South Africa- a hell for workers; a paradise for the capitalists- let us unite like the Egyptian masses

Before 1994, South Africa was capitalist and the entire economy was controlled by imperialist monopolies who sustained the apartheid regime. Since 1994 the commanding heights of the economy are still controlled by the imperialist monopolies. This means South Africa is still capitalist. By supporting the ANC, the Cosatu and SACP leaders create the illusion that the regime is somehow class-neutral and biased towards the working class. They claim that the Freedom Charter is a programme for the poor. This is what Mandela in the June 1956 edition of Liberator, said of the ‘nationalization’ clause of the Freedom Charter:


 The breaking up and democratisation of these monopolies will open up fresh fields for the development of a prosperous Non-European bourgeois class.


Thus the emphasis of the Freedom Charter is on the development of a black capitalist class as the key to meeting the democratic aspirations of the masses. According to the Cosatu and SACP, the struggle for achieving of the most basic democratic demands of the masses, for jobs, for housing, for education, for health care, etc, should be placed in the hands of a section of the black middle class, the aspirant black capitalists. By workers joining the ANC means to tie the workers behind the coat-tails of a section of the black capitalist class and thus tying the working class to imperialism. The past 17 years is a testimony to this. Every year imperialism still takes out well over R200bn in profits from the country.


The Cosatu and SACP leaders want us to believe that the ANC brought us such great improvements that we should all vote for them again. The few advances that were achieved, came through the mass action of the working class against the system. The ANC and DA governments have held back the demands of the working class for jobs, decent housing, free education, free, quality health care, etc. Both have protected the capitalists who have made massive profits, while the masses suffer greater unemployment, high prices and lack of decent housing. The main difference between the ANC and DA is that the ANC wants the emerging black capitalist class to get some of the crumbs from the capitalists’ table (this is the real content of their ‘National Democratic Revolution’) while the DA wants the capitalists to get virtually everything. The DA lies that ‘coloured’ and ‘indian’ workers will be dismissed- they are really worried that the rich ‘white’ middle class will have to give up a little space to the black middle class at management level (the DA wants the privileges for themselves). The DA bribes workers with R100 and a papsak a day for electioneering.  Voting will not bring a fundamental change for the working class- the rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer. Let us unite as workers against the capitalist system as the Egyptian workers are showing us. But let us take it up to the end. Let us form action committees in every workplace and every working class community, we need a workers party that is independent from all capitalist influences, that unites local and immigrant workers, that organizes workers across the region and across the world; we need to refound Fourth International; let us prepare the ground for a Workers summit of delegates from every workplace (irrespective if you are a member of a union or not) and with delegates from the unemployed, from the rank and file soldiers. Let us prepare the ground for a general strike where, once and for all, the organised working class takes power into its own hands and we end the system of capitalism. Only then can we say that the majority, the working class, will rule. It is only the working class in power that can advance even the most basic demands for jobs, decent housing, free, quality health and education, that can end apartheid once and for all time.

As the Southern African economy is controlled by imperialism, the start of the working class taking power in Southern Africa, kicking out the brutal regimes, in Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Lesotho, Mozambique, Botswana, Madagascar, SA, etc must go forward to the working class taking power in the imperialist centres such as the USA, UK, France, Germany, Japan. The world capitalist economy is inter-connected and the imperialists have kept away the latest scientific knowledge and developments from the semi-colonies and colonies.


Let us examine the life of the worker and see what has happened since 1994 to show how the middle class (whether white or black) has held back the democratic demands of the working class and allies. The only class that has consistently fought for democratic demands, has been the working class. It follows that only the working class, organizing itself independently and taking power into its own hands can lead the fight for democratic demands to its end. 


There shall be work (only for some)

Firstly the number of unemployed has more than doubled (2 million to 4.3 million- narrow definition). Of those who work, many are casuals and over 2 million work for labour brokers, without benefits and earning slave wages. Youth unemployment is over 60%, if not higher. South Africa has the lowest proportion of those with jobs out of the working age population in the whole of Africa. Only 41% of those who can work actually have a form of work. Over the past 2 years when over 1 million workers were retrenched, the Cosatu leaders failed to organise a united fight against the attack by the big capitalists. More than 1 million farmworkers have been retrenched since 1994 and their wages are still the lowest. Yet the government allows the food companies to charge us high prices that are linked to the California Board of Trade. In other words, our food prices are manipulated by the US banks.


