“The South African Communist Party (SACP) and present leadership COSATU are lying to people that Cyril Ramaphosa will deliver socialism.”
After Jacob Zuma’s resignation, his deputy Cyril Ramaphosa is the new President of South Africa. Phakamile Hlubi-Majola, national spokesperson of National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) in a discussion with Irvin Jim, general secretary of NUMSA talks about the change of guard in the country and the future of the working class politics.
Phakamile Hlubi-Majola [PHM]: Comrade Irvin Jim, we obviously know that Zuma has resigned and now Ramaphosa is the President of South Africa. There is this talk of a new day, and everybody is excited. Of course, as NUMSA we are not excited. What is your position on this situation right now?
Irvin Jim [IJ]: Well, NUMSA for some time now, a couple of years back, before our expulsion from COSATU [Congress of South African Trade Unions], we were very clear the path they had chosen was of neo-liberal agenda. And this will never solve the problem the people of this country, especially the working class confronted with of poverty and unemployment and inequality. And as we speak, those conditions of the working class have worsened.
We are talking about 36% unemployment and we are talking 30.4 million South Africans with no access to food. And for Cyril Ramaphonsa, he has no agenda, has no plan — except the pursuit of the failure of the neo-liberal policies that they [ANC] have championed for two decades. He was in fact the one in 2017 to promise the World Economic Forum that they will continue with the austerity measures.
In fact, what we are likely to continue to see is fast-tracking of privatization, fast-tracking conservative neo-liberal policies. There is no expansionary budget that will deal with the plight of the working class. The privatization is going to be the order of the day. The SOEs [state-owned entities] that were be supposed to be on the cutting edge to stimulate the economy will continue to face a situation where basically they are privatized and they will be driven by the profit motive. The ESKOM [South African electricity public utility] is the target of privatization, which we reject.
And somebody needs to ask the question, that the people had been asking to Zuma: What process will Cyril Ramaphosa follow for the current ESKOM board? From where we are sitting, it is very clear that there is an agenda basically to privatize SOEs. And the working class is under attack from the same very same Cyril as a leader of government-business.
“We must demand that all our commanding heights of the economy and our minerals must be nationalized under the working control to champion a job-led industrial strategy.”
He has been a man behind the National Minimum Wage, which is nothing but super-exploitation of black and African labor, where somebody is paid 20 rands an hour. As NUMSA we reject this. He is also a man behind tampering the constitutional rights of the workers to strike. And they want that the workers before they can strike they have to ballot. This is nothing else but tampering with the constitutional right of workers to strike.
He is not having the same keen interest to revisit the property clause [Section 25] in the constitution. And he lied and said, “Look, we will expropriate land without compensation,” and he said this would be implemented among other mechanisms that are available. What are those other mechanisms if it is not willing by a willing seller?
And from where we are sitting, the sooner the South African working class must organize itself as a class for itself in the formation of the working-class party, which must basically champion a revolution and the struggle for full implementation of freedom charter. Where we must demand that all our commanding heights of the economy and our minerals must be nationalized under the working control to champion a job-led industrial strategy — to restructure the South African economy so that mineral, energy and finance complex does not benefit white monopoly capital and a tiny minority [of black capitalists]. For Cyril Ramapshosa this is an impossibility, but the working likes to vote into power its worst butchers.
PHM: Let’s talk about the fact the working class likes to vote into power its worst butcher. We have seen that in last 23 years, the working class has been used to prop and support the ANC. NUMSA in 2013 made the historic decision to reject ANC because it recognized that it doesn’t have an agenda for the working class and it was not just about Zuma. We just see that there has been no change in the material condition of the working class in South Africa. With Cyril in power, people are talking about the Rands doing well, what does this mean in the day-to-day lives of people?
IJ: In politics, we must appreciate that people are always driven by class interest. Clearly, what we are seeing is the alignment of class forces, and under Cyril, anything is possible. With all those, like him, who had benefited out of shares — because Cyril has been everywhere in all business deals. And the black petty bourgeoisie, who are basically aspiring to be capitalists — for black and white [capitalists], Cyril has given them the opportunity to unite. But for all of them what brings them together is the maintenance of the status quo and maintenance of accumulation. And out of the cake, which is basically is shrinking because, for the working class, there is absolutely nothing.
There is deliberate confusion that is being done by so-called left formations. The South African Communist Party (SACP) and present leadership COSATU are lying to people that Cyril Ramaphosa will deliver socialism.
We can’t continue to mobilize the working class every after five years, to continue to put into power, people who actually champion policy responsible for the company closure and for the serious level of deindustrialization, from which we will not recover as a country. Secondly, Zuma was basically marred by corruption, the allegation of corruption, and workers said Zuma must go!
“Anybody who doesn’t address the property question is bound to be corrupt.”
But, what about those who were in the forefront of dismissal of NUMSA? It was SACP and current leadership of COSATU, because with Zuma and ANC they had hoped some would have deployed as ministers and they were beneficiaries. But when they realized that the last congress of ANC was not going to support Zuma, they had to go back to the working class and dump Zuma.
Capitalism is corruption; capitalism is the system of greed. With the ANC having failed to address the property question, and with the ANC failing to affirm the rights of blacks and Africans in ownership of the economy and changing relations of production, in nationalizing those commanding heights of the economy. Anybody who doesn’t address the property question is bound to be corrupt. You are bound to surface dictatorship in terms of leadership.
It was not surprising that we ended the year with the ANC revisiting the state of emergency rules because they know they can’t continue to police people who are in poverty. They know that people will rise. The working class is being fooled by individuals and working-class leaders, including some funny federations. Like, Dennis George of FEDUA [Federation of Unions of South Africa], who goes around with Cyril talking to investors — and whose class interest is it? Clearly, the working class is being sold here!
While others will be looking into deployment into Cyril’s circle, we at NUMSA will not be part of any other confusion movements. We will only focus on crystallising the formation of the workers’ party and class struggle and strengthening the united front.
PHM: Comrade, the people are very anxious about the formation of this workers party. They see this as the vehicle for the next elections. What is the strategy?
IJ: The task of building the workers party is going to be a very difficult task. If it is so easy for people to forget that Cyril has been a deputy of Zuma right through, all of them, including Mantashe [ANC national chairman Gwede Mantashe], they stood in his camp, and this is why some of them could not take a bold stand and explain to Zuma that we are removing for these A, B, C, D reasons. There was the greatest possibility that Zuma knows a lot about each one of them. So, Zuma could actually pull their files and say that “you are saying about me, but what about this-this particular process.”
And I think the working class always survives by hopes.
“We need a workers’ party that will be with the working class.”
I went to Zimbabwe, Mugabe had its own deputy and Mugabe fired him, he emerged as if he can be an alternative. I am highlighting the struggle of building working class and raising the consciousness and making sure that the working class organizes itself as a class for itself, and form its own workers’ party.
We are not in rush. Contesting state power forms a path of struggle. The state is an important site of power, but what we are busy about is to liberate the working class, is to raise the levels of consciousness. We need a workers’ party that will be with the working class. We will be in the trenches with SAFTU [South African Federation of Trade Unions] to champion class struggle, that here we stand. This is a painful process as we continue to crystalize our plans our enemies are going multiply. As a union, we continue with the political education to raise the consciousness.
One should not be confused with the changing of chairs and think that there will be revolutionary agenda in ANC.
This article previously appeared in The Dawn News