ANC

Lessons from the 1984-85 Vaal Uprising for Rebuilding a United Front of Communities and Workers Today

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When we talk about people’s power we are not thinking about putting our leaders into the very same structures. We do not want Nelson Mandela to be the state President in the same kind of parliament as Botha. We do not want Walter Sisulu to be Chairperson of a Capitalist Anglo-American corporation.

So said a United Democratic Front pamphlet called “Building People’s Power” that was produced in the 1980s. It continued, “We are struggling for a different system where power is no longer in the hands of the rich and powerful. We are struggling for a government that we will all vote for.” The UDF, formed in 1983, was a coalition of anti-apartheid community, church, worker, youth, sports and other groups. Along with forces like the “workerist” Federation of South African Trade Unions it played a key role in resistance.

What the UDF wanted sounds like almost the exact opposite of what actually happened: more than 20 years later, it is not Sisulu who is chairperson of Anglo-American Corporation, but the ANC’s Cyril Ramaphosa, the Butcher of Marikana, who is a shareholder on the capitalist Lonmin Corporation. Even though people have the right to vote now, fewer and fewer people are actually voting because they don’t get what they vote for; and power and wealth are still in the hands of the rich and powerful.

What went wrong, and what lessons we can draw? What are some of the similarities between the 1980s and today? What is the way forward?

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Fuelling the fires: South Africa in class war

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Credit: Ilanit Chernick

The hope that the end of apartheid would herald a better life for the oppressed in South Africa has evaporated. Their conditions today are materially as bad as under apartheid – and even worse in some cases. But the upper classes are having the time of their lives. Working class struggles should be intensified and linked, based on self-organising and direct democracy to bring about real change.

 

 

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Land, law and decades of devastating douchebaggery: On corruption, ‘violent’ protest and the probably quite unexceptional case of Freedom Park

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Photo: Lekhetho Mtetwa (ZACF)

The struggle of the black working class majority of Freedom Park, South Africa, is not just for land on which to build housing – although that is obviously a central issue and key demand; nor is it just against the accompanying political and police violence and intimidation. It is a struggle against the injustice, violence and corruption of a system that puts the power, privileges and profits of a few before the lives and wellbeing of the majority.

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A South African ruling class brawl

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by Shawn Hattingh (ZACF)

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In the midst of gorging themselves through exploitation and corruption, competing factions of the flabby ruling class in South Africa (the ruling class being capitalists, politicians and top state officials) have once again stepped into the ring to take pieces out of one another.

In the one corner of the fight is the Zuma faction – comprised of sections of Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) capitalists, top state officials, and politicians aligned to Zuma – while in the other corner is the Ramaphosa/Gordhan faction – comprised of sections of the ANC leadership such as Ramaphosa and Gordhan, white capital and the South African Communist Party (SACP). These factions have recently been standing toe to toe exchanging blows and in the process, metaphorical blood has been spilled: those of a few Cabinet Ministers, including Pravin Gordhan.

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In the ANC’s battle of factions there are no superheroes

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by Shawn Hattingh (ZACF)

460_0___30_0_0_0_0_0_anclogoonwallThe battle between Pravin Gordhan and Jacob Zuma has been presented along the lines of a superhero comic. Gordhan, the hero, is portrayed as the last defence against the rampaging villain, vile Zuma. And like all superhero tales Gordhan the good appears to be gaining the upper hand over Zuma the bad – especially since corruption charges have been dropped and the damning Public Protector’s report on state capture has been released.

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Our History of Struggle: the 1980s “Workerist-Populist” Debate Revisited

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FOSATU LogoCompiled by WARREN MCGREGOR (TAAC, ZACF)

Workshop contributors: Lucky, Pitso, Bongani, Siyabulela,
Nonzukiso, Nonzwakazi, Mzwandile

EDITOR’S INTRODUCTION: Today the terms “populism” and “workerism” are widely thrown about in South African political circles. Often, these terms and others (“syndicalism,” “ultra-left,” “counter-revolutionary,” “anti-majoritarian” …) have no meaning: they are just labels used to silence critics. SA Communist Party (SACP) leaders do this often. But in the 1980s, “populism” and “workerism” referred to two rival positions battling for the soul of the militant unions.

These debates, thirty years on, remain very relevant: let us revisit them, and learn. Today’s radical National Union of Metalworkers of SA (NUMSA) was part of the “workerist” camp, while its key rival, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) was identified with “populism.” The early battles over the direction of the Congress of SA Trade Unions (COSATU) still echo today, although there is no longer a clear “workerist” camp.

FOSATU founding congress
FOSATU was launched on 14 and 15 April 1979 at Hammanskraap. Workers’ democracy and control were the core tenets upon which FOSATU was founded.

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Traitor to the Working Class Majority: Cyril Ramaphosa

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Traitor to the Working Class Majority: Cyril Ramaphosaby Siyabulela Hulu-Hulu (TAAC, ZACF)

It is said we live in a democratic country; but, believe me it is for the chosen few. Current Deputy President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, was once widely considered a hero of the working class. Today he is a hypocrite and traitor to us, the majority.

From 1994, when his career as a trade unionist ended and his career as a capitalist and state politician began, he has enriched himself at the expense of workers – he is a billionaire by the toil of our mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters.

Ramaphosa played a major role in the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), in the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and in the negotiations leading to the 1994 breakthrough. He became African National Congress (ANC) secretary-general in 1991 and ANC deputy president in 2012 – the ally of President Jacob Zuma.

In the years between, his business empire has grown massively. His interests now include a big stake in the Lonmin platinum mines; he is implicated in the 2012 Marikana Massacre of striking miners near Rustenburg. As a result, he had to testify at the Farlam Commission in Centurion, Tshwane, which recently ended.

This makes me wonder what kind of democracy and equality he was fighting for. He was a hero of the anti-apartheid struggle, but is now a villain of the parliamentary democratic period. He is covered with an indelible and negative stigma amongst the majority of South Africans.

But one may not be surprised: even his leader and ally, Jacob Zuma, runs the state with filthy hands, part of the large group of corrupt state officials and capitalists that loots our country.

In conclusion, all these so-called leaders are wolves in sheep’s clothing. And all that glitters, dear readers, is not gold! Parliament, rather than being a solution, is a place where the wolves come out to feast. This system of hierarchical rule always changes those people who join it. It is up to us, the working class majority – employed and unemployed – to change the system. Anarchism shows us the way.