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South Africa: Fueling the Fire

category southern africa | community struggles | opinion / analysis author Donnerstag Oktober 12, 2017 19:58author by Shawn Hattingh - ZACFauthor email zacf at riseup dot net Report this post to the editors

Wave after wave of community protests have been taking place in South Africa. People are angry that after twenty years of so-called freedom they are still confined to living in shacks, having to defecate in communal toilets, and having essential services terminated when they can’t afford to pay.
Protest in Freedom Park, south of Johannesburg on 8 May. Photo by: Jonathan Payn (ZACF)
Protest in Freedom Park, south of Johannesburg on 8 May. Photo by: Jonathan Payn (ZACF)

Fueling the Fire

by Shawn Hattingh (ZACF)

Wave after wave of community protests have been taking place in South Africa. People are angry that after twenty years of so-called freedom they are still confined to living in shacks, having to defecate in communal toilets, and having essential services terminated when they can’t afford to pay.

What fuels this anger further is that on the other side of the cities and towns, in the old white-only suburbs, the elite and middle classes flaunt their wealth.

Yet the ruling class – white and now black capitalists, top state officials, and politicians – have waged non-stop war against the working class to deepen this inequality. The reason they have done this is to increase their wealth – this class war lies at the root of the protests we have seen.

Many of the people that have been involved in the recent protests – or their parents – had hoped for a better life with the fall of apartheid. Under that horrific system, the black working class (workers and the unemployed) were subjected to racial oppression and exploitation. It was cheap labour, in the form of the black working class, which generated huge profits for corporations. To ensure the lowest costs of the reproduction of this exploited class, the apartheid state forced people to live in homelands and townships in which the most threadbare services were provided. The consequences were that the black working class were deliberately kept in poverty and when they rose up they faced the apartheid state’s gun barrels.

Fast forward to today. One can scarcely believe the reality in which the black working class finds itself, which materially is often as bad as under apartheid.

Since 1994, the portion of Gross Domestic Product which goes towards wages has declined. The implications of this are that in real terms the wages of the black working class have been in decline since the fall of apartheid. Unemployment too has exploded as capitalists have reduced their labour force, mechanised, and implemented flexible labour to boost profit rates.

The post-apartheid state has been central to the war on the working class. It has redirected wealth upwards towards the ruling class. It has done this through various means, which have included spending on infrastructure for corporations and tax breaks for corporations.

Since 1994 the tax rate for corporations has been driven down from 49% to 28%. This is money that could have been used to improve the lives of the poor through providing, amongst other things, decent services and housing. At the same time, however, Value Added Tax, a tax that targets the working class, has contributed a larger and larger part of the state’s revenue. Far from being an under resourced state, the South African state has been shifting wealth from the working class to the ruling class.

At the same time, the state has been active in attacking the poor. In real terms (inflation adjusted) spending on services for the working class has remained largely stagnant since 1994. On average the state under the ANC has allocated less than 2% of the budget to housing for the working class. As such, services like water, electricity, housing, sanitation, healthcare and education for black working class areas are a shambles.

The national state under the stewardship of the ANC has also dramatically reduced the amount of money that it transfers to local governments to deliver services such as sanitation and refuse removal. This has been done to please international capitalists in the form of speculators. Speculators tend to target buying the bonds of states with low debt levels. To keep debt levels low at a national level, the South African state slashed transfers to local governments.

This means local municipalities have less for service delivery. To try and generate income, local governments have adopted cost recovery for services to the working class, such as electricity, water, sanitation and refuse removal. The consequences are, if you can’t afford to pay you don’t get the services. Making matters worse is that at the level of local government, municipalities have outsourced basic services. For a connected local elite, usually linked to the African National Congress or in some areas the Democratic Alliance, this has been a godsend. This has seen contracts for housing and service delivery being handed out to those who have connections to politicians. The consequences of these neoliberal policies is that service delivery is abysmal.

The reality is that the state does this, at a local and national level, because it is an instrument of the ruling class. States exist to enforce the rule of a minority elite over a majority. Even in a parliamentary democracy, it is the elite that indirectly and directly control the state and they use it to increase their wealth.

