Fuel Price Hikes Hammer South Africa’s Working Class

by Philip Nyalungu

A sharp increase in fuel prices on Wednesday 6 September will hit the working class and poor hardest. Petrol, diesel and paraffin now cost 67c, 44c and 65c more, respectively. This is the fifth fuel increase this year. Economists have warned more will be disastrous.

The official reasons for the price hike are rising crude oil costs and the weak Rand. Government tax is also rising. Energy Minister Mamoloko Kubayi claims 4.6 cents a litre will go towards salary increases for petrol station workers.

The reality is rising prices get passed directly onto ordinary people by, for example, increases in taxi fares and food prices. LP gas, which with paraffin is the main fuels used in poor households, is up 86 cents a kilogram. Rising prices affect jobs, and many workers are vulnerable.

Informal economic activities, like street vending of food, are harmed, also affecting low-paid consumers like taxi drivers and petrol pump attendants. It is not clear how 4.6 cents a litre of petrol tax will supposedly get into the pockets of petrol station workers. If it does, it will just vanish due to rising prices. South African capitalism, enabled by the state machinery, rests upon cheap black labour, and the working class and poor majority continue to suffer. Real freedom remains far off.

Rising prices are part of the ongoing inflation problem in capitalism that keeps reducing real wages. Owners of the means of production, including oil refineries and fuel chains, the banks and the state, have the power to increase prices and devalue currency, and so, increase profits by increasing poverty.

But the victims, workers and their families, lack both economic power and political influence. So long as the economy remains under the control of the bosses and politicians, rather than the broad working class, problems like endless price rises will continue. Only class struggle from below through counter-power, aiming at a better society, based on self-management, collective property and participatory planning, can move us from this track. This requires working class autonomy from the parties and the state.

Source: https://zabalaza.net/2017/09/21/fuel-price-hikes-hammer-south-africas-working-class/#more-5413

Edited for mb3-org.com

Wits students stand up for gay rights

Photo of two women being affectionate

“We stand here in pride, in solidarity and in defiance with what it means to be in a positive, beautiful and queer relationship.”


Students at universities who identify with the LGBTQ+ community still face daunting challenges even though these institutions are viewed as liberal and progressive. This is according to Tish White, the program coordinator for sexual orientation and gender identity advocacy at Wits University.

White was addressing a group of students at the opening of Wits Pride 2017, an annual week long event to raise awareness of LGBTQ+ issues and to celebrate diversity at the university.

“Campus populations are just extensions of broader society and so we see that some people still carry a negative attitude towards those who are viewed as different,” said White. A challenge, said White, was that students attending university for the first time and “coming out” as gay or lesbian do not find the necessary support structures at the university. “That is why at Wits we started the Safe Zone project,” she said.

One of the main goals of the Safe Zone project is to help LGBTQ+ people at Wits feel safer. “Most of the time it’s just students coming to terms with the fact that they are coming out for the first time and they are feeling alone, feeling scared and they want to find others like them,” said White. “I truly believe that everyone at the university can work together so that we can change spaces for the better.”

As part of the opening a Queer Wedding was held on the steps outside the Great Hall. Zanele Hlonwane and Juliet Magatanatos participated in a mock symbolic wedding. “We stand here in pride, in solidarity and in defiance with what it means to be in a positive, beautiful and queer relationship. And if that’s not worth celebrating I don’t know what is,” said White as she officiated the ceremony.

Natasha [not her real name], a first year engineering student said that it was encouraging to see the LGBTQ+ people coming out and supporting each other at events like this because in the small community from which she’s from being lesbian is frowned upon. While staying in Johannesburg Natasha feels free to express her attraction to women, but hides her identity when she returns home for fear of being stigmatised.

2015 survey conducted by the Gauteng City-Region Observatory showed that only 56% of respondents felt that gays and lesbians deserve equal rights. This was a significant drop from the 2013 survey when 71% agreed with the statement. Even more worrying was that 14% of respondents agreed that it’s acceptable to be violent to gay and lesbian people.

Wits Pride 2017 will run from 21 to 25 August and will culminate with a Pride March at the Great Hall stairs on Friday.

Edited for mb3-org.com

[Call for Solidarity] The ‘Boiketlong Four’ and the Criminalisation of Poverty and Protest


In February 2015, four community activists from Boiketlong in the Vaal, south of Johannesburg, were sentenced to 16 years in prison each following a community protest. This is a very severe sentence and the conviction was based on shaky evidence. The ‘Boiketlong Four’ were arrested for allegedly attacking the local ANC ward councillor and setting fire to her shack and two cars during a community protest. They were convicted of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, arson and malicious injury to property. This is an example of a terrible injustice perpetrated against black working class activists and could have dangerous repercussions for future struggles of the black working class and poor in South Africa if it is not fought. People need to be aware of the facts and take action to demand justice and to fight the criminalisation of poverty and protest.

– Call for Solidarity –

The ‘Boiketlong Four’ and the
Criminalisation of Poverty and Protest:
Freedom for Dinah and Sipho,
Justice for Papi!

The Boiketlong Four

In February 2015, four community activists from Boiketlong in the Vaal, south of Johannesburg, were sentenced to 16 years in prison each following a community protest. This is a very severe sentence and the conviction was based on shaky evidence. The ‘Boiketlong Four’ were arrested for allegedly attacking the local ANC ward councillor and setting fire to her shack and two cars during a community protest. They were convicted of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, arson and malicious injury to property. This is an example of a terrible injustice perpetrated against black working class activists and could have dangerous repercussions for future struggles of the black working class and poor in South Africa if it is not fought. People need to be aware of the facts and take action to demand justice and to fight the criminalisation of poverty and protest.

