war. They felt they were not deployed appropriately in the coalition government by their leader, or less even their party. This despite that coalitions necessarily require compromises on ministerial and other appointments.

Prime Minister Tom Thabane leads a coalition government with the exact constitutional requirement of 50% + 1, that is, 61 seats in a parliament of 120 members. The withdrawal of the two produced a problem of majority status. This led to the opposition coalition tabling motion of no confidence. The motion was defeated on the technicality that the opposition had failed to propose a candidate for Prime Minister when they tabled the motion; they themselves could not agree who that candidate should be.

Lesotho's electoral system provides for a proportional compensate model whereby anyone with a seat in parliament must be considered when government and parliamentary appointments are made, even if they do not belong to the governing party or coalition. A country with only 2.2 million people has 120 MPs, 129 local councils and 80 electoral constituencies. Payment of Ministers, MPs and state employees swallows a very high percentage of the budget. Political office and the state have become overwhelmingly significant in generating a living.

This has created a politariat - political strata with elitist groupings at the top and at the helm and dependent supporters employed in the public service living on the state. The politariat has actually taken the place of the proletariat. The economy is largely under the control of the political administration and state procurement is carried out in the interest of the political elite, its cronies and the entire structure of the politariat.

While the politariat looks after its own interests, the proletariat of Lesotho - the workers - skilled and unskilled, and professionals, have to search for employment in SA, leaving behind their families in poverty and degradation. If Lesotho cannot develop viable economic activity within its borders, then there can be no foreseeable end to the current political crisis, in particular its material basis and structural character.

The military has become a chaotic playground for competing political and economic interests within the higher echelons of the politariat. Military discipline is allegedly abused through the targeted court-marshalling of senior military leaders as part of political infighting.

There has been a huge outcry over the mass abuse of civilians by the military in its street patrols. This has been reported even by the normally complacent local media. Intimidation appears as preparation for future action by the military. It is designed to cow the people and deter them from any resistance. The military, which is aligned with the Deputy Prime Minister has extended its intimidation to the police, who are aligned to the Prime Minister. This highlights reliance on repressive organs to prop up individual political interests and rule by proxy.

SA's interests in Lesotho are seen as being defined by the water economy. Given Lesotho's location, the country can be used as a conduit for destabilisation in SA. SA should develop a decisive policy around the former British protectorates. A naïve approach to territorial sovereignty will be dangerous to SA and regional stability. A new thinking is required about African integration through the restoration of the unity of the African people - a reunion.

The intervention by President Jacob Zuma and presently the role played by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa are timely and should be welcome. Working within regional and continental bodies, SA should not hesitate to ensure that the military in Lesotho does not interfere with government.

The developments in Lesotho suggest that its proportionate compensate model which is prone to fractious and unstable political realignments has served its course and needs to be reconsidered. The problem also exposes the fragility and risks of coalition governments, which some have been propagating for SA as the so-called genuine democracy. Lesotho needs to develop democratic institutions suitable to its continuously changing specific conditions.

By Solly Mapaila is SACP 2nd Deputy General Secretary.

 

Contradictions facing the Sudanese society

Alex Mashilo in conversation with Comrades Malik Agar and Yasir Arman, Chairman and Secretary General of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement - North (SPLM-N), 12-17 September 2014

Comrade Arman is also External Affairs Secretary of the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF), a liberation alliance of organisations that stand for democracy and social justice in the Republic of the Sudan (North Sudan or the North). Comrade Malik was elected Governor of the Blue Nile State in April 2010, but was removed a year later on 2 September through a despotic decree by President Omar al-Bashir.

There are striking similarities between the political situation that has prevailed in the Sudan and the colonial-apartheid era South Africa (SA).

In both cases, the imposition and manufacture of consent to achieve domination involved the suppression of African languages and culture, coupled with language and cultural assimilation.

However, unlike in SA where supremacist domination was carried out directly by the personnel exclusively selected from the camp of the oppressor, who held all key positions and strategic advantages in the state and the economy, in the Sudan, ideological domination is so entrenched that the levels of false consciousness hitherto manufactured have made it possible for the oppressor not to be everywhere in person, but for others who must actually be fighting against oppression to become its willing agents.

One of the strategic tasks facing the liberation struggle in the Sudan is, therefore, the need to ultimately uproot all forms of false consciousness in the cause of the movement.