The promise of a 40 hour working week as outlined by the Freedom Charter, is stamped on by the ANC and DA governments.

There shall be high prices

Sasol produces more than 40% of local oil usage at less than $20 per barrel (if not less than $10), yet it is allowed to sell it at market rates of more than $120. Workers often spend half (sometimes more) of their wages on transport. Yet the real cost of oil is $2 per barrel or less, meaning the international banks, like JP Morgan Chase and the bank of New York, that control Sasol and the other major oil companies, make huge profits out of over-charging the masses for transport. The Cosatu leaders do nothing about this


Electricity price has increased by 25% for each of the last 3 years but, despite having a resolution for a general strike, the Cosatu leaders just sit on their hands. In fact they justify huge expenses on coal and nuclear power stations by saying the government should go for longer term loans. This year government debt has increased to R1000 bn. It is still the worker who has to repay the high interest loans from the big banks. These banks and construction companies are controlled by none other than the same US banks, JP Morgan Chase and the bank of New York. Even the SA Reserve Bank is controlled by JP Morgan Chase.


Anglo American (also controlled by JP Morgan Chase) gets electricity at less than 20 cents per unit- in effect their electricity is being subsidized by the worker and unemployed in the squatter camp, who pays the highest rate for electricity. The Eskom electricity plan assumes that electricity use will double within the next twenty years. A huge number of companies closed down in 2008-9, and as business is the biggest user of electricity, this claim by Eskom is false. So the actions of the Cosatu leaders benefit only the US banks. No wonder the Cosatu and SACP leaders went to the US and Europe after Polokwane- it was to reassure their bosses that everything was under control and that Zuma and the ANC would protect their interests.


There are 20 million people in the rural areas who are ‘surviving’ with only 13% of the total income of the country.


The capitalists shall have the lion’s share of the country’s wealth:

The ANC have lowered the tax rate for companies from 48% to 28% since 1994, which means that they have shifted the burden of tax more onto the backs of the working class. The DA are very happy with this.


The government spent over R100 Bn on the world cup while millions live in shacks and 40 square metre RDP hokkies. The Cosatu leaders want us to be grateful for the 2.5 million ‘hokkies’ the government has built since 1994, for 10 million people. The population in 1994 was about 38 million; today it is 48 million, so all they have done is kept pace with population growth. But these 10 million who now have ‘houses’ are still in the apartheid ghettoes- so the ANC and DA have just continued the apartheid areas that the NP created. Further, look at the life of the 4 person family in these 2.5 million RDP concrete shacks. The front rooms of the middle class are bigger than the entire RDP shack. If you are lucky enough to have a separate bedroom built, once you put in a double bed, there is hardly space for you to squeeze into the room. If you are ‘lucky’ enough to have an inside toilet, it is directly on top of the ‘kitchen’ space. If you have 2 children, they either squeeze into the same bed with you or under the kitchen table. If you have a 5th person in the house, perhaps s/he would find space in the bathroom to sleep! Many of these RDP hokkies are so close together that they only have 1 metre in front of them and no space at the back and sides. Residents joke that the ‘houses’ are so small that they ‘cannot even change their minds’ in them.


These are the ‘great achievements’ that the Cosatu and SACP leaders want the working class to be so grateful for. These leaders have nothing but contempt for the working class and fellow poor.


For bigger houses, the working class is expected to take loans from the banks. When workers have debts for water or rates or cannot keep up payments, the government and the banks are quick to evict. The slow pace of building houses and the small hokkies that are built, all contribute to a general desperation among the masses for decent housing- this creates a climate where the banks can charge huge amounts for houses and for rent. The price of housing has gone up by more than 10 times. Thus the ‘housing’ policy of the ANC and DA only really favours the banks.


