In recent months, sub-Saharan Africa has been shaken by numerous struggles. Youth and popular struggles in Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Senegal, Swaziland. Worker strikes in Kenya and Guinea. South Africa, ruled and controlled by the ANC/COSATU/Communist Party consortium for 27 years, seemed immune to this wave of struggles. The contradictions were building up and underneath the anger grew and exploded in the form of looting, arson and clashes with the police. In this text we will try to explain the post-Apartheid and how the country was governed in those years.
1.Mandela, the great negotiator
Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years. He was an advocate of the struggles of the black movement, he was in exile and was associated with several liberation movements in Africa. Accused of belonging to a guerrilla movement to defeat Apartheid, he was arrested and sentenced.
When the white and imperialist bourgeoisie realized that it was necessary to guarantee the governability of the country and to control the mobilizations, they used Mandela’s good jobs.
In 1987, still in the Bonapartist, racist and ultra-conservative government of Pietr Botha, Mandela established a line of dialogue with the government through the then Minister of Justice, Kobie Coetsee. There were more than 11 meetings in a space of three years. In this sense, it is considered that negotiating with the Botha government, amid the growing wave of increasingly radicalized struggles, would be equivalent to negotiating with the Videla, Médici, Pinochet and other dictators.
The negotiated end of Apartheid
The end of Apartheid, without a doubt, was the result of struggles. The South African bourgeoisie and imperialism itself played all their cards in the negotiations. The South African bourgeoisie and imperialism knew that the situation was becoming unmanageable, and there was still an immense sense of international solidarity that also frightened the capitalists. Thus, a huge agreement was being built.
In successive meetings between Mandela and the envoy of the dictator Pietr Botha, the release of political prisoners, the legalization of the ANC party and the abandonment of the defence of a black majority government were agreed. In addition to these political measures, economic measures were also negotiated, such as the unrestricted remittance of profits from mining and energy transnational corporations, the opening of imports of goods and products and the relaxation of financial rules.
In 1989, Pieter Botha was removed from the government due to a “serious illness”. The disease was so serious that he died 18 years later at the age of 90. In fact, Botha went out to the entrance of his Vice President De Klerk, who was better able to lead the bourgeois transition, was less worn out, and therefore better able to negotiate. The negotiation, of course, included political exit and other concessions to the bourgeoisie. In 1993, together Mandela and De Klerk were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
In 1978, as a way of pressing for the end of apartheid, the UN voted for an economic blockade. Financial and commercial transactions between UN member countries and South Africa were prohibited. The local bourgeoisie developed a large national industry and the goods produced were consumed by the internal market. In the negotiations between Mandela and the Company, the end of the blockade imposed by the UN and the opening of the economy, with free exchange of goods, was agreed upon. Thus, the fragile local bourgeoisie did not resist competition, many companies closed, and others directly went bankrupt. In this way, South Africa de-industrialized and began a deep process of unemployment.
Giant concession to foreign-owned mining companies
In July 2010, the Central Bank of South Africa introduced a new amnesty for illegal capital flight. This amnesty, in practice, forgave the illegal remittance of profits, from 1974, through the beginning of the Mandela government, until 2007, totalling an amount equivalent to US$ 50 billion. According to the Central Bank-BC of South Africa, it was a first step towards complete liberalization of capital remittance flows. “This capital flight is not new, but it has significantly worsened since the defeat of apartheid. As a percentage of GDP, it increased from an average of 5.4 percent a year between 1980 and 1993 to 9.2 percent between 1994 and 2000, and on average 12 percent between 2001 and 2007, finally reaching an impressive 20 percent in 2007″.
Pardon the crimes of the white bourgeoisie
There was a lot of hatred from the black population against racist whites. As part of an honourable exit, a truth commission was created to investigate racist crimes. In a fully negotiated process, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was created. For example, a worker denounced racial crimes, the bourgeois recognized the crime and said that the black man had also committed this crime. Thus, as the main objective was reconciliation, both parties recognized their mistakes and moved forward. Desmond Tutu, the Anglican bishop who won the Nobel Peace Prize, bent over the table, wept and declared forgiveness to everyone! Perhaps instead to give him the Nobel Peace Prize, but the best was to give the Oscar for an actor.
The murder of Chris Hani and the fireman
Chris Hani was the most popular leader of the ANC, after Mandela, who in late 1991 took over the leadership of the Communist Party composed of a young and more radicalized social base against Apartheid. Due to his location in directing this social base, Chris Hani was often treated as a rival by the more moderate wings of the ANC and the Communist Party itself.
On April 10, 1993, towards the end of Apartheid, Chris Hani was murdered. These were times of many revolts and there was the possibility that, with the murder, there would be a social explosion. So, not President De Klerk, but Mandela went on TV that night to implore the nation to calm.
2.The consequences of deindustrialization
Deindustrialization after Apartheid closed a hundred factories, and the old store were turned into warehouses for imported products. The jobs created were always in the areas of services, tourism, commerce and finance. Large employment in manufacturing and related sectors disappeared.
