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Open letter to South African President Jacob Zuma

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Kia ora President Zuma,

Many New Zealanders who demonstrated so strongly against the apartheid system in the 1970s and 1980s have watched with growing alarm at the direction the ANC leadership has taken South Africa since the first democratic election in 1994.

The events of the last week culminating in the massacre of 34 striking mineworkers with dozens injured is the inevitable outcome of the ANC choice to follow free-market economic policies which wherever and whenever they have been employed in human history they have always transferred wealth from the poor to the rich and stripped hope from the majority.

Under the ANC we have seen South Africa change seemlessly from race-based apartheid to economic apartheid.

We didn’t protest here just to see a few black faces at the top table in South Africa. We didn’t turn out in our tens of thousands to face batons and barbed wire so the likes of former anti-apartheid leaders such as Cyril Ramaphosa, Tokyo Sexwale and Julius Malema could become obscenely rich off the backs of South Africa’s workers – 34 of whom were riddled with police bullets two days ago.

The appalling scenes played out on our TV screens are reminiscent of the darkest days of apartheid such as the Sharpeville massacre of 1960 and the murder of black school children in Soweto in June 1976.

Just as we held the apartheid regime responsible for those massacres we now hold the ANC government responsible for the massacre of striking mineworkers. You and your government have blood on their hands.

This year is the 100th anniversary of the formation of the ANC – it should be a time of pride and celebration for all the people of South Africa but the betrayal of the struggle by the ANC leadership leaves most of us cold.

As a spokesperson for Abahlahli baseMjondolo, which is struggling for decent housing against violence and intimidation said last month: "All is slowly sinking as the new government is making sure that we remember the heroes of the struggle but not what the struggle was for".

At this time of deep sadness for those and injured and their families, and anger at the ineptitude, self-service and corruption running to the core of your government, we stand once more with the poor and oppressed people of South Africa and their struggle for freedom, hope and dignity.

Yours sincerely,

John Minto GPJA Spokesperson

Comments

Governments and political movements are simply castrated

Well, what does all this tell us? It means nothing else but that the international business scene, solidly dominated by corporations and their immense power, will have their final say and get their way, no matter what.

 

They have a strong hold on the South African economy, same as in EVERY economy. Even countries like Venezuela and Bolivia still fear the reactions of resource exploiting and other corporate players, who will do all to boycott them if nationalisation or controls are imposed, forcing them to pay for instance fair wages to workers.

 

NZ is heading that way too, albeit slowly, but look at the fishing industry, and what has happened there. Foreign vessels contracted and allowed to fish here, abusing human rights and so forth.

 

The ANC has NO real power to improve the situation for workers and others in South Africa, as their hands are tied to the dictate of mining companies and a few others.

 

The only way to change things is to nationalise all mining operations, but watch the outcry then, the boycotting, withdrawal of capital and the planned ruin of South Africa, as other nations are also blackmailed and exploited, and as their elites will jump in to cater and serve the global mining corps.

 

Indeed there is NO easy solution. Only international solidarity would change it, but we are light years away from that happening, I am sorry. In the meantime people will starve, continue to live in poverty, and if they step over the line, they risk getting shot!

Nationalising won't solve the problems

By nationalising the mining industry, you are somehow expecting a government which is unable to educate its children, ensure the safety of its citizens effectively or control rampant corruption , to run mining industry?

Have a look into the Aurora mining debacle. The politically well connected will become the new bosses and reap the benefits while the workers will suffer.

Worker's representation and participation

If the workers in the mines would have fair representation and participate in the management of the mines, they will be able to stop what you describe! One problem in South Africa is that the ANC exploits the credit it was given by many for fighting against Apartheid, thus misleads voters and gets voted into government.

It would be the logical thing to challenge them in the coming elections and throw them out of government, so that a new government can create a fairer society, while still following smart economic policies and also take advantage of the mining sector.

Core to achieving this is true information made available to the masses, and here lies another challenge, admittedly, as I presume the media there being somewhat biased towards the part of the population that is well educated, enjoys higher living standards, and that may be quite happy to keep things as they are.

Yet I think that South Africa is in for more turbulent political times, where the ANC will be seriously challenged.

South Africa would be able to educate it's children, offer better health services and jobs if a government would put it's priorities right.

Collectivise, not nationalise

>> If the workers in the mines would have fair representation and participate in the management of the mines, they will be able to stop what you describe! <<

There's no reason to think that nationalisation will make this happen. Look at KiwiRail. A bastion of workplace democracy? I think not. Why not? Chetan Druve offers one explanation in his book 'Why Your Boss is Programmed to be a Dictator' - that burocratic and heirarchical organisations encouarge and reward dictatorial behaviour from anyone they put in authority, and structurally punish workers who take initative, work co-operatively across different branches of the organisation, or give their superiors bad news. Check out Druve's blog here, which orbits these themes:

http://dhruve.blogspot.co.nz/

If Druve is right, and I think he is, shifting formal ownership from one arm of the state-corporate system to another will make no difference to working conditions. What needs to change, radical, goes far deeper than that. Basically, state-corporate workplaces everywhere need to be de-corporatised, and collectivised, with internal democracy making management decisions, not an aristocracy of CEOs and directors.

The documentary 'The Take' shows one set of examples of this happening in Argentina:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cQHo8l92U3U

Once you start digging, you find there are plenty of examples of co-operative businesses paying workers to providing goods and services to customers, and to collectively manage the business themselves. Here's another video about the birth of many worker-owned small businesses, and other kinds of co-operatives, in Maleny, Australia:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e8qBx_2l4tg