THE ANC government of South Africa has said that it intends to crack down on the township riots and strikes that are sweeping the country.
Township residents are demanding new homes, better services, access to clean piped water, electric power, and a future for their children, while workers are demanding better wages and conditions, and an end to the government’s privatisation programme.
They are also drawing political conclusions from the fact that 19 years after the release of Nelson Mandela from prison, and 15 years after the first ANC government took office, the only thing that has changed is the colour of the ruling party, and the colour of the leaders of the government and the heads of the state apparatus, the army and police etc.
The black middle class has achieved its place in the sun, serving and maintaining the interests of the same bankers, capitalists and land-owners that constituted the ruling class under the apartheid regime.
The current massive movement of the working class and the poor therefore has a very revolutionary content.
Sensing this revolutionary essence, the local government minister has declared over the radio: ‘We are not going to allow anybody to use illegal means to achieve their objective.’
He was giving his government’s response to an earlier declaration by a leader of the unemployed movement in Durban, that the visible anger ‘is just the tip of the iceberg – I cannot stop the people because they are so angry’.
In Durban, 94 members of the South African Unemployed People’s Movement (SAUPM) were arrested after raiding supermarkets in the city centre and helping themselves to food without paying.
Eyewitnesses said that the ‘looters’ were shouting that they did not have food to eat, and were demanding a basic income grant of 1,500 Rand.
Already, tens of thousands of workers are striking in the paper and pulp, industrial chemical, pharmaceutical, and consumer goods sectors, bringing companies to a halt.
Most bosses say they cannot give in to workers’ demands for better wage increases due to the slump.
Trade unions are insisting that since the bosses continue to make profits, union members will not accept wage rises that are below the government’s published rate of inflation.
The South African Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers’ Union (Saccawu) spokesman Mike Abrahams said yesterday that the workers had been unable to agree on wage increases at stores like Makro, and Massdiscounters as well as opposing unilateral changes to terms of employment.
At Telkom, the Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) is set to endorse a strike following its national working committee meeting. ‘Members are eager to take up the fight,’ CWU general secretary Gallant Roberts said.
Meanwhile, the Congress of South African Trade Unions has come out in support of the Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers’ Union’s (Ceppwawu’s) mass action, warning that if employers do not better their wage offer, the federation’s 2-million members will come out in support of its affiliate.Workers are seeking wage increases of as much as 13.6%.
South Africa is heading for a general strike against the ANC government and the employers. Workers are convinced that the real gainers out of the first stage of the South African revolution were the middle class in what was a bourgeois political revolution.
The emerging second stage, is a workers’ revolution that will expropriate the bosses, bankers and landowners and bring in socialism. This is why many South African workers have begun to build a South African section of the International Committee of the Fourth International to provide a conscious leadership for this revolution.