Unemployment: Today, unemployment rates are alarming. Before the pandemic it was around 35%. During the pandemic, 70% of young people were unemployed and these young people account for 40% of the population.
Flexibility of Labour Rights: In order to fight unemployment, over the years, the government has used several tricks to try to calm the unemployed. One of these measures was the flexibilization of labour rights. According to the government, making rights more flexible, hiring would be cheaper and many jobs would be created. The result of this policy is a total precariousness, workers hired by the day, and in terrible working conditions. In the city of Cape Town, in the neighbourhood where the clothing is located, at lunchtime, you can see hundreds of women sitting in the gutter sharing a bun with avocado and some soda. This is the lunch of the working class in many sectors.
Social Security is ruined. Men and women of advanced age are seen working in inhumane services for their age and with a great accumulation of suffering.
The destruction of unions is part of the policy for the control and domestication of the working class. To carry out this policy, the NEDLAC (National Economic Development and Labour Council) was created. NEDLAC is a tripartite body, composed of government, businessperson and workers. The decision of workers to go on strike must be approved by NEDLAC. If this tripartite body is against the strike, there can be no strike and if there is, it is considered illegal. So, COSATU, which is part of the government, if it has a strike, must have the approval of the governments themselves and the bosses. The will of the workers does not predominate.
The ANC/COSATU/CP consortium has had no new measures for 27 years to deceive and control workers. They have already made labour rights more flexible; unions have already been destroyed, they have already promised and failed to generate new jobs, all that remains is to blame foreigners for the lack of work. Thus, consciously, the South African State has a xenophobic policy against foreigners and has been practicing acts of barbarism in order to hide its own incompetence in the face of the crisis of the capitalist system.
3.The bankruptcy of the Rainbow Nation, the inter-bourgeois divisions and the divisions in the ANC/COSATU/SACP bloc
The model of capitalist accumulation in South Africa is based on the Mineral Energy Complex, with a high rate of exploitation of workers, the accumulation being dominated and dependent on several companies heavily financed by the State, in the exploitation of energy and raw or semi-processed minerals such as gold, diamond, steel, coal, iron and aluminium.
This Mineral Energy Complex was supported by the financialization of productive activities, combining short-term capital inflows and capital flight to offshore (tax havens), concentrating in South Africa only mineral exploration. This model generated a stunted form of growth, without jobs, persistence of poverty for the most of the population and raising the standards of living of a small minority and generating new elites, a black bourgeoisie.
The 2007-2008 crisis was the shovel for this model, which deepened with the 2019 crisis and became unbearable with the Covid 19 pandemic. So, the economic crisis that had been developing since before 2007, from then on won a leap in quality and transformed the economic crisis into a political crisis.
4.ANC/COSATO/SACP True Party-State
Before moving on to the political crisis, we would like to emphasize the character of the government bloc composed of ANC/COSATU/SACP, in which the ANC could be said to be remarkably similar to the old PRI of Mexico, insofar as they have full control of the State and its institutions (Legislative, Judiciary, Armed Forces and Police). In this sense, we can characterize the CNA as a party-state.
5.Zuma’s impeachment and the deepening crisis of the ANC/COSATU/CP bloc
The political crisis that led to Jacob Zuma’s impeachment was a direct consequence of the world capitalist crisis, the exhaustion of the model based on the Mineral-Energy Complex and, above all, the mobilizations that had been developing especially in youth (#feesmustfall and #rhodesmustfall) and strikes explosive workers who escaped the controls of the union bureaucracy and NEDLAC.
The same alliance that governed the country through Zuma was the one that put the president’s impeachment to a vote in the National Congress. It was a process similar to Dilma’s in Brazil and with two unique characteristics. In Brazil, the impeachment was orchestrated by the opposition parties and in South Africa by the situation itself. There is another important difference: in the South American country the reformist left said it was a coup, in South Africa the reformist left applauded.
Ramaphosa’s impeachment of Zuma was the declaration of war between the factions. The fissure in the ANC-COSATU-CP bloc was clearly open and the consequences of this announced war would be seen in the years following the impeachment.
- Zuma refuses to appear in the Courts and is convicted of contempt
The years of Zuma’s government were a time of numerous allegations of corruption. More than 700 complaints were filed with the courts and shelved. After the impeachment, trying to lock themselves in, the Justice and the Ramaphosa government held countless hearings, hours and hours broadcast live on television. Thus, the population was being won against the “rotten part” that, according to the narratives, had “captured the State” to do illicit business.
When Ramaphosa’s band felt sufficiently strengthened, he summoned Jacob Zuma to the stand and his band and himself ignored the summons. Following bids, the Court then sentenced Zuma to fifteen months in prison for contempt, all that remained was to arrest him. Zuma locked himself in his home and organized groups, including some armed, to defend him from prison. When the balance of forces started to get unfavourable, with no way out, he presented himself to the police.
