The second transition: NUMSA's reply to FW de Klerk

Irvin Jim says white complex using constitutional sovereignty to defend economic status quo

NUMSA's Response to FW de Klerk's Response to the ANC 2012 Discussion Documents, March 14 2012

A. The ANC 2012 Policy Discussion Documents

1. The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa welcomes the very timely production and release of the ANC Policy Discussion Documents. Between now and June this year, there is ample time for all the members of the ANC, the citizens of South Africa, and all the friends of this country in the whole world to reflect and make comments on the documents.

2. We, therefore, take this opportunity to congratulate the Secretary General of the ANC, Comrade Mantashe, and the entire national leadership of the ANC for once again working very hard to maintain the revolutionary tradition of inviting the membership of the ANC, citizens of South Africa and the whole world, to participate in so many ways, in shaping the future of South Africa.

3. NUMSA notes, very happily, that the ANC has invited its membership, citizens of South Africa and the whole world to engage with it as it seeks to address the most pressing challenges in South Africa today - explosive mass poverty, dangerous levels of unemployment and the most of extreme forms and levels of inequality found anywhere in the world. This invitation is contained in the Centenary Statement of the ANC, in Comrade President Jacob Zuma's State of the Nation Address, and we now find it in Policy Discussion Documents.

4. We at NUMSA are encouraged by the fact that the ANC has now decided that it is time to urgently attend to the matter of accelerating social and economic development in order to deal with the greatest threats and challenges to our democratic dispensation: poverty, unemployment and inequalities.

5. NUMSA is happy to record the fact that in so many words, the guiding spirit of the entire set of the ANC Policy Discussion Documents is a commitment to address the underlying systemic and structural features of both South Africa's economy and society, which in many instances not only continue to reproduce the basic Apartheid social and economic set up in South Africa, but also deepens these features.

6. Thus for example, since 1994, white wealth has increased and black and African poverty has deepened, notwithstanding some of the very good work the ANC has done to address poverty and access to basic social services.

7. In fact, the emerging post 1994 picture of South Africa is one in which for every improvement in the lives of black and African people, a corresponding increase in the wealth of white people can easily be measured, thus entrenching white monopoly of wealth and society in South Africa. This is the basic trap post 1994 South Africa finds itself in. It is in this regard that we feel FW de Klerk's response to the ANC Policy Discussion Documents must be viewed.

8. NUMSA will be engaging with all the ANC Policy Discussion Documents, and will release its own discussion documents on a range of matters it considers important to the national discussion the ANC has invited South Africa and the whole world.

B. FW de Klerk and the ANC 2012 Policy Discussion Documents 

1. FW de Klerk was the last Apartheid president of the National Party, and he was responsible for leading his party in the negotiated settlement in South Africa.

2. NUMSA thus takes very seriously and considers the views expressed by FW de Klerk as broadly being representative of the white complex, the white population, in this country. We take this view also because since 1994, there has been no sea change of political allegiance of the majority of white people in this country - they continue to be the leading population group in the DA, the party that swallowed the larger portion of the now dead National Party.

3. In his response to the ANC Discussion Documents found on politicsweb and thus released to the whole world through the internet, Mr De Klerk opens his response by saying:

"Eighteen years ago we South Africans reached agreement on the kind of country we wanted to become. After three years of difficult negotiations we agreed that we wanted a society in which the Constitution - and not the majority of the day - would be sovereign. We agreed that that Constitution should make full provision for the protection of all our fundamental rights; that we would have free and independent courts; and that we would establish a truly democratic system of government subject to the rule of law."

4. As we will show below, very well stated in Mr De Klerk's response to the ANC Discussion Documents is the defence of the notion of post 1994 South Africa as a country in which the Constitution, rather than the majority, would be sovereign.

5. De Klerk says in 1994 South Africans agreed that they wanted a society in which the Constitution - and not the majority of the day - would be sovereignAs far as De Klerk is concerned, and we must assume this is the view of the white complex (South African white society and its economy), the ANC now want to abandon this fundamental constitutional consensus upon which the 1994 "democratic breakthrough" was founded.

6. FW de Klerk says that the sovereignty of the Constitution included Constitutional guarantees for the protection of languages, cultures and private property.

7. Further FW de Klerk states that the Constitution ensured that there was "....full provision for the protection of all our fundamental rights; that we would have free and independent courts; and that we would establish a truly democratic system of government subject to the rule of law."

8. Mr De Klerk has announced in his response to the ANC Discussion Documents what he sees as the ANC's dispensing with the cornerstones on which the "new" South Africa was founded, after 1994.

9. "In line with the controversial Green Paper on Land Reform property rights would also be at risk. Other cornerstones of the constitutional accord that are already under threat include language rights, the right to education in the language of one's choice; the freedom of expression and the right to access information. Most seriously, the government is manoeuvring to limit the role of the courts." Mr De Klerk declares, boldly.