In the Sudan, which name ironically is said to derive from the Arabic bilād as-sūdān which means ‘land of the black peoples', Africans have for many years experienced ‘Arabisation', resulting from Arab migration into the area, and from the colonisation and administration of the Sudan by other countries, including Egypt and Turkey; they have also experienced Islamisation under a phenomenon called ‘Political Islam'. The last statistical data collected on North Sudan indicate that ethnic Arabs constitute about 30% of the population while Africans are a majority at 70%.

Under the colonial-apartheid era SA, African names and even surnames were changed under oppressive and exploitative conditions unilaterally to either English or Afrikaans or even Christian names. Those who survived this at birth came across it at school, like former President Nelson Mandela did, or through the state imposing Christianity as its religion, or at church, or when applying for identity documents. Similarly, in the Sudan, African names were, and are still, changed to Arab or Muslim names. "This is how my name came about", said Comrade Malik, also referring to Islamisation.

In both SA and the Sudan, language suppression involved the imposition of a non-African language as a medium of communication and instruction in education. As we interacted, Comrades Malik and Arman wrote both in Arab and English, and so were their documents; Britain is one of the countries that colonised ("administered") the Sudan.

As was the case in SA, the Problem in the Sudan goes deeper than the fortress of super-structural domination and is essentially structural.

Similar to SA where the policy of Bantustans was not a solution, the problem in the Sudan is neither an internally geographic issue. Therefore the cessation of South Sudan to form an independent Republic on its own was not necessarily a revolutionary reconstitution of the Sudanese society and way forward for unity.

The SPLM-N correctly asserts that while important all the super-structural manifestations of the contradictions facing the Sudanese society are to address, they however cannot be understood and resolved in isolation from their material basis and driving forces. The problem, according to SPLM-N, is a crisis emanating from the lack of an inclusive national project of nation-building and a correct national formation process based on the objective realities of the Sudan.

In this context, over and above cultural and religious suppression, the SPLM-N points to the problem as ‘based on limited parameters that marginalise and exclude the majority of the Sudanese people on… economic, political and gender bases. Accordingly, ‘Marginalisation and dictatorship produce continuous wars and instability'. In addition, ‘The mismanagement, non-recognition of diversities, lack of democracy and social justice' led to the tragic division of the Sudan between the separate states of the North and South Sudan. This is also the result of an interacting phenomenon of ‘Political Islam'.

Elaborating the religion in a repressive way, ‘Political Islam' varies in extends, time and space: terrorist organisations such as the Islamic State that is presently wreaking a devastating havoc in the Middle East, Boko Haram in Nigeria, al-Shabaab in Kenya and other parts of East Africa, Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and dictatorships in North Sudan and other countries in North Africa and the Middle East. The religion interpreted in that manner is then imposed as the political, legal and juridical, social and cultural doctrine of the state with the entire superstructure based on, reinforcing, and reinforced by, capitalist accumulation.

In the Sudan, the oppressive and exploitative conditions prevail in the context, as reflected in Umsebenzi Online (Vol. 13, No. 38, 18 September 2014), of the vast availability of natural resources.

Various analyses point to Iran as the external centre, strategic and supportive partner of the government. However, there are other partners, such as Malaysia and France, which has joint ventures in the exploitation of Sudan's resources. The problem is, however, broader, and involves more other countries. According to SPLM-N, the "paradox is that while President al-Bashir has been indicted as a war criminal, ‘the international community' continues to recognise and deal with him and his regime".

The way forward would involve, according to the SPLM-N, taking into consideration Sudan's ‘historical and contemporary diversities; building a society for all regardless of ethnic, religious and gender background; and based on democracy, social justice and a balanced relation between the centre and the peripheries'. ‘This is the vision for the New Sudan', said Comrade Arman.

During our interaction the SPLM-N was preparing for negotiations in the context of an ongoing war (see ‘Sudan's Forgotten War Zones' by Mukesh Kapila, former Head of the UN in Sudan 2003-2004 for some of the activities unleashed by government forces http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qCAu_4V3kAc)

The SPLM-N believes that is ‘It is evidently clear that any approach in a peaceful solution for it to achieve a permanent peace, it would require a popular process that would involve the people, not compromises between job seekers and a settlement that would only address the interests of the elites.Whether it is a constitutional process or peace agreement, it must include all political parties'.

"The SPLM-N suggests an interim or transitional period that would be tasked to hold a constitutional conference for all political forces and civil societies in Sudan to answer the historical question which remains unanswered since the independence of Sudan in 1956, ‘how Sudan is going to be ruled?' before ‘who is going to rule Sudan'", it said in its Position Paper. ‘To address the historical and contemporary diversity', the SPLM-N believes that ‘Sudan needs a new social, political, economic and cultural dispensation that is based on citizenship, democracy and social justice and separation of religion from state'.

