SACP Central Committee Press Statement
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Following the SACP's highly successful July national congress, the newly elected SACP Central Committee met for the first time in Johannesburg over the weekend of August 17th to 19th.
The CC began its meeting by observing a moment of silence and expressing condolences to all those who have lost family members and colleagues in the tragic events at Marikana this past week, and our well wishes to those who have been injured, workers and police. The CC welcomes President Zuma's announcement of a commission of inquiry. It is important that the mandate of the inquiry should be broad in scope. It is impossible to understand the tragedy without understanding the underlying factors.
The inquiry should, amongst other things, build on the 167-page report from the church-sponsored Bench Marks Foundation, "Communities in the Platinum Minefields", which was coincidentally released last week (see here - PDF). The report paints a grim picture of how all the major platinum mining corporations have made billions of rands out of the world's richest platinum deposits in the Bojanala District of the North West province, while leaving a trail of misery, death, poverty, illness, and environmental pollution in the surrounding communities.
The report finds that Lonmin's operations at Marikana, forinstance, "include high levels of fatalities" and that the "residential conditions under which Lonmin...employees live are appalling." The report further attributes the high level of fatalities at Lonmin and other platinum company mines in the district to the extensive use of sub-contracted labour (nearly one-third of the work-force in the case of Lonmin's Marikana operations). "Sub-contracted labour is usually poorly paid, poorly trained and educated, and poorly accommodated", the report notes, and adds: "Therefore sub-contracted workers compromise the health and safety of other workers."
Our own SACP members from the district, most of them mine-workers, have of course been telling the Party about these realities for many years and we have been raising them publicly, but we refer to the Bench Marks Foundation to avoid the allegation of partisanship. Importantly, the report points out that the practice of sub-contracting by the mining houses dates back to the immediate post-1994 period as a cost-cutting measure and an attempt to "break the power of NUM" (p.36), to undercut the collective bargaining rights that the organized working class had finally achieved after decades of struggle.
Furthermore, the report notes that the expanded use of sub-contracted labourers from other localities, including from the Eastern Cape, has created community tensions between "insiders" and "outsiders". Last year, for instance, there were violent protests from local community, unemployed youth in Marikana, angry that jobs on the mines were being provided to "outsiders".
The Presidential Commission of Inquiry must also consider the pattern of violence associated with the pseudo-trade union AMCU wherever it seeks to implant itself. Launched in Witbank by two former NUM members, expelled for anarchic behavior, AMCU was funded by BHP Billiton in a deliberate attempt to undermine NUM. The Commission should, in particular, investigate its leader Joseph Mathunjwa.
The violence associated with AMCU spread to the Rustenburg platinum mines last year when the management of Impala Platinum deliberately undercut collective bargaining agreements reached with NUM by opportunistically seeking to attract, with higher wages, mineworkers with blasting certificates from other companies - this naturally created a grievance among the less-skilled rock-drillers. It was a grievance demagogically exploited by AMCU which ultimately led to the dismissal of thousands of workers.
At Marikana, last week, AMCU leadership was once more exploiting the credulity and desperation of the most marginalized sectors of the Lonmin work-force, "outsiders", contracted-workers many from Eastern Pondoland. SACP members from the area confirm newspaper reports today that the armed workers who gathered on the hill were misled into believing they would be invulnerable to police bullets because they had used ‘intelezi', and provided they isolated themselves from women, and provided that did not turn their backs on the police.
In short, it is impossible to understand the tragedy of last week without an appreciation of how the major platinum mining corporations, sitting on top of over 80% of the world's platinum resources, have created desperate community poverty, divisive tensions, and a fatalistic attitude towards danger and death. It is also not possible to understand the tragedy without understanding how profit-maximising corporate greed has deliberately sought to undercut an established trade union and collective bargaining by conniving with demagogic forces. This strategy has now back-fired on the platinum companies' profits themselves.
For all of these reasons the SACP firmly rejects the attempt to portray the events of last week as being essentially rooted in trade union rivalry. This narrative is no different to that developed during the final years of apartheid, when armed vigilantes, fomented, trained and escorted by the apartheid regime, were unleashed on our UDF, COSATU and ANC-supporting communities and this was portrayed as "black on black violence".
There are many lessons to be learnt from this tragedy. A proper understanding of its underlying causes should shame all of those who seek to undermine our current collective bargaining dispensation by calling for a "more flexible labour market", by defending labour-brokering and the extensive use of other forms of "a-typical" labour, and by seeking to portray COSATU and its affiliates as the source of all evil.