Of course states do provide some services to the poor. These are and were concessions that have been forced on the ruling class by the working class through the history of struggle. Indeed, the black working class only receives some support from the state – although meagre – because of the history of struggle. Under neoliberalism though, these concessions are being rolled back, and it is this that is once again fuelling protests.

The role that the state plays in protecting the ruling class can be seen in how the police have reacted to the protests. Most people involved in protests try to follow the state’s prescribed procedures to air their grievances, for example engaging in Integrated Development Plans – and only embark on protest once these proved to be dead-ends. But once people protest, the police react violently.

The working class, however, has proved that it won’t lie down under the fire from the ruling class. This is where hope lies. What is needed now is for these struggles that we have been seeing across the country to link, based on self-organisation and direct democracy. There are many challenges to this, including toxic party politics, but if society is too change it will have to be done. The fire of resistance needs to burn; and to do so struggles need to link and become a force capable of blunting the attacks of the ruling class in South Africa.

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Southern Africa | Community struggles | en

So 22 Okt, 20:41

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460_0___30_0_0_0_0_0_zacfront_symbol.jpg imageLandless militants and shack-dwellers under attack in Soweto 18:42 Mo 24 Mai by Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front 2 comments

The following is an urgent communication issued in solidarity with the Landless Peoples Movement (LPM) and other shack-dwellers of Protea South, Soweto. It is based on information obtained by telephonic and face-to-face conversations held with LPM members following violent attacks against them last night. There still seems to be confusion, however, and details are sketchy. Updates on the situation will be made available as and when they are received, as will be any factual corrections.
[Français]

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textZACF Statement of Solidarity with Sebokeng Community Struggle 23:30 Mi 15 Aug by Jonathan 3 comments

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The police arrived in numbers and fired randomly at the community members, allegedly with live ammunition, seriously injuring 6 people and injuring others, including small children.

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An anarchist member of the Sowetan Motsoledi Concerned Residents Association (MCRA) was arrested 2 weeks ago following an open discussion with a local ward councillor.

imageFuelling the fires: South Africa in class war Jun 09 by Shawn Hattingh 0 comments

The hope that the end of apartheid would herald a better life for the oppressed in South Africa has evaporated. Their conditions today are materially as bad as under apartheid - and even worse in some cases. But the upper classes are having the time of their lives. Working class struggles should be intensified and linked, based on self-organising and direct democracy to bring about real change.

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imageTokologo supports the community march on the Merafong municipal offices Okt 30 by Tokologo African Anarchist Collective 0 comments

The Tokologo African Anarchist Collective supports the protest march held by members of the Khutsong community – where we have active members – to the Merafong municipal offices.

imageTokologo supports the Khutsong community march on the Teba offices, Carltonville Okt 30 by Tokologo African Anarchist Collective 0 comments

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imageLandless militants and shack-dwellers under attack in Soweto Mai 24 ZACF 2 comments

The following is an urgent communication issued in solidarity with the Landless Peoples Movement (LPM) and other shack-dwellers of Protea South, Soweto. It is based on information obtained by telephonic and face-to-face conversations held with LPM members following violent attacks against them last night. There still seems to be confusion, however, and details are sketchy. Updates on the situation will be made available as and when they are received, as will be any factual corrections.
[Français]

textCPFs: Eyes and Fists of State Oppression Mär 11 Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front 0 comments

The Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front (ZACF) is angered by the killing of a second working class activist youth by the Community Policing Forum (CPF) in Sebokeng in less than a year.

In July of last year Anti-Privatisation Forum (APF) activist Mathafeni Majobe was killed by members of the CPF after partaking in a service delivery protest in Sebokeng. This time the victim was Teboho “Diventsha” Tsotetsi, who was stabbed to death in front of his parents on Wednesday 4 March by members of the CPF for refusing to withdraw charges he had laid against those same CPF patrollers, who had severely beaten him and stolen his cell phone and wallet the previous Friday.

textZACF Statement of Solidarity with Sebokeng Community Struggle Aug 15 Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Federation 3 comments

On Tuesday morning, 14th of August, over 1000 community members from Sebokeng's "informal settlement" attempted to blockade the Golden Highway between Sebokeng and Johannesburg in protest at the ANC government's inadequate service delivery since its election in 1994.

The police arrived in numbers and fired randomly at the community members, allegedly with live ammunition, seriously injuring 6 people and injuring others, including small children.

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