Evidence presented by the prosecutor in court was shaky and state witnesses either couldn’t identify the four accused or place them at the scene at the time. To convict them the state used the 1973 apartheid law of so-called ‘common purpose’, meaning they were found guilty simply because they were leaders of the community; even though no evidence conclusively connecting the four with the burning of the councillor’s house or cars was presented. At least one of the four, Dinah Makhetha, was not even present at the time.

The key witness willing to testify that Dinah was not present at the councillor’s home at the time it was razed, Papi Tobias, disappeared under mysterious circumstances in February 2016 and has not been seen since. He is believed to be dead.

In June 2015, the Boiketlong Four applied for bail and for Leave to Appeal both the conviction and the sentence. Leave to Appeal the conviction was granted, but not to appeal the severity of the sentence – meaning that if their appeal of the conviction failed they would have to serve the full 16 year term in prison. Bail was also denied.

To apply for bail and to petition for full Leave to Appeal were High Court processes which placed a huge financial and emotional burden on the poor working class families of the accused. A fundraising committee was established to raise money from within the community in order to pay for legal and related expenses.

After 9 months in prison the four activists were released on bail in October 2015.

Then, on 19 June 2017, two of the four were arrested again and thrown back in prison – where they currently remain. We urgently need to demand they be released on bail immediately and to have the conviction overturned.

Neoliberalism, corruption and the criminalisation of poverty and protest

The Boiketlong Four were leading community activists in the struggle for housing, development in the township and for what the ANC government has been promising them – and the black working class and poor across South Africa – for over 20 years. That, being poor and struggling to change their conditions and uplift themselves and their community were their only ‘crimes’. It is believed that they were targeted in a politically motivated move by the state, at the behest of the local ANC, to suppress and criminalise their activities as activists because of their role in opposing the anti-poor policies of the neoliberal ANC government and exposing and challenging the corruption of local political elites. They are not criminals, they are political/class struggle prisoners.

They were unfairly charged due to their role in community protests that are caused by unfair treatment, corruption and maladministration. The black working class in South Africa has had enough of suffering the brunt of poverty and inequality but when we take to the streets we suffer the repressive might of the state and police brutality. The politicians supposedly put in power to serve the community quickly forget about doing so because they are living the life of luxury.

Our brothers and sisters who take up the fight for justice should not be the ones punished for these actions. The 1994 tripartite regime said it would not do what the National Party did to the black working class in South Africa, but over twenty years later we are experiencing almost the same treatment. The enemy has proven to be the ruling party and the private capitalists.

Like so many townships, rural areas and poor communities across South Africa, the black working class and poor community of Boiketlong has long suffered from the broken promises of the ANC government. Since the first multiracial elections in 1994, the ANC has repeatedly been re-elected on the backs of empty promises of service delivery, job creation and to develop and upgrade townships and other underdeveloped areas that have long suffered a lack of access to decent and affordable sanitation, water, electricity and housing as well as education and health care etc. as part of the legacy of colonialism and apartheid capitalism.

Faced with increased discontent and protest in response to its own lack of political will and its inability, due to the anti-working class neoliberal policies it has adopted, to even begin to fulfill its promises and implement wide-scale development, upgrading of townships,  land reform, service delivery and job creation across the country the ANC government is increasingly responding with the criminalisation of protest – and the poor – in order to suppress and contain social struggles and working class resistance.

This is because of two major processes the political elite is involved in: using the state for private accumulation and enforcing neoliberal policies designed to redirect wealth upwards, away from the black working class and poor to the ruling class – made up of white, and now black, private capitalists as well as politicians and state managers. This is in order to recover profitability and maintain profits by transferring the costs of the economic crisis onto the working class, particularly the black section. It does this through commercialisation and privatisation, the flexibilisation of labour, austerity budgeting and cuts in social spending, outsourcing and aggressive cost recovery measures etc.

At local level outsourcing has led to contracts and tenders for housing, service delivery and infrastructure development being handed out to politically connected individuals and company owners, particularly the new BEE (Black Economic Empowerment) elite, resulting in nepotism, corruption and patronage becoming widespread. In order to make as much profit as possible through these contracts these BEE ‘tenderpreneurs’ cut costs by exploiting workers, using the cheapest available materials and cutting corners in terms of safety and standards. This is why so many RDP houses are cracking and falling apart and why service delivery in black working class townships is so terrible.

The political elite at local, provincial and national levels – both ANC and, in some areas, the DA – uses its access to and control of state resources to accumulate private wealth and entrench their power and control of the state and its resources. This is what “corruption” means, and it is done at the expense of the black working class and poor – who get nothing but shoddy housing, poor service delivery and state repression if they rise up.

In the context of the global capitalist crisis and dwindling state resources there is an increasing struggle between political elites to hold onto power and access to limited resources. It is this competition for access to state power and resources for self-enrichment that has led to the factional battles that we are currently witnessing between the two main rival factions of the ANC – those around Jacob Zuma and those around Cyril Ramaphosa.

However, under the smoke and mirrors, both of these factions and the two wings of the ruling class – state managers/political elite/politicians, on the one hand, and private capitalists/economic elite/bosses, on the other – both depend on exploiting the working class and poor and on the model of cheap black labour, part of which involves massive underspending on townships.

This can only be ended by consistent and independent class struggle and resistance and that is exactly what the ruling class fears – and why the state and political elite that controls it are increasingly resorting to the criminalisation of poverty and protest to suppress working class resistance.

