Umsebenzi Online

Volume 10, No. 7, 6 April 2011

In this Issue:


Editors Note

On the 27th March 2011 Mondli Makhanya wrote in the Sunday Times an article about the SACP taking a low jibe at the organisation and our analysis of the current political moment. Our Marxist-Leninist reading of teh situation has been reduced to nothing but seeing conspiracies.

Our Deputy General Secretary responded to this unfortunate diatribe. His article was hidden somewhere in an irrelevant section of the letters section and it was significantly reduced - so much for democratic engagement with the media. This is just proof of how intolerant and self serving our media is.

For the benefit of our reader we hereby reproduce the full article to enable you to see how Mr Makhanya was exposed.

Yours in Socialism

Umsebenzi On Line Editor

Red Alert

Response to Mondli Makhanya

Jeremy Cronin

Mondli Makhanya ("Today`s SACP, seeing a liberal conspiracy under every bed", Sunday Times, March 27, 2011) unwittingly illustrates one of the main issues that I (and others in the ANC alliance) have been trying to underline for many years. The commercial media in South Africa wields enormous, undemocratic power in its ability to set the parameters of public debate. How the media shapes and misshapes the terms of a debate, how the story gets told, quickly congeals into incontestable fact. Anything that does not fit within the paradigm is simply inaudible.

Consider Makhanya`s piece last week. He seeks to portray an SACP in decline from an erstwhile robust critic of government, prepared to speak "truth to power", into a captured formation defending the Establishment. As evidence, Makhanya uses several interventions I have made over the past decade.

Exhibit A goes back to 2002. That was when the SACP, according to Makhanya, could still "be relied upon to exercise principle." In 2002 I am supposed to have apologized, under duress, to the ANC for having warned of the dangers of "Zanufication". The story about "Zanufication" and my apology is precisely one of those media-shaped stories that have now congealed into "fact". In actuality, I never apologized to the ANC for warning of the dangers of "Zanufication". Yes, I was the butt of an orchestrated daylong castigation in the ANC`s NEC in August 2002, but nobody asked me to apologise for the "Zanufication" remark. So what actually happened?

In 2001 and early 2002 I gave two interviews to an Irish colleague and academic, Helena Sheehan. I never intended for them to be published. Sheehan, however, posted transcripts on an obscure website. I was remiss in not checking what was actually posted - some of it rather loose gossip. In the course of the interviews I said that in power any liberation movement needed to guard against the dangers of "Zanufication". I added any communist party needed, likewise, to guard against "Stalinisation". (That latter point didn`t suit the subsequent media agenda of pitting the SACP against the ANC and was simply ignored).

If I initially failed to read what was posted on the internet, others within President Mbeki`s inner circle were more diligent. They`ve since told me my interviews were downloaded in early 2002 and stored for later use. And so, lo and behold, in the very week before the SACP`s July 2002 elective national congress, the Sunday Times happily lent its front page headline to ANC sources mounting a personal attack on me for my "Zanufication" remarks. As a ploy to influence the SACP elections this predictably failed. The attempt to deal with me then flowed over into the ANC`s NEC. There I apologized for the clumsiness of some of what was said about individual comrades. I regretted my clumsiness had opened the door for what was a sectarian attempt to portray the SACP as oppositionist. I stand by that apology.

Let`s now fast forward to the more recent period in which the SACP has supposedly become an unprincipled "part of the Establishment".

Makhanya`s Exhibit B consists of interventions by some of us at the time of the COSATU-convened civil society conference last year. According to Makhanya, "Cronin was …blunt in his criticism of the re-emergence of civil society activism". On the contrary, both the SACP and my own interventions welcomed COSATU`s convening of this conference, but asked critical questions about its strategic intent. We absolutely need social movement activism and popular power to check, balance AND support government with its transformation mandate. But we also need popular power to counter and transform other key nodes of power, not least big corporate (including media) capital. Makhanya`s classical liberal paradigm simply cannot hear, see, or digest this latter point.

Which brings me to Makhanya`s Exhibit C - a recent piece I wrote for Umsbenzi Online. At its 2007 Polokwane national conference, the ANC passed a resolution calling for a discussion on an independent media appeals tribunal. For what it`s worth, I am skeptical that such an entity would address the real systemic problems we are facing in the media. I have written several pieces to this effect. However, I have strongly supported the ANC`s right to call for a discussion on the matter.

