South Africa: Class Struggle, State Repression, and the tarnished myth of “the people’s” ANC

The Marikana Massacre and The South African State’s Low Intensity War Against The People
by Vishwas Satgar, Defending Popular Democracy

On Thursday, August 16, police officers fired into the crowd with automatic weapons. When it was over, 34 miners lay dead. Here, police check the bodies of dead mineworkers.

The massacre of the Marikana/Lonmin workers has inserted itself within South Africa’s national consciousness, not so much through the analysis, commentary and reporting in its wake.  Instead, it has been the power of the visual images of police armed with awesome fire power gunning down these workers, together with images of bodies lying defeated and lifeless, that has aroused a national outcry and wave of condemnation. These images  have also engendered international protest actions outside South African embassies. In themselves these images communicate a politics about ‘official state power’. It is bereft of moral concern, de-humanised, brutal and at odds with international human rights standards; in these ways it is no different from  apartheid era  state sponsored violence and technologies of oppressive rule.  Moreover, the images of police officers walking through the Marikana/Lonmin killing field, with a sense of professional accomplishment in its aftermath, starkly portrays a scary reality: the triumph of  South Africa’s state in its brutal conquest of its enemies, its citizens.

At the same time, the pain and suffering of the gunned down workers has became the pain of a nation and the world; this has happened even without the ANC government declaring we must not apportion blame but mourn the dead. In a world steeped in possessive individualism and greed, the brutal Marikana/Lonmin massacre reminds us of a universal connection; our common humanity.  However, while this modern human connection and sense of empathy is important, it is also superficial.  This is brought home by a simple truth: the pain of the Marikana/Lonmin workers is only our pain in their martyrdom. They had to perish for all of us to realise how deep social injustice has become inscribed in the everyday lives of post-apartheid South Africa’s workers and the poor. The low wage, super exploitation model of South African mining, socially engineered during apartheid, is alive and well, and thriving. It is condoned by the post-apartheid state. This is the tragic irony of what we have become as the much vaunted ‘Rainbow nation’. Continue reading

South Africa: “Fighting for Our Right to Work – Organising the Unemployed”

Jeanne Hefez, Pambazuka

20 October 2011

Organising the unemployed is a full time job – one the Unemployed People’s Movement in South Africa is making it’s own. Jeanne Hefez talks to UPM organisers about the challenges they face.

‘There is no third force, political party or communist academic behind our struggle. It is oppression at the hands of the African National Congress that has driven us into the rebellion of the poor. We are in rebellion because we are being forced to live without dignity, safety or hope.’ (Unemployed People’s Movement)

How do you keep members interested in a movement with no resources or immediate solutions at hand? What can you offer discouraged members when you are unemployed yourself, and when local politicians have consistently turned down your demands, including the most basic ones?

Unemployment is structural and rampant, and organising the unemployed is a fulltime job. As Ayanda Kota, chairperson of the UPM in Grahamstown, says, ‘We are living in a radically unjust society. We live below the poverty line. We live in shacks with no electricity and running water. If RDP houses were built they are now crumbling down due to poor workmanship and corruption. Our democracy means the progress of the few while the majority of people are left behind to starve for death. We talk about our situation in our dusty and at times muddy street corners, in our shacks.’

To organise the unemployed means going to informal settlements every day to inform people about their conditions and rights while trying to address the bigger struggles at hand. It means giving back hope, a sense of dignity and purpose to the dismayed. According to the UPM, the poor need help from a third force to organise. Bheki Buthlazi, a coordinator in Durban, explains how he strives to interest people in joining a network of individuals afflicted with the same problems. ‘People need to be reminded that they have a right to decent work and a right for a guaranteed income even if unemployed, that it’s a fight we need to coordinate in order to be more powerful. As people, we have a right to work, and it’s all too known that jobs are only given to people who are connected through corruption and nepotism.’ Continue reading

AZAPO Youth Organization speaks about the struggles of black youth in South Africa

To Be Young, Gifted and Black

Veli Mbele, President of AZAPO Youth Organization

‘The only thing that has changed is the colour of those who now manage the system.’

Comrades and friends:

I bring you revolutionary greetings from the national executive committee of the Azanian Youth Organisation. I also wish to take this opportunity to salute the Mohlakeng branch, not just for organising this remembrance of our Movement’s founding father, Steve Bantu Biko, but also for choosing to have it on this day of special importance.

As you might be aware, the 25 September is the exact day on which Steve Biko was laid to rest in the Township of Ginsberg 33 years ago, after his cold-blooded murder in detention by the agents of the settler-colonial regime.

It is perhaps also worth mentioning that Biko’s funeral was attended by well over 20,000 people. And to confirm the extent to which the settler-colonial regime feared him – they still saw it necessary to set up road blocks, with the view to harass and stop those fellow Azanians who were travelling to his funeral. The white racist regime was still engaging in these cowardly actions even though they had just murdered Biko a few days before.