10. De Klerk informs us:

"The National Party did not agree to the transition naively or with its eyes closed to the ideological nature of the tripartite alliance. It realised full well that the ANC might one day reconsider its solemn undertakings. However, it believed that in addition to the guarantees that we had negotiated into the constitution there were other powerful forces that would help to ensure that all parties would honour our accord:

  • the collapse of the Soviet Union had swept the ideological ground from under the feet of communists all over the world;
  • a new global consensus had developed on the fundamentals of democratic governance and responsible fiscal and economic policy. In our globalising world, no government could afford to ignore these new international norms;
  • we also hoped that as the ANC became used to the complexities of government it would quietly abandon its outmoded ideologies;
  • finally, we realised that just as we could not govern the country against the will of the majority, a majority government would not be able to rule effectively if it violated the fundamental rights of our minorities. Our symbiotic relationship dictated that whether we liked it or not we would have to work together to achieve success."

11. Communism is dead with the end of the Soviet Union. There is a new global consensus on the fundamentals of democracy. The ANC in government would abandon its outmoded ideologies. A majority government would not be able to rule effectively if it violated the fundamental rights of our minorities. Mr De Klerk informs all of us about these "truths".

12. Mr De Klerk ends his remarks on the ANC documents on an alarmist and intimidating note:

"It (ANC) thinks, most dangerously, that it can treat minorities as it pleases and impose new forms of discrimination against them in line with its ideology of the National Democratic Revolution.

It is wrong.

Any move to abandon the solemn national consensus that we reached during the constitutional negotiations would destroy irreparably the brave foundations for national unity, democracy and transformation that we have developed since 1994. It would slash open once again the divisions of the past and divide the country along racial lines. Once the powers of independent courts have been sufficiently diluted - it would end the prospect of a society based on democratic values and fundamental human rights."

C. NUMSA's views on Mr FW de Klerk's article

1. NUMSA is well aware that the ANC is best placed, and fully qualified, to defend the intentions behind its documents. We will thus not assume this responsibility in our comments on FW de Klerk's article.

2. Our views must thus be view as independent and belonging, unashamedly, to a Socialist revolutionary trade union. Thus we invite even the ANC to be happy to indicate where they may not agree with us, in our articulation of our opposition to FW d Klerk's views.

3. We reject with the contempt it deserves the understanding that in 1994 South Africans, all South Africans, surrendered their sovereignty to the compromise Constitution which ushered in the new democratic dispensation. Only a fool would think that a compromise is a permanent solution.

4. Our rejection of such an absurd idea (absolute and permanent Constitutional sovereignty) is based on the understanding that the working class, as a class in and for itself, irrespective of their colour and cultural backgrounds, cannot abandon the possibility of a civilisation not based on their exploitation by capitalists. To the contrary, the historic vocation and mission of the world's working class is to abolish the system of organisation society on the basis of the exploitation of the labour of the working class, such as the 1994 South African Constitution entrenches.

5. We have noted how Mr FW de Klerk articulates very well the fears of the white complex of South Africa (white capital and its white community).

6. It is clear from his articulation that in the minds of the White Complex in South Africa, the 1994 democratic breakthrough was not capable of being born if their (the South African White Complex) property, land, language and cultural rights were not first guaranteed in the new Constitution, and as he so heartlessly states, this Constitution itself then became Sovereign, and not the majority of the people of this country. 

7. In the past 18 years, it is precisely this ruthless Constitutional defence of white monopoly capital and the inherited English and Apartheid white social and cultural privileges (the South African White Complex) which has ensured that mass poverty, dangerous levels of unemployment and extreme inequalities are largely Black and predominantly African female and African youth.

8. In the past 18 years, it is precisely this ruthless Constitutional defence of white monopoly capital and the inherited English and Apartheid white a social and cultural privilege (the South African White Complex) which has ensured that monopoly of economic power, monopoly of social and cultural resources remain exclusively white with a slow gradual sprinkling of Black and African people.

9. This is the Constitutional Sovereignty Mr FW de Klerk says the ANC is now threatening to dispense with - wealth and privilege is white and poverty, unemployment and mass inequality largely affect Black people in general and Africans in particular.

10. Amazingly, FW de Klerk wishes us to believe that the continuing mass poverty, unemployment and extreme inequalities are a product of the post 1994 "wrong policies" of the ANC.

11. If mere policies are the problem, surely, the White Complex's economic, social and cultural domination of South Africa for more than 355 years would have long resolved the triple crisis of mass poverty, unemployment and poverty? De Klerk cannot tell us today that what they (the White Complex) failed to discover by way of policies for more than 355 years the ANC should miraculously discover in 18 miserable years?

12. We are not aware of any statements from the ANC to the effect that it (ANC) seeks to abandon the Constitution, or any of its provisions. We are fully aware though, that the Constitution and all laws of South Africa fully provide for the possibilities to amend them.

13. We are thus quite happy to have proof given to us regarding the intentions to violate the Constitution or the unconstitutionality of any of the weak proposals contained in the ANC Discussion Documents. 

14. By raising the fear of any legitimate Constitutional changes the ANC and its family of organisation may wish to undertake in order to fulfil their historic mission, De Klerk in fact betrays a very dangerous tendency common among the White Complex - fear of losing their dominant economic, social and cultural position in South Africa and their loathing of a black government - a tool so freely used it is now without any effect among the millions of South Africans who suffer mass poverty, unemployment and the miserable effects of extreme inequalities. It has now become an empty threat.

