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RED ALERT
An intellectual will not be surprised when others respond to his opinions about them - A comradely reply to Onkgopotse JJ Tabane
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Umsebenzi Online

Volume 14, No. 33, 27 August 2015

In this Issue:

Red Alert

SACP not just 94 but experienced, steeled in the depth of knowledge and practice of our revolutionary struggle, and is dependable!!

By Cde Bheki Ntshalintshali

The 94th anniversary of the SACP occurred just after a successful COSATU Special National Congress which inspired millions of our people and activists to make a bold claim without fear of any contradiction that COSATU is still a home of all workers in South Africa and that COSATU still belongs to the Congress Movement!

The 94th anniversary of the SACP just after a very successful Alliance Summit where we conducted self-introspection leaving many of our cadres and activists certain that despite all the challenges our revolution remains on track under the leadership of the ANC-led Alliance.

The 94th anniversary of the SACP is not just an expression of many years of SACP’s existence. It is an expression and a representation of experience and knowledge, revolutionary practice and tradition, political and ideological depth, leadership and clarity of thought which has over the years and continues to be consistently provided by the SACP in our struggle for liberation!

This SACP has arrived at its 94th anniversary carrying scars of war against capital. The Party has fought to defend us as workers from many attacks which continue to be directed at us as the organisation of workers.

The SACP has reached its 94 years of existence carrying on its shoulders a number of success stories and responsibilities.

For an example, amongst all the four alliance partners, the SACP is the most relatively stable, organisationally intact and ideologically coherent formation!

When the ANC started a process of clarifying the vision for a future South Africa it drew from the expertise of the cadres of the Communist Party such as comrade Moses Kotane, Govan Mbeki and Thabo Mofutsanyane amongst others. The movement formulated the document on Africans’ Claims in South Africa which was a precursor to the Freedom Charter, what was also written with the leadership and participation of the SACP which was then an underground organisation but its leaders and cadres played a leading role in open organisations. No wonder the Apartheid regime hatred the Freedom Charter with passion and labelled it a communist document.

When the movement established Umkhonto weSizwe, it relied on the experience and bravery of SACP cadres many of whom were the first to occupy the front ranks of the MK and took the most daring and dangerous responsibilities which they executed with distinction.

It is not difficult to trace the SACP’s influence in the 1969 Morogoro Strategy and Tactics which had many perspectives derived from the Party’s 1962 political programme the Road to South African Freedom. Many of those perspectives developed first by the SACP, such as the theses of colonialism of a special type, the national democratic revolution and the national democratic state continue to guide our movement to this day. These perspectives accurately described the realities and contradictions of our country and conceptualised our collective way forward!

It is the SACP which led the way on the movement’s policy posture as we prepared for our democratic transition when it developed a document titled Path to Power adopted by the SACP’s 7th Congress in 1989 in Cuba which was followed by the ANC’s ‘Ready to Govern’ policy guidelines for a democratic South Africa adopted in 1992

When the apartheid regime unleashed death squads and the IFP war lords on our communities to shoot and plunder, it is the SACP which took the initiative to properly conceptualise this as low intensity war fare against our people and moved to also properly conceptualise the Self Defence Units which operated based on political direction.

Who can forget how COSATU was attacked during its launch 30 years ago; who can forget the bombing of COSATU house; we recall with pain the violence unleashed at the people of Boipatong; in hostels in Soweto; in Thokoza; the attacks that were directed at Shell House; the Bisho Masacre; and countless other events where our people were massacred by the regime in the apartheid regime and the IFP low intensity war fare.

We can say without fear of contradiction that in each of these events the SACP occupied the front ranks to defend the people and it did so without claiming any martyrdom.

When the liberation movement was preparing for negotiations and in the actual negotiations it also relied on the clarity of thought and experience of the cadres of the Communist Party. The very sunset clause which laid the basis for the democratic breakthrough came from the ranks of the SACP which properly understood the implications for our people if no settlement was reached.

