Back then the battle lines were clear. We fought to overthrow the racist colonial apartheid regime to free the majority.
The freedom we demanded was defined by the Freedom Charter which declared that “Our country will never be prosperous or free until all our people live in brotherhood enjoying equal rights and opportunities”.
We lost the war against apartheid because a liberal negotiated settlement was secured. The Convention for a Democratic SA (Codesa) compromises entrenched the dominance of the white minority in the economy and society. Twenty-three years after 1994, the black and African majority can occupy government, but real state power and ownership of the land and the means of production are in white hands, but for a tiny black middle class. The apartheid social and economic structures remain intact.
Oxfam confirms this in a report titled, “An economy for the 99%”, which found that the majority of South African wealth is owned by three white billionaires while the black and African majority suffer under the curse of unemployment, poverty and inequality, just as it was under apartheid. This is the cause of the crisis in South Africa.
The phrase "White Monopoly Capital" (WMC) emerges from this ugly reality. It describes monopolies which have become cartels that dominate all social and economic sectors. They are largely white-owned and controlled and they lock out other players from participating in the economy. Those who deny the existence of WMC do so because they are beneficiaries.
For the last two decades, the ANC government has waged an all-out assault on the African working class in order to defend WMC. The ANC has faithfully implemented the National Party’s neo-liberal capitalist economic policies, starting with the Growth, Employment and Redistribution (Gear) plan and now the National Development Plan (NDP), both of which are the DA’s economic policies, in order to please ratings agencies. Former finance minister Trevor Manuel was intimately involved in crafting Gear and the NDP.
The NDP, by calling for the deregulation of the labour market, discourages government from intervening directly in the economy to create jobs and to decisively tackle poverty and unemployment. It keeps the current system intact.
Neo-liberal economic policies like the NDP have resulted in massive job losses and long-term mass unemployment. They have created a society of extreme inequality. The majority suffer as they did under apartheid, living crammed together with cockroaches and rats in townships and shacks, without sanitation, water and electricity.
Recently, calls for President Jacob Zuma to resign have increased. Numsa was the first to make this demand, in 2013. However, to us, the problem was not just Zuma, but the continuing racist apartheid capitalist economy and society, and the ANC and its right-wing economic policies, which are responsible for the economic crisis. This has been exacerbated by the downgrading of South Africa to junk status.
There are pleas for “dialogue” from the defenders of the old order. Unsurprisingly, the “dialogue” does not include the majority, the African working class. The leaders demanding the removal of Zuma are neo-liberals and cannot be trusted to advance the interests of the African working class.
The ANC and its alliance are now vehicles for state looting. As the ANC inches closer to its elective conference later in the year, the stench from its factions – including the SACP and Cosatu – will get stronger, as the competition for access to resources intensifies. The ANC's decline in the polls has resulted in a frenzied attempt to cling to power, hence the calls for "radical economic transformation".
These calls are mendacious because the ANC has failed to demolish the apartheid economy and society and to transform the lives of the African working class and the poor. It's empty rhetoric to fool the working class into voting for the ANC again. The best example of this is the SACP and Cosatu’s bizarre support for deputy president, Cyril Ramaphosa, to replace Zuma.
Numsa was the first to reject Zuma and the ANC for corruption and their neo-liberal capitalism. Suddenly, today, the same Cosatu and SACP which persecuted us for our socialist revolutionary stance, are seized with false revolutionary fervour, and are calling for Zuma to go – but they want him to be replaced by the anti-working class and parasitic capitalist Cyril!
The deputy president and the ANC have demonstrated contempt and hatred for the black and African working class since being elected into power in 1994. Ramaphosa is driving legislation to implement the National Minimum Wage which will legalise slave wages of R20 per hour, and limit the right to strike. This former trade unionist is also implicated in the state’s mass murder of 34 miners at Marikana, who died fighting for a living wage.
The unholy alliance of the SACP and Cosatu in their blind support for the anti-working class ANC, is driven by the selfish interests of their leaders and not for the working class – let alone, socialism. The SACP and Cosatu continue the ANC tradition of treating the working class like mindless voting cattle by actively campaigning for workers to support a capitalist union-basher like Ramaphosa.
We have also seen a reawakening of the forces that negotiated for the right-wing, pro-apartheid neo-liberal order we suffer from today. Thabo Mbeki and FW de Klerk – key architects of our racist colonial post-1994 order – are leading this mobilisation, together with Save South Africa, under the pretext of a campaign to remove Zuma. As paid agents of the capitalist class, they ensure white monopoly capital remains dominant. They are peddling a mirage designed to send the working class and the country to sleep. They have no revolutionary agenda. They defend and protect the status quo.
Mbeki and De Klerk’s legacies are soaked in the blood of thousands of African people. No Nobel Peace Prize can cleanse De Klerk of his leadership of the brutal apartheid machinery. Mbeki will forever be haunted by the ghosts of hundreds of thousands of people who died as a result of being denied critical antiretroviral drugs, because of his dubious HIV/Aids policies.
Capitalism is a bloody failure globally. Many catastrophic wars and millions dead; environmental degradation; and, today, these failures are giving birth to fascism in Europe and in America, where the lunatic Donald Trump was elected to lead.
All national struggles are about restoring land justice; and this remains unresolved, 23 years after 1994. This is what guarantees the poverty of the African majority. Without this restoration, the struggles of the colonised people will continue.
* Irvin Jim is Numsa general secretary
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media