The ANC government wants to make an example of the Boitketlong Four in order to send a strong message to the poor, the unemployed and the marginalised youth leading and participating in struggles for land and housing, jobs and service delivery. The message is that if you dare to organise or engage in social struggles in pursuit of your rights, to expose or simply speak out against the rampant corruption of the political elite, you will be dealt with swiftly and harshly. The heavy sentences handed down to the Boiketlong Four and the denial of bail and Leave to Appeal are all intended to intimidate and deter others from independent working class resistance and protest.

It is therefore of utmost importance that class struggle militants do everything within our means to campaign to have the conviction and sentence overturned – because if we don’t the state will use this case as a precedent in order to further criminalise poverty and protest and more and more people will be thrown in prison on so-called criminal charges and slapped with harsh sentences for protesting their poverty and fighting for their rights.

Justice for Papi Tobias

On the evening of 6 February 2016, Papi Tobias left his home in Boiketlong to go watch soccer at a local tavern. He was last seen leaving the tavern in the presence of Sebokeng Police Station commander Brigadier Jan Scheepers.

Papi, a father of three, was also a leading community activist in the struggle for housing and development in the township and was often at the forefront of service delivery protests.

He was also one of the people on the committee tasked with raising funds for the Boiketlong Four’s legal expenses. Six days before his disappearance Papi had attended a heated community meeting, called by the local mayor, in which he criticised the fundraising committee for misusing the money raised for the Boiketlong Four’s defence. He also reportedly said that the community was “threatened and lied to” by the committee, that it had “in fact elected itself because it is not ours, the people’s” and that “the wrong people were arrested”.

Papi had also said to Brigadier Scheepers, to the attorney then dealing with the Boiketlong Four case, to a paralegal at the Orange Farm Human Rights Advice Centre and at public meetings that he was willing to testify that Dinah was not in the vicinity of the councillor’s house when it was set on fire and that she and the other three were wrongfully accused.

It is alleged that one of the fundraising committee members suspected of misusing the funds, a local ANC leader and member of the ANC-dominated Boiketlong Concern Group, is behind Papi’s disappearance; and that he told the family that Brigadier Scheepers knew  as to Papi’s whereabouts shortly after his disappearance. It is suspected that, in addition to the committee member, Brigadier Scheepers and the Mayor of Emfuleni Local Municipality, Simon Mofokeng, are also implicated in the kidnapping.

Shortly before his disappearance Papi’s dog was killed and a member of the Boiketlong Concern Group said they had heard rumors that Papi’s life was in danger prior to his disappearance.

Papi has been missing for well over a year now and is believed to be dead. His disappearance and suspected murder are almost certainly politically motivated and linked to his role in struggling for service delivery, housing and development in the township and for exposing the mayor and fundraising committee members for alleged corruption or misusing money raised for the Boiketlong Four’s legal expenses.

The police investigators handling the case appear to have made little effort to establish Papi’s fate or whereabouts and no investigation seems to be underway. To date nobody has been arrested or charged in relation to Papi’s disappearance.

Freedom for Dinah and Sipho

Since being released on bail in October 2015 one of the accused, Pulane Mahlangu, has skipped bail and disappeared. Another, Dan Sekuti Molefe, passed away in December 2016. He had been ill prior to his arrest and it is sure that the stress of his conviction, the violence and suffering of 9 months in prison and the prospect of spending another 16 years there helped kill him.

On 6 June 2017, a Leave to Appeal hearing for the remaining two accused, Sipho Sydney Manganye and Dinah Makhetha, took place at the North Gauteng High Court to appeal the 16 year sentence. The application was dismissed and they were ordered to hand themselves over to the Sebokeng Regional Court on 19 June.

On 15 June, Dinah and Sipho met with their advocate from Legal Aid SA, who told them he was going to apply for an extension of their bail at the Sebokeng Regional Court on 19 June. However, the Magistrate refused the extension of bail because the application should have been brought at the North Gauteng High Court as that is where bail was initially granted. Dinah and Sipho were re-arrested and thrown back into prison.

Dinah and Sipho’s pro-bono legal representatives, Legal Aid SA, should have applied to the High Court to extend bail pending the petition being heard at Sebokeng but this doesn’t seem to have been done and the accused have now been languishing in prison, for the second time, for over a month.

While previously out on bail Sipho seems to have been co-opted by the local ANC elite, who gave him employment in a development project in the township – a tactic regularly used by local political elites to co-opt activists and draw them away from activism and struggle in order to neutralise the threat they pose both to the dominance of the local political elite and their opportunities for accumulating wealth through their access to state resources and tenders. Sipho, perhaps out of desperation, reportedly began singing praises for the mayor and saying that he cares for the people. He no longer seems to be interested in social struggle and community activism.

That certainly doesn’t mean he should be left to go to prison without support, though, but it seems he was fooled into thinking that the ANC and local political elite would help him if he stopped his involvement in community struggles.

Sipho’s defence, unfortunately, is also not as strong as Dinah’s and the advocate has not been able to find grounds to challenge his conviction on two of the four counts against him – assault with the intent to cause grievous bodily harm and arson. This means that, even if the advocate is successful in appealing the other two counts against him he could still face 10 years in prison.

Dinah, a long-standing community activist and former member of the now defunct Anti-Privatisation Forum (APF), however, has remained unflinching in her commitment to social justice and working class militancy and, despite what is effectively an apartheid-era banning order preventing her from attending community or political meetings, protests etc., she remained involved in community organisation and activism while out on bail.

Dinah’s defence is also very strong and the advocate has found convincing grounds on which to challenge all four of the counts she was convicted of.

It is vitally important that we do everything in our power to show immediate solidarity and support for both Dinah and Sipho and to ensure that they are granted bail while awaiting Leave to Appeal their conviction and that the charges against them are withdrawn and they are declared innocent.

