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South Africa: ANC centenary a display of elite power
[Stop press: Soon after the publication of this article in South Africa, the author was beaten and arrested by police on trumped-up charges, see below.]
By Ayanda Kota
January 12, 2012 -- Pambazuka News, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- The centenary celebrations of the African National Congress (ANC) are being used to persuade the people that a movement that has betrayed the people is our government; a government that obeys the people, instead of a government of the elites, for the elites and by the elites. It is a hugely expensive spectacle designed to drug us against our own oppression and disempowerment.
In his Communist Manifesto Karl Marx wrote that, "Each step in the development of the bourgeoisie was accompanied by a corresponding political advance of that class... The executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the affairs of the bourgeoisie." Here Marx is referring to the ability of the bourgeoisie to translate economic power into state power, thus reducing our governments to mere managers acting in the interests of capital and not the people. This has happened to governments around the world. But here our politicians are not mere managers. They are, like in Russia or India, a predatory elite with their own class interests and they support capital and repress the people as long as they can get their own share.
Since 1994 there hasn’t been a reorganisation of the economy. The commanding heights of the economy continue to reside in the hands of a tiny elite, most of which is white. Unemployment is skyrocketing. Most young people have never worked. Anyone can see that there is an excessive amount of poverty in South Africa. There are shacks everywhere. In fact, poverty reigns supreme in our country. Every year South Africa's President Jacob Zuma promises to create new jobs and every year unemployment grows.
If things were getting better, even if they were getting better slowly, people might be willing to be patient. But things are getting worse every year. Poverty and inequality are getting worse. The government is increasingly criminalising poverty instead of treating it as a political problem. When people try to organise they are always presented as a third force being used to undermine democracy and bring back racism.
But it is the ANC that has failed to develop any plans to democratise the economy. It is the ANC that has failed to develop any plans to democratise the media. It is the ANC that disciplines the people for the bourgeoisie -- a role that they are very comfortable to play! It is the ANC that follows the line of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. It is our local leaders who are taking the leap from their old bosses, stealing from us, treating us with contempt, acting like the former colonial government and oppressing us.
During the liberation struggle our leaders embodied the aspirations of the people. But once they took state power they didn't need us any more. We were sent home. We are only called out to vote or attend rallies. But all the time our people are evicted from farms, paving way for animals as farms are turned into game reserves under the pretext of tourism. Our people are evicted from cities. Our people are denied decent education. The ANC has become a mixture of what Marx would call an instrument of power in the hands of the bourgeoisie and what Frantz Fanon would call a means of private advancement.
Black Conciousness leader Steve Biko wrote that, "This is one country where it would be possible to create a capitalist black society, if whites were intelligent, if the nationalists were intelligent. And that capitalist black society, black middle class, would be very effective… South Africa could succeed in putting across to the world a pretty convincing, integrated picture, with still 70 per cent of the population being underdogs."
We, as the unemployed, belong to the 70 per cent that Biko was talking about. We were happy to see the end of apartheid and we will always fight racism wherever we see it. But we are not free. There has only been freedom for the 30 per cent. How can a person be free with no work, no house and no hope for their life?
R100 million is being spent on the celebration -- spent to entertain elites, through playing golf and drinking the most expensive whiskey. Golf players are even receiving massages from young women sponsored by South African Breweries. This is not a people's celebration. We are absent! How some of us wish that all that money could have been used to build houses, create employment, build sport facilities or schools for kids who continue to learn under trees! Biko was right. As the world celebrates with the ANC today they put across a pretty convincing picture of freedom while everywhere people are broken by the burdens of poverty.