The SACP has the proven ability to intervene during decisive moments in our revolution and its interventions always open up the way forward.

As we speak the SACP has developed a document titled ‘Going to the Root’ which is aimed at facilitating discussions by the liberation movement and all activists on what should be the basic content of our second, more radical phase of democratic transition.

It is this compelling history of ideological clarity, firmness on principle, flexibility in the application of tactics, steadfastness in grasping the moment and understanding the detail in the existing material conditions to inform strategy and of being a reliable ally which made comrade Oliver Tambo to say:

“…those who ask us to desert our allies ask us to forget the enduring bonds that we have developed together in the trenches. The South African Communist Party in particular is inextricably woven into the fabric of our struggle and by its commitment and actions earned itself the honourable place of being a worthy and indispensable component of the national liberation movement. As for the Socialist countries, let it be said unequivocally that they have proved, by word and deed, that they are true friends of our people’s cause; that without them and other friends Umkhonto and our national liberation movement, headed by the African National Congress, would not have become the force that we are today”.

When COSATU was formed 30 years ago, it is the SACP and the ANC which intervened at the decisive moment when the unity talks were about to collapse and forced the UDF affiliated unions – (then referred to as the magnificent 7) to go back to the negotiations and to do everything to ensure that the formation of COSATU became a success!

When we fought and won the battle for new labour relations Act, we did so working closely with the SACP as our natural ally and the political mouthpiece of the working class!

When we fought against Gear, against privatisation and when we fight against neo-liberal policies and against the 1996 class project, we relied on the presence of the SACP on our side!

It should therefore not be a surprise that when COSATU is under attack today the SACP has remained unambiguous and decisively took the side of defending COSATU regardless of the insults that were hurled at the Party and its leaders.

All those who want to destroy our organisations; they first start by attacking the SACP and sometimes the very attacks expose the ideological and political bankruptcy of the attackers.

It is difficult to imagine what was going to happen if the current offensive directed at COSATU and the liberation movement as whole were happening with the SACP not on its maximal point of unity and of being combat ready as it is today!

When the founding principles of COSATU were being undermined, the SACP did not put its head in the sand; it openly fought and defended COSATU!

When the NUM was under attack at the platinum belt the SACP went there physically to provide support to the NUM as part of their programme to defend COSATU and the entire liberation movement!

When the character of COSATU as a militant and radical federation of trade unions was being contested with an intention to change COSATU into a political organisation the SACP unambiguously said not when we are still alive!

When there were attempts to steal COSATU unions towards the formation of the so-called united front and the so-called socialist movement the SACP openly entered the ring and said we refuse that COSATU must be sold to the highest bidder.

When workers stood up in their numbers and voted with their feet to defend their federation from being stolen at the recent Special National Congress it is also because they have listened and seen the SACP and the entire Alliance standing up to defend COSATU!

We dare to make a claim that with SACP on our side who can touch us?

It is because of this proven track record of the SACP that as COSATU we want to tell anyone who cares to listen that those who may seek to create a wedge between COSATU and the SACP must forget. The SACP is our party, this is our shield, our political representative. We will not desert the Party, not today, not tomorrow, and not at any time in the future!

But this experience and success of the SACP imposes a heavy responsibility on the leadership of the Party.

As we prepare to build the unity of COSATU based on waging focused struggles to address issues affecting workers and as we build COSATU based on our Back to Basics Programme which directs us to spend more time with workers at the shop floor we rely on the SACP for support through joint programmes.

As COSATU we say with the SACP on our side nothing can stop us from our journey towards the South Africa of the Freedom Charter as the most direct route to Socialism!

The SACP is our ally today, tomorrow and into the future of Socialism!!

Cde Bheki Ntshalintshali is COSATU Deputy General Secretary, Acting General Secretary.