There shall be hokkies, high loan payments and discomfort for many (the masses). Millions still stay in shacks while the middle class and rich live in security and comfort.


If everyone is unemployed in the house, you have a problem- if you go and buy electricity, the council will take off what they claim you owe for water; or if you have prepaid electricity the council will force you to install a pre-paid water meter under the disguise of an ‘indigent’ policy. Even then they will not reinstate your water until your council debts are paid. For the millions of unemployed, if they can get the R10 to pay at the beginning of the month, they will have electricity for only 6 days (with the free 50 units per month). Thus although more water and electricity connections have been installed, millions have had their water and electricity cut off. Many of these connections have fallen into disrepair and the full figure is hidden from us by both the DA and ANC.


Only the rich shall have human rights

The third biggest dam (Sterkfontein) in South Africa is close to the Mequeleng community where the police killed Andries Tatane, while across the border in Lesotho, the imperialist World bank sponsored Highlands dam has huge quantities of water. The cherry farmers in Ficksburg get their water, the mines and industry get their water, which flows past the doors of the Mequeleng community, but the masses are water-starved. In other words, the ANC makes sure the big capitalists get water while the masses are kept in suffering. The ANC deliberately delayed, by one year, the implementation of the backpay for the agreement on wave curves which reduce the apartheid disparities in the municipalities. The police shot and killed Samwu shopsteward, Petros Msiza and mass dismissed 1000 municipal strikers. The ANC, following instructions from US imperialism, is trying to ban unions for soldiers. And still the Cosatu leaders sing the praises of the ANC for delivery.


The people shall only have a small share in the country’s wealth: The economic policies of both the ANC and DA have deepened inequality: The top 1% of earners earn 40% of the total income, while the bottom 40% has to live off 1% of the total income.


Both the ANC and DA manifestos are silent over high prices.  While the masses are buckling under with high prices, low wages and huge unemployment, the monopolies are making huge profits:


Even though Pick ‘n Pay moans about falling profits, they still made profits of R1.4 Bn last year; Shoprite made profits of R1.2Bn in the past 6 months; Woolworths increased profits by 26%; Anglo American and all international mining companies made huge profits last year, Anglo made world profits of over R70 Bn; Sasol made profits of R12 Bn; Tiger Brands – R2.7Bn; Parmalat made R1.4 Bn profit in the past 6 months; JP Morgan Chase that controls the Reserve bank and Anglo American, made R40 Bn just in the last 3 months; The Bank of New York that controls many of the gold mines in South Africa, made world wide returns just in last year of $5 trillion, in other words, more than the combined GDP (annual wealth production) of Africa and the entire Latin America combined.


In other words , what the Cosatu leaders forgot to say is that the working class will get the smallest share while the capitalists will get most of it (including the increasing fraction of the black capitalists who live off the crumbs of the master’s table as loan millionaires, completely in the pocket of the US banks).


There shall be no peace for the working class

Both the ANC and DA supported the UN resolution to bomb the masses in Libya; while the DA defends Israel, the ANC takes only symbolic action against it. Coal from Anglo Coal mines power the electricity in Israel, while most of the diamond production from Anglo-De Beers mines are sent to Israel for cutting and polishing. The SA government still sells helicopter and aircraft parts to Israel, including propellants (that are used for missiles). The SA government still sells weapons to the USA and Britain, despite their illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq. Of course the DA raises no objection on this.


The capitalists shall get the best land

Over 1 million farmworkers were dismissed since 1994. The number of commercial farmers have been reduced from 50 000 to 25 000. Monsanto, Parmalat, Anglo American and other capitalists control the best farming land. Land redistribution has been limited to 30% and to date not much of this has occurred. The ANC is protecting the monopolies who control the best land, while the masses die of hunger in the rural areas.


There shall be evictions and no right to occupy land

The Freedom Charter promises that anyone can occupy vacant land close to work; yet both the ANC and DA evict the homeless masses, with the help of the red ants and the police, to the far edges of the cities.


