February 17, 2018
In the 90s, South Africa, the African country with the biggest proletariat in the continent, caused major expectations when, under the ANC and Mandela’s leadership, workers put an end to the revolting regime of apartheid.
By Americo Gomes.
The end of the Apartheid, in 1994, was a major victory for black workers in South Africa and the world, but the ANC leadership took office to ensure economic power for imperialist multinationals and their white chiefs, creating an enriched black bourgeoisie. Similar to what happened in Angola, Congo, Zimbabwe and other African countries, the ANC leadership, from its relationship with the State apparatus, turned into a bourgeoisie parasite of the State and dependent of the relationship with imperialism.
South Africa is the richest and more industrialized country in the continent: it has 54 million inhabitants, but to the present, only 10% own over 90% of the country’s wealth. The property of lands and companies is in hands of white communities, while black workers live in conditions of misery. However, they are now reacting to this.
Working class’ mobilization overthrows Zuma
Jacob Zuma, president of South Africa, resigned. Not only because of the crisis and confrontation with the ANC leadership (African National Congress,) which demanded him to resign one day before a vote of no confidence in the parliament – the crisis has been there for months. Zuma’s term was marked by corruption, economic decline and setbacks to the conquests achieved by the South African people after the apartheid defeat. A capitalist management of economy together with major levels of corruption helped to increase, as never seen before, the unemployment, poverty and social inequality. Zuma continued Thabo Mbeki’s and Mandela’s plan of implementing a neoliberal policy in the country.
The demonstrations grew from 2015 on. First, students’ demonstrations -many times harshly repressed- against the high cost of college. Then, demonstrations were directly for Out with Zuma, in November 2016, when the police shot rubber bullets, grenades, and used hydrants against the demonstrators. At that moment, the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union [NEHAWU] took the Out with Zuma too.
These demonstrations won influence after the denunciation of Zuma being involved in a scandal of over US$ 20 million in State funds. Zuma apologized and paid a compensation of 7.8 million rands (£ 474.268) to the National Treasure, but this did not solve the crisis. There were deep issues linking Zuma to an unrestrained corruption.
A police report highlighted the tight relationship of Zuma with the billionaire brothers Ajay, Atul and Rajesh Gupta, running an empire that controls from important communication media to mining companies. Supported by them, they all influenced the indication of Ministers. Also, “a commercial partnership between the family and Zuma’s son” was revealed, as possible evidence of influence pedding.
Even the Nelson Mandela Foundation criticized Zuma for “defending his private interests” from the government. Zuma was one of the allies of back-then Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe.
In April of 2017, the political crisis made a leap, with tens of thousands of people in demonstrations all over the country demanding Zuma’s resignation. The police once again shot rubber bullets, in violent confrontations.
Thousands crossed the Johannesburg center to the Union Building, seat of government, with flags with slogans like “Zuma is not my president” and “the people’s power is stronger than the people in power,” in midst of a numerous police force. Also, a great mobilization took place in front of the Parliament, in Cape Town, and small crowds protested in suburban bridges and corners in the main cities and towns.
In September, South African unions protested against the government, including the COSATU, with national demonstrations against the government’s corruption, and called Zuma to resign. In Johannesburg, about 2,000 members of the COSATU went onto the streets, flagging bans with “Zuma must leave – corruption is a crime against humanity.” The COSATU is part of the three-party alliance, together with the ANC and the SACP (Communist Party,) ruling the country since the end of Apartheid. It now supports the vice-president Cyril Ramaphosa.
It was only when the protests grew massively that the ANC, party that led the fight against apartheid until 1994, denounced that Zuma was a big-scale plunderer of the national patrimony. Zuma is an old party member, ran for it, and was in power since 2009.
Attacks against the working class will continue
Zuma’s defeat does not close the crisis of the ANC, in power for over two decades in South Africa. The new ANC president, Cyril Ramaphosa, represents the continuation of the pro-imperialist policy driven by Zuma until now. His goal is to rebuild the party, taking distance from the discredited Zuma before the 2019 campaign. He essentially wants to calm foreign investors and major local companies, showing that he will be able to hold the discontent, the struggles and the workers’ and population demands. And, if possible, he will continue to implement measures that will increase the exploitation of the working class.
The ANC crisis is so deep that its long-term allied, the SACP, has its own candidates for municipal elections, separated from the ANC’s, and it announced they might run separately in the general election of 2019. To them, it is necessary to drive a “quick reconfiguration” to guarantee that a “new” ANC can lead the Alliance and win the election in 2019.
The ANC implosion means that it does no longer control most of the working class. It can even have a parliamentary majority (62%,) but in the local government election of 2016 it only got 34% of the votes.
The Marikana Butcher
Ramaphosa is a lawyer, he was union leader of miners – main union in the COSATU, and he made a career as an ANC negotiator. He was one of their first leaders to enter the business world. He accumulated a major fortune thanks to an economic empowerment program made by the ANC leaders to their own interest, in agreement with companies in exchange for shares, like this composing a new black bourgeoisie. It is a country in which social inequalities did not end with the end of apartheid; on the contrary, they are increasing.
Ramaphosa was the non-executive leader of the mining giant Lonmin when the police killed the Marikana strikers in 2012. The day before, Ramaphosa had sent a message to the Minister in charge of the police, characterizing the strike as “a criminal action” and demanding “an exemplary response.” Since then, he is known as “The Marikana Butcher”.
Like this, Ramaphosa became a person of trust for white capitalists, international capital and the bourgeois parties like the constitutional democrats. Who used to be a miners’ leader became, with Mandela’s blessing, a millionaire with a wealth of US$ 450 – US$ 675 million.
To continue the struggle until defeating the ANC – The solution is the working class in power
The working class has every right to celebrate Zuma’s fall and the implosion of the ANC. But just overthrowing Zuma is not enough to change the living conditions of South African workers.
The national metalworkers’ union, NUMSA, twitted: “Nothing has changed in the governing party. The same culture of cronyism and corruption continues unabated. Ramaphosa has only replaced one group of capitalist looters with another.”
The previous month, Numsa had already announced: “The intense battle between Zuma and Ramaphosa can be summarized as a battle between two capitalist factions. Whoever wins will continue to exploit the working class as they did over the last 23 years.” [Our translation]
The leaders of this union said that they are preparing the construction of a workers’ party as an alternative. The new South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) must urgently adopt Numsa’s resolution, its main member, and launch a workers’ party.
South African workers, who were always at the vanguard of the black, African working class, must reorganize, build new organizations, and show a definitive way towards a socialist revolution.