 

Independent Interventions required in the media for balance in the battle of ideas

By Mr Lumko Mtimde

The "media", not a monolithic institution, during the dark days of apartheid was a battleground, as the former Justice Albie Sachs of the Constitutional Court, quoted in an article written by Maria Armoudian, (Truthout, 18 December 2013), put it, "overwhelmingly reflected the social situation".

The media under apartheid was, and under the constitutional democracy is, a powerful institution. It has tremendous power and influence – not just in South Africa, but on the world stage. It was, and is, part of an influential international community of institutions. The media has had a major influence on the thinking, attitude and behaviour of all who lived under apartheid rule in South Africa. Having said so, we cannot blankly condemn the role of mass media, during and post-apartheid. We must accept upfront, that the media is not homogenous and that therefore varying degrees of complicity, as there are varying degrees of welcome investigative journalism, courage and commitment to expose corruption, wrongs, bad, rights, good, the truth, etc., through accurate, factual and fair reporting.

It is just regrettable, after reading a lot of revelations exposed in the last few weeks by two editors of national newspapers, The Citizen's Steve Motale and The New Age's Moegsien Williams; resignation letters of some journalists; confessions and apologies at different debates by among others Stephen Grootes; etc., to accept that large sectors of the media failed in their obligation to fully inform their readers, viewers and listeners.

"Speaking of my perspective as one who was disenfranchised ... the Afrikaans and electronic media ... supported apartheid ... largely [acted as] mouthpieces of the ruling elite, hardly ever [as] the watchdogs," remarked Archbishop Desmond Tutu at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) media hearings.

On 30 September 1997, in its submission to the TRC, the ANC noted that:

“Those working in the media were denied certain rights as workers - they were prevented from collectively organising and mobilising. They were also affected as citizens - they were denied the right to freedom of association, freedom of movement and so on. However, they were particularly affected as gatherers and disseminators of information, as apartheid deprived them of a range of basic freedoms. Heavy censorship was applied to all publications and broadcasts throughout the period under review.

“The apartheid state imposed a complex web of legislation, designed to protect itself from exposure and control what people read, heard and saw. This legislation affected the activities of the police, the army, the prisons, the courts, parastatals, the public service and many other state institutions. It restricted the publication or broadcast of Information about the liberation movements; it threw a heavy blanket over entire communities and institutions; it prevented people from being quoted in the media; it gagged an entire nation, and subjected them to the views of a minority...

“During the states of emergency in the mid-80s, as the apartheid state came under increasing pressure from all sides, the regime stepped up its offensive against the media and imposed a virtual black-out on information. The impact of this repressive framework cannot be under-estimated. Control of the media was one of the most important tools in the apartheid arsenal, and a battery of censorship legislation undoubtedly played a role in helping to ensure the survival of the regime - in particular, in ensuring ongoing support from its key constituencies by keeping them in the dark. Individual media workers, and some media institutions, took great risks in their attempts to publish or broadcast the truth.

“Their untiring commitment to seeing that the truth came out played a vital role in bringing about the downfall of the apartheid system. Many media workers were jailed or detained in the course of their duties, and others left the country to escape repression. Several died on duty.

“The African National Congress pays tribute to their efforts, and to the part they played in bringing about democracy in our country. However, we also believe the South African media played other (broader) roles during the apartheid era, and we believe these roles need to be examined. This examination is vital if we are to understand our past, to bring about reconciliation, and to broaden our understanding of basic freedoms. It is also vital if we are to ensure true freedom of expression - including freedom of the media - in our new democracy.”

The ANC further noted that South Africa needs a watchdog media, not a lapdog media. The ANC in its submission believed the TRC can play a significant role in helping us to understand the role of the media in the past, which in turn can shape our understanding of the role of the media in the future.

A very important note to reflect on, as we receive (only) in 2015 an apology from the Naspers after 21 years of our democracy, the ANC in its TRC submission noted:

"Newspapers owned by Afrikaner capital Newspapers published by Afrikaner capital played a similar role to the SABC during the period under review. In particular, they represented the interests of their owners – Afrikaner capital – and played a part in ensuring the survival and growth of that sector of the economy. It championed the interests of a class who believed its very survival depended on apartheid.

“Like the national broadcaster, their agenda was set by the ruling party. Their primary functions was not to publish news and information but to advance the interests of the apartheid state among the core of its supporters – white Afrikaans-speaking people. Unashamedly pro-National Party, they functioned as party mouthpieces unaffected by notions of objectivity and balance. Managers and editors were almost exclusively drawn from the ranks of the Broederbond, with many working in close allegiance with senior National Party leaders. Titles such as Die Burger, Beeld, Rapport and Die Volksblad played a vital role in reinforcing the messages propagated by the SABC, and thereby advancing only the interests of the ruling party: justifying the actions of the, apartheid state (in particular the security establishment) and heatedly opposing the liberation movements.

“These newspapers played a major role in building morale among those white Afrikaners who supported apartheid - for example, by glorifying cross-border raids, and downplaying the successes of sanctions campaigns. These newspapers also assisted in the dangerous ‘demonisation’ of the liberation movements and their leadership, as well as less-effective political formations such as the liberal establishment. This led to increasing polarisation and hatred for people from other race groups. Apart from spreading disinformation, the newspapers of Afrikaner capital also denied South Africans access to other non-official sources of information and opinions. Large chunks of South African life went unreported in these newspapers, leading to increased ignorance and reinforcing the so-called ‘laager mentality’. This denial of information was one of the most important shortcomings of the Afrikaans-language press.

“There are examples of principled media workers who left the Afrikaans press because of dissatisfaction with its approach, or who waged their own struggle for the truth within these institutions; the African National Congress pays tribute to their commitment and resolve. Although this sector has become a process of self-transformation, and has separated itself somewhat from the interests of the National Party, we believe it still has much to answer for because of the role it played in reinforcing apartheid ideology and in shaping the mindset of Afrikaans speaking South Africans…

“Newspapers owned by English capital Owned and controlled by English capital more specifically by the mining magnates, the English-language press advanced the interests of this sector and championed its commitment to these interests.mTo understand this sector, it is worth referring to the recent submission to the TRC by the former Argus Company (now Independent Newspapers), in which the company concedes ‘shortcomings’ in its behaviour during the apartheid era. It makes several concessions, which the African National Congress believes can also be applied to the rest of the English-language press then owned by the mining companies:

* Insufficient effort was made to circumvent restrictions imposed by apartheid and other legislation.
* White perceptions monopolised judgements on the newsworthiness of particular information.
* The contribution of black editorial staff was not recognised.
* A ‘gradualist’ anti-apartheid policy was adopted, leaving the impression that English-language newspapers were colluding with the regime.”

The ANC also noted that the apartheid climate was that of intensive state propaganda and there was insufficient contact with the liberation movements. It then called on these newspapers to reflect honestly on the role they played during the apartheid era, for the sake of themselves and their readers. It noted that one of the greatest shortcomings of the apartheid state-owned and commercial media was its gullible acceptance of “dirty tricks” - its uncritical publication of lies spread by agents of the state.

In 1994, South Africa adopted a democratic legislative framework based on the constitution, protecting freedom of expression including media freedom, promotes access to information, right to communicate, independent regulation, media development and media diversity. Accordingly, a number of institutions were established to realize this, including Independent Communications Authority of SA (ICASA), Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA), NEMISA (IKAMVA), SENTECH, MICTSETA, ICT Charter, MAC Charter, etc. A lot of work has been done by these institutions. In the 21 years of our democracy, the media environment has changed significantly, more so in the broadcasting industry with public, community and commercial/private services, all overseen and regulated by an independent regulator, ICASA over and above the self-regulation by Broadcasting Complaints Committee of SA (BCCSA).

Sadly, little has transformed in the print media across the entire value chain (newsroom, publishing, printing, distribution, research and advertising). This has been confirmed not only by independent research reports, two by the MDDA, one in 2009 and another in 2014, but also by reviews conducted by the industry itself – the Press Freedom Commission, PFC headed by the late former Chief Justice Pius Langa, the Print and Digital Media Transformation Task Team (PDMTTT).

Whilst there is community and small commercial media supported by MDDA, the environment they operate under is not enabling. Largely they rely on the dominant, concentrated media houses for printing, distribution and proving their existence and circulation through Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC). The ABC is a company established by the concentrated media owners and its board not only is white dominated but is dominated by representatives from the very concentrated media owners.

Worse, regulation of this media is by structures set up and funded by the same concentrated media owners through their body Print Digital Media Southern Africa (PDMSA). Very interestingly, even against the acknowledgement of best practice and globally accepted principle of independent regulation by the PFC, this untransformed print media industry resists independent regulation.

Unbelievably, respected and seasoned editors like recently at the TNA/SABC Breakfast Show (The Big Media debate, Aug 2015), Ms Ferial Haffajee argued you cannot have independent and free media then regulation. This is baseless and cannot be supported by any evidence. I have already proved that in broadcasting, South Africa has independent regulation prescribed by Section 192 of the constitution and we have independent and free broadcasting services licensed by an independent regulator, ICASA.

In March 2012, the late, former Chief Justice Pius Langa and his team of nine persons, who were appointed by Print Media SA and SA National Editors Forum (SANEF) submitted the PFC Report, which supported the principle and need for independent regulation but recommended independent co-regulation as a compromise, a number of governance changes, waiving of the illegal waiver of the complainants right to pursue a legal route on lodging a complaint with the Press Ombudsman, media transformation, content diversification, skills development, media charter, a number of amendments to the Press Code, including:

"Revise the regime of sanctions based on a hierarchy of infractions and their corresponding sanctions, with a scale of ‘space fines’ and ‘monetary fines’.

The PFC report described Independent Co-Regulation as a system involving press and the public in majority. Presenting the PFC report, Chief Justice Langa said:

"To be an effective and responsible regulatory system, this mechanism must manifest administrative fairness and institutional independence from the industry it is to regulate."

Further, PFC recommended a revision of the regime of sanctions and that it must be based on a hierarchy of infractions and their corresponding sanctions. PFC recommended a scale of "space fines" for offenses pertaining to content of the press and "monetary fines" for guilty publications that flout the summons and rulings of the Ombudsman. Recommendations from both the PDMTTT and the PFC have not being fully implemented.

Editors are organised under the SANEF umbrella, a very important organ of the profession, whose representativity is questionable. Not all editors from the biggest broadcaster in the continent, the SABC, and from the fast growing community broadcasting sector are proportionally represented in the Forum. Even with respect to print media, not all editors from some of the new players like The New Age are participating in the Forum. This does not suggest I am questioning its role, I am simply saying our challenge in South Africa, is to ensure we represent fairly our diversity.

Whenever, very important questions are asked in respect to transformation of the media, the hysteric tendency and reaction is to cry a threat to media freedom. Media transformation is not a threat to media freedom, instead the opposite, concentration of media ownership and control in few hands is a real threat to our democracy.

We need a free and diverse media, representative of diverse views and opinions, including class, gender, rural and other perspectives.

The right of the public to a free media is indisputable. It is an essential component of South Africa’s democracy – which depends on informed citizens participating in all aspects of our society. There are many aspects to this – and for the media to play its role, it needs to be trusted and seen as credible by the public. Independent regulation is crucial to this – intended to act in the public interest and provide a means for redress if any publication breaches the fundamental responsibility of journalism – to tell the truth and give all sides of, an equal opportunity to tell their, story.