It is these and other Fascist tendencies of the settler-colonial regime that fortify the view that Biko became more of a threat to the settler-colonial state, in death than in life. This is perhaps understandable given the impact of his ideas on those who engineered and led the student uprising of Soweto in June 1976. Besides; it was Biko himself, who just before he was killed, said:  ‘You are either alive and proud or you are dead and when you are dead, you can’t care anyway because your method of death itself can be a politicising thing.’


Soweto uprising 1976

For the purpose of our discourse here today, I propose to focus more on the implications of Biko’s ideas in order for us black young people to reflect on what lessons we can draw from the life of someone who is as iconic as Biko. And most critically, what practical things we can do, as the AZAPO youth, to ensure that the teachings of Biko speak to the conditions of black young people today.

Because I am speaking to people who are as young as me, as a launch pad for my talk, I wish to use something that we as young people love and understand very well and that is music.

Continue reading

South Africa’s Zuma slaps down nationalist ANC youth wing

Pres. Jacob Zuma & ANC Youth leader Julius Malema

[More public, internal divisions in the African National Congress and its ruling alliance are revealing the growing conflict between the peace agreement made with international capital (ending the apartheid state) and the growing discontent and nationalist sentiments of the masses who have gained little from the deal.–ed.]

September 20, 2010

Johannesburg, Sep 20 (DPA): South African President Jacob Zuma Monday slapped down the nationalist youth wing of his African National Congress (ANC), telling a key party conference the Youth League’s conduct was “unacceptable”.  Zuma was addressing some 2,000 ANC delegates at the opening of a week-long party policy conference in the port city of Durban.

He wasted no time in putting the rebellious ANC Youth League in place, accusing the league of “regrettable” and “unacceptable” behaviour at a recent conference and reminding that the ANC, not its youth wing, was top dog.

Zuma also warned ANC members against launching a premature battle to replace him or his top lieutenants before the expiry of their current term in 2012.

The Youth League, which is headed by the notoriously outspoken Julius Malema, was one of Zuma’s staunchest allies in his campaign to become party leader in 2007. Malema vowed he was ready “to kill” for Zuma. In recent weeks, however, Malema has taken to openly attacking Zuma’s policies and suggested the Youth League may not support Zuma for a second term in 2012. Continue reading

South Africa: The Historic Compromise that brought the ANC to power 20 years ago

Botha and Mandela, 1991. As we approach the 20th anniversary of the peace deal which ended apartheid, the initial exuberance has given way to deep, critical review of the political and financial power arrangements made--and the results

[This article, from the Nepali Maoist press, examines the historic compromise which brought the ANC to power in the post-apartheid period—looking for lessons which may have relevance to the present situation in Nepal.  It traces how the African National Congress built a post-apartheid system which is still dominated by imperialism and is characterized by extremes of wealth and poverty.-ed.]

This article is from Maoist Information Bulletin from Nepal.  Published by UCPN(Maoist), International Bureau, Vol. 04, No. 13.

Two Decades After Mandela’s Release: 20 Years of Freedom in South Africa?

The world watched elatedly 20 years ago as Nelson Mandela was finally freed from 27 years in South African jails in February 1990, so hated was the apartheid regime and all the injustice it stood for.  Mandela, as one of the world’s longest-held political prisoners has become a sort of living legend.

Apartheid’s jails regorged with thousands of political prisoners from the decades of struggle against apartheid representing different organizations and different perspectives.  Many fighters, leaders and soldiers died in detainment or were hanged in police stations, thrown out of upper-story windows and never saw a wigged white apartheid judge go through the motions of a trial.  Treason was a common charge.  And the masses of South African people had made enormous and heroic sacrifices during the struggle and periods of upsurge over the previous decades.  Although Mandela’s enemies secretly began negotiations with him in 1988, it was never a secret that their releasing political leaders and unbanning opposition groups in 1990 was a calculated step in the dismantling of apartheid and reorganisation of political rule in South Africa.

At the end of the 1980′s the apartheid system of enforced racial segregation and oppression in which the black majority (including people of Indian and mixed race origin) was legally forbidden the most elementary rights was rotting at the seams under the combined weight of major social, political and economic crisis.

It was a revolutionary situation, which the white settler regime fully realized as it could no longer contain the political upsurge that had been shaking the country in waves since 1976 and reached a peak in the mid-1980′s.  Despite police invasion of the townships where most blacks lived, these became bases to stage different forms of struggle.  Youth, students and workers, including foreign migrant workers, organized mass boycotts, stay-aways (from school, businesses and work}, strikes, fighting with the police and then funeral marches after people were gunned down.  In the rural areas too, where most Africans were forced to live in phony ethnic-based reserves, people rioted against the despised bantustan authorities and their vigilante squads, fought for better land and resisted forced removals as part of apartheid’s territorial consolidation. Continue reading