Monday, May 19, 2014

Report on the May 7 General Elections in South Africa


1) South Africa After the May 7 General Elections -- by François Forgue (reprinted from Informations ouvrières)

2) Report from Tiyani Lybon Mabasa, president of the Socialist Party of Azania (SOPA)

3) Excerpts from the May 15 Statement by the Central Committee of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA)

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1) South Africa After the May 7 General Elections

By François Forgue

[reprinted from the May 14-21 issue of Informations ouvrières (Labor News), the weekly newspaper of the Independent Workers Party of France (POI).]

This past May 7, 2014, general elections were held in South Africa. The elections took place at a time when tens of thousands of platinum mineworkers -- on strike since January 23 to demand a monthly wage of 12,500 Rands (about US$1,300) -- continued their strike, together with their union: AMCU.

The African National Congress (ANC) obtained 62.2% of the votes cast (with 59.3% of eligible voters turning out to vote) -- that is to say, 5 percentage fewer votes cast than in the previous elections in 2009. Jacob Zuma will thus return as head of state.(1)

It was only 20 years ago that the overwhelming majority of the population of South Africa -- the 90% of Blacks, mixed-race and Asians -- were granted the right to vote, hitherto reserved only to the white minority.

The ANC, the party of Nelson Mandela, was identified with this great upheaval. For an entire generation, the vast majority of Black people of South Africa gave their support to the ANC to lead the country.

But it's the policies implemented by the various ANC governments that are responsible for the current situation: these governments all accepted the dictates of the so-called "Kempton Park" Accords. This agreement, signed in 1994, preserved the status of property rights as it existed at the time of the political downfall of Apartheid. In other words, this agreement maintained the economic and social domination of the white minority, which in South Africa carried out the capitalist domination.

The ANC received the unyielding support from the leadership of the South African Communist Party. With the backing of the SACP, the ANC has been able to maintain its control over the main trade union confederation: COSATU.

The upheaval of Marikana in August 2012 initiated the political destabilization of the entire political system built over the 20 years since since the fall of Apartheid.

A few months before the legislative elections, the crisis ravaged the leadership of COSATU. The metalworkers' union, NUMSA, which is the largest federation in COSATU, and eight other federations joined together to call for a Special National Congress of the confederation and raised the question of COSATU breaking with the "Tripartite Alliance" -- that is, the ANC-COSATU-SACP.

It is in this context that Julius Malema -- the former ANC Youth leader who was expelled from the ANC after he called for the nationalization of the mines and took a stand in solidarity with the striking Marikana mineworkers -- formed a new political organization: the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).

Why this name?
Its meaning is clear in South Africa. When they overturned the Apartheid regime, Black people won their political freedom, but economically they remained bound to the system of exploitation and oppression that was the underpinning of Apartheid. This is what the EFF leaders wrote in their platform:

"South Africa is supposed to celebrate its 20 years of democracy and true freedom. The reality is that 20 years later, Black people are still not free! Black people are still shackled by conditions of poverty, lack of hygiene and lack of security! The Black majority is still landless and homeless, and its wages are still slave-wages. . . .

"Twenty years later, Black workers still receive miserably low wages, working in dangerous conditions in mines, farms, factories, shops and elsewhere!

"They still lack the most basic workers' rights!
"Twenty years later, the police still kill. They killed at Marikana, Mothutlung, Ficksburg, Relela and throughout South Africa! . . .

"What we demand is the nationalization of the mines, banks and other strategic sectors of the economy without compensation!"

The EFF also call for the return of the land to those who work it -- that is, to the Black farmers -- and the expropriation of the holdings of the large white landowners.

This EFF election platform was presented at a major rally attended by more than 50,000 people in the outskirts of Johannesburg. Lybon Mabasa, the president of the Socialist Party of Azania (SOPA), addressed the crowd, stating: "We are not afraid of associating ourselves with those who say that the land must be returned to its rightful owners and that the mines should be nationalized. The EFF can be assured of our support."

SOPA -- which participates in the campaigns of the International Liaison Committee of Workers and Peoples (ILC) -- fully committed itself to the EFF election campaign. In one of its leaflets, the SOPA leadership wrote:

"A vote for the EFF is a vote to expropriate the large land holdings and return the land to its rightful owners; a vote for the EFF is a vote to nationalize the mines. A vote for the EFF is a means to build a powerful force capable of expressing the aspirations of the Black working class, of the Black majority of this country, a force that is capable of putting the past behind us. This is the meaning of our vote on May 7, 2014 -- and the struggle for these goals will continue beyond that date."

These elections provide a somewhat attenuated reflection of the situation. The decline in the number of votes for the ANC may seem small at first glance, but it is an indication of what is ripening.

