THIS year marks the 20th anniversary of South Africa’s first democratic election. The upcoming general election to be held on a date still to be announced during the April–July 2014 period could signal a see-change in politics.
The ruling ANC party has faced an enormous amount of criticism and pressure from the electorate under the Zuma administration. The last election was held on 22 April 2009. Currently the ANC has 264 seats with the leading opposition party, the Democratic Alliance holding 67. Since South Africa’s proportional representation system favours small parties, runner-up Congress of the People (COPE) 30 and Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) 18 also play an important role.
Here are three scenarios that could play out in the ensuing months.
1. ANC retains power with a decreased majority
If the Tlokwe bi-election is anything to go by, the ANC could see its majority in parliament reduced to 53%. The ruling party barely squeezed past the post to win the ward in 2013 with a reduced majority down from 90% in 2011. In this scenario, a weakened ruling party will continue to govern but face enormous pressure in the House of Assembly when it comes to passing legislation. It will thus still need support of smaller opposition parties in order to govern. The only caveat on this scenario is the potential post-Mandela gain from the party’s association with Madiba. With Long Walk to Freedom a box office hit in South Africa, the ANC may yet confound its critics. The post-Independence Congress Party of India managed to stay in power for 25 years. With a Gandhi-like father figure in Mandela, the ANC is likely to do the same.
2. ANC enters a centre-left coalition
Newcomer on the block Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) look set to benefit from the ANC purge of the ultra-leftist Julius Malema from his controversial leadership of the ANCYL. The shrude and politically astute politician has run a bruising Post-Marikana campaign that could see the EFF garner a massive bounty of seats currently occupied by ANC leftist stalwarts. Conservative estimates are that the party will fair as well, if not better than the previous newcomer, COPE. However in the labour unrest climate of today, anything could happen. A protest vote by workers against a range of ANC scandals including Nkandla, Guptagate and a groundswell reaction by voters against the excesses of the Zuma administration could leave the EFF in a position to be the deal-brokers in a centre-left coalition that results in the ANC sharing power with other left-leaning parties. One of the obvious concerns from an economic stand-point is how such a coalition will resolve differences in economic policy. The EFF currently favours bringing an end to market capitalism and the creation of a command economy under a centralised state.
3. ANC enters a social democratic coalition.
If the EFF are not the joker in the pack, then this emerging social democratic coalition could really upset the ruling party at election time. Newly formed Agang which means “build” in Sesotho, promise renewal and a return to the homespun values of black consciousness leader Steve Biko and with Mamphela Ramphele at the helm of a political formation that may result in a women president, if not in this election, at least by the next general election in 2019, South Africa could see 50% of the electorate placing their crosses next to their choice in gender. In fact a female president could be within reach in 2014, and she may well be a surprise candidate. With the Democratic Alliance triumvirate of Helen Zille, Patricia de Lille and Lindiwe Mazibuko threatening to overturn the current emphasis on masculinity under Jacob Zuma, (the president has a millstone around his neck in the form of fallout from a failed rape-trial) the upset result could mean the DA and Agang carry the seats needed to form a social democratic coalition with smaller parties such as COPE and IFP. A social democratic coalition that retains elements of the market economy while offering welfare benefits to citizens may well gobble up what remains of the ANC centre when floor-crossing and jobs are on the line.
Whichever of the above scenarios play out, it is important to note that South Africa’s fledgling democracy has withstood many tests of its political will. Backed by a Constitution and Bill of Rights, the country is one of the few nations with a “We the People” Constitution. The post-Nelson Mandela era has ushered in the possibility that the rapidly developing country could join the ranks of the developed world in less than a decade. With growth on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange averaging 18% pa, South Africa’s thriving market economy may yet save the nation from the fate of its neighbours.
2009 results by PMG
Wildcat strikes were the key fighting strategy during the May 1968 protests in France, as too they were during the defiance campaign against apartheid of the 1980s, and early 90s. While the state may have changed, workers still find themselves trapped in the cycle of super-exploitation of labour, the result is Marikana.
Jeremy Cronin, in his most recent missive in Umsebenzi Online defending the SACP track record with regard to the Marikana Massacre, attempts to explain away all the faults of the current system by blaming everything on the past, in so doing he painfully ignores the role of the state and his own party in unleashing violence and aggression upon our own people, in particular the working class of this country.
The problem with Cronin’s mode of South African Marxist analysis is the way that persons deploying such polemic immediately assume some form of kinship with those on the receiving end of capitalist exploitation, while at the same time neglecting to widen their framework of analysis to accommodate changed economic and political circumstances. Instead of updating his analysis, Cronin accomplishes nothing less than a skillful deflection of the corporate brutality which has characterised the present regime and which will undoubtedly continue to impact upon our future and that of our children.
Brushing aside the democratic massacre of 34 mine workers by a deeply unpopular government takes some doing, yet Cronin effects this form of intellectual slaughter by failing to adequately criticise his own government, ( lest he be subject to the kind of routine abuse meted out by proponents of state capitalism). Jumping into an historical precis of the material conditions which underpinned the legacy of the apartheid regime and which continue to impact on us all today, Cronin refuses to answer the most obvious of questions:- Why is it that more than 18 years after our first democratic election, this self-same extractive economy, based as he readily admits, upon super-exploitation of labour and capitalist accumulation by a corporate elite, is still with us?
