There has been much talk about South Africa’s Tahir Square moment. The events at the Lonmin Platinum mine at Marikana have brought home the problem of enormous wage disparities between those at the top of the capitalist pyramid and ordinary workers at the bottom. Clearly the so-called National Democratic Revolution sponsored by the ANC has failed to deliver on its promise of a better life for all.
The attempts by the ruling party to contain the crisis, with empty Marxist rhetoric only serve to focus our attention on the inability of the ruling party to deflect criticism of its leadership.
“The ANC is facing a crisis of legitimacy … because of internal corruption and a lack of dignity within the party,” national executive committee member Pallo Jordan said over the weekend.
On Saturday I was with a crowd of 500 people who marched to the Parliamentary precinct in Cape Town in protest at the brutal slaying of 34 mineworkers. Afterwards I joined mourners at a memorial service held in Belgravia for the late Neville Alexander — an auspicious event also attended by Jordan and struggle stalwarts such as Ahmed Kathrada.
Speaker after speaker paid tribute to the activist, educationist and advocate of citizen’s self-defense, Alexander, whose vision of a unified country, one which was avowedly based upon an exuberant and outgoing non-racialism as opposed to the narrow limits of ethnicity and the colour of ones skin, and where race should be of no consequence in the greater scheme of things — stands in stark contrast to the reality of the present regime.
With our government’s continued support of separate development, in particular a new form of multiracialism posing as Black Economic Empowerment, one can only observe as Neville liked to see it, that this kind of race-based tinkering was merely racism multiplied.
The betrayal of the Unity movement, along with the murder of Dulcie September in Paris can be seen as one of histories great tragedies.
Not only was Alexander locked up in prison, serving time on Robben Island alongside Nelson Mandela, but he died, after a short illness, without ever seeing his somewhat imaginative vision of a utopian “Azania” in which liberty and egalitarianism — true people’s power, would be fully realised.
A powerful didact and intellectual giant whose criticism of Mandela’s multi-streamed approach to nation-building is now being re-evaluated through sheer force of the riguour and words with which he posed uncomfortable questions of the state.
Alexander’s writing has an uncanny resonance with the debates of the day, for example recent correspondence in the press on the issue of the resurrection of the United Democratic Front (UDF), as we take stock of the prescient moment during the 80s when the Unity movement, whose culture and thinking underpinned much of the thrust behind the UDF , was once again betrayed.
What would have happened if the true non-racialists had prevailed, and if the ANC party and partyarchists like Cyril Ramaphosa and Tokyo Sexwale, whose self-serving business interests now merely serve to prop up the last vestiges of the apartheid regime, had been pushed aside by the UDF?
As the miners strike plays itself out, one can only imagine what the pedagogues within the party must be thinking, knowing that any strike within the Platinum sector has the perverse effect of boosting currency markets, while driving down share prices enabling further opportunities for fund managers. The Rand once again rallied over the weekend upon news that the strike would reduce the global supply of Platinum.
We may look back and view the R12,500 wage demand by workers as small change, when the true worth of each and every miner has been calculated by some analysts at around R88 000 per month.