 

Training Colleges are an important option for skilling our youth

By Khaye Nkwanyana

One of the key strategic focuses of the ANC President Jacob Zuma led government is the forward-looking intervention through policy and programmatic means, in rekindling skills base development that is responsive to the South African economy. The Department of Higher education and training (DHET) was established as an institutional driver in unlocking skills blockages and enhancing various pathways of post-schooling education and training.

Whilst Universities and Universities of Technologies are part of this important post-school stream their preponderance in the public sphere and attraction, has over the years, dwarfed the equally important optional stream such as Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) colleges. We are also in a process of building Community Colleges and Adult Education and Training Centres.

Our economy requires that we produce more qualified professionals in technical and practical skills. In the current form, there is an obvious disjuncture between the supply and demand of these skills in our economy particularly industrial skills. The shortage of these skills such as Artisans, Engineers, Health Science specialists and others, exist against the backdrop of huge unemployment which is hovering around 25%, with youth constituting more than 70% of the unemployed.

If we are to turn this state of affairs around and be on an accelerated path towards achieving the objective of increasing employment to 24 million by 2030, government must be an enabler and leveller by way of policy and implementation to unlock blockages in professional development and skills training and direct the country towards scarce and critical skills that the economy needs. This should include incentivising youth to acquire those needed skills through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), bursaries and scholarships.

The DHET has been aggressively focusing on TVET Colleges, formerly known as FET Colleges, as the most preferred optional post-school centres for human resource development. TVET Colleges represent one, albeit not exclusively, post-schooling options that have programme offerings that the country and the economy needs. Even the recent gazetting by the HET Minister of 100 national scarce skills points to TVET Colleges as our salvation through new and diversified programme offerings.

As part of the turnaround strategy to improve the functioning and quality of TVET Colleges under the 2014 Medium Term Expenditure Framework, R19.2 billion is allocated to ensure that TVET Colleges enrolment further increase. The provision of NSFAS has also been on the increase annually, thereby expanding the student population base in the colleges.

For the first time there is a drive to demystify the notion of regarding post-schooling education and training as exclusively domiciled in urban areas to which the rural youth must migrate to gains access. The over-concentration to urban centres of many Colleges and Universities with few located in the boarders of rural areas perpetuate the spasmodic unbalanced accessibility to higher education and training. The HET Minister has been leading from the front in bringing measures to change this reality. As a result, R2.5 billion has been committed to refurbishing some existing TVET Colleges and the building of 12 new Campuses across the country, especially in rural areas. The acquisition of skills through education and training should not be seen as a privilege anymore and our institutions themselves cannot continue to behave as elitist ivory tower institutions characterised by a lot of red tape blockages to access.

The department is pushing for a strong articulation between TVET Colleges and workplace training and universities so that we eliminate the gap between theory and workplace experience as well as progression. Employers through Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) will have to establish a natural relationship with TVET Colleges as feeders to their qualified workforce.

As part of this focus on TVET, the Minister has concluded the appointment of new Councils to strengthen governance and leadership. The transfer of lecturers and supporting staff is underway from Basic Education pending various Chambers to strengthen some issues.

The Minister wants to raise the stature, respectability and attraction TVET Colleges to that of universities as the most preferred option for massive enrolment. It is these TVET Colleges and SETAs, in the main, that will inject more redress in skills shortages that our economy needs. It is this post school option that is designed and is being improved to offer programmes that are critical and mostly in short supply. This is what the Minister refers to as an "act of fixing the plane whilst on air"

All South Africans must help in playing a part in assisting and supporting government in all these national efforts of institutional expansions, profiling and its strengthening. The reality of the current skills shortages and mismatch, if left to its own devices, will locate the country and the economy into a precipice of intractable abyss. But this intervention, including the one into SETAs and the building of three new Universities (including Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University) moves the country into a cusp of skills levels acquisition necessary for a growing economy and infrastructural development.

The department of higher education and training stands on the terraces whose vistas give sights to future's horizon to a well-trained, skilled and educated society to advance the economy and social development, thereby contributing in meeting the imperative, also targeted in the NDP, of achieving 25 million employed population by 2030. The wheel is turning fast in getting fundamentals right.

Khaye Nkwanyana is the PEC member of the SACP in KZN and also Media Liaison Officer, Minister for Higher Education and Training.

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