South Africa

Election results can provide an important barometer of the mood in society. The results of the Sixth National and Provincial elections on 8 May confirm that there is a deep ferment in South African society. The sharp drop in voter turnout, together with the high abstention from the election process, especially by the youth, meant that, for the first time ever, a minority of the voting-age population voted in the elections. This is highly significant in a country where the working class conquered the right to vote from the ruling class only 25 years ago.

Since the start of the academic year, there has once again been a major upsurge of mass protests at nearly all universities in South Africa. These protests are a continuation of the mass movement in the universities in 2015 around the issues of affordability of higher education.

A forensic report by investigators appointed by the South African Reserve Bank into the collapse of the Limpopo-based VBS Bank has confirmed “one of the biggest bank frauds that we’ve seen in South Africa”. Over a period of three years, nearly 2 billion rand of poor people’s money was stolen. The report has identified at least 53 individuals who, through various schemes, benefited from a combined 1.89 billion rand between 2015 and 2018.

On Friday 14 September, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced his much-awaited economic stimulus package, which is supposed to “kick-start” the sluggish economy and “ignite” growth. With the economy back in recession and the support for the ANC at a record low seven months before the next general elections, Ramaphosa has to move quickly to prevent the party losing its majority, which would usher in a new period of instability in the form of coalition politics.

Over the last week, some sections of the ruling class have changed their tune about the debate around land expropriation without compensation in South Africa. The rabidly conservative and far-right Afrikaner groups such as Afriforum, which were given a strong voice in the mainstream media at the beginning of the debate, are increasingly being squeezed out by the big capitalists.

Two weeks ago, British Prime Minister Theresa May embarked on a three-day jaunt across Africa, visiting South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya. The purpose of May’s whistle stop tour (aside from showcasing her inimitable dance moves) was to strike up post-Brexit trade relations with Africa’s “emerging economies”. The visit was a cringe worthy affair that saw May shuffle awkwardly from one public relations blunder to the next, and it highlighted the decline of British imperialism and the crisis facing the capitalist class as the Brexit cliffedge looms.

SAFTU’s general strike on Wednesday was a serious warning to the government and the capitalist class. It was part of a sharp intensification of industrial action by workers in big sectors of the economy. The attacks on the working class are preparing a backlash and an upsurge of the class struggle.

Across the country, workers are mobilising for a mass general strike on 25 April. Although all sectors of the economy are likely to be affected, the strike is expected to hit municipal services, transport, manufacturing, mining, construction and the public sector particularly hard. The government’s determination to continue with the legislative process on proposed changes to the labour law is preparing the ground for a confrontation with the unions.

On 27 February, the National Assembly of South Africa passed a motion on land expropriation, tabled by the Economic Freedom Fighters and supported by the majority of parties in parliament, including the ANC. Ben Morken in South Africa looks at the real meaning of this proposal and provides a Marxist perspective on the question.

On 21 February the middle-class illusions in Ramaphosa received a shattering blow when the outgoing finance minister delivered a brutal austerity budget. This was just one day after the new president had told everyone during his State of the Nation Address that a “new dawn” has broken.

A wave of optimism has swept across South Africa since Jacob Zuma resigned as president of the country last Wednesday. There was a collective sigh of relief that the 9-year scandal-ridden presidency of Zuma was finally over. Middle-class commentators said that a ‘new dawn’ has arrived. But Marxists have explained many times that the crisis facing South Africa is not that of an individual, a single political party nor one section of the ruling class. The political crisis is only an expression of the crisis of the capitalist system as a whole. And as long as the system survives, changes at the top will not result in changes of anything fundamental.

Mientras escribimos estas líneas, el imperio Zuma-Gupta se está desmoronando. En uