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South Africa: ANC sees 'Swedes and Irish' behind miners' anger; Solidarity forces ANC back-down

Liv Shange returns to South Africa, July 14, 2013.

By Terry Bell, Cape Town

June 27, 2013 -- Terry Bell Writes, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- According to African National Congress (ANC) secretary general Gwede Mantashe those responsible for “the anarchy that is happening in the platinum industry” are the “Swedes and Irish”. It was a comment that left many commentators dumbstruck.

Citizens of Sweden and Ireland seemed a rather strange choice as scapegoats to take the place of the former “counter revolutionaries” of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU). But AMCU, certainly over the past week or two, no longer fits the scapegoat bill: the ANC has stated that that earlier pro-National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and anti-AMCU comments by prominent ANC figures have been “resolved”; that AMCU and NUM are now regarded equally.

But why the use of “Swedes and Irish”? Some commentators saw in this parallels with the apartheid government’s claims of “foreign agitators” and “white communists” being behind the mass uprisings against their regime.

The consensus view was probably summed up by mining analyst Peter Major, in a radio interview this week. He felt that Mantashe was indulging in pre-election “politicking” and should “quit trying to manufacture people from outside the country” to explain the complex problems in the industry.

The problems are indeed complex and Mantashe’s remarks probably do belong, on one level, to the category of opportunistic politicking and spin. But there is also a history involved and, especially for many members of the South African Communist Party (SACP) he conjured up a spectre from South Africa’s trade union past — and this at a time when political rivalry and fears about the 2014 election are growing.

Mantashe’s comments also seem to be part of the desire by the ANC-led alliance to try not only to mend bridges with AMCU, but to ensure that this now major player on the union front does not end up either forming or supporting a rival, leftwing workers’ party. This is a particular concern of the SACP which is formally acknowledged by the Congress of South African Trade Union (COSATU) as “the (only) workers’ party”.

But as with most political spin, there is also an element of fact amid the fiction. So Mantashe did not have to manufacture people: a few individuals, related in some way to the platinum belt, do exist to provide a veneer of credibility to his claims.

He noted that “it is a Swedish citizen who is at the centre of the anarchy”. This was a clear reference to Liv Shange, a member of the small Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) that has been quite active helping organise workers on the platinum belt. A slight, blonde woman, she made it onto television screens and newspaper pages when, megaphone in hand, she addressed hundreds of striking miners,

Her gender and complexion made her more newsworthy that other socialists who were — and remain — more active among miners, especially in the platinum sector. Mametlwe Sebei and Elias Juba who are both more prominent in the Rustenburg area, have attracted little media attention. But, like Shange, they are members of the DSM that was, until 1996, the Marxist Workers’ Tendency (MWT) inside the ANC.

The three are also members of the Workers and Socialist Party (WASP), launched earlier this year. General secretary of WASP is a former South African Municipal Workers’ Union and ANC organiser, Weizman Hamilton.

There was also an Irish connection at the WASP launch in the form of Joe Higgins, a Socialist Party member of the Irish parliament who has long had connections with South Africa and the domestic union movement. The presence of Higgins and the involvement of long-time activists such as Hamilton gave WASP a degree of credibility as a potential political contender: history seemed to be repeating itself.

For some 30 years, the MWT was a thorn in the side of the ANC and formed part of a challenge to the dominance of the SACP over the main labour movement. The challenge came in the demand for an independent workers’ party. A fact, often forgotten, is that the SACP initially opposed the formation of COSATU, insisting instead that the self-exiled South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU) was “the only true representative of South African workers”.

However, reality quickly overcame ideological certainty: COSATU was recognised and SACTU dissolved. But the battle about an independent workers' party only subsided after 1993.

“Now I think there is something of the ghost of the past coming to haunt them”, said Shange, speaking from her family home in northern Sweden where she is holidaying with her 14-year-old stepdaughter and her own son and daughter aged five and eight. She is booked to return to South Africa on July 14, but has been told by the South African embassy that she lacks “the proper papers”.

A former Socialist Justice Party councillor in her home town, Shange is married to a South African and has lived in South Africa for the past ten years. “I had a spousal visa that was in the passport I lost when I was mugged in 2010”, she said. Attempts to get the visa re-issued proved fruitless because “they couldn’t find my file”. She suspects she may now be a victim of political persecution, but feels that the loss of the file could just as easily be a matter of bureaucratic bungling.