There shall be hunger, starvation and disease

The Cosatu and SACP leaders want us to be so grateful that our pensioners receive a pension of R1140 and that the childhood grant is now R260. If the pensioner buys one loaf of dry bread, electricity just for light every day, one litre of milk a day and pays for transport to school for one child or pays for one person for transport to look for work, the measly ‘pension’ would be up. There is no money for water, transport for the pensioner, or for food, or clothing, or to buy any furniture, or even for going to the doctor. The childhood grant is just enough for one litre of milk per day or one loaf of dry bread per day. The pensioners and unemployed are dying of hunger and preventable diseases, confined to the ghettoes. At the same time the capitalists are making more profits than they ever made in the days of apartheid. These are the great ‘advances’ that the Cosatu leaders say we must be so grateful for.


There shall be privatization of schooling

Thousands of teachers have been retrenched and the state has promoted private schooling by collapsing the little education that there was. Most public schools are forced to charge high school fees to make up for the shortfall in teachers. FET colleges, which are private money making machines to produce more cheap labour, have been actively promoted by the governments. The privatization of schooling and collapse of public schooling is part of a world trend by capitalist governments to increase areas that the big capitalists can make profit from, while at the same time is a form a social control to limit the critical thinking of the masses- the Arts and libraries are regarded as a luxury and have been severely limited. The promise of wide access to the internet at public libraries has largely not materialised.


There shall be no free health care

The clinics have become panado distribution centres, where the sick have to wait in queues for hours before they are seen. Many of the services like X-rays and basic treatment have been privatized. The Cosatu leaders promote the National Health Insurance (NHI) which will be another tax for workers to pay for health care, instead of having free health care. Workers take-home pay will now be 10% less.  Further, this means that workers who do not have medical aid will be able to go to private health care. All that the NHI will do is open exploitation of the sick more to the private health companies- they will be able to make profits from those with medical aid and those on the NHI. The allocation that workers will get is likely to be limited which means that patients will be evicted from hospitals after the short period it takes for their health credit to be used up. The health monopolies will increase their already high fees- a real heaven for them. In the US and other places where similar health schemes are in place there are millions excluded from the system.


Way Forward

The first question that arises is why, knowing the ANC’s record of siding with the big capitalists, does the Cosatu and SACP leaders still insist on calling for workers to support the ANC. Objectively, for the moment, the best mechanism the imperialist’s have of controlling the masses, is the ANC. If the masses were to break from the ANC (and they are starting to do exactly that) the Cosatu and SACP leaders would begin the process of preparing a new way to contain the masses once more for imperialism. (The SACP has started the reformist Democratic Left Front).


The Cosatu and SACP leaders are in a position of privilege which is tied up to maintaining the capitalist system. There has been a whole series of ‘deployment’ of worker leaders (Jay Naidoo, Sam Shilowa, Ebrahim Patel, Alec Erwin, etc)- all of them have accelerated the continued control of the economy by big capital.


A central task has to be for Cosatu to break with the pro-capitalist ANC and SACP; this means that those who continue to support the alliance with the ANC should be removed from all leadership positions. This does not mean that Cosatu should be independent from politics or political parties, on the contrary, Cosatu should align itself with an internationalist vanguard workers party of the Bolshevik type.


An outline of a programme for a Bolshevik party:

  • 35 hour week, share all the work among all who can work, without loss of pay
  • wages should rise as prices of electricity, food, transport, housing costs and other basic necessities increase
  • nationalization of the land; expropriate all the commercial farms, without compensation to the capitalists, placing them under workers control. This will set the basis for the state to set up a non-profit national food distribution network, under workers control; workers committees should be set up to monitor and regulate prices; the poor peasant farmers should be encouraged to join up with the large worker controlled farms; cheap credit and full assistance to the subsistence and poor farmer;
  • cheap laundry and eating houses; child care facilities at places of work and in communities- all under workers control so all these functions are socialised;
  • all the capitalist firms in the clothing industry should be expropriated, without compensation to the capitalists; there should be the setting up of a worker-controlled national clothing company, which should also re-hire all the workers dismissed in the clothing industry, including those workers in the CMT’s and other sweatshops, to produce, for the entire country, the school uniforms and state uniforms as well as basic clothes items;
  • Sasol and all capitalist and imperialist oil and gas companies should be expropriated without compensation to the capitalists, placed under workers control to help provide cheap fuel to the masses;
  • All stock of clay and cement as well as all major construction companies (like Group 5, Murray & Roberts, etc) and all banks be expropriated without compensation to the capitalists, placed under workers control, so that adequate, low rent housing be built close to places of work, be it in the cities or the rural areas. The making available of all vacant space in hotels and suitable buildings, for the pensioners and for housing needs in general; the integration of housing and social life and an end to the apartheid ghettoes; an end to all water meters and all privatized state assets- for them to be re-nationalised, without compensation to the capitalists, under workers control.
  • Immediate abolishing of labour broking and casualisation; Expropriation, without compensation to the capitalists, of all monopolies and imperialist companies and mines, placing these under workers control. This will enable work to be re-organised on a basis from each according to their ability to each according to their needs, opening the way to work for all;
  • The installation of mass solar panels in the north cape desert to become the main form of electricity generation (together with hydropower, including the use of hydropower from the DRC); the re-training and redeployment of workers from coal and other dangerous work to solar and other socially useful industries; immediate end to the subsidy for the monopolies for electricity; immediate reduction of the price of electricity;
  • Free liberatory education, up to the highest level- the combination of manual and intellectual work;
  • Disbanding of the police and military police, the right of soldiers to be unionised; for the higher ranks to be elective and subject to instant recall by the rank and file soldiers; towards the integration of the rank and file soldiers into a workers militia- the general arming of the masses
  • Expropriation of all capitalist private health companies, without compensation to the capitalists, placing them under workers control, to facilitate free, adequate health care for all;
  • Immediate abolishing of wage differences between urban and rural workers.
  • A living pension for pensioners and a living grant for all those who are in need and unable to work.
  • Immediate end to discrimination against immigrant workers and their families- this implies the spread of the struggle for workers power throughout Africa and beyond. This means the fight to expropriate all imperialist assets across Africa, without compensation, under workers control; For a federation of Socialist workers states of Southern Africa; for a Soviet Africa


It is time for workers, irrespective if you vote or not let us unite as workers against the capitalist system as the Egyptian, Libyan, Tunisian, Syrian and other workers are showing us. But let us take it up to the end. The central weakness in the struggles in North Africa and the Middle East has been the absence of a revolutionary workers leadership and at the same time the counter-revolutionary role played by the fake left in the world to isolate and strangle the revolutionary uprisings.


Let us form action committees in every workplace and every working class community, we need a workers party that is independent from all capitalist influences, that unites local and immigrant workers, that organizes workers across the region and across the world; we need to refound the Fourth International; this means that we have to remove the leadership that ties the working class to the capitalists- this means we have to break from the ANC and SACP; let us prepare the ground for a Workers summit of delegates from every workplace (irrespective if you are a member of a union or not, irrespective if you are a local or immigrant worker) and with delegates from the unemployed, from the rank and file soldiers. Let us prepare the ground for a general strike where, once and for all, the organised working class takes power into its own hands and we end the system of capitalism. Our central demand must be for the expropriation of all capitalist (and imperialist) companies and banks without compensation to the capitalists and for these companies to be placed under workers control. Only then can we say that the majority, the working class, will rule. It is only the working class in power that can advance even the most basic demands for jobs, decent housing, free, quality health and education, that can end apartheid once and for all time.


Let us unite with the worker in North Africa, the Middle East, the US, the UK, France, Germany, Japan,, with all workers around the world, in struggle against our common enemy, the world capitalist system. Only then can we say that Socialism will flourish, only then can we end this capitalist barbarism.  24.4.2011 amended 28.4.2011

Issued by Workers International Vanguard League, 1st Floor, Community House, 41 Salt River rd, Salt River, 7925. South Africa, ph 021 4476777, ph 0822020617, , web affiliated to the International Leninist Trotskyist Fraction