The Democratic Alliance -- the party that has its origins among the "liberal" white voters seeking to preserve their privileges -- received about 22% of the votes. The EFF -- which was established as an independent political force only this past April, on the eve of the general elections, and which was the target of repeated attacks -- received 6.3% of the votes, or about 1 million votes. The real total, was no doubt higher; Julius Malema denounced the election fraud in certain sectors as "mafia-type" actions.

Nobody could ignore the meaning and scope of this vote for the EFF, which even the mainstream media characterized as "surprising."

The New York Times, on May 10, wrote that "a new party, the EFF, was able to give South Africans a vision for the future."

That is what's essential.

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(1) The analysis of the election results by both the Democratic Front and NUMSA highlighted the growing abstentionism in South Africa's general elections -- from a 85.53% voter turnout in 1994, when Apartheid fell, all the way to a 59.3% voter turnout in 2014. In terms of votes cast for the ANC, this meant that 53.01% of all eligible voters cast their vote for the ANC in 1994, compared with 36.39% of all eligible voters in 2014.

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2) Report from Tiyani Lybon Mabasa, President of the Socialist Party of Azania (SOPA)

The general national elections in Azania (South Africa) have come and gone. It has been three months of work on the part of SOPA, which had taken a decision to support the EFF in the 2014 national elections. We supported the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) slate on four cardinal points:

1. Land expropriation without compensation;

2. Nationalization of the commanding heights of the economy, starting with the mines;

3. The building of a socialist project
4. The struggle for the name Azania as the first symbol of a break with colonialism and imperialism that imposes restrictions on our country, including the repayment of the Apartheid debt and the subordination of the country into the clutches of the Bretton Woods financial institutions that have imploded many economies throughout the world.

We understood that the EFF was largely a product of among other things the aftermath of the Marikana massacre and the struggle of workers in the platinum belt. In our initial letter to the EFF we raised the need for a United Front to advance the struggles of the Black working class and the Black majority.

To show our support for this platform, many of us in SOPA were added into the EFF parliamentary lists. SOPA members also organized and addressed some of the rallies of the EFF.

The EFF ran a very credible election campaign and were largely able to draw a lot of young people. The EFF were given 6.37%, which translate to 25 parliamentary seats in a 400-person-seats parliament.

SOPA members shared a platform with [EFF leader Julius] Malema and AMCU [the new mineworkers' union formed in Marikana] on May Day organized by NACTU [National Council of Trade Unions] and we were able to pledge solidarity with the workers and also promised to galvanize local and international support for them.

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3) "There's No Turning Back!"

(Excerpts from the Statement of the Central Committee of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa [NUMSA] -- May 15, 2014)

Union Says United Front Not a Project to Improve the ANC or Provide Futile CPR on SACP/ANC

The Central Committee (CC) of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) met from May 12, 2014 -until- May 15, 2014. . . . The CC happened against the backdrop of national elections and the re-election of the African National Congress with a reduced and actually minority vote.

For the first time in 20 years of this neoliberal democracy, the ANC almost lost control of Gauteng, the industrial heartland of our country. This we say is the result of 20 years of our neoliberal democracy which has not decisively uprooted our colonial character of the South African economy and society, and its symptoms of mass poverty, deepening unemployment and extreme inequalities. . . .

The strike in the mining sector
The CC also took place against the backdrop of a four-month strike by mineworkers in the Platinum Belt, where workers are demanding nothing more than a living wage of R12,500 per month. This is happening when the CEO of Anglo Platinum and 11 other senior managers racketed bloated bonus payments. What is even more disgraceful is the fact that the ANC has after 20 years of democracy not done anything to break down the apartheid capitalist colonial economy which is based on super exploitation of Black and African labor.

The root cause of this strike is the capitalist imperialist ownership of our mineral resources and the persisting structural problem of this sector of the economy still being based on the supper exploitation of migrant labor which is a continuation of apartheid in our so-called democratic state by other means.

National and domestic situation
The African National Congress (ANC)-led government continues to pursue neoliberal policies, including deregulation, inflation targeting and privatization. We have also witnessed massive de-industrialization which has led to a jobs bloodbath in the key sectors of our economy, more especially in the manufacturing sector.

Between 2009 and 2012 we lost 271,000 jobs in manufacturing, and between 2007 and 2010 manufacturing declined from 17% of GDP to 15%. All of this is against the backdrop of high levels of unemployment, deepening inequality and mass poverty amongst the Black and African working class.

The results of this neoliberal trajectory are as follows:

- Widespread and now increasingly violent strikes, service delivery protests, including violent crimes of domestic and sexual violence;

- A strike by platinum mineworkers which is now in its fourth month;

- Increasingly tough responses by employers to industrial action, including suing unions for lost production during strikes;

- Racial polarization of the South African population; AND

- Massive concentration of wealth in South African banks, and increasing affluence of the White population.