Dinah and Sipho are political prisoners of the capitalist state, which wants to make an example of them. Their fate will help determine the fate of many more community activists and poor township residents that engage in social struggles and protests to come. If their conviction and sentences are not overturned more working class militants and people arrested during protests could face equally harsh sentences.

Dinah and Sipho will be appearing at the Sebokeng District Court on Wednesday 26 July to have their application for extension of bail heard. A demonstration at the court is being planned for the day and we call on our comrades, allies and all freedom and justice loving people worldwide to do whatever they can on, before  and after Wednesday 26 July to show solidarity with Sipho and Dinah and to demand justice both for them and Papi. We should also demand that a date be set for their appeal of the conviction and sentence to be heard by the Supreme Court of Appeal as soon as possible and appeal to you and your organisations to organise solidarity actions and activities and show support for Dinah and Sipho leading up to and on the day of their appeal. We will communicate the date for the appeal once it has been set.




What you can do:

      • Picket and demonstrate outside South African Embassies abroad on and in the days and weeks following Wednesday 26 July;
      • Email and fax the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development demanding Sipho and Dinah be given an extension of bail on Wednesday 26 July;
      • Disseminate this call for solidarity on social media and in your organisations, networks and movements;
      • Write letters and articles about the case and publish them in alternative and, where possible, mainstream newspapers, magazines etc.;
      • Discuss the case and the call for solidarity on podcasts and community radio, at student/worker/community meetings, at demonstrations etc.;
      • Take photographs of solidarity activities and actions, or of yourself or your organisation holding placards with messages of support or demanding Sipho and Dinah be released on bail and that their conviction be overturned and publish them on social media with the hashtags and handles below;
      • Write letters of support to Dinah, Sipho and/or to Papi’s family and email them to zacf[at]riseup.net and orangefarmadvicecentre[at]gmail.com to have them given to the recipients;
      • Put pressure on Legal Aid SA to prioritise the case by phoning them, sending them emails and faxes to put pressure on them constantly to ensure that they are prioritising the case;
      • Make the South African government know that this case is in the international spotlight by phoning, emailing and faxing the Presidency and the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development to demand the conviction be overturned, the charges dropped and a full scale investigation into the fate of Paps Tobias be launched.

On social media use the hashtags #Boiketlong4Solidarity #Boiketlong4 #FreedomforDinahandSipho#JusticeforPapiTobias and the Twitter handles @PresidencyZA @GovernmentZA @EmfuleniLM @DOJCD_ZA@LegalAidSA1 @ZabalazaNews


The Presidency of the Republic of South Africa
Tel: +27 12 300 5200
Fax: +27 12 323 8246
Email: president@presidency.gov.za

Office of Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa
Tel: +27 12 308 5316
E-mail: Deputypresident@presidency.gov.za

Minister of Justice and Correctional Services
Tel:  +27 12 406 4669
Fax: +27 12 406 4680
E-mail: ministry@justice.gov.za

Deputy Minister for Justice and Constitutional Development
Tel:  +27 12 406 4854
Fax: +27 12 406 4878
E-mail: deputyminister@justice.gov.za

Legal Aid South Africa Head Office
Tel: +27 11 877 2000

Legal Aid SA Pretoria Justice Centre
Tel: +27 12 401 9200
Fax: +27 12 324 1950

Legal Aid SA Vereeniging Justice Centre
Tel: +27 16 421 3527
Fax: +27 16 421 4287

Edited for mb3-org.com

SAFTU: The tragedy and (hopefully not) the farce

Credits: eNCA / Xoli Mngambi

By: Mandy Moussouris (ILRIG)

The labour movement has been unable to de-link itself from its archenemy: capital. As its structures bureaucratise, as its leaders become career unionists, as it opens investment companies and pays staff increasingly inequitable salaries, it increasingly mirrors the very thing it is fighting. If the South African Federation of Trade Unions is to meet its promise, it must be fundamentally different from the organisation it was born out of.

“History repeats itself first as tragedy, second as farce” – Karl Marx

The tragedy of the disintegration of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) happened slowly. As tragedies go, COSATU’s has been far less dramatic than most; it has rather been a sad slow and painful unravelling of a once vibrant and powerful organisation over 20 odd years. The unravelling of an organisation that forgot that the whole is made up of the sum of its parts; that continuously made the mistake of allowing personalities to undermine democracy, ambition to undermine equity and bureaucracy to undermine equality and democratic participation.

COSATU’s decay has had a significant impact on the South African working class. The impact has reverberated across the country in a myriad of ways and has been the result, both directly and indirectly, of COSATU’s failure to effectively and democratically represent the working class. This has been the case partly because of its alliance with the ANC and partly because of its (and the trade union movement in general’s) inherently defective organisational structure and patriarchal culture.

From the same ashes comes the rising of a new phoenix – a new hope for the South African working class – the South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU). But the labour movement, broadly, has never been good at learning from its mistakes and this time around appears to be no exception. We can no longer make the mistake of thinking that changing the world is as simple as changing the colours of a flag. If we are to learn anything from history, it’s that the flag IS the problem. If we truly want to change our society we have to change everything about it right down to the very structure upon which it is based. Flag poles need to be pulled down. Globally, the labour movement has not been able to de-link its organisational structure from that of its arch-enemy – capital. As a result, after time, as its structures bureaucratise, as its leaders become career unionists/stewards, as it opens investment companies and pays staff increasingly inequitable salaries, it increasingly mirrors the very thing it is fighting.