Before presenting himself to the police, Zuma tried to pull a letter out of his sleeve and say it was a racial problem against the Zulus people he and Mandela hail from. Thus, the letter placed him as a persecuted people and placed his image in that of Mandela.
7.Fires and looting in immigrant businesses
The first looting, no one doubts, was initiated by lumpens at the order of Zuma’s gang. The initial idea was to attack the small businesses of immigrant foreigners. In Johannesburg, most of the shops attacked were from immigrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Somalia, according to the African Diaspora Forum.
“We received a phone call around midnight on Saturday informing us that migrant shops were being looted in Jeppestown. We arrived here this morning and we can see that there has been immense damage,” said Amir Sheikh, who is also head of the Somali Community Council.
- Terrified by the Third Wave of Covid and hunger the masses fight back
The origin of the looting as we said above was encouraged by Zuma’s gang. From the moment the looting began, the hungry masses on account of the capitalist structure that threw them into poverty, on account of the consequences of the global economic crisis of 2007-2008 and 2019 and, as if a new fourteen-day lockdown, without any financial compensation and much police repression, they began to participate in the looting.
In the successive videos that circulated on social networks, we see the population clearly saying: “I’m here but it’s not for Zuma or Ramaphosa. I’m here looking for food for me and my family” To better understand this statement, it’s good to consider that:
“Malnutrition and subnutrition, that is, hunger, in Africa’s second largest economy is the mirror of capitalist barbarism. According to the 2013 National Health and Nutrition Survey of South Africa (Sanhanes), 26 percent of the population was facing hunger, and 28 percent at risk. Malnutrition caused by hunger is commonly associated with people who are underweight, but it can also lead to being overweight or obese. In South Africa, 26.5% of children are short, and 68.3% of South African women over 20 are overweight and, of these, 42% are obese; for men, the rates are 35% overweight, and 12% of them are obese.”
Capitalist food production and distribution is controlled by large corporations, farmers and a handful of giant corporations that drive the availability, price, quality, safety and nutritional value of food consumed for all South Africans. These food producers and distributors are a powerful pressure group that actively influences government policy.
In manufacturing and processing, some large corporations dominate the sector, including Foodcorp, Pioneer Foods, Tiger Brands, Premier Foods and Nestlé SA. The Competition Commission (similar to Cade in Brazil) investigated how the price of bread, wheat and corn through cartels that have operated for years. Tiger Brands, Pioneer Foods, Foodcorp and Premier Foods were found guilty of manipulating prices in their favour.
In the retail food distribution sector, only five retailers (Shoprite, Pick’n Pay, Spar, Massmart and Woolworths) hold more than 65% of the formal market. Another 32% of distribution is shared by the “informal” commerce sector, including small regional wholesalers, small businesses (like spaza shops) in townships and street sellers. The process of concentration of food distribution via large supermarkets makes these companies sell more expensively, promote processed foods of low nutritional quality, break smaller retailers and destroy informal sellers. It is the concentration of capital in a few hands producing more poverty, more unemployment, more informal jobs and more hunger!
In these serves we are on one side. We are together with the hungry masses, against the monopolistic bourgeoisie, be it producers or the big supermarkets that control the distribution, price and quality of food.
With the masses, against Zuma and Ramaphosa
After 27 years in power (since May 1994), the African National Congress, Cosatu and the Communist Party of South Africa consortium, there is no way to say that they are not responsible for the chaos that South Africa has engulfed. even for having removed the masses from the streets, guaranteeing governability for the bourgeoisie, applying all the neoliberal plans so repudiated by all of us.
Jacob Zuma, who ruled from May 2009 to February 2018, continued to apply and deepen the aforementioned policy. For this reason alone, he is already considered an enemy of workers and poor people. In addition, he is a corrupt man who formed a veritable gang to rob the State’s coffers and, placing himself above good and evil, refused to appear in court and answer for the accusations.
Cyril Ramaphosa, the current president, has been governing since February 2018, with the same policy as the ANC/COSATU/SACP, aggravated by the privatization of national assets; at the beginning of the pandemic, he allowed companies to borrow with a payment guarantee from the South African state. For the unemployed and hungry he set a lockdown without any help. Furthermore, Ramaphosa is known as the Butcher of Marikhana. There was a violent crackdown on the strike of workers at London Miners (Lomin), resulting in the deaths of 34 workers. The fact became a national commotion, then President Jacob Zuma appointed a Commission of Inquiry, and this one discovered an email from Cyril Ramaphosa authorizing the massacre.
We do not have a favourite bandit. Neither Zuma nor Ramaphosa. All power to the workers. It is evident that the ACN for 27 years imposed the policy of hunger against the poor people and the working class, so this government must be put out. For a working-class government.
Zuma must pay for his corruption crimes!
Ramaphosa must pay for his crimes in Marikana and corruption!
No confidence in the ANC/COSATU/SACP government!
For a South Africa without xenophobia!
Expropriation and nationalization of large food producer and distributor groups!
Provision of free electricity for workers and the unemployed!
For a South Africa under workers’ control!