The DA's "Growth Plan"
These are, however, precisely the central themes of the DA's recently released, "Growth Plan". Although it enjoyed a momentary splash in most of the commercial print media, interestingly it was generally dismissed by mainstream neo-liberal economists as "eclectic" and its 8% growth claim as "political posturing". But that is exactly the point. This is not an "economic" plan, and the DA neither has the power nor the intention of actually implementing it. It is a political intervention. It is designed, like their one-trick-pony "youth wage subsidy" call, to futilely seek to stir tensions between the ANC government and COSATU, and to demonise the union movement.
"Eighteen years after the end of apartheid", the DA "Growth Plan" document tells us, "SA remains a country of insiders and outsiders with Big Government, Big Unions, and some [!!!] anti-competitive Big Businesses on one side, and millions of ordinary South Africans on the other."
Clearly, the DA is trying to position itself as the voice of the millions of "outsiders", those who are not part of the supposed "Three Bigs". This conveniently fudges the profound difference between its core electoral base (middle class strata in the suburbs) and the mass of impoverished and unemployed in our townships and rural areas - as if they were all "outsiders". It is precisely this rhetorical fudging that underpinned the reckless use of suburbanites to mobilise alienated youth in townships to march on the COSATU headquarters earlier this year.
But, of course where they are in power in the Western Cape and in the City of Cape Town there is no bashfulness about wanting to be "Big Government" or to call in "Big Government" when faced with the desperation of the real outsiders in Khayelitsha, Mitchells Plain, Philippi and Nyanga. Premier Zille called on national government to deploy the army onto the Cape Flats to solve a social problem, and Premier Zille and Mayor De Lille have invoked legislation from the most kragdadige epoch of the apartheid regime, the Sedition Act, in order to deal with reckless statements by the ANCYL in the province. This is a DA attempt to distract from the real issues behind the protest actions in Cape Town - bad sanitation, poor housing, and flooded squatter camps, in the midst of a cold and wet Cape winter. The CC calls on communities in the Western Cape and elsewhere, however, not to resort to acts of vandalism and violence while expressing legitimate anger and frustration.
Forward to a successful and united COSATU Congress
It is in the context of this offensive against the working class in general, and against COSATU in particular, that the SACP once more pledges its unwavering support to our ally COSATU. We look forward to a highly successful and united COSATU Congress next month. It is absolutely critical at this time that we close ranks and that jointly as the SACP and COSATU, together with our alliance partner the ANC, we take forward an active programme of action that helps to organize and unite the working class on the shop-floor, and that unites and organizes our communities.
Such a programme of action must raise the issues that unite the organized and the unorganized; the employed, the under-employed and the unemployed; old and young; the working class and the urban and rural poor regardless of ethnic background or country of origin. Where we ourselves are poorly organized, where we leave gaps because of our own inwardly focused issues, or seduction into tenderpreneuring or business unionism, then we create a space that is readily exploited by all manner of opportunists, demagogues and reactionaries.
The SACP congratulates government and the public sector trade unions on the recent collective bargaining settlement. This must now set the scene for government and workers in the public sector to work together to build the capacity of the state to play a more active developmental role in the service of the public.
Planning for the Red October Campaign
In the coming weeks the CC will convene a Party Building Commission workshop to consolidate our plans for this year's Red October Campaign. The Campaign will focus on the struggle for basic services to our communities, on building the inherent capacity of the state itself, overcoming the plague of outsourcing and tenderization, defeating corruption associated with this plague, and, above all, building on popular local mobilization and capacity. In the course of the campaign, the Party will seek to actively introduce environmental concerns as central to the struggle to transform the conditions of working class communities. Uncollected waste, poor sanitation, industrial pollution and unsafe water are typical realities in most working class townships. We need to mobilise both state and community activism to address these environmental challenges, including through the expanded public works and community works programmes.
The Central Committee extended its congratulations to cde Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma for her recent election as the Chairperson of the AU. We are sure that she will help to steer the AU, now celebrating its 10th anniversary, onto a more coherent, developmental role that defends the sovereignty of the states of our continent against external manipulation. The CC also congratulates South Africa's Olympic team for their excellent performances, and the important role they have in encouraging the youth of our country. The CC further congratulated our SACP comrades, Lulama Nare and Zukiswa Ncitha, for their election to the steering committee of the Progressive Women's Movement, as well as Cde Zungiswa Losi, COSATU second deputy president, who is the co-convenor.
The following members of the CC were elected to serve on the Political Bureau together with the six officials elected at the 13th Congress:
1. Sheila Barsel
2. Yunus Carrim
3. Sidumo Dlamini
4. Lindelwa Djunwa
5. Fikile Majola
6. Gwede Mantashe
7. Ben Dikobe Martins
8. Chris Mathlako
9. Grace Pampiri
10. Nomonde Rasmeni
11. Jenny Schreiner
Statement issued by the SACP Central Committee, August 19 2012. The SACP can be followed on Twitter here.
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