In examining the work of Harold Wolpe, the role of the Bantustans, the subordinated role of workers, the boss-boy system, the deliberate “tribalisation of labour” and the patriarchy of the informal settlements – the tragedy of state brutality which is once again playing out on our television screens – one can be forgiven for thinking that all that is needed is meaningful debate on the historical conditions. Cronin’s text book analysis of the situation however, bears no resemblance to the new reality of a Tahr square moment — a profound revolt by the people against super-exploitation of labour by the ANC-sponsored corporate elite who, having been tasked with ending labour apartheid, merely perpetuated the crime in order to reap the rewards of the free market.
Blame for the massacre needs to be firmly placed at the door of the ruling alliance, and every party which has stood by while workers have seen the greatest erosion of fundamental human rights and freedoms since 1922 when General Jan Smuts bombed South African mine workers into submission. The right to strike, to withhold ones labour without fear of penalty, is not merely an idea, a quaint political slogan put there by a few well-meaning individuals, but a fundamental freedom underpinning our democracy.
The wildcat strike action at Marikana – whichever way one construes the apparent lack of authorisation by a registered trade union – needs to be seen in the context of the manner in which our democracy is predicated, not simply upon the dictates of the few, but the collective will of each and every citizen to engage in direct action. This revolutionary freedom is not about gaining access to the ballot box once every five years, but rather about meaningful economic change — liberty and freedom for each and every individual, without which our democratic revolution would be nothing but a pipe dream.
The mine workers of Marikana have chosen to vote with their feet against appalling conditions, putting down their tools and engaging in collective strike action – one needs to examine why it is that the SACP and South Africa’s union bosses have failed to register these votes? Is it because the large union structures such as NUM and COSATU continue to take their orders from Pretoria while supporting super-exploitation?
Is it because the Labour Relations Act has been buried, for all intents and purposes, by a corrupt labour legal system in which the labour brokers have in turn become the judges? Is it because the nation’s political structures no longer reach to the ground, as the logic of patriarchy, and oligarchy of the Zuma administration, and successive ANC governments draws to its logical conclusion?
It is abundantly clear where Cronin pins his parties support – not upon the masses who desire freedom, but rather upon the dictates of centralisation, bureaucracy, authoritarianism and the command economy in a corrupt state which blames workers for their own deaths, which labels unwanted strike action as “illegal” and which paints the spectre of “demagoguery” merely in order to deflect public opinion from enormous and insurmountable failings. All this while excoriating the press for the many problems associated with the growth of a new “labour aristocracy”, one which has effected control of our nation’s boardrooms and which continues to hold the economy in an iron grip.
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.
South Africa is a country which despite having a remarkable constitution has shown scant regard for the human rights outlined by Chapter 2. The recent debacle around the Dalai Lama is unfortunately, just the tip of the iceberg. If you recall, Chapter 2 is the chapter of the constitution in which our Bill of Rights exists.
Is there any right that the SA government has not trampled on with its denial of a visa to one of the world’s great peace activists and religious leaders – His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama?
One can name a number of freedoms off the top of one’s head, supposedly guaranteed by this document, all flouted in the name of political expediency.
Three essential freedoms which have been trashed, (and which I find most troubling), are religious freedom, freedom of association and freedom of movement. The China First policy being advocated by Presidential candidate Jacob Zuma flies in the face of all that we hold dear as a nation — are we about to see on unfolding of racism and xenophobia in the form of South Africa for South Africans?
To think that influx control and the dompas or passbook was in use, within living memory and barely twenty years ago, is stupefying. What is more, the days of Christian National Education and separate development appear to have no meaning for the ANC leaders of today.
I recall attending a mass rally in the 80s held at the Cape Town City Hall, called by the Tibetan Friendship Society in which the Dalai Lama appeared, calling for the release of Nelson Mandela and the unbanning of political parties. No wonder FW de Klerk found it impossible to contain local and international pressure and assented to the inevitable, for which he was rewarded with a Nobel Peace Prize. The real story has not been told, surely now is the time to set the record straight?
Unfortunately, like so many ANC leaders, even Nelson Mandela has found it impossible to break away from the Mephistophelean dance involving the ANC and National Party. The Long Walk to Freedom might as well be a history of the NNP for all it exposes is the manner in which isolation created a parallel universe in which Mandela was literally brainwashed into identifying with his jailers.
The history of the freedom struggle is not a history solely comprised of political intrigues masterminded by politicians. It is easy to forget the role played by ordinary people and our religious leaders. It is convenient to let go of the ethical and moral debates that surrounded those who attempted, on the one hand to argue that apartheid was a crime against humanity, and on the other, those who wished to justify their actions along with segregation, as somehow informed by the Christian Bible.
My own discrimination case against Media24 is yet another example of the denial of fundamental rights and freedoms in this day and age, in which a company comprised to a large extent of white, Christian males, is battling to assert its authority over the Jewish Sabbath. Media24, has yet to provide me with a bona fide contract recognizing my rights as a Secular Jew, and all that I am saying is – what I do on a Friday night is between me and my Friday night and has nothing to do with Media24.
In my mind there is no contradiction between Buddhism and Judaism and one might as well talk about Hashem and THE BUDDAH, along with every other prophet who gained enlightenment, since surely in the universe, all is one, there is only one G-d at the end of the day? Then there is the possibility that infinite intelligence produces multiplicity of possibility, each one as logically consistent as the next, in which case, G-d is every G-d that has ever existed. More on this subject in the following weeks to come.