It is now three years after the press committed to addressing flaws identified in the system of self-regulation in response to the findings of the PFC. If the new system worked, we should be seeing its effects on the pages of newspapers – with a higher commitment and more effort put in to reporting the truth rather than distorting this for a “sensational” headline. The problem is not that the self-regulatory system does not find the media at fault. It does. And papers are regularly ordered to say sorry for their “blunders”.

The PFC, as well as a number of international protocols including the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa (2002), acknowledge independent regulation mechanism as appropriate for the regulation of journalistic content. It is also accepted by a number of constitutional dispensations that protect media freedom that regulation ought to be performed through the post-publication administration of complaints and no pre-publication censorship is allowed.

But will a system, that does not affect the bottom line of publishers or the performance bonuses of editors and journalists, ever really ensure that ethics are adhered to?

The danger of not doing this is that the media will increasingly be viewed with scepticism (and the falling circulations of print publications) might be due, in part, at least to their lack of credibility and relevance to readers.

The argument by some in the media, when we talk about ineffectiveness of self- or co-regulation as opposed to independent regulation, is that readers have an option to not buy a newspaper when it loses its credibility, is flawed.

Which newspaper, in our context, will you buy if you decide not to buy our daily or Sunday newspapers?

That argument could work if we had media diversity. Besides, we are saying media must be accountable like everyone and this requirement of accountability was confirmed by the PFC.

Print media though declining, remains powerful. Whilst some readership (except that of TNA Media, community and small commercial media which is reasonable growing) is declining, some broadcasting newsrooms use the newspapers in their diary rooms and in talk shows, as basis of information. Therefore, print media remains powerful and must exercise its freedom and rights responsibly.

Digitisation has led to growing online, mobile and digital media. Business models of our media houses have to adapt and change their business strategies and plan. There remains a market for print media, there are areas in our country (mostly rural) that still do not have access to any newspaper and rely exclusively on radio. People in these areas also do need access to diverse information. Even though some of these areas, at least those with connectivity, have access to social media but their access is limited because of the cost of communication. They have to decide between buying data bundles and bread.

Therefore, they do not have the same access to new media as some of us in Sandton, Eastgate, Tshwane, Cape Town, Ethekwini, Nelson Mandela Metro, etc. So, we should not romanticise the revolution on the internet. We need access to affordable fast speed broadband for all South Africans and the meantime the traditional media remains powerful and must be accountable. Currently, there is no Free Wi-fi everywhere in our country.

The PFC report attempted to bring public interest into the regime of self-regulation. It also recommended ways of discouraging the practice of unethical and gutter journalism which compromises the journalistic profession.

The question is to what extent were its recommendations taken seriously?

The ANC in its 52nd and 53rd conferences, Polokwane and Mangaung decided that an inquiry/public hearings must be held by the Parliament Portfolio Committee on Communications, reflecting on the PFC Report and investigate the desirability of establishing an independent appeals mechanism, as one way of promoting media accountability mechanism, having regard to the constitution.

The 4th Parliament could not conduct this inquiry but initiated the process and held hearing on media transformation. There has been enough opportunity given to the market (print media sector) to transform. As a historical reality, the market has failed. There is now all the reports and recommendations to guide discussions in Parliament.

The issue for discussion was not about the wording like whether it is called Media Appeals Tribunal (MAT) as other people reacted to the word “tribunal”. Also, the issue was never about state or government control or state regulation or pre-publication censorship or registration of journalists. On the contrary, it has always been about media accountability mechanisms including independent regulation, acknowledgement of other rights like the right to human dignity, privacy, etc., and compliance with the constitution, the law and the Press Code.

Contrary to misleading information perpetrated by the press, a statutory created system does not mean state or government control. Besides international examples, even here in at home, there is a number of independent bodies created by statutes, like Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), Public Protector, ICASA, IBA, etc.