SAFTU is claiming to be different. It has picked up the banner of socialism and is asking us to follow it into a different, better, more equitable and just future. If we need anything right now, we need it is a new hope. But if SAFTU is to meet its promise it has to be fundamentally different to the organisation it was born out of. Is it our new hope or is it the inevitable farce that follows tragedy? In looking at the founding principles SAFTU has put forward, there are a number of indicators that suggest it is going to repeat the mistakes of the old federation. Whilst the rhetoric harkens back to the great days of the Trade Union Movement the flagpole remains pretty much the same.

“We are building a fundamentally different type of workers’ organization – independent of political parties and employers but not apolitical – democratic, worker-controlled, militant, socialist-orientated, internationalist, pan-Africanist from a Marxist perspective and inspired by the principles of Marxism-Leninism.” – SAFTU

All genuine workers organisations started off independent of political parties but not apolitical. Any union worth their salt has started out being democratic and worker controlled. None of this is new, not in South Africa and not in the rest of the world. More importantly, no such union has managed to effectively challenge, let alone change capitalist society since the early part of the 20th Century and as we sit in the second decade of the 21st Century we find that most gains made by such unions have been successfully pushed back if not lost completely. Whilst SAFTU acknowledges a number of very important reasons why unions have failed, they have not asked the hardest question. Instead of asking what should a union do, the question SAFTU should be asking is: what have we been doing wrong? What is wrong with the nature of unions themselves?

“The new federation can show how different it is from other formations by showing that its principles are not just slogans, but guide our programmes in all that we do.” – SAFTU

Absolutely! This statement in particular sums up a great deal of what has been wrong with unions in the past and lies at the core of the argument this article is making. COSATU and many other unions globally have failed dismally at implementing working class principles, on many levels, in many ways. Let’s start with gender equity, shall we? In an important piece on the emergence of the new federation, Dr Asanda Benya asks: “How different will its gender politics be from Cosatu’s? Will it resemble and reproduce Cosatu’s gender stance, or reject it and take female workers seriously and appreciate the ways in which workplace struggles are gendered? After all, many of the same people who once led the unapologetically macho COSATU are now leading SAFTU.”

This question lies at the very heart of the sentiment of practising what you preach. However, from representation at the launching congress to the same limited rhetoric and even less imaginative policy approach to the inclusion of women in the new federation, there is no indication that the new federation will prioritise women’s issues or their rights. As things stand at present there is no reason at all to believe that the federation is any less “macho” than its predecessor. Rather, there is every reason to believe that the tradition of crying foul and claiming that you have been set up by an enemy cabal when either the president of the country or general secretary is accused of rape and sexual harassment will continue.

What exactly is the new federation going to do to ensure that women do not continue to be used as political tools in a battle of men over power? Will this be yet another federation controlled by working men that blames the victim in order to maintain control of its patriarchal power? If SAFTU is going to truly represent the working class, it has to recognise that work is gendered, that old style unionism is not; that if the union is going to ensure women and their issues are taken seriously this must be a primary focus of all policy. So far there is little evidence of this.

“Financial self-sufficiency and accountability and opposition, in word and deed, to business unionism, corruption, fraud and maladministration within its own ranks and in a capitalist society which is inherently corrupt” – SAFTU

During the 1990s there were huge debates in COSATU and its affiliates around the appropriateness of union investment companies. To the right there were strong arguments for using workers money to support unions and union principles. From the left there was strong resistance to what was seen as endorsing, if not becoming part of, the capitalist system.

Very few unions have effectively used money from these ‘investments’ to the benefit of the working class. SAFTU’s statement regarding the inherent corruption of capitalism sounds great but it is important to note that the call for channeling retirement funds into productive investment is not the same as the new federation using its own or its affiliate’s investment funds to lead productive investment. It is a demand for capital to do so.

What is unclear is what SAFTU’s position on union investment companies is. Is the federation and its affiliates planning on actually taking the money from its investment companies and using it to set up a housing cooperative or building societies like the unions of old? Or will these investment companies’ money continue to be used to buy more and bigger buildings and offices for the unions themselves?

In the launching congress a clause on union official’s salaries was included in SAFTU’s constitution saying that the leadership will not earn more than the average skilled worker. There has already been internal debate about what exactly the wage for an average skilled worker is. This lack of clarity is being used to argue that official salaries should not be set by the constitution and the broader congress, rather it should be an internal policy issue to be decided on by the leadership, including the very leadership that will earn these salaries.

Putting the argument against paying officials at all aside for a moment, the warning signs of impending bureaucratisation and elitism are already going off. Not only within SAFTU but within its affiliates, this question must be asked and must be addressed – if your principles are anti-capitalist and socialist, surely your structures should reflect these principles. All union workers should be paid the same.

By the same token, there is already a call to work towards negotiating for paid shop stewards. This development within the trade union movement has had one of the biggest negative impacts on the unity and solidarity of workers. It has been used by management as a highly effective tool to co-opt union shop stewards and to divide the shop floor. It has played a significant role in one of the main problems SAFTU has identified as one that needs to be corrected: the distance created between the union/officials and workers. A union is not a business and can never be driven by motives of personal or organisational gain; gain must always be for the union members and not an elite few. Unions of the past, unions that have been of and for its members, have done so due to the principled dedication of their ordinary membership and elected representatives without pay.

Overall, in relation to the issues of union finances and financial policies, despite all the noise to the contrary, for SAFTU it’s business as usual.

“We shall convene a bargaining conference to fight the attempts by the Free Market Foundation and employers to liquidate collective and centralized bargaining, and shall mobilize mass action to stop this attempt.” – SAFTU

A key function/business of unions is bargaining better wages and working conditions for its members. The greatest unions have been the ones where mass mobilisation of members around bread and butter issues have succeeded in making significant shifts in this regard. The real shifts, however, tend to be made when the general membership is actively involved through mobilisation, protest and strike.

