By Staff Reporter
South Africa is holding the first-ever Working Class Summit with a declaration that people of that country are fed up of the catastrophic levels of poverty, unemployment, inequalities as well as the erosion of democratic rights.
There was excitement when the historical summit organised by the South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) kicked off at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) in Soweto on Saturday.
The convocation attended by about 100 working class organisations will run from 21-22 July 2018.
“This is further evidence that more and more South Africans have had enough of the catastrophic levels of poverty, unemployment and inequality and the erosion of democratic rights. Even the very pro-business Financial Mail – representing the capitalist monopolies, which are the main cause of the crisis – has woken up to the fact that ‘there’s a toxic brew bubbling under on the fringes of our country’,” SAFTU states in a media release. “Its editorial (19 July 2018) goes on: ‘Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen a sharp rise in protests around SA — be it increasingly volatile demonstrations near Hermanus, or in Mitchells Plain and the Bo-Kaap near Cape Town or in Centurion in Gauteng or in Kimberley. The country has seldom been so close to the edge… It is beginning to whip up into a squall that, some fear, can’t be tamed’.”
SAFTU argued that the Financial Mail were mistaken to think that these protests are only on the fringes of society.
“They are happening all over South Africa and spreading to all the oppressed majority of the people. The magazine notes that: ‘Nothing has shifted unemployment from its stubbornly high level of 36.7% (using the expanded definition). Few other democracies could tolerate the human impact of having more than a third of their labour force out of work. Here, we’ve done it for years’,” the statement read. “‘It’s the sort of volatile undercurrent’, says the editorial, ‘that, in 2010, sparked the Arab Spring protests across the Middle East, laying waste to the administrations of Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Libya… It is little wonder citizens are fed up and taking to the streets. But the ruling elites are still behaving as if the fuse hasn’t been lit — holding ‘consultations’, ‘workshops’ and ‘indabas’. They must act now, if there’s still time’.”
SAFTU, however, says the most glaring fallacy in the editorial was the view that it was just “the ruling elites” in the ANC who are responsible for this crisis, which is “the consequence of years of neglect under former president Jacob Zuma, whose administration shifted its focus from delivery to accumulation”.
“Of course Zuma and his cronies added to the problem with their looting of public resources, but the Financial Mail cannot pretend that it is just the ANC which is implicated, when there is growing evidence that corruption is at least as prevalent the private sector. It is the billionaire capitalists, and journals like the Financial Mail who slavishly support their ‘free-market’ system, who have brought about this crisis, and who have ignored its inevitable outcome of mass protests,” SAFTU charged. “The ANC leaders share the responsibility precisely because they have for 24 years have equally slavishly followed the policies dictated by these business leaders and the global capitalist financial institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and their enforcers – the credit ratings agencies. The GEAR strategy and the National Development Plan are infused with these same ideas, which were translated into successive austerity budgets, which hastened the deterioration of public services, education, healthcare and public transport.”
According to SAFTU, the removal of protective tariffs, even faster than the WTO recommended, speeded up the country’s deindustrialisation and the collapse of the mining industry, which had dominated the economy for over 100 years.
“In 1980 mining created 21% of South Africa’s GDP; today that figure is 7%.
These measures have resulted in the dire state of the economy, which is in free-fall, with no sign of recovery, and, as always it is the working class and the poor who suffer most as a result.
These are the policies which have led to the 36.7% unemployment and 60% of South Africa’s black population living in poverty and which have made us the world’s most unequal society, in which 10% of South Africa’s population owns 90% of the country’s wealth,” SAFTU told the Financial Mail. “That is why there has been such a wave of strikes and angry protests across the country. These are both about specific and absolutely legitimate grievances but also part of a groundswell of anger at the way the country and the economy is run, and a call for wealth and power to be transferred to the people as a whole and not the elite class of white monopoly capitalist billionaires.”
SAFTU pointed out that the Working Class Summit was very important.
“That is why the Working-Class Summit is so important. It will be an opportunity to unite working class formations, employed and unemployed workers, those in the informal sector and in more secure work, the students and the landless, the homeless and those fighting against the water crisis and the scourge of violence against women and children, into a mass campaign to struggle for a truly free, democratic and equal society,” the statement concluded.