As part of the above-mentioned parliamentary process and noting the recommendations of the PFC, regard has to be taken as to how do we discourage the compromise of the integrity of the journalism profession; how do we discourage breaching and non-compliance with the constitution, other laws and the Press Code; how do we strengthen self-regulation; how do we ensure that human dignity and rights of the affected are protected by the regulatory system; how do we ensure appeal is through an independent regulatory body, do we impose fines guided by the different tiers in the Press Council Complaints Procedures and how much; do we fire editors and subeditors who preside over the breaching of the Press Code; and generally what needs to be done to protect media freedom FOR ALL, transformation and promotion of media diversity.

Selective implementation of the PFC’s recommendation and the reasons used by the Press Ombudsman in their recent judgements against acting harsh in sanctioning the media including its refusal to prominently mainstream apologies, what should be amended on the Press Code to strengthen its effectiveness? Of further consideration is whether South Africa should amend the defamation laws for effective regulation in the public interest? The defamatory route could be a quick fix that could impose effective remedies including fines. What else can be done to strengthen print media independent regulation, of cause within the framework of the constitution?

Yes, and no doubt, we need freedom of expression and we must protect it, but this right is for all South Africans, not a few. Diverse media is critical and transformation of our media landscape is non-negotiable.

As the citizenry and the media industry, we need to have a dialogue and a conversation on these matters in the public interest and prescribe a system that promotes trust in the media – and therefore reinforces and protects freedom of expression, media freedom but also respect all other rights enshrined in our constitution. Our media must be free, independent, diverse, be vibrant, investigate and report wrongs and corruption, but all must be done within the four corners of the law. We need factual, accurate, correct and truthful reporting.

The media should recognise the importance of dispassionately reflecting on and evaluating their actions. As individual media workers and other employees come forward with their own testimony, we must welcome these and start mapping a way forward for a future of free, independent and accountable media overseen by strong independent regulator, with acceptable consequences for non-compliance with the Press Code and the applicable Code of Conduct.

There is now, more than ever before, an urgent need for all South African media institutions to probe their past and to come forward to establish the truth, promote reconciliation and nation building, consider all recommendations from the COMTASK, PFC, PDMTTT, MDDA, GCIS-Media Landscape, etc., towards the strengthening of the basic media freedoms for all and bring back the integrity of the profession.

Arising out of Parliament’s expected inquiry, should be clear interventions in respect of media accountability mechanisms and transformation.

Mr Lumko Mtimde is ICT, media and broadcasting policy and regulatory expert

 

Capitalist greed

By Walter Mothapo

"A party that is not confident in itself cannot win the confidence of the masses. Without a strong party leadership, having the power to act promptly and direct the activities of the members, a revolutionary party cannot exist", Vladimir Lenin,1908

Recently an unusual story broke in the media, especially TV. It was about a wealthy American dentist and part-time hunter who killed a much loved or should I say, celebrated lion in Zimbabwe National Park.

Reason?

Pursuit for trophy hunting.

This indeed enraged animal rights groups both in the U.S. and Zimbabwe alike to an extent that there was a call for his extradition. The irony of the call is that all of a sudden there was united faith in a highly vilified Zimbabwean justice system. This single incident in itself, though not isolated, is a case in point of the destructive nature of capitalism.

This specific killing of a lion, I would argue, symbolises a classic example of crass materialism in practice and the vile nature of capitalist morality. The destruction of the environment, plunder of resources, cultural and political dominance by powerful countries are all threads of a modern day imperialism.

Forget about big political lexicon and extravagant theories. The simple analogy is that if the capitalist thesis prevails the communist antithesis would be a natural response. Communists would continue to assert and maintain the argument that capitalism does not have a human face in all its manifestations.

The illustration of the hunter as a protagonist in this capitalist episode of ego, selfishness and greed serves to warn the opponents and vociferous critics of the SACP, that for as long as the world is not a better, safer and egalitarian place to live in, there is no question about the relevance of Marxism. Our Marxism is not about dogma, sterile theory, revolutionary nostalgia or historical or cultural sentiment. Ours is a living philosophy that guides us in firmly responding to world's injustices.

