Continuing uprising in South Africa driven by poverty & mass unemployment – SAFTU

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Poor South Africans were looting food during the recent uprising

SAFTU (South African Federation of Trade Unions) has acknowledged mass unemployment and poverty precipitated the continuing uprising in the country.

In a statement last Friday, SAFTU ‘noted the form and character of the ongoing looting of shops, retailers, wholesalers and cargo containers.’

It continued: ‘Having begun as a demonstration demanding the release of former president, Jacob Zuma, the protests have three characteristics: the poor appropriating food, furniture and other goods; opportunistic thuggery by those who are well off and drive to warehouses with bakkies; and the criminal elements pursuing burning and destruction of infrastructure.

‘SAFTU condemns the burning of property, trucks and shopping centres.

‘The streak of burning trucks and shopping malls seems to be well orchestrated, and possibly, by Zuma supporters, who have warned of instability in the eventuality of Jacob Zuma being incarcerated.

‘However, that masses of poor people joined in the looting in parts of Kwa Zulu Natal and Gauteng, does not mean automatic support for Jacob Zuma. Instead, that they have joined the looting is a symptom of the social crisis.

‘The blame for the rising social crisis lies squarely on the shoulders of the ruling party, ANC (African National Congress), because of the economic path it has pursued since 1994.

‘That neo-liberal economic path has excluded many from economic activity through unemployment, whilst perpetuating the socio-economic inequalities that widened a pool of poor masses.

‘Massive unemployment, widespread poverty and government’s indifference to the cries of the people for social relief grants (basic income grant) for the unemployed, precipitated this bomb whose explosion is apparent.

‘Many who joined the looting, have commented that their part in the looting was not about Zuma, but because they are unemployed and hungry. They care less about whether Zuma is freed or not. #FreeZuma campaign merely became a catalyst for the appropriation spree.

‘The deployment of the army may succeed in restoring calm. But this will only kick the can down the road.

‘Mass uprising of the poor is inevitable especially if mass unemployment remains. The only problem is that corrupt leaders in either faction of the ANC stand to exploit this condition.

‘Public services and public servants

‘The police have failed to stop looting and burning of trucks, shopping malls, retailers and wholesalers. Not because of incompetence, but simply because they were outnumbered and overwhelmed.

‘SAFTU and its affiliate, South African Policing Union (SAPU), have lamented the austerity cuts carried out by government across the public sector, especially in public policing.

‘These cuts are responsible for the lack of infrastructure development, lack of maintenance of police vehicles and filling of vacant posts on time. It is clear, that, a 160 000 police force is not enough to tend public order policing and attend to the criminal calls in violence-ridden working class communities.

‘Even under normal circumstances, the police force is unable to satisfactorily attend to people’s cases and calls for protection against criminals because they are understaffed.

‘The Police National Commissioner Khetha Sithole has in the past pointed out that there is a shortage of 60,000 police officials. Today society is paying a heavy price that the government prioritised austerity programmes, and not the safety of the people.

‘The same goes to all departments responsible for provision of public services – lack of infrastructure development, inadequate procurement of working equipment and understaffed.

‘It is on this basis that SAFTU reiterates its call to the public servants not to sign the insult that is the public sector wage offer. The ruling party requires public servants to be patriotic, meanwhile they are patriotic and loyal to the neoliberal policy frameworks that together with corruption, are responsible for the collapse of the public sector.’

SAFTU fails to recognise the role of the capitalist state and the need to smash it as Marx deduced from the Paris Commune.

The South African trade unions must call a general strike to bring down the ANC government and go forward to a workers state and socialism.

That is what is also missing from the  COSATU Mandela Day Statement 2021 which promotes illusions in reforming the ANC government.

Datelined July 18, 2021, their statement reads:

‘The Congress of South African Trade Unions joins millions of people around the world to celebrate this significant day in the international calendar, Nelson Mandela Day.

‘This is a day to remember and honour the Nobel Peace Prize laureate’s contribution to resolving conflicts and promoting race relations, human rights, and reconciliation.

‘Madiba (Mandela) was a towering figure who is known for his outstanding contribution to the creation of a non-racial, non-sexist democratic South Africa, and his contribution to the struggle for democracy internationally and in the promotion of a culture of peace throughout the world.

‘On this day, we reflect on the serious challenges that face the poor and the oppressed in South Africa and around the world. We salute one of the very finest embodiments of our revolution and the best of our people, our beloved Isithwalandwe-Seaparankoe, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.

‘We reaffirm our commitment to confronting and waging a fight against injustice and oppression of whatever kind here at home and around the world.

‘The challenges facing the working class here and around the world are massive and we have a lot to learn from Madiba at this difficult time.

‘Domestically, South Africa remains a capitalist society and, as a result, the legacy and remnants of Apartheid capitalism in relation to “Colonialism of a Special Type (CST)” are still with us. The 1st Quarter of a Century of Freedom benefited the capitalist class, and the nation is paying a price for entrenching this apartheid economic legacy with GEAR’s (Growth, Employment and Redistribution – the South African government’s five-year privatisation plan) neo-liberal framework.

‘We have a massive task of dismantling this unfair economic system and ensure that everyone has a seat at the table. On this day, we reaffirm to continue in our tireless fight for a shift from the Neoliberal policy paradigm and overcoming the entrenched Apartheid legacy, in particular the glaring racialised, gendered inequalities and the mal distribution of resources and development opportunities.

‘In the region the people of Swaziland are being massacred by a heartless regime that is suppressing their fight for democracy. Africa continues to suffer from outbreaks of civil wars and the scourge of corruption.

‘The Palestinians’ struggle is still being brutally oppressed. The Zionist Israeli entity, in cahoots with Anglo-American imperialism, has recently launched a criminal war against the poor and innocent people of Palestine causing a humanitarian crisis that amounts to a crime against humanity.

‘In Cuba, the US counter-revolution has intensified its brutality against the socialist revolution. Despite this, the Cuban revolution, and its achievements, particularly in terms of the defence of national sovereignty, internationalism, education, health, social services, and participatory democracy, serves as a model and an inspiration to oppressed peoples all over the world.

‘Madiba never forgot to remind us that the selfless Cuban solidarity in support of the national liberation struggles and socialist revolutions in Africa and Southern Africa in particular, was vital lifeblood of our own liberation and an exemplary principled internationalism.

‘This reminds us that it is the duty and responsibility of all progressive forces to support the struggle of the Cuban people to defend their sovereignty and the remarkable achievements of their revolution and socialism.

‘Madiba also taught us a lot about principled, ethical and value driven leadership He was selfless and exemplary in showcasing the components of leading, namely authority, responsibility, delegation, accountability, and power.

‘All of us have the challenge to emulate and learn from Madiba, who never wavered in his pursuit of justice for the oppressed and defenceless.

‘Mandela Day reminds us of our responsibility to fight all forms of injustice like racism, religious and political persecution, human trafficking, child slavery, poverty etc. We call on all leaders of society and the ANC in particular to take time to reflect on the legacy that Madiba left us, and tap from his well of wisdom to help guide this country towards calm waters.

‘The legacy of Madiba lives on!’

Issued by Sizwe Pamla (Cosatu National Spokesperson)