In his Wretched of the Earth, in the chapter called "The Pitfalls of
the National Consciousness", Fanon wrote: "The leader pacifies
the people. For years on end after independence has been won, we see
him, incapable of urging on the people to a concrete task, unable really
to open the future to them or of flinging them into the path of
national reconstruction, that is to say, of their own reconstruction; we
see him reassessing the history of independence and recalling the
sacred unity of the struggle for liberation. The leader, because he
refuses to break up the national bourgeoisie, asks the people to fall
back into the past and to become drunk on the remembrance of the epoch
which led up to independence. The leader, seen objectively, brings the
people to a halt and persists in either expelling them from history or
preventing them from taking root in it. During the struggle for
liberation the leader awakened the people and promised them a forward
march, heroic and unmitigated. Today, he uses every means to put them to
sleep, and three or four times a year asks them to remember the
colonial period and to look back on the long way they have come since
I am not opposed to the centenary celebration of the ANC. But if the ANC was a progressive movement it would have organised a celebration in a way that includes the people and supports us to build our power. They could have, for instance, asked people to meet all over the country, discuss how far we have come and how far we still have to go, and draw up demands for a new freedom charter for the new era. But this celebration is just a spectacle that we are supposed to watch on TV. It is exactly what Fanon talks about. It is designed to keep us drunk on the memory of the past struggle, so that we must stop struggling and remain in the caves.
In a recent protest in Bloemfontein, police were there in numbers to flush the demonstrators. This has happened in many other demonstrations. The message is very clear: "Go back to your caves!" It is backed up by state violence. As Fanon says, a party that can't marry national consciousness with social consciousness will disintegrate; nothing will be left but the shell of a party, the name, the emblem and the motto. He says that: "The living party, which ought to make possible the free exchange of ideas which have been elaborated according to the real needs of the mass of the people has been transformed into a trade union of individual interests."
This is exactly what the party has become. Institutions such as parliament and local municipalities have been severely compromised because of individual interests. Corruption is rampant. The Protection of Information Bill (Secrecy Bill) is another illustration of how the selfish interests of individuals have taken over the party.
A true liberation movement would never have killed Andries Tatane, attacked and jailed activists of social movements. It would never send people to lull – it would encourage people to continue organising and mobilising against injustices and oppression. A progressive leader would know that they cannot substitute themselves for the will of the people. A progressive party would never help the government in holding the people down through fascist attacks on the media by the likes of Nceba Faku, Blade Nzimande and Julius Malema to mention but a few. A democratic party would never engage in attacks on protests as we saw most recently with the ANC and ANCYL fascism against the Democratic Left Front in Durban during COP17 Conference.
In the Congo, in Nigeria and across the Arab world people are deserting celebrations of the flag and political leaders as if they really do represent the nation. Some are turning to a politics of religious or ethnic chauvinism. Others are turning to the politics of mass democratic rebellion or a democracy that is truly owned by the people. This is a free exchange of ideas backed up with popular force. We are also seeing this in Europe and North America. Latin America has been in rebellion for many years. Across South Africa more and more people are deserting the party that spends so much money to keep them drunk on the memory of the past struggle, their own struggle, the same struggle that the ruling party has privatised and betrayed. There are occupations, road blockades and protests and the message is loud and clear: Sekwanele! Genoeg! Enough!
The only way to truly honour the struggles of the past is to stand up for what is right, now. The struggle continues and will continue until we are all free.
[Ayanda Kota is chairperson of Unemployed People's Movement in South Africa.]
Drop all charges against Ayanda Kota
January 13, 2012 -- The Democratic Left Front (DLF) calls for the immediate release and dropping of all charges against comrade Ayanda Kota, the chairperson of the Grahamstown-based Unemployed People’s Movement. Kota is also a founder and member of the national committee of the DLF. Kota will appear at 9 am this morning at the Grahamstown Magistrate’s Court to answer to charges of theft and assault of police. He has been in police custody from yesterday afternoon.
[Ayanda Kota was released on R1000 bail, he is due back in court on the February 29, 2012.]
According to a UPM press statement issued on January 12, a certain constable Zulu and other members of the South African Police Services (SAPS) savagely assaulted Kota at the Grahamstown police station. This assault took place in front of several witnesses including Kota’s six-year old son. Kota was at the police station in response to charges laid against him by a controversial academic from Rhodes University. Ostensibly, Kota had not returned a book he had borrowed from this academic. She then proceeded to lay a charge of theft against her. The police added the assault charge.
