Time to crack down on the mining monopolies

[a response to Allister Sparks’ ‘I pity the class of 2013’]

It is amazing how 2 people can look at the same scene but see completely different pictures. Allister Sparks sees only the faults of the ANC govt but we see not only this but also the faults of the capitalist system and mining monopolies.

The rise of mass schooling internationally went hand in hand with the development of the capitalist system which requires a large, literate but docile pool of labour.

The imperialist monopolies have kept Africa as a provider of raw, unprocessed mining and farming goods. This meant that a limited number of skilled and semi-skilled workers were needed as well as a huge pool of largely unskilled but barely literate workforce was required. It is from these requirements of the capitalist system that mass schooling has developed in Africa. Thus it is by design that only 8% of schools have functioning libraries; it is by design that of 2,7 million who start school, only 700 000 reach matric. The capitalist system in Africa is based not only on cheap labour but requires massive unemployment to drive down wages as far as possible to maximize the profits for the monopolies. The ANC govt is merely the blunt instrument of the monopolies to beat down the masses according to their requirements, whims and fancies.

Sparks promotes the myth that SA education expenditure is ‘among the highest in the world’. A closer examination of the figures show that SA ranks 58 in the world and, despite being the biggest economy in Africa, only comes in at number 17 on the continent for per capita education expenses. Lesotho, Swaziland, Namibia, Kenya and Sudan, among others, rank higher than SA. Thus the question really should be why the education expenditure is so low in SA?

Part of the answer lies in the adoption by the ANC govt of structural adjustment programmes of the World Bank since 1996, where wages were kept low and education expenses were limited, masses of Mathematics teachers were retrenched and teacher training colleges closed down.

It has also come to light in the Journal of Southern African Studies, in an article by Ben Fine on capital flight from SA, that the mining monopolies have been stealing massive amounts from the country for the past 40 years at least. In 2007 such theft, through transfer pricing and mislabelling reached its zenith of 23% of GDP, ie about R600bn was taken out illegally from the country by the mining monopolies in one year alone. This massive amount is besides what the monopolies take out through their usual methods. Thus amounts of up to R1 trillion per year is being carried offshore by the mining monopolies. The erudite Sparks is aware of this but deliberately ignores this. No, blame only the ANC, not the puppet master. Thus Sparks gives away who his own class position, namely being totally subservient to big capital. [transfer pricing for example, is where a mine exports Platinum, which goes at $1400 per unit, but labels it as the cheaper Palladium, which goes at roughly $400 per unit; thus about $1000 per unit is smuggled out without paying tax on it].

Sparks promotes Agang’s Ramphele who raised the notion of a ‘30% Matric’ but he glosses over the role of the very person in imposing a ‘30% wage’on workers at UCT, when she retrenched them en masse and hired some of them back through a labour broker at a fraction of the wage. A child can wait for many things but s/he cannot wait to eat. At one blow, Mamphele destroyed the future of countless starving youth. Labour broking spread like wild fire after the UCT Mamphele moment. So grateful were the World Bank for her services of smashing the masses, that they gave her a leading post in their ranks. During the mining strike of last year, Anglo Gold’s Mamphele again made her mark by calling for mass retrenchment of mineworkers and for widescale mechanization. [Thatcher would have been proud].

The best that Sparks has to offer the masses are smatterings of the training of a few crèche teachers, some rural shuttles and a couple of model boarding schools, something that is in line with the latest dictates of the World Bank plans to control the masses while shifting the burden of the capitalist crisis onto the backs of the working class.

Sparks blames Sadtu for allegedly protecting incompetent teachers, lumping the union in the same breathe as predators on the girl child. Can effective teaching take place when millions stay in shacks or RDP brick shacks, or where millions are unemployed? And yes, the state, as part of the world capitalist offensive to collapse public schooling and promote private schooling, is on the offensive against teachers. Basic defence organs as unions are sorely needed by the teachers. Not so for Sparks, he wants to single out Sadtu and the teachers as if the education system is neutral and not a product of the capitalist system. What should be said to Sadtu is that by aligning yourself to the ANC govt you are actually in alliance for low wages and for the collapse of public education, you should break this alliance.

Why can’t there be state-funded shuttles for the students, as an interim measure, to the best schools, colleges and universities, while integrated decent housing is being built? Why can’t there be immediate setting up of functioning libraries with internet access, at all schools? Why can’t there be immediate solving of the electricity and sanitation problems at all schools?

Why can’t there be an immediate bringing to book of all the mining companies and a return of all the stolen wealth, so that the basic needs of work, decent housing, free health care, free, quality education for all, can be made a reality? The ANC, with its African Rainbow Minerals, Chancellor House and multitude of parasitic BEE ventures, have no interest in taking one meaningful step against big capital. Thus every effort should be made for Cosatu to break with the ANC govt and for the setting up of a revolutionary working class party to spearhead the campaign for the basic demands of the masses. Now that would spark some hope for the class of 2013 and indeed all our youth.