The SACP's raison d'etre and objectives are made salient in our 10th Congress Discussion Document entitled "Our Marxism". The document asserts, among others, that "our belief is that the struggle for a socialist transition is not about a simple choice between reform or revolution, but a challenge to combine reform and revolution in a sustained mass based transformational struggle." I would like to contend that most of the discourses that ensue within the liberation movement miss this simple dialectics.

Whether we reflect on the National Democratic Revolution, National Development Plan, the Freedom Charter, the role of the judiciary, the media and even questioning in a bizarre way the relevance and role of each other's organisations, we often fail to link the notions of reform, transformation and revolution, as well as contextualising the role of the masses.

Let's take a lesson for an example from our revolutionary icon Nelson Mandela on his less talked about reflections on the Freedom Charter. Mandela says there are two things we should bear in mind when we execute the Freedom Charter. First we have to identify the social forces that propel it. Second we must 'educate, empower and mobilise those social forces to struggle for it". His point is that we can't ponder carrying out any radical policy or programme based on the Freedom Charter without 'consciountising' the masses about it so that they remain mobilised on its defence. But do we do that or propose alternatives to Mandela's perspective?

No, instead 'comrade experts' outperform each other on who is still loyal to the Freedom Charter and who can best implement it. This leads to a futile debate that does not in any way appeal or resonate with the wishes of the people.

Our Party cynics need to be reminded of the historical occurrence that happened as early as 1927 during the contestation between Josiah Gumede and Plexley ka Isaka Seme for ANC leadership along the nationalist and socialist ideological lines. That nearly split and weakened the formative organisation. The lesson learnt was that the medley of nationalist and socialist ideologies are the 'two wings that make the liberation movement to fly'. Hence the ANC even today recognises and even celebrate this ideological co-existence.

Now, we were asked by our adversaries paradoxically on the eve of the SACP's 94th anniversary to ignore history and thus turn a blind eye on our rich heritage and the institutional memory that provide compass and landscape to solve our current political challenges. Lest we are accused of existence only for historical significance. If we succumb to this proposition how different are we going to be from the DA, COPE and EFF to mention but a few who have no history and collective wisdom to show?

Those who question the relationship between the SACP and the ANC must tell us of any constitutional meeting of the ANC that resolved SACP members must no longer simultaneously join the ANC and vice-versa. And that when the long standing principle of dual membership continues how it then constitutes factionalism?

After all what is factionalism because we seem to coin everyone we disagree with as factionalists?

If lobbying for positions leads to open "horse-trading" taking place within the constitutional provisions of the movement and no underhand deals are made or money exchanged; how is that called factionalism?

Strangely Trevor Manuel's labelling of the Party as factional came after the recent Alliance Summit that heaped praise on the SACP as the most stable and factional-free component of the Alliance.

The ANC is often referred to as a 'broad church' or an 'omnibus' because it embraces all schools of progressive ideological thought. Granted, but it would be prudent to take a leaf from the ANC's 2011 January 08 statement that states: "Whilst others may change allegiances and their mission with shifting sands of illusion, the ANC remains consistent. We adapt to and move with the times, but our mission remains the creation of a united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous society. The ANC is the most consistent entity for transformation of our society". I reckon communists and non-communists alike need to heed to this profound call, lest they vacillate and think that they have arrived at the final destination of an omnibus like Manuel does.

It is crucial for us as members of the SACP not to get distracted in our revolutionary course by all the brouhaha emanating from the political doldrums. Our Marxism is about knowing on which side of the fence or the class divide we are. And this is an ongoing, multi-dimensional and protracted struggle. Happy 94th anniversary SACP!

Walter Mothapo is a member of the Provincial Executive Committee of the SACP in Limpopo, and writes in personal capacity.

Umsebenzi Online is the online voice of the South African Working Class

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