The debate has, I believe, served a useful purpose. Generally editors have conceded the self-regulatory mechanisms had been woefully inadequate. There has been a small flurry of self-corrective behaviour. Another positive has been a recent survey of journalists by the National Press Club. It paints a picture of a demoralized profession under siege from profit maximizing corporate management. That was what my Umsebenzi Online piece was about. I was trying to "speak truth to power" - or, rather, let the voices of journalists in the survey (a survey almost totally ignored in the commercial media by the way) speak truth to their media bosses. Makhanya distorts my intention and presents it, instead, as an attempt to "flog the dead horse" of a tribunal "back to life".

Yes, Makhanya, as a deputy minister I am part of the political Establishment. I hope it will not dull my critical and self-critical faculties. But let`s not be disingenuous, as editor-in-chief of Avusa Media Newspapers - one of three multi-billion rand media oligopolies in South Africa - you are a ranking member of another, powerful and all too often smug, Establishment. I sincerely hope that won`t dull what I have often admired - your self-critical sensibilities.

Jeremy Cronin, SACP Deputy General Secretary


ELECTIONS 2011 - Victory is Cardinal! We Dare Not Fail!

Lechesa Tsenoli

"The state must create conditions, stimulate, mobilise and coordinate. It is, potentially at least, primarily an ally of the people and not an alien power that rules over them; it takes upon itself the needs of the people, identifies with their lot and tries to use its power to change things for the better for everyone." Jan Marijnissen from ENOUGH! A socialist bites back

The forthcoming local government elections on May 18 will be the toughest we have to win for the African National Congress (ANC)! Our extended central committee late last year once more confirmed our decision to support the ANC in these crucial elections.

The entire trade union movement, the mass democratic movement must be mobilised behind this task as the revolutionary potential lies nowhere else! Despite the difficulties of the nomination process within the ANC our cadres, activists and members must work flat out to ensure victory for the movement.

The spirit of no surrender, even to these seemingly intractable problems, must prevail - we owe it the revolutionary demands of the moment. It is the SACPs 90th anniversary and these elections take place a year before the ANCs centenary.

But most importantly we have to sustain the momentum for the transformation of the lives of the working class in the urban and rural areas who we have correctly argued must NOW MORE THAN EVER benefit visibly thru decent work, education, health, rural development and crime and corruption free environment!

The election campaign offers us an opportunity to work together in an integrated way to cement in action our relationship as the alliance ahead of the most important milestone of the revolution in our country as our ally, the ANC, turns 100!

Victory is cardinal! We dare not fail!

The elections campaign also takes place against the backdrop of high political turmoil in the North of Africa, people in those countries are rising against tyranny and the western powers expectedly and opportunistically are seeking to impose their agenda on the outcomes of those uprisings.

The ripple effect of those uprisings are yet to be fully determined - vigilance however remains the watchword for revolutionaries everywhere. One thing certain is that the credibility of multilateral institutions as well as those of the western power s suffered further in these events!

The elections further takes place also against the backdrop of persistent poverty and inequality which shows up in the huge structural unemployment levels and a economic growth trajectory that previously benefited only a few.

These elections will take place in middle of global capitalist crisis which exacerbated poverty, unemployment and the scramble for oil, water, coal becoming even more intense threatening every one`s sustainable livelihoods. Climate change is itself making the working class and the poor even more vulnerable. Disasters such as the flooding, drought and fires are putting pressure on societies everywhere thus driving migration and urbanisation into bigger, richer, cities and towns from rural villages and settlements.

The strong advances made to-date to provide services and reverse the remaining backlogs are a challenge particularly because of the situation we described above. The promise of the New Growth Path and IPAP2 must find creative expression in the local economies in order to ground them in turning people`s lives around for the better!

Clearly both interventions must be rooted in an ecologically sustainable framework - meaning the green agenda is made even more urgent by the reality we know of neoliberal disregard for the exploitation of nature and people! We are RED and GREEN!

We have to implement the call by the department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs for a cooperative per ward to inculcate among our people the lessons of collective productive enterprise work. Failure of previous attempts is no excuse not to put more effort into succeeding this time around!

The dialectic between the macro and micro interventions in the economy, must be a source of inclusive growth that expands jobs especially green jobs and services sustainably, faster than has been the case so far.

The integrated development plans which increasingly are being aligned with budgets must as a matter of regular priority be a reflection of the peoples demand s but also be credible because national and provincial departments have contributed resources for competences which are theirs. Gross under funding of municipalities and limited slow production of highly required skills especially in the technical fields are examples where national government must step in!

Both factors, the quality of public participation and the cooperation of the entire government to respond in a timely manner to the outcomes of public involvement is what will effectively meet the democratic demands OF THE PEOPLE.

The municipal Turn Around Strategies as guided and supported nationally will be key to showing the commitment of the state to be responsive to issues raised by the people. If properly implemented the impact will be huge. Strengthening the state especially in this instance the local state is a key priority!

It however starts in the people we deploy in these structures, how deeply we capacitated them and principally the relationship they have with the constitutional structures. Local stable public administration and governance is not possible without addressing these issues head on!

The Municipal Systems Amendment Bill recently approved unanimously in parliament is the first legal intervention after the adoption of The State of Local Government Report - a fairly robust assessment of the state of health in municipalities.

It is the first Turn Around Strategy bill so to speak, others will follow. It was not offered as a panacea, a cure all in local government, but as a catalytic legal intervention that must be supported by intense disciplined political internal work.

It aims among other things to empower the minister responsible

  1. to further regulate aspects of local government,
  2. renders null and void employing people not qualified for the posts advertised,
  3. strengthens requirements for skills and competences for key jobs,
  4. removes contracts for section 57 managers - who report to municipal managers - to be employed like all permanent staff,
  5. prohibits people who are office bearers in their political parties from continuing in those positions once appointed as officials of municipalities ( following anc nec and ngc resolutions) ,
  6. requires blacklisting for ten years for officials found guilty of fraud or corruption ,
  7. instructs councillors not to vote for illegal resolutions making it a violation of the code of conduct

Even though the bill was agreed to unanimously in the portfolio committee after been sent to NEDLAC, COSATU/SAMWU still disagreed with at least three aspects of the proposed law. These matters will continue to be discussed in all our appropriate structures.

It will however be the political leadership, building coherence and unity in the caucuses, effective community involvement via ward committees and other forms of meaningful participation and working together with others that will truly make these systems work for building better communities.

The peoples call for a responsive government expressed in meetings and through the public media is an urgent call! It is consistent with the decisive ANC NGC call for the renewal of the ANC to urgently reclaim our revolutionary morality, serve selflessly, ethically and with integrity and reject the neo-liberal greedy ethos of `everyone for himself or herself and the devil takes the hindmost`. The people must be the ones we serve first! The working class in particular has borne the brunt of slow delivery

We must pay tribute, lest we forget, to those who served their movement and their communities in the municipalities with integrity and commitment, some of them were killed, who may not return as elected councillors for whatever reason. The incoming councillors must emulate them, be uncompromising in the service of the communities, against corruption, greed and crass materialism.

It is our campaigns such as the Know Your Neighbourhood, which is an alliance campaign that will keep us and our elected councillors and officials on our toes every time. We must activate all organs of peoples power to truly exercise influence and protect the peoples interests.

The local government manifesto now becomes the guide for work that must done!


Lechesa Tsenoli is SACP CC Member


Something is amiss

Lazola Ndamase

Strange events have taken place the past three weeks in the South African media. One such event relates to a paper published by The Times on my behalf in its print edition (Monday, April 4). When I read the paper published on my behalf by The Times, it was as though I had met myself for the first time. Not only is the paper a gross distortion of my views but The Times Editorial truly abused me. Words were inserted which changed the complexity of the paper and in some cases literally sentences. Apart from the fact that I felt abused, I felt insulted. A paper that was about keeping our eyes on the ball of free education was turned into something else it was not.

The expectation is, when an opinion piece is being edited, at least the journalists concerned will remove but not add words. In this case literally an entire sentence was added to the paper. Some words were inserted in some sentences that totally threw off the whole meaning of the original sentence. If this is not violation, I do not know what else is. At least I would have expected that The Times would e-mail me the paper they wrote on my behalf in order for me to either approve or reject being their bogey man. They did not do that.

As a result my original paper was long published in our online Journal (Moithuti). This paper was also submitted to ANC Today but later withdrawn for another paper I have written and submitted for publication. I do not think this distortion and perversion of my paper was by mistake. It is part of a broader campaign.

What illustrates this is the fact that, on March 29, a day after we wrote a statement refuting allegations carried in the Sunday Independent that our organization is part of a conspiracy to remove Blade Nzimande as SACP General Secretary; The New Age ran a story still including our organization as part of this plot. The impunity with which this was carried out was as though The New Age was oblivious of our statement refuting this allegation.

The so-called balanced view was not so balanced on this matter. It still carried the lie that there is a conspiracy that includes a whole range of social forces to remove SACP General Secretary. What`s most unfair about this is that it contributed to totally defocusing the public discourse from our principled call for free education into an arena that has nothing to do with our student movement: the election and non-election of SACP leaders.

As though this is not enough, the Sunday Independent has been running what I call the "Blade Nzimande series" for three consecutive weeks now. Interestingly all these stories are written by one journalist (George Matlala). I do not usually buy the Sunday Independent; however, the "Blade Nzimande series" has made it a regular on my desk in case it carries one allegation or another against SASCO. Luckily this weekend we were not included.

Something is clearly amiss here. I do not question the credibility of the stories by George Matlala if he has his sources, however, what type of stories can come packaged into a three-week series? Another question that we must ask is, why did George Matlala conspire to include SASCO in a conspiracy without even an iota of evidence that indeed we are part of this? For that matter, the story does not even quote an anonymous source from our organization. This was not by mistake.

George Matlala wanted to communicate an idea of a left movement at war with itself. That is why it is not surprising that the organizations at the centre of these stories are SASCO, YCL, SACP, COSATU and its affiliates. These are left movements firmly committed to the struggle for socialism, and what better way to weaken their struggle against capitalism than to set them against each other, in a most bitter and violent witch-hunt.

I am of the firm view that George Matlala is not just innocently reporting about stories he has found, but is using these stories for a broader agenda. This broader agenda has everything to do with attempting to influence the outcomes of the SACP National Congress and that of COSATU. George Matlala, like everyone else, has a right to seek a particular outcome in a COSATU or SACP conference, however, why use his position as a journalist for that? Why does he not just join the SACP and a COSATU affiliate in order to have a say in their conferences?

This was the same problem we faced towards Polokwane, where some journalists elected to write bogus stories about what they termed "the silent majority" which they hoped would vote for Mbeki. When this did not work, they began touting "compromise candidates", this did not work either. But today, they have not learnt their lesson, they still repeat the same mistakes of yesteryear. As a result of the poverty levels and because of the lack of credibility of some of our media institutions, the majority of working class compatriots do not even bother themselves reading these newspapers, even if they read them, they just brush aside what they see.

Any campaign that is run through newspapers will never achieve any results because it does not convince any SACP branch about this or that perspective, instead it mobilizes Party structures towards a particular view precisely because they view this as an attack. Instead of building an environment of frank engagement about the successes and failures of the Party, this builds an atmosphere of mistrust. This muddies the discourse. Let those who are not members of the Party leave us to deal with our issues without bombarding us with unnecessary stories that have nothing to do with resolving issues but everything to do with malice and innuendo.

The correctness of Marx`s arguments in his critique of the German Ideology are correct and he said: "The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it."

This is the same with the ideological prejudices carried by the bourgeois media in all the stories it carries. Rather than a Tribunal, what we lack is a working class oriented media that will contest the same space with the bourgeois media, and propagate working class ideas. That is where the battle for ideological hegemony lies. We have to double our efforts in this regard otherwise we will be crying tears all the way. The battle for ideological hegemony has to be carried even in the arena of media reporting.

Other than that, as a student movement that mobilizes students mainly from working class backgrounds, we want the discourse to remain firmly on the matter of free education, decent work and on defeating capitalism than being mobilized to chase each other`s shadows. When the time comes, we will have to ensure in our capacity as SACP members that we articulate our views in the Party about what should be the strategic and tactical considerations that have been imposed by the post-Polokwane period.

Lazola Ndamase is Secretary General of SASCO and a Branch Member of the SACP