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: Apartheid Petty and Grand, Old and New Is Evil

Fahamu (Oxford)

By Ayanda Kota, 26 April 2012

The Unemployed People’s Movement (UPM) was formed in August 2009 to respond to the crisis of unemployment and the commoditization of essential services in a society dominated by corruption and greed. As Steve Biko said, we blacks are tired of standing at the touchlines to witness a game that we should be playing. We want to do things for ourselves and all by ourselves. This is a realisation that we are the protagonists of our lives and nobody will free us but ourselves; we – the unemployed – will have to be our own liberators.

Despite celebrations of freedom on 27 April every year, severe and widespread poverty persists. Our education system is in tatters, the future of many black kids has been declared futureless. Unemployment is sky rocketing, wasting the talents of many young people who are condemned to a life of permanent poverty. Many black people continue to lack access to electricity, clean water and proper sanitation. Many are terminally under nourished. All these things are happening when the elite and the government officials are living affluent lives. The president has just built a mansion in Enkandla to the tune of more than R400m. Malema has also built a house to the tune of R16m. Every weekend the elite host parties and weddings that cost no less than a million while the people they claim to represent go to bed on an empty stomach and live in absolute poverty. They do not find this morally troubling. They have no conscience, otherwise they would not have killed Andries Tatane and many other activists; they would not shoot us with rubber bullets when we protest because they have neglected us. The prophetic Biko was spot on again when he once said ‘Tradition has it that whenever a group of people has tasted the lovely fruits of wealth, security and prestige it begins to find it more comfortable to believe in the obvious lie and accept that it alone is entitled to privilege.” It is this prestige and wealth that forms a hard shell around their consciousness so that they do not see that it is fellow human beings suffering in the poverty around them. Karl Marx put it in a different tone: “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce”. Apartheid was a tragedy, but our economic apartheid is a farce. Indeed history repeating itself. We are repeating the disaster of the post-colonial regimes that Fanon attacked fifty years ago.

We live in a society where the unemployment rate is said to be 23% while the truth is different. Our government is committed to propaganda. The real unemployment rate is closer to 40%. 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

South Africa: “Occupy Grahamstown!” – statement by the Unemployed Peoples Movement

[Another step for the worldwide movement against capitalism with its illegitimate wealth and authority, this time in South Africa.  Abahlali baseMjondolo, (Unemployed Peoples Movement) has issued this call:  “…our state is rotten to the core. Until we can build enough people’s power to be able to discipline the state from below we will have to treat it as what it is, a vehicle from the predatory elite to feed off society….The capitalists in Europe are saying that the people must pay for the banks to be recapitalised. We say that it is time to stop all public subsidies for the rich. We say that it is time for the banks to recapitalise the people.  Abahlali baseMjondolo has correctly insisted that the poor were made poor by the same economic system that made the rich rich.” — Frontlines ed.]

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13 October 2011

Unemployed People’s Movement Press Statement — “Occupy Grahamstown!  Recapitalise the Poor!”
As a movement of the poor we have taken great inspiration from the rebellion that has spread from Tahrir Square in Cairo to Syntagma Square in Athens, the Puerta del Sol in Madrid and now Liberty Plaza in New York. Our comrades in Students for Social Justice have been just as inspired by the growing spirit of rebellion that is jumping, like a fire, from country to country.

On Saturday we will occupy Grahamstown. The students will march into town from the Botanical Gardens. We will march into town from the township and the squatter camps. We will meet on the square at the Cathedral. We will turn that square into a people’s university, a people’s kitchen and a space of people’s power. Our aim is to bring the rebellion of the poor, the rebellion that has put thousands and thousands on the streets of South Africa in recent years, into dialogue with this global rebellion. The alliance between organised students and the organised unemployed is strong in Grahamstown. Together we can build strong foundations for the struggles to come. Continue reading

South Africa: Unemployed People’s Movement to March on Jacob Zuma

A jobless protester holds a placard during a 2009 march in the Ramaphosa squatter settlement, east of Johannesburg

[Last year, TIME magazine reported, “South African President Jacob Zuma has a problem: the very underclass that swept him into office last April on his promise to deliver them a better life have run out of patience, and they’re venting their outrage on the streets.”  The conditions have worsened, and the anger continues to grow, as shown in this call to action.-ed.]

1 October 2010  

The Unemployed People’s Movement will March on Jacob Zuma in Durban on 14 October 2010

On the 8th of September 2010 the UPM in Durban sent a letter of demands to Jacob Zuma. His office acknowledge reciept of that letter (which is pasted in below this email) but he has never given us the courtesy of a response to our demands. Therefore we have no choice but to take our desperation and anger to the streets. We will be marching in Durban on 14 October 2010 in support of the demands in this letter. Continue reading

South Africa: Mass Rally of Unemployed in Durban Demands Decent Work and a Guaranteed Income for All

Unemployed People’s Movement Press Statement

31 August 2010

VENUE: Glebelands Stadium, Umlazi

SPEAKERS: Nozipho Mnteshana, Chairperson of the Unemployed People’s Movement in Durban and S’bu Zikode, President of Abahlali baseMjondolo South Africa

A million jobs were lost last year. Many people who are working remain poor. We cannot continue like this. Therefore we, as part of a growing solidarity and militancy on the part of the organisations of the working class are demanding:

1. A living wage for every worker.

2. A real commitment to take immediate radical action to create jobs for all. This must include an immediate moratorium on retrenchments and a decision to put the right to work in the constitution.

3. A guaranteed income for all those who do not have work. Continue reading