Whilst centralised collective bargaining makes the bargaining process easier for unions and sets industry minimums, the notion of centralisation is ultimately counter-intuitive to a participatory, worker-led organisation. It is my contention that centralised collective bargaining centralises not only the negotiation process but the participatory, learning process of bargaining and workplace organisation; it also removes the power of workers to raise their voices collectively within a physically defined workplace, build workplace solidarity and share learnings from the process. Many union organisers and shop stewards of the past cut their teeth in shop floor bargaining processes. Centralisation of bargaining centralises power and decision-making and, whilst unintentional, it removes agency from workers on the shop floor.

The new federation needs to re-look its overall strategy in terms of how it takes capital on. It needs to assess where and when the greatest gains are made for the working class. From experience over the last 20 years, this is not at the negotiating table, not in the bargaining councils and not in NEDLAC. Workers and the working class have had to re-learn the lesson apartheid taught us: that real gains are made in the streets, in collective action not compromised negotiation.

“We shall discuss with all unions about how best to deliver quality service – working toward the development of a service charter.”

As with the practice of working within the financial systems of the capitalist class, the appropriation of business terms and capitalist language needs to be strongly guarded against. Language and words play a significant role in the culture of societies and organisations. Using words that reinforce a system and culture that you are fighting, that reinforce an unequal society with unequal roles, reinforce the current system and do not lay a solid foundation for a new society.

Yes “service” in COSATU unions over the past two decades has gone from bad to worse, but it could be argued that unions are not meant to service members. The idea of “service delivery” is in its very nature a neo-liberal word and attempting to fix what cannot be a capitalist endeavour by viewing a workers movement as an exchange of money for service is counter-intuitive. A real democratic worker controlled union is the WORKERS, nothing more nothing less.

Ideologically unions cannot be a business providing a service; they must be an organisation or movement of people that builds and develops a counter-power, counter-culture and a membership or cadre that struggle against the system by collectively negotiating better wages, by enabling and giving agency to its members to challenge and change their own realities. It must be about meeting members’ needs through organisation, education and learning, from participation, practice and direct democracy.

“Within the federation affiliates must have autonomy but not independence, but differences of opinion must be tolerated”.

Rightly, SAFTU identifies democracy as a key problem that needs to be addressed but it does so within the same hierarchical structure as the system it is fighting and the federation it left. Once again doing things differently and implementing the principles it espouses throw up a number of contradictions that SAFTU has not addressed. SAFTU has not identified how the power relations in a neo-colonial, patriarchal, capitalist system are replicated by their own structures. There have been way too many union congresses where “representatives” have dropped their mandates after conversation with “leadership” and voted against democratic decisions taken at the base.

A federation will not liberate the class, nor will its affiliates; only the working class can liberate itself and it will never be able to do that as long as there is an implicit belief in a Great Leader/s; as long as the union is seen as a legal service and as long as power and money are centralised. A truly participatory, democratic trade union would be one where the locals/branches of each affiliate control the membership dues collected, where they would use their dues to do work on the ground and put some aside for provincial and national work; where the workers have direct ownership of the means of trade union production (negotiation, representation, mobilisation) and where the extremely loosely used term, democracy, translates into individual worker agency and empowerment to ensure that the base, the majority, the working class, is where true power lies, and that it uses its power to change the world for the benefit of the many.

by Pampazuka News

Message of Solidarity to Annual Meeting of the Brazilian Anarchist Coordination (CAB)


We of the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front warmly congratulate you on yet another year of sterling work in spreading the ideas and practices of anarchism amongst the popular classes of Brazil. We have been following the struggles in Brazil with interest and also much respect. We salute the bravery of you, our comrade sisters and brothers – the working class and anarchists of Brazil – and look forward to a victorious outcome for you in these struggles.

Dear Comrades of the CAB,

We of the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front warmly congratulate you on yet another year of sterling work in spreading the ideas and practices of anarchism amongst the popular classes of Brazil. We have been following the struggles in Brazil with interest and also much respect. We salute the bravery of you, our comrade sisters and brothers – the working class and anarchists of Brazil – and look forward to a victorious outcome for you in these struggles.

The ZACF continues to look to you for ideas and lessons. We share common bonds of struggle, ideology and history and see you comrades in the CAB as not only fellow anarchist travellers, but as teachers imparting knowledge gained through organising, educating and agitating for change.

You continue to inspire us! During times of hardship, for our organisation and our people here in southern Africa, we are held fast in our belief in the ideals and practices of anarchism. Much of this is due to your example. We ask of you, our comrades in the CAB, to continue to fight and build and to overcome whatever obstacles you face through trust in each other, through taking care of each other.

We hope you have a provocative, productive annual meeting and we look forward to you sharing your outcomes with us.

You are all invited to South Africa!

Always in solidarity! Forward Anarchism!
Forward to the Social Revolution!

Your comrades in struggle and in victory,
on behalf of the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front (South Africa)
Warren McGregor, Regional Secretary


Fueling the fires: South Africa in class war

By: Shawn Hattingh

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.

Wave after wave of community protests have been taking place in South Africa from Orange Farm in the Vaal, to Eldorado Park outside Johannesburg, to Khayelitsha in Cape Town. People are angry that after more than 20 years of so-called freedom they are still confined to living in shacks, having to shit in communal plastic toilets, sharing a standpipe for water with thousands of neighbours, and having essential services terminated when they can’t afford to pay.

