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Umsebenzi Online

Volume 14, No. 35, 10 September 2015

In this Issue:

Hot Red Alert

The revolution will not be televised, is it different for workers in the media, workers at e-TV and e-NCA?

By Alex Mashilo

Media transformation in South Africa to de-monopolise the industry, especially the press and the pay TV market, to build diversity and ensure accountability must include workplace transformation and decent work for all, including for journalists, regardless of race and gender. The persistence of the apartheid workplace characterised by a white-top and black-bottom pyramid in which the higher you go the better it becomes, and, inversely, the lower you remain the tougher it is; in the media, its impact on news content and coverage, have not been given adequate attention. This is coupled with unequal treatment of workers, unequal distribution of pay, benefits and authorities on a racial and gender basis.

In addition, let us recall that in the Communist Manifesto Karl Marx and Frederick Engels say workers are not the slaves of the bourgeois class only, but are daily and hourly enslaved by the over-looker. Therefore the managers play a crucial role in facilitating the exploitation of workers.

Recent developments in the media - as the workplace - reminded us about the content of this analysis.

In the media, the managers might perhaps be playing the most decisive role given the industry's separation between ownership and operational control. Where this model works "perfectly", which appears as the case at e-TV and e-NCA, those who own do not exercise a say on the selection of news, news content and coverage, as well as on the entire field of related operational management. This is reserved, exclusively, to the managers who exercise editorial functions and associated oversight roles.

Last week the workers at e-SAT, commonly known as e-TV and e-NCA went out publicly in what they called "We are not free at e". They released a statement and said it was time members of the public know what is going on in the media as the world of work, at e-TV and e-NCA. The news of their plight, being "not free at e", did not make it in the media, starting where they are working for the public to see, hear and read.

Gil Scott-Heron's 'The revolution will not be televised', a phrase Scott-Heron adopted from the slogan of the 1960s struggles in the United States against the oppression suffered by black people, became as true as his first single 'Home is where hatred is'.

According to much of the media, everybody or other institutions and social actors in society need to be kept in check, and, importantly, by the media too functioning as the "fourth estate" (the fourth power - i.e. if one considers our context with Parliament, the Executive/Cabinet and Judiciary as the first to the third power) as part of society's checks and balances! In his book On Heroes and Hero Worship, Thomas Carlyle attributes the origins of the concept "fourth estate" to Edmund Burke who (is said to have) used it in a parliamentary debate in Britain, 1787, on the opening up of press reporting of the House of Commons. The "fourth estate" (that sat in the reporters gallery), Burke (is attributed to have) said, is more important, far than the three arms of the state that had gathered in parliament.

But then who independently keeps such an important power in check? According to the media, there must be none!

Let us recall that accountability to or regulation by the self is neither accountability nor regulation at all. If it were not so, the very existence of the role expected of, if not already accorded to the media - and by the media itself - as one of the important elements of the checks and balances to the exercise of power in society will be nothing but a negation of the negation.

Let us briefly look at what the workers at e-TV and e-NCA are complaining about.

They want to exercise their constitutional right of freedom of association which is further given effect to in the Labour Relations Act, to join a trade union. They want a workplace forum to discuss workplace transformation.

According to their analysis, e-SAT "has over 70% black employees; and the viewership is 87% black, yet the top management (is) made up of white males only". The workers want this discussed. They believe that the absence of transformation at e-SAT has a negative bearing on news content and coverage.

All of this indicates, according to the workers, that: "The company pays lip service to transformation, enabling an atmosphere where racism and racist innuendos thrive. Just this past week (a week before last) a white female employee referred to Indians as "Coolies" on the Output Desk. No action has been taken against her".

According to the workers at e-SAT, the massive black audience of e-TV and e-NCA finds no expression in the editorial policy that is driven by the white-only top management. At "an editorial meeting earlier this year", say the workers about a top manager who allegedly said: "reporting on rural areas is pointless because the 'middle class doesn't care about the poor'". The e-NCA's Africa Bureau was closed and 50 workers were retrenched, according to the workers, despite the ironical fact that e-NCA calls itself e-News Channel Africa. Meanwhile: "In May 2015, top management received 10% Salary increases and performance bonuses", said the workers who further asked: "Performance for what? How can they be rewarded for job losses?"

The aggrieved workers further draw the attention of the public to the alleged utterances of the same top manager on another occasion, where "he stated that the AU Summit (held in South Africa recently) was 'boring' and not worthwhile". And then they conclude: "African issues clearly have no prevalence" at e-NCA.

Cde Alex Mohubetswane Mashilo is SACP Spokesperson, and writes in his capacity as a Fulltime Professional Revolutionary


Bolstering fraternal relations with Vietnam

By Chris ‘CHE’ Matlhako and Alex Mashilo

South African Communist Party (SACP) Secretary for International Affairs, full time member of the Central Committee and Politburo, Comrade Chris Matlhako is on a working visit to Vietnam. He is attending Asia-Pacific Regional Conference for Solidarity with Cuba. During the visit, he met with various leaders from across the world.

