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It has become common knowledge that South Africa is the most unequal country in the world. Only 41% of people of working age are employed, while half of the people employed earn less than R 2 500 a month. Worse still, inequality is growing with wages as a share of the national income dropping from 50% in 1994 to 45% in 2009; while profit as a share of national income has soared from 40% to 45%.In real terms this means that while a minority live well – and have luxurious houses, swimming pools, businesses, investments, and cushy positions in the state - the majority of people live in shacks or tiny breezeblock dwellings, are surrounded by squalor, and struggle on a daily basis to acquire the basics of life like food and water. Likewise, while bosses, state managers, and politicians – both black and white – get to strut around in fancy suits barking orders; the majority of people are expected to bow down, do as told, and swallow their pride.
Despite being expected to be subservient, however, protests in working class areas are spreading. People have become fed up with being unemployed, having substandard housing, suffering humiliation, and having their water and electricity cut off. In fact, per person South Africa has the highest rate of protests in the world. It is in this context of growing community direct action, even if still largely un-coordinated, that the state has felt it necessary, at least on a rhetorical level, to declare its intentions to lead a fight against unemployment and reduce inequality. To supposedly do so it unveiled a new economic framework, The New Growth Path (NGP), late in 2010 with the declared aim of creating 5 million jobs by 2020.
The economic crisis in South Africa has seen inequalities, and the forced misery of the working class, grow. While the rich and politicians have continued to flaunt their ill-gotten wealth, workers and the poor have been forced to suffer. It is in this context that the majority of the leaders of the largest trade unions have, unfortunately, elected to once again place their faith in a social dialogue and partnerships with big business and the state. So while the state and bosses have been on the offensive against workers and the poor, union officials have been appealing to them to save jobs during the crisis. Not surprisingly, this strategy has largely failed. While union leaders and technocrats have been debating about the policies that should or should not be taken to overcome the crisis, bosses and the state have retrenched over 1 million workers in a bid to increase profits. It is, therefore, sheer folly for union leaders to believe that the state and bosses are interested in compromise – without being forced into it.As seen by their actions, the elite are only interested in maintaining their power, wealth and lifestyles by making the workers and the poor pay for the crisis. For the elite, social dialogue is simply a tool to tie the unions up and limit their real strength – direct action by members. In fact, even before the crisis, social dialogue had been a disaster for the unions contributing towards their bureaucratisation and having abysmal results in terms of them trying to influence the state away from its pro-rich macro-economic policies.
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southern africa / repression / prisoners Thursday March 03, 2011 18:42 by International Anarchist Organisations
When Mohammed Bouazizi set himself alight he unwittingly ignited a wave of popular uprisings and rebellions that have spread like wildfire across North Africa and the Middle East, the heat of which can be felt as far afield as Zimbabwe where, on Saturday 19th February, 46 pro-democracy activists including students, workers and trade unionists were arrested in Harare. According to police documents they were arrested for plotting an Egypt-style revolt to overthrow Robert Mugabe, who has been in power since 1980, at a meeting to discuss the fall of Hosni Mubarak and events in North Africa and the Middle East.The arrested, who represent the Zimbabwean Federation of Trade Unions (ZCTU), Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZNSU) and the International Socialist Organisation (ISO), had just watched documentary news footage on the uprising in Egypt and, according to state prosecutors, were there to "organise, strategise and implement the removal of the constitutional government of Zimbabwe ... the Egyptian way".
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South African unions, centred on the 2 million-strong Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), have consistently articulated a policy vision that breaks with crude neo-liberalism. This is remarkable – but is it enough? Just how viable and desirable is this vision, particularly as the neo-liberal era lurches into a serious slump? And is there an alternative?
This question is posed particularly acutely by the hammer blows of the global recession from 2007. Despite the rather predicable pretence that South Africa is unaffected (notably by Trevor Manuel), the country is far from immune.
The FIFA 2010 Soccer World Cup must be exposed for the utter sham that it is. The ZACF strongly condemns the audacity and hypocrisy of the government in presenting the occasion as a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity for the economic and social upliftment of those living in South Africa (and the rest of the continent).What is glaringly clear is that the “opportunity” is and continues to be that of a feeding-frenzy for global and domestic capital and the South African ruling elite. In fact, if anything, the event is more likely to have devastating consequences for South Africa’s poor and working class – a process that is already underway.
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