- Mass poverty concentrated among the Black and African working class population.
These massive inequalities, widespread structural unemployment and national poverty inherited from our Apartheid past legacy continue to characterize and define the South Africa of today, post-1994 neoliberal political democracy. This is witnessed through the "real" story of South Africa's working class and the poor. To mention a few realities:

* 26 million people in South Africa today face abject poverty;

* In 2004, 48% of South Africans were living below R524 a month, in 2011 this increased to 52,3%;

* There are now more people in South Africa living in shacks than there were in 2009 (13.4% in 2009, 14.1% in 2012).

* In May 2008 there were 5.1 million unemployed people in South Africa, today there are more than 7 million;

* South Africa remains the most unequal country on the planet; our Gini Coefficient, which is a measure of inequality, increased from 0.66 in 1993 to 0.7 in 2008.

Analysis of the 2014 National and Provincial Elections and Outcomes

The CC reflected on the recently concluded national elections. An initial analysis was presented. The CC noted that while the ANC celebrates their 62% victory and lays claims that their support base has not shifted below 60%, this is both misleading and in fact completely fallacious.
While the ANC/SACP leadership will feel strengthened by this result, a deeper analysis presents something far more revealing than a short-lived celebration. Indeed, the ANC received 62.15% of the valid votes cast, but 64% of South Africans DID NOT vote for the ANC. Combined, out of the total potential and actually registered voters in South Africa today, analysis of election statistics confirms that the ANC has been, this year, elected into government by a mere 36% of all those who were eligible to vote.

Further, the 10% loss of votes in Gauteng and a mere 48.5% of the vote in Nelson Mandela Bay . . . demonstrates clearly that the working class are seeking alternatives to the failed policies of the ANC.

The CC mandated the NUMSA Economic and Research Institute to do a more detailed and through scientific analysis of the election results and what this means for building the Movement for Socialism.

Below we illustrate the glaring diminishing support for the ANC in the voting trends since 1994:
1994: Of the 23.06 million eligible voters, 85.53% voted, while the remaining 14.47% stayed away. The ANC received support from 53.01% of the eligible voting population.

1999: Of the 25.41 million eligible voters, 62.87% voted while the remaining 37.13% stayed away. The ANC received support from 41.72% of the eligible voting population.

2004: Of the 27.99 million eligible voters, 55.77% voted while the remaining 44.23% stayed away. The ANC received support from 38.87% of the eligible voting population.

2009: Of the 30.22 million eligible voters, 59.29% voted while the remaining 40.71% stayed away. The ANC received support from 38.55% of the eligible voting population.

2014: Of the 31.43 million eligible voters, 59.34% voted while the remaining 40.66% stayed away. The ANC received support from 36.39% of the eligible voting population.

We see that from a high of 53.01% in 1994, the ANC has disastrously dropped to 36.39% of the share of votes in 2014. This is the true story that reflects the reality of the loss of confidence by our people in the neoliberal capitalist ANC!
The United Front (UF) and the Movement for Socialism (MfS)

The CC affirmed the analysis that the current NUMSA moment is not a simple knee-jerk reaction or development, but that it is a product of a deep class analysis and understanding of the continuing colonial character of South African economy and society, and the profoundly worsening conditions of the working class. The CC was unambiguously clear that there was no turning back on the resolutions taken at our Special National Congress. There is no stopping this NUMSA moment.

The CC noted that the launch and building of the United Front and the Movement for Socialism would not be simple. It reaffirmed the basic principles which would guide the United Front and amongst these are:
- The United Front is a weapon for uniting the working class, in all walks of life. . . . The basic guiding principle shall be "Unity in Action" against the ravages of neoliberalism and in support of the full implementation of the Freedom Charter.

The CC affirmed that there are two legs on which NUMSA's work to build the United Front would stand; gaining support for our campaigns and building our concrete support for other struggles of the working class and the poor wherever and whenever they take place. . . .

The CC was clear that building the Front and the Movement for Socialism is NOT a project to improve the ANC, to carry on doing useless Cardiac Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) on the ANC and SACP, nor to resuscitate another neoliberal discourse. This engagement is about nothing else but the working class organising itself as a class for itself, for the war to win socialism.
COSATU and the Alliance

The Central Committee received a report on the current situation in COSATU. . . .

The CC confirmed that COSATU remains our fighting weapon, and we must struggle to reclaim it as an independent, militant fighting federation. We shall not be leaving the federation and together with the other 8 affiliates we have served court papers to compel the COSATU president to convene the Special National Congress. . . .
The CC is clear that the reactionary forces are determined in their campaign to expel NUMSA from our federation but we will remain resolute on our affiliation to a militant fighting COSATU in the interest of working class unity.

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