What fuels this anger further is that on the other side of the cities and towns of South Africa, in the old white-only suburbs, the elite and middle classes flaunt their wealth. In such suburbs people live in the lap of luxury – well-manicured gardens, swimming pools, maid’s quarters and luxury cars are the order of the day. Under such circumstances, it is not hard to see why South Africa is ranked as one of the most unequal societies in the world; it is literally in your face.

Yet the ruling class – white and now black capitalists, top state officials and politicians – have waged an incessant war against the working class, and the black section in particular, to deepen this inequality. The reason they have done this is to increase their wealth – this class war lies at the root of the protests we have seen.

Many of the people that have been involved in the recent waves of protests – or their parents – had hoped for a better life with the fall of apartheid. Under that vile and horrific system, the black working class (workers and the unemployed) was subjected to a harsh racial oppression and exploitation. It was cheap labour, in the form of the black working class, which generated huge profits for corporations – owned by foreign and local white capitalists. To ensure the lowest costs of the reproduction of this exploited class, the apartheid state forced people to live in homelands and townships in which the most threadbare services were provided. The consequences were that the black working class was deliberately mired in poverty and when they rose up they faced the gun barrels of the apartheid state.

Fast forward to today. One can scarcely believe the reality in which the black working class finds itself in today, which materially is as at least as bad as under apartheid and in some cases even worse.

As part of this, since 1994, the portion of Gross Domestic Product which goes towards wages has declined. The implications of this are that in real terms the wages of the black working class have been in decline since the fall of apartheid. With this too, unemployment has exploded as capitalists in South Africa have reduced their labour force, mechanised, and implemented flexible labour to boost profit rates.

The post-apartheid state has been central to the war on the black working class. It has actively redirected wealth upwards towards the ruling class. It has done this through various means, which have included massive spending on infrastructure for corporations, the introduction of laws that allow labour flexibility and tax breaks for corporations. In fact, since 1994 the tax rate for corporations has been driven down from 49% to 28%. This is money that could have been used to improve the lives of the poor through providing, amongst other things, decent services and housing. At the same time, however, Value Added Tax, a tax that targets the working class, has contributed a larger and larger part of the state’s revenue. Far from being an under resourced and poor state, the South African state has actively been shifting wealth from the working class to the ruling class at an increasing rate.

At the same time as assisting the rich, the state has also been very active in attacking the poor. In real terms (inflation adjusted) spending on services for the working class, and the black working class in particular, has remained largely stagnant and in some cases even declined since 1994. As a matter of fact, on average the state under the ANC has allocated less than 2% of the budget to housing for the working class. As such, services like water, electricity, housing, sanitation, healthcare and education for black working class areas, including places such as Eldorado Park, Ennerdale, and Orange Farm, are a shambles. The national state under the stewardship of the ANC has also dramatically reduced the amount of money that it transfers to local governments to deliver services such as sanitation and refuse removal. This has been done to please international capitalists in the form of speculators. Speculators tend to target buying the bonds of states with low debt levels. To keep debt levels as low as possible at a national level, the South African state slashed transfers to local governments.

This means local municipalities have less in real terms for service delivery. To try and generate income, local governments across South Africa have aggressively adopted cost recovery for services to the working class, such as electricity, water, sanitation and refuse removal. The consequences are, if you can’t afford to pay you don’t get the services. Linked to this, more cruelly, pre-paid metres have been installed in working class areas across the country and cut people off from the basics of life, such as water, if they can’t pay. This is a form a systemic violence that degrades the everyday lives of people.

While doing this, however, most municipalities spend funds derived from their cost recovery schemes to build and maintain infrastructure for corporations. In cities like Cape Town, central business districts are kept plush, while the townships remain in a state of degradation. Local governments too continue to allocate far more resources per household to formerly white suburbs than townships. This means, insanely, the Johannesburg Municipality per household spends more on Sandton than it does on Soweto.

Making matters worse is that at the level of local government, municipalities have followed rabid outsourcing of basic services. For a connected local elite, usually linked to the African National Congress or in some areas the Democratic Alliance, this has been a godsend. This has seen contracts for housing and service delivery at a local level being handed out to those who have connections to politicians. Nepotism, corruption and patronage have become rife; and so too has graft. The consequences of these neoliberal policies at a local level is that service delivery is abysmal.

The reality is that the state does this, at a local and national level, because it is an instrument of the ruling class. States only exist to enforce the rule of a minority elite over a majority. Even in a parliamentary democracy, it is the elite that indirectly and directly control the state and they use it to increase their wealth and bolster and solidify their power. In the case of South Africa, politicians also use the state directly for self-enrichment.

Of course states do provide some services to the poor. These are and were, however, concessions that have been forced on the ruling class by the working class through the history of struggle. Indeed, the black working class only receives some support from the state – although meagre – because of the history of struggle in the country. Under neoliberalism though, these concessions are being rolled back, and it is this that is once again fuelling protests.

The role that the state plays in protecting the ruling class can be seen in how the police have reacted to the protests. Most people involved in protests usually try to follow the state’s prescribed procedures to air their grievances, for example engaging in Integrated Development Plans and petitioning local councillors – and only embark on protest once these proved to be dead-ends; which they inevitably do as the state and politicians could not give a crap about the plight of people except at election time. But once people protest, as we have seen, the police react violently, firing rubber bullets, tear gas, stun-grenades and even live bullets at protestors – protestors, who it must be remembered, are merely asking to receive the basics of life.

The working class, however, has proved that it won’t lie down under the fire from the ruling class. This is where hope lies. What is needed now is for these struggles that we have been seeing across the country to link, based on self-organisation and direct democracy. There are many challenges to this, including toxic party politics, but if society is too change it will have to be done. Indeed, the fire of resistance needs to burn; and to do so struggles need to link and become a force capable of blunting the attacks of the ruling class in South Africa. Through this, hopefully, a basis can be set for a broader struggle against exploitation and all forms of oppression; and for human liberation in which no-one lacks the basics of life such as housing, water, and sanitation.