As stated in separate statements by the UPM and by the Rhodes University-based Students for Social Justice (SSJ), Kota’s treatment at the police station is consistent with increasing police repression against activists of social movements involved in social mobilisation challenging the neoliberal and anti-poor policies of the ANC-led state. As the SSJ statement said, “We have seen this behaviour in Durban, when the ANC led an attack against Abahlali baseMjondolo members in the Kennedy Road Settlement. We have seen this behavior when ANCYL members attacked DLF and UPM activists (including Ayanda) at the international day of climate action during COP 17. We have seen this behaviour when Rehad Desai was assaulted in front of Zuma.” At its most tragic, this led to the killing of Andries Tatane by the SAPS during a protest in Meqheleng in April last year.
The state’s increasing use of excessive force is reminiscent of the old apartheid police-style tactics to suppress dissent and maintain social control. The more than 50 social movements that mobilise under the DLF umbrella have a list of at least 14 others whose deaths have been reported in the media since
2000 (seven of whom had their lives ended in 2010 and 2011). In addition, a much greater number of people have been traumatised by the use of rubber bullets fired at point blank range, and by improper use of live rounds, tear gas and water cannon. Taken as a whole, it is clear that there has been widespread intimidation of people wishing to take up their constitutional right to protest, and that this threatens our hard-won democracy. The DLF is extremely concerned about the sustained actions of Jacob Zuma’s ruling elite to enhance the coercive capacities of the state.
The DLF is not surprised by yesterday’s actions of the SAPS against Kota. For a number of months now, Kota has reported suspected surveillance of his movements and family home by the local SAPS. The DLF also recalls that over the last two years, several UPM activists including Kota have been subject to problematic arrests, false charges, intimidation and harassment from the local SAPS. These SAPS actions were in cahoots with local ANC politicians and councillors following sustained UPM social mobilisation in support of demands for service delivery and accountability by the Makana Local Municipality which is mired in inefficiency, failed service delivery and corruption.
The DLF strongly condemns the SAPS for its treatment of Kota. This attack on Kota is an attack on constitutionally protected human rights and the very essence of democracy itself. This attack is an attack on social movements and the DLF itself. No amount of police brutality will solve the mass misery and poverty inflicted on our people by the pro-capitalist ANC government. This attack is a direct call to all poor and working people to intensify their actions of disciplined social protest and mobilisation against the anti-poor policies of the ANC government and municipalities as well as against police brutality.
For all the above reasons, the DLF endorses the SSJ call for an investigation of, and action against those SAPS members responsible for yesterday’s assault on Kota. We also join the UPM and SSJ call on the Makana municipality and the ANC to condemn this action against Kota in the strongest possible terms.
This is the time to mobilise affected communities and organisations to bring evidence of police brutality into the public sphere. Poor and working people subjected to police brutality and other repressive action must be able to speak out and act on the violations of their rights. Such action must also send a strong signal to the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD), the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) and the public protector to undertake official investigations in terms of their constitutional and legislated mandates on cases of police violence directed at citizens engaged in protests. The DLF calls on the ICD, the SAHRC and the public protector to undertake statutory investigations of police brutality in a responsive and proactive way that can also ensure that police brutality is exposed and declared a violation of, and a crime against the constitutional rights to speak and associate freely.
Beyond what these statutory institutions can do, the DLF also reiterates another call it made last year: the call for a People’s Tribunal Against Police Brutality. In the view of the DLF, such a tribunal must hear evidence from affected communities, thus providing a voice for working-class experience and anger while also building solidarity between organised workers, poor communities and others committed to human rights, social justice and freedom of expression. Such a tribunal can also lay the foundation for a mass campaign that can mobilise poor and working people to speak out and act against police brutaliy and challenge the increased militarisation and centralisation of power in an increasingly unaccountable security cluster of the state.
Finally, the DLF is extremely concerned at the failure of the Rhodes academic to take political responsibility for her action to lay charges against Kota. No matter whatever unhappiness and ill-feeling she has against Kota she is a politically mature and experienced enough individual who knows the struggles of the UPM and its harassment by the local SAPS. We are however not surprised by her actions as she has sustained an almost sadistic individual campaign against the UPM ever since it did not agree with her political views regarding participation in the May local government elections. Yesterday afternoon, our comrade Jane Duncan (a DLF national committee member and fellow academic at Rhodes University) spoke to this academic to no avail. In our engagement with her, it became clear that the actions of this individual unwittingly aid the efforts of the local ANC and SAPS to demonise Kota and his other UPM comrades. None of this will take UPM attention away from its program of action.