Continuously developing the SACP as the vanguard party of the working class for socialism, and building its capacity to live up to the challenge of proving leadership in the ongoing struggle to achieve the immediate aims and interests of the working class, require the party to widen and strengthen international relations and co-operation with other revolutionary parties in the world working class movement. This is Matlako’s mission in all engagements abroad. On Tuesday, 8 September he met with the Vietnamese Communist Party Central Committee Commission for External Relations led by Comrade Hoang Binh Quan in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam.

Matlhako and Quan briefed each other about the unfolding situations in South Africa and Vietnam, respectively. They pledged on behalf of the SACP and the Vietnamese Communist to deploy the best of their capacity to enhance solidarity and friendship between the two Parties and their democratic peoples.

The communist leaders discussed the importance this work has as the political foundation to bolster the economic, trade and investment relations between South Africa and Vietnam. This is crucial, in turn, in the struggle to meet the immediate aims of the working class in the two countries and in advancing the historical mission of the struggle for socialism in its international character and scientific basis as the path to the shared vision for a classless, communist, society. Both the SACP and the Vietnamese Communist Party see this as the only path to the universal emancipation of humanity from the problem and problems of capitalism.

Quan made use of the opportunity of meeting with Matlako to thank the SACP and the democratic people of South Africa for supporting the struggle for national liberation that Vietnam fought against colonial and imperialist occupation and domination.

Cde Chris ‘Che’ Matlhako is fulltime SACP Central Committee and Politburo member and serves as Secretary for International Affairs; Cde Alex Mohubetswane Mashilo, SACP Spokesperson, joined him in the work in his capacity as Fulltime Professional Revolutionary


Celebrating the 70th anniversary of Vietnam’s declaration of independence

By Chris Matlako

Vietnam marked the 70th anniversary of its declaration of independence on the 2 September, with huge festivities across the country and a spectacular event in Hanoi’s Ba Dinh Square. On 2 September 1945, comrade Ho Chi Minh, who was to become the president of the country, stood on a makeshift podium and proclaimed Vietnam independent from France, hours after Japan’s surrender in World War 2. President Ho Chi Minh declared: “All men are born equal; the Creator has given us inviolable rights, life, liberty and happiness”, borrowing from the French moto; ‘liberte, egalite, fraternite’.

This was a historic moment in Vietnam; for immediately thereafter, the country descended into war for total emancipation and sovereignty, from late 1945 until finally uniting and defeating the enemy in 1975. Ho Chi Minh led the anti-colonial struggle against colonialists until his death, 25 years later after declaring independence from France on 2 September 1969 and six years before his forces succeeded in re-uniting North and South Vietnam in 1975.

September 2nd is therefore very significant for Vietnam and its people. They mark the anniversary of the declaration of independence and simultaneously, of death of the great leader of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh. It is history’s ironies that President Ho Chi Minh died on the exact anniversary day, when 29 years earlier he had declared Vietnam independent from France. Vietnam's Independence Day, therefore, rings a dual tribute: to the end of colonial rule; remember the death the founding leader of modern-day Vietnam known throughout the country, and the world, as Uncle Ho!

Indeed, we are celebrating the brave heroes of Vietnam, including the outstanding leadership of President Ho Chi Minh. We honour the brave and heroic people of Vietnam, who dared to take on the combined might of imperialism and declared their sovereignty and united towards final victory in 1975. It is in celebration of the great leadership of President Ho Chi Minh, who gave his all to Vietnam and its course for national liberation and social emancipation. We join in their celebrations, and observe the immense contribution to the international struggle for political liberation and social emancipation, of Vietnam’s declaration of independence and ultimate victory over the forces of colonialism and dealing imperialism, including the United States, a crushing defeat.

We join the people of Vietnam in our longstanding fraternal relations with them. Our common struggles for national liberation, benefitted significantly from each other. The national liberation movement and progressives in and outside joined the international condemnation and campaigned against the imperialist war on Vietnam. The people of Vietnam shared their strategies and tactics with the national liberation movements of the world, altering the struggle significantly in the late in 1970. In 1978 OR Tambo led a delegation to Vietnam where they attended numerous lectures and met with activists in the Vietnamese struggles. Subsequent to the visit, he commissioned a Politico-Military Strategy Council to lay the groundwork for mass support and mass mobilisation leading to the dislodging of apartheid in 1994.

The Commission recommended a programme whereby all opposition groups within the country would join forces around a broad programme of opposition to apartheid. On the occasion of the award by World Peace Council (WPC) in 1986, comrade OR Tambo, the Ho Chi Minh Peace Award, said:

“We reined proud to be associated with the name of Ho Chi Minh, a revolutionary gain and genius, a patriot who devoted the greater part of his life to the liberation of his fatherland. His was a life of intense struggle, hardship, simplicity, clarity of vision and sacrifices that contributed immensely to the heroic victory of the Vietnamese people over French colonialism and Japanese and American aggression. This most historic victory over a combination of colonialists and powerful imperialist forces inspired and encouraged the oppressed in South Africa and served as a spur to the peoples fighting for freedom and national independence everywhere. Ho Chi Minh’ devotion to the liberation struggle and his strong commitment to the ideals of peace and friendship among peoples, won him a special place of honour and respect among Vietnamese and peace-loving peoples the world over”.

Cde Chris ‘Che’ Matlhako is fulltime SACP Central Committee and Politburo member, and serves as Secretary for International Affairs

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