Yesterday she was still trying to gain permission from the South African embassy in Stockholm to return to South Africa. “The children have to start school on July 15”, she said, adding that it was “ridiculous that any single individual or group can be responsible” for events in the mining sector.

AMCU president Joseph Mathunjwa concurs: “Workers organise as workers irrespective of religious and political affiliations or whatever”, he says. AMCU, he insists, is politically non-aligned. “Politics is for politicians (although) we know our opponents would like to associate us with particular political structures to calm their guilty consciences.”

So while religious and political evangelism continues, among unionists as well as in wider society, AMCU will remain “apolitical”. “This is our position and we shall not be persuaded otherwise.”

[Terry Bell is a widely respected labour reporter and activist based in Cape Town, South Africa. His "Inside  labour" columns in Amandla! magazine and on his blog, Terry Bell Writes, are essential reading for those interested in developments in South Africa's labour movement.] 

DSM and WASP activist Liv Shange faces deportation

By Weizmann Hamilton

June 26, 2013 -- In a sinister development, ANC general secretary Gwede Mantashe’s claim – made to a business forum in Sandton on June 11, 2013 -- that foreigners from Sweden and Ireland were behind what he described as “anarchy in Marikana”, has been followed by an attempt to throw leading Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) and Workers and Socialist Party (WASP) activist Liv Shange, a Swedish citizen married to a South African, out of the country.

Comrade Liv is currently in Sweden on a visit to her family together with her five-year old daughter, Nomanyano, her eight-year-old son Nila and her husband’s 14-year-old daughter, Naledi – all of them South African citizens. She has had to learn from the Sunday Independent newspaper and radio bulletins that she is under a “security and immigration investigation” by the Department of Home Affairs for allegedly being in the country illegally.

Responsibility for any difficulties with comrade Liv’s immigration status lie entirely with the Department of Home Affairs, a matter she has been trying to resolve for a number of years now. The weekend’s developments suggest that what has obstructed the resolution of the matter is not Home Affairs’ legendary incompetence, but something much more sinister – the abuse of state resources for the purposes of a political witch-hunt.

Upon her return from an overseas trip in 2011, immigration officials stamped a tourist visa into the temporary passport she used following the theft of her passport in a mugging despite the fact that she had been issued with a two-year spousal visa in 2009. Upon receipt of her full passport she applied for the transfer of the spousal visa that had been stamped into her stolen passport into the replacement passport. The DHA claimed that they had no record of her spousal visa on their system – only the now expired tourist visa and compelled her to admit to staying illegally in South Africa by paying an admission of guilt fine, in order to be allowed to apply for an "extension" of her spousal visa and thereby avoid deportation.

The R1000 fine set by the Durban DHA was reduced to R100 by the magistrate. Though Liv complied with all requirements imposed by the DHA, her extension application was rejected because there "was no existing permit" and the "admin fine was too low". She was then advised tp appeal against the rejection, which she did with a supporting statement from a DHA official confirming that her application for the transfer of her spousal visa had been improperly rejected. This was coupled with registering a new extension application. This, she was assured, changed her status from "rejected" to "pending". However, nearly two years have passed without a response to the appeal, nor to several queries Liv has lodged with the DHA.

Mantashe’s statement is reckless, irresponsible and should be withdrawn. It is a disgrace that a senior leader of the ANC, a movement whose struggle against apartheid was supported by “foreigners” worldwide, especially from Sweden, in the spirit of international solidarity should invoke xenophobia as part of a political attack. It is insulting not only to comrade Liv but also the mineworkers to describe as “anarchy” their battle for higher wages, decent living conditions, against retrenchments and the rebellion against the treachery of the National Union of Mineworkers.

Mantashe apparently believes that the mineworkers are incapable of apprehending their own conditions and acting to free themselves from slavery. They need to be instigated. This is what the apartheid regime used to say about the black oppressed and activists like Mantashe himself.

The manipulation of immigration laws, the denunciation of the exercise of the constitutional right to strike and freedom of association – which includes the right to reject a union that colludes with the bosses – are further confirmation of the ANC’s growing infatuation with the methods of the apartheid regime as was so bloodily demonstrated in the Marikana massacre.

Comrade Liv is only the latest in a long line of scapegoats, the ANC government, the South African Communist Party and some COSATU leaders have blamed for the heroic uprising of the mineworkers last year. They have pointed fingers at Julius Malema, the "Pondoland vigilante mafia", sangomas and now the DSM, WASP and comrade Liv.

