AMANDLA ISSUE 14 | EDITORIAL : Put an end to apartheid in SA We have entered a special period of the South African calendar, especially in relation to struggle history. We have just recently celebrated Freedom Day (April 27), May Day (May 1) and are about to celebrate Youth Day (June 16). Yet in the words of the well know film maker, John Pilger, apartheid never died.
In this special issue of Amandla! we focus on the service delivery protests. It is important not to get bogged down in what we call them: whether itís service delivery protests, struggles for dignity, social justice or any other popular politically correct phrase. If nothing else they are the echoes of the urban struggles against apartheid that rocked the country in the 1980s when symbols of apartheid were burnt to the ground in so-called riots that rendered parts of SA ungovernable. Similarly, protests in places such as Leandra, Balfour, Standerton, Diepsloot, Mamelodi and Khayalitsha are becoming so violent in
their reactions against the police and the local authorities that the comparison with the 1980s is unavoidable. The fact that one can now vote every four years and elect your mayor and councillors pales into insignificance when viewed against the backdrop of deprivation that disfigures most of the living spaces where the majority of black working class people are forced to live.
Not even the billions of dollars pumped into staging the world cup is able to distract from the despair of daily life for the majority of South Africans.
Yes, South Africans are champions, not of the ëbeautiful gameí but of inequality. Post – apartheid social inequality has much of the same features as that of
apartheid. Namely, millions of people living in shacks, un-serviced squatter camps, without clean tapped running water, electricity or decent sanitation.
Shit literally flows through the streets of our ghettoes. It is meaningless to try to distinguish those areas that have not been provided with the infrastructure from those where people theoretically have access but are too poor to pay and suffer the indignity of having their services cut.
The dictum ìnothing has changedî, while mathematically inaccurate, is the widespread ëcommon senseí that reverberates 16 years after the formal end of apartheid. The apartheid scaffolding may be gone but the building remains.
It is the socio economic structure that underpinned apartheid, which is yet to be rooted out, that accounts for systemic inequality. In 2005-06, the National
Income and Expenditure Survey found that the average income for the top 10% of households was 32 times that of the bottom 50%. The richest 10% enjoyed well over half of all household income, and so we can go on quoting the scoreline of SAís inequality, almost ad-nauseam.
If the statistics are not a resounding call for action then surely the service delivery protests are. It is hypocritical for President Zuma to tell us it is urgent for us to act and that we cannot let the 20th anniversary of the formal end of apartheid be celebrated under these conditions, while he perpetuates the very same cycle of underdevelopment.
More of the same has worsened the situation. What is this more of the same? It is the constant concessions made to the privileged minority: the nonsensical fear of the instability that may arise if the privileges of the moneyed minority were redistributed, which underpins current policies of ëreconciliationí. The rulers break their backs to appease and ensure the buy-in of apartheidís children into the not-sonew SA. It is why they drop everything to run to Ventersdorp when the racist TerreíBlanche is murdered. Yet when the police kill three protesting youth in Leandra, no-one seems to notice.
When the left of the Tripartite Alliance makes a compelling argument for redistribution of healthcare resources through a National Health Insurance scheme, they rush to bury the proposal in task teams and feasibility studies long enough to re-assure the private health care industry of its monopoly. When Patel, the minister of Economic Development, makes a modest proposal for the compulsory investment of 5% of pension funds in a development bond to provide additional resources to overcome apartheidís infrastructure legacy, it is shot down by the treasury to appease so-called jittery markets.
Affirmative action, nation building and real citizenship in the context of township squalor and the protests, demands at the very least:
ï Getting rid of the shacks,
ï Providing all with decent housing,
ï Free basic services: water, electricity and sanitation ñ up to a level where people can live in dignity.
Cost and money cannot be used to say itís not possible. A simple wealth or reconstruction tax on the wealth of the rich elites can easily fund this. If
billions can be mobilised for the Fifa World Cup and cannot be raised to provide basic services then the writing is on the wall for the not so new SA.
The future of SA is neither in the suburbs nor the markets; they are only big enough to accommodate a tiny elite. The reality is that the future is in
the slums of the country. Those that we euphemistically call townships and informal settlements. The transition from Mbeki to Zuma is not enough to quell the
brewing anger and alienation. It is only a matter of time before these protests find political co-ordination, movement and vision that will challenge ëneo-apartheidí.
The signposts towards this are in recent statements commemorating our struggle calendar. COSATU is prepared to buck Alliance protocol and say in their Freedom day statement that ìlaws on their own will never guarantee our freedom. The only way for workers, their families and communities to win real and total freedom is for them to get organised in strong, fighting trade unions, a strong tripartite alliance and civil society formationsî. A similar sentiment is reflected in the recent joint statement by the National Union of Metal workers (NUMSA) and the Young Communist League when for the first time they say unequivocally, ìWe support the ongoing service delivery protests as led by young people in most parts of our communities.î What the future could look like is highlighted in the recent bilateral between the SACP and Cosatu when they agreed that the ìJoint Socialist Commission led by both General Secretaries must iron out proposal on a joint programme which will include amongst others a mechanism to maximize working class unity and build a broad left front for Socialismî.
Let us put two and two together: the combustion of the service delivery protests and the organisation of SAís mass working class movements and its allies. It equals a broad movement, rekindled by memories of the United Democratic Front, just this time explicitly anticapitalist, so as to root out inequality.