Edited For mb3-org.com


Cosatu wakes to its own demons

No go: Bheki Ntshalintshali (above left) tackled Cosatu’s recalcitrant affiliates. With him at this week’s conference are Tyotyo James and Cyril Ramaphosa. (Paul Botes, M&G)

By: Govan Whittles

Cosatu is obsessed with the ANC succession race but it has the much more urgent task of putting its own house in order. Its membership is stagnating, its affiliates are not paying their affiliation fees or are in disarray and the union federation is paranoid about loyalty to its former general secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi.

These issues were brought to the fore by its general secretary, Bheki Ntshalintshali, in his report this week to Cosatu’s first central committee meeting since it called for President Jacob Zuma to step down and for him to be replaced by his deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa.

Cosatu is “not completely out of the woods yet”, Ntshalintshali said, and singled out “a lack of co-operation by affiliates” as the federation’s most serious challenge.

“People are using the independence of their constitutions and say, ‘you can’t intervene, we have got [our own] structures’.

“You can also say in some areas there is a lack of leadership. I mean, if a union cannot hold its own congress in terms of its own constitution, there’s no violation worse than that.”

He was referring to the chemical, printing and paper union, Ceppawu, which has failed to submit audited financial statements or hold its congress since 2014.

He said the refusal by affiliates’ to work with national leaders had become evident, with an increasing number of frustrated affiliate members approaching Cosatu about a lack of co-operation from their leaders.

Since the expulsion of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) from Cosatu, the federation’s private-sector industrial unions have been outnumbered and out-muscled in the federation. The health and education union, Nehawu, and the policing and prisons union, Popcru, are now the most powerful unions in Cosatu.

Ntshalintshali’s report revealed that, of the private-sector unions, only the Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) has managed to grow its membership since 2013, with the rest of its affiliates’ membership remaining stagnant or decreasing.

Despite this, the federation’s audited figures showed its membership remained at 1.7-million, clear evidence of the growth of its public-sector unions, Ntshalintshali told the Mail & Guardian.

He attributed the stagnation of the industrial unions’ membership to retrenchments.

“There have been major retrenchments. I think if there were no retrenchments the numbers would have been positive. But it seems, as unions lose members, others are going out to recruit more,” he said.

The report also dealt with troubled affiliates.

The South African Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu)

Cosatu’s central committee agreed to consider the appeals of expelled Samwu members “positively” and would convene a bosberaad to resolve the crisis in the union.

The union members were expelled for ill-discipline. They unsuccessfully attempted to disrupt a Cosatu central executive committee meeting earlier this month.

Samwu was caught up in a long labour court battle over challenges to its leadership, which finally concluded with those elected at congress being confirmed as the legitimate custodians.

In his organisational report, Ntshalintshali said all parties had accepted the court judgment and considered the matter closed.

The South African Football Players’ Union (Safpu)

Once considered to be one of Numsa’s closest allies, Safpu told the central committee it “remained committed” to Cosatu and would do anything to resolve its problems. Challenges include not paying rent for 17 months and the resignation of its president, Simba Marumo.

Ntshalintshali said Safpu does not have constitutional structures, and new allegations about the mismanagement of union funds and corruption have arisen in their meetings.

Despite its commitment, the union continues to boycott Cosatu’s central executive committee.

The Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers’ Union (Ceppawu)

Control over union resources and its investment arm have been at the centre of Ceppawu’s internal divisions, Ntshalintshali said.

The union has not paid its affiliation fees for 13 months, and the national office bearers said they have tried everything in their power to achieve a “breakthrough”.

Ntshalintshali said Ceppawu’s investment arm was worth R4-billion, raising the stakes for control of the union. The committee agreed to set up a task team again to attempt to stabilise the union.

The South African Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (Satawu)

The absence of Satawu’s general secretary, Zenzo Mahlangu, was mocked by Ntshalintshali, who said an apology had been sent but he couldn’t understand why the leaders could not walk from nearby Tembisa, where the union has an office.

The home affairs department reportedly deported Mahlangu on May 4, but Satawu’s spokesperson denied this.

Mahlangu is accused by members of the union’s Gauteng structures of acting like a dictator. He presided over the expulsion of leaders such as former president Ephraim Mphahlele and his replacement, June Dube, both of whom went on to form their own unions.

Satawu has also not paid affiliation fees to Cosatu for nine months.

Other unions that are in arrears include the Communications Workers’ Union, which unsuccessfully attempted to convince the meeting to march to Luthuli House on June 15 to reinforce its call for Zuma to step down.

The traitors within

Cosatu has become paranoid about staff members who remain loyal to the federation’s former general secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi, according to the report.

“There are staff members who are not loyal to the federation but loyal to individuals … This is evident from internal information that ends up with outsiders,” Ntshalintshali said. “This demonstrates that there are still comrades within Cosatu who, if conditions [were right] would leave Cosatu and join a ‘new federation’ but, for job security, they are still here.”

Cosatu does not appear to have any strategy to deal with the threat.

“We are not going to do [a] witch-hunt but expect all Cosatu staff do what they were employed to do and would be treated equally without fear or favour,” Ntshalintshali’s said.

Cosatu expects its bigger affiliates with more money and shop stewards to help to resolve the problems facing distressed unions.

“There is solidarity. Other unions are saying we can’t allow unions who are struggling to do so alone. Those who are better off in terms of resources should give those resources so that staff and shop stewards are better capacitated,” Ntshalintshali said.