Comrade Liv, a life-long socialist, was an elected councillor in Sweden before emigrating to South Africa. Her real crime is supporting the struggle of the mineworkers for decent wages and democratic unions. If Mantashe was genuinely concerned about foreigners destabilising the mining industry, he need look no further than the international investors in the platinum industry who are exerting relentless pressure on the mining companies to cause anarchy by retrenching tens of thousands of workers. He should support our demand for the nationalisation of the mines under the democratic control and management of the working class.

Comrade Liv has been resident in South Africa since January 2004, and married to South African Xolani Shange since December 2004. She completed her BA degree in Zulu and economic history at the University of KwaZulu Natal in 2007, passing summa cum laude. She is a leading member of the DSM. To debar her from returning to what is now her home, and separate her from her children who are all South African citizens and who need to return to school, would amount to a human rights abuse. We demand that comrade Liv be issued with a spousal visa and allowed to apply for permanent residence.

[Weizmann Hamilton is a coordinating committee member of WASP and general secretary of Democratic Socialist Movement.]

Repression defeated: Liv Shange back in South Africa

By Meshack Komane, Democratic Socialist Movement (CWI in South Africa)

July 13, 2013 --  On Sunday July 14, Liv Shange was able to return to South Africa. She had been threatened to be kept out of the country because of the political role she played in the mineworkers’ struggle. The Workers and Socialist Party launched the Liv Shange Defence Campaign to put pressure on the authorities against this threat. So far they had to back off and let Liv and her three children back in.

On Tuesday June 11, shortly before Liv left South Africa for a family visit to Sweden, African National Congress (ANC) General Secretary Gwede Mantashe stated to a business forum in Sandton that foreigners from Sweden and Ireland were behind what he described as “anarchy in Marikana”. This was followed by an attempt to throw leading Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) and Workers and Socialist Party (WASP) activist, Liv Shange, a Swedish citizen married to a South African, out of the country.

Mantashe was referring to the role the DSM and Liv amongst others were playing in the mineworkers’ strikes last year. They helped the mineworkers to set up their own strike committees and coordinate them in the National Strike Committee. The Workers and Socialist Party, which will stand in the next general elections and aims to unify workers and community struggles was born out Marikana and the committees. Both the mineworkers and WASP seem to be a constant pain in Mantashes neck, which he tries to overcome with repression.

But the attack on Liv Shange was not an isolated act. There is a low intensity civil war going on in the mines including suspension of shop stewards, harassment of trade union activists and court proceedings against trade unions. Additionally the expulsion of the Tlokwe ANC Councillors who ousted a corrupt major shows how the ANC government deals with political opponents inside and outside the ANC. Thisdefeat of the repression against Liv Shange is a victory for everybody facing repression in the country.

Liv Shange Defence Campaign

The Liv Shange Defence Campaign collected hundreds of signatures from different organisations, activists and trade unions. Many signatures were collected on the mines of Rustenburg and Carletonville. Well known people like the author Don Materra declared their support for Liv Shange. People from all over the country and internationally sent letters to the Department of Home Affairs. Among them was also a letter by the Irish Member of the European Parliament who also replied to Mantashes allegations.

On Sunday, after a long and nervous wait, a large group of WASP comrades, community and trade union activists, gave Liv a warm welcome. During the jubilant celebration of this victory, Liv was even hoisted up in the air by members of the Amplats workers committee.

The concession that has been won is that Liv was allowed back into SA, for now on a three-month visitor’s permit. She is engaging with Department of Home Affairs to resolve the issue of her immigration status. The struggle to counter the threat of abusing the powers of the Department of Home Affairs to exile Liv will continue.

The authorities have made a u-turn in the last few days, after saying I would have to wait in Sweden for them to approve my return to SA, and that is thanks to the pressure of the campaign, says Liv.

The threats against are part of the government’s preparations to disarm workers ahead of the major attacks the mine bosses are pushing for. I’m not intimidated and will continue to together with my comrades support the struggles of the mineworkers and working class communities.

An injury to Liv is an injury to all was written on the posters at the airport. Thus a victory for Liv is a victory for all. The left, trade unions and communities must now unite against all repression confronting them and discuss a strategy how to fight the governments and mine-bosses policies.

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