THE fighting in Johannesburg and its surrounding black townships, over the past week – with more than 23 people being killed, pitched battles with riot police and more than 300 people arrested – is reminiscent of the era of the apartheid regime, almost 20 years ago.
A week ago, in Alexandra township north of Johannesburg, gangs of youth attacked people they regard as ‘foreigners’, from Zimbabwe, Congo, Mozambique, Malawi and South Africans who speak minority languages, like Shangaans and Venda.
Since that time, attacks have spread to townships across the Gauteng region around Johannesburg. People have been driven out, and homes and shops have been looted.
In addition to the 23 people killed and the scores who have been injured, more than 13,000 people have fled from where they lived. Many have sought shelter in churches, community halls and police stations.
Johannesburg’s Central Methodist Church, where about 1,000 Zimbabweans had fled, came under attack over the weekend, and riot police were deployed in the centre of the city.
In the black townships the riot police have been in action using teargas, firing rubber bullets and wielding their riot sticks. There have been pitched battles between large groups of residents and the police.
In response to calls for the army to be brought in, National Police spokeswoman, Sally De Beer, said the police had an ‘extremely cooperative relationship with [the armed forces], so if we need to call on them we would not hesitate to so so.’ She added: ‘At the moment we have deployed four platoons of the National Intervention Unit.’
This is the scene in Johannesburg, the centre of the South African economy, 14 years after the end of apartheid, during which time the African National Congress (ANC) has been in government.
Even Moeletsi Mbeki, the brother of President Thabo Mbeki has said that the ANC leadership is responsible. It has carried out policies that allow the country’s huge mineral wealth to provide profits for apartheid-era owners and fund a new black ‘elite’, while the economic situation of the black masses has hardly changed.
The official unemployment rate is about 40 per cent. The poorest workers, both local people and immigrants from other countries in southern Africa, are forced to live in squatter camps and informal settlements. They often do not have basic services like running water, sewage disposal systems and electricity supplies.
The lack of jobs, homes, utilities and essential health and education services have been the main issues raised in the fighting in Johannesburg’s black townships.
The ANC leadership is responsible for this situation because it preserved the private ownership of the banks, mines, factories and land in the hands of corporations and large commercial farmers, who owned them under the apartheid regime.
The ANC fought against those who demanded the socialist nationalisation of the banks, major corporations and the land.
Confronted with the huge revolutionary upsurge of the black masses against the apartheid regime, the ANC leaders engineered a limited political revolution, that transferred government posts from white rulers to a majority of black rulers, with rich pickings for those in government and their friends.
After 14 years of ANC rule, the working class, jobless immigrants and the poor rural population want jobs, homes and a decent future.
To achieve this they must unite and continue their revolutionary struggle, which was betrayed by the ANC leadership, the Stalinist South African Communist Party (SACP) and top bureaucrats of COSATU unions, in order to go forward to a workers’ and farmers’ government, that will implement a socialist programme.
To lead this struggle, workers, youth and intellectuals must build a new revolutionary party, a South African section of the Trotskyist International Committee of the Fourth International, to lead this fight in a struggle against the treachery of the ANC and the SACP, and to build a new leadership in the COSATU trade unions.