15. We the working class have no illusions about the post 1994 South Africa. It is a racist capitalist country with the world's most extreme levels and forms of inequality, the majority of its people live in poverty and are afflicted by a carefully constructed backwardness by the White Complex, its wealth and society is dominated by the White Complex. We gladly challenge anyone to refute these self-evident truths.

16. To assume that the Black and African working class, who everyday suffer the effects of mass poverty, unemployment and inequality, as a direct consequence of the systemic and structural dominance in the economy and society of South Africa by the White Complex, who are the majority of this country, can forever be expected to stay in that situation is to suffer from a very dangerous pathology - the pathology of white capitalist supremacism.

17. In 1969, the ANC correctly said the following about the struggle for liberation in South Africa:

"In our country - more than in any other part of the oppressed world - it is inconceivable for liberation to have meaning without a return of the wealth of the land to the people as a whole. It is therefore a fundamental feature of our strategy that victory must embrace more than formal political democracy. To allow the existing economic forces to retain their interests intact is to feed the root of racial supremacy and does not represent even the shadow of liberation."

18. The illusion that the majority of the working class in this country who are Black and African must wait for real relief and salvation from their position at the bottom of the South African food chain for some more growth in the profits and wellbeing of the White Complex and its Black and African sprinkling, is just that - an illusion.

19. We fought for a popular (and not minority) democratic dispensation precisely because we recognised this as the most viable form of organising our society in order to eliminate mass poverty, unemployment and inequality.

20. If the Constitutional order of 1994 is proving incapable, after 18 years, of making any meaningful dent in the real cleavages in South African society (racialised mass poverty, unemployment and inequalities), then it is time to use the mechanisms embodied in the Constitution to amend it. The ANC need not apologise to anyone for doing this.

21. We fully agree with the South African Communist Party's assessment that today in South Africa, one major threat to our democratic dispensation is the extreme anti majoritarian defence of white monopoly economic, social and cultural privileges.

22. Thus the defence of the Constitution is invoked not to defend it, but to defame it by denying the existence in the Constitution of perfectly legitimate mechanisms for amending it, should any political formation secure the necessary Constitutional conditions to do so. Thus the minority - those who lose at the polls, must govern at the expense of the majority through a craft manipulation of the fear of the black government masked as the defence of the Constitution.

23. We are happy to note that this time around, the ANC has boldly stated that it will not be blackmailed into fear of legitimately seeking to amend the Constitution, where this will be necessary to advance the social and economic freedom of all South Africans.

D. NUMSA and the ANC Policy Documents

1. NUMSA feels that part of the reason why people like Mr FW de Klerk can so boldly advance their wrong ideas against the well-meaning intentions of the ANC to have all South Africans engage with it on the policy matters it has raised is that there is a muted, weak and insufficient attention paid to the property question in the world, Africa and of course South Africa today.

2. We are going through the worst ever crisis of capitalism, globally. Wars are now being used to prop up the global capitalist system. The global capitalist financial system is a mess. Capitalism is cooking up the Earth, and destroying our natural environments.

3. Never before have the signs and symptoms of a decayed and dying civilisation been as obvious as today - Western European Civilisation founded on private greed, the ruthless pursuit of private profits, is at its end. It is bankrupt.

4. There is clearly a bankruptcy of more than economic alternatives from this source; Western Civilisation has become intellectually, spiritually, morally and practically bankrupt. This is not the time to listen to the De Klerk's of this world who seek to perpetuate white privilege in this day and end.

5. Which is why China, Japan, Brazil, India and South Africa among others, should they reject the underlying private greed of Western European Civilisation, may offer the world hope of an alternative.

6. Of course ultimately the world's working people must rescue the Earth from destruction by Western capitalist Civilisation, based on private greed.

7. At the heart of the causative drivers for the persistence of mass poverty, unemployment and inequalities in South Africa post 1994 has been the lamentable failure to address the property question.

8. Real property in South Africa is white; its absence is Black and African. This is why De Klerk wants the 1994 Constitution to remain unchanged permanently - to protect the status quo in the property relations in South Africa.

9. South Africa continues to be a country controlled, and whose development is stifled, by the Minerals/Energy/Finance Complex - which is the historic and economic means by which the White Complex controls and manages the economy.

10. NUMSA will be advancing positions on how best to advance the democratic dispensation in this country by among other things, fast tracking redistribution, industrialisation, releasing the Reserve Bank from private greed, nationalisation of all the dominant aspects of our economy and accelerating the pace at which we radically overhaul the education, health and housing status of millions of our people.

11. Equality is not possible in conditions of extreme inequalities, poverty and unemployment, such as we have in South Africa.

12. It is impossible to celebrate "democracy" outside resolving the property question in South Africa.

13. Our post 1994 Constitutional dispensation is meant to allow us all, as South African, without physical violence, to address the property question which currently is characterised by the dominance in the economy and society by the White Complex. Unless this is resolved, South Africa will never know peace.

Irvin Jim,

Numsa General Secretary

March 2012.

Issued by NUMSA, March 14 2012

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