Lekhetho Mtetwa, a member of the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front (ZACF) discusses his role in the Landless People’s Movement (LPM), formed in South Africa in 2001. While the LPM was affiliated to Via Campesina, and linked to the Landless Workers Movement (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Sem Terra: MST), its activities centred on urban squatter communities, rather than farm occupations or organising alternative agrarian systems. Then-living in a squatter camp in Protea South, Soweto, Mtetwa served as the local secretary; by 2013, this was the key LPM branch. Several attempts were made by political parties to capture Protea South LPM, using patronage and promises, leading to the eventual implosion of the branch. Mtetwa provides an essential analysis of the rise and fall of the LPM, and the role that anarchists can play in such social movements.
In this section we address questions that have been posed to ZACF militants. We are sharing these discussions because we think these are important and pertinent issues in Southern Africa. If you have questions you would us to address in our next issue, please get in touch!
In this column, comrade Themba Kotane, a union militant, asks:
Will the United Front (UF) address the crises we are currently facing in South Africa? I am concerned about how the UF works and who leads it. In my own view we don’t need a leader, we need to all have equal voice. How can we build the UF as a basis for a stateless, socialist, South Africa?
Jakes Factoria and Tina Sizovuka respond:
NOTE: Heritage Day is a post-apartheid South African national holiday; unlike most, it has no clear link to major struggles in the past, although there are efforts to position it as a more “political” day. The talk below was given by Lucien van der Walt at an event organised by Sakhaluntu Cultural Group in Grahamstown, for black youth.
Thank you all for coming. Thank you, chair, for the invitation. Thank you, organisers, for the event today. Today looks like a great day, a great day to look forward.
But before we look forward, we must look back as well. Unless you know where you come from, you will never know where you can go.
Those in power don’t want to confront the status quo of hatred against immigrants, or South Africa’s imperialist role in the region. They have a narrow set of interests: getting votes, accumulating wealth and power. However, the recent wave of attacks on immigrants and the ruptures of relations with other African countries – especially where South African corporations are operating – have touched the most delicate nerves of the established political powers, who have vowed to advance corporate interests in making profits.
Slogans like “Erase Rhodes”, “Rhodes so White,” and Rhodes must Fall,” emerging from student groups at South Africa’s elite universities, recently monopolised social media. These have taken off, because South Africa is in need of great structural change; 20 years after the important 1994 transition, many black people remain trapped in oppressive conditions.
No one would deny that during apartheid blacks, Coloureds and Indians were racially oppressed, abused, and as workers, exploited. If removing statues and changing place names can help solve the problems, and form part of a meaningful redress of past and present injustices, then such actions must be supported.
But can such demands really do so?
by Oliver Nathan
South Africa is an extremely unequal society. The post-apartheid dispensation has seen the situation of the majority poor black working class worsening (characterised by increasing unemployment, a lack of adequate and affordable service delivery and exacerbated by rampant inflation). On the other side of the coin, a few elites have ‘made it’ in capitalism and through the state, often through the elitist forms of ‘Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE)’ and corruption. Inequality in South Africa is easily illustrated when one observes the massive disparities in development, service delivery and wealth between townships and rural areas on the one hand, and suburban areas on the other.
Nationally, South Africa faces a massive backlog in service delivery. Some 203 out of 284 South African municipalities are unable to provide sanitation to 40% of their residents. This means that in 71% of municipal areas, most people do not have flush toilets. A staggering 887 329 people still use the bucket system and 5 million people, or 10.5% of the population, have no access to sanitation at all. It is perfectly understandable, then, why working class and poor people take to the streets in protest against poor and costly service delivery; it is these same people that are impacted most by insufficient and costly service delivery, corruption and municipal mismanagement.
by Tina Sizovuka and Lucien van der Walt
This article aims to explain, from an anarchist / syndicalist perspective, the rapid rise and fall of Julius Malema, the controversial and corrupt multi-millionaire leader of South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress’s (ANC’s) “youth league” (ANCYL). It is demonstrated that Malema’s posturing as radical champion of the black poor was simply a means to an end: rising higher in the ranks of the ANC, in order to access bigger state tenders and higher paying political office.
The larger political implications of the Malema affair are also considered, especially the role of the ANC – as a vehicle for the accumulation of wealth and power by the rising black elite, which is centred on the state. It is not a party that serves, or can serve, the working class; on the contrary, it is the site of bitter struggles for state contracts and office between rival elite factions. It is a bureaucratic-bourgeois-black nationalist party, lodged in the state.
by Shawn Hattingh (ZACF)
It has become common knowledge that South Africa is the most unequal country in the world. Only 41% of people of working age are employed, while half of the people employed earn less than R 2 500 a month . Worse still, inequality is growing with wages as a share of the national income dropping from 50% in 1994 to 45% in 2009; while profit as a share of national income has soared from 40% to 45% . In real terms this means that while a minority live well – and have luxurious houses, swimming pools, businesses, investments, and cushy positions in the state – the majority of people live in shacks or tiny breezeblock dwellings, are surrounded by squalor, and struggle on a daily basis to acquire the basics of life like food and water. Likewise, while bosses, state managers, and politicians – both black and white – get to strut around in fancy suits barking orders; the majority of people are expected to bow down, do as told, and swallow their pride.
by Shawn Hattingh (ZACF)
The South African state’s oppression of the ongoing wildcat strikes, including at Marikana, is clearly deepening. Over the last few weeks troops were deployed in the platinum belt in what was a barefaced bid by the state to stop the protests by striking workers, and essentially force them back to work. As part of this, residents at the informal settlement at Marikana, and those surrounding Amplats, have been subjected to a renewed assault by the police. Many residents in the process were shot with rubber bullets; their homes were raided; they were threatened; and tear gas, at times, lay over these settlements like a chemical fog. In practice, a curfew has also been put in place and anyone gathering in a group on the streets has been pounced upon by the men in blue. Threats have also emerged from the Cabinet that a crackdown on any ‘trouble-makers’, that are supposedly inciting workers to continue to strike, is going to happen. New arrests have also taken place at Marikana and even workers who are witnesses in the state’s Commission of Inquiry into the events at Lonmin have been arrested and harassed. A number of strikers at Amplats too have been killed or injured by the police.
by Tina Sizovuka and Lucien van der Walt
“To assure the labourers that they will be able to establish socialism … [through] government machinery, changing only the persons who manage it… is… a colossal historical blunder which borders upon crime…”
“Modern Science and Anarchism”
Privatisation – the transfer of functions and industry to the private sector – is widely and correctly rejected on the left and in the working class. Privatisation leads only to higher prices, less and worse jobs, and worse services. Given this, some view nationalisation – the transfer of economic resources (e.g. mines, banks, and factories) to state ownership and control – as a rallying cry for a socialist alternative. As the supposedly pro-working class alternative, this cry has resounded in sections of the SA Communist Party (SACP), in the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu), in the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) membership, and on the independent Trotskyite and social democratic left.
This article argues that nationalisation has never removed capitalism, nor led to socialism, and it certainly does not have a demonstrable record of consistently improving wages, jobs, rights and safety. Nationalisation, rather than promote “workers’ control” or companies’ accountability to the public, has routinely meant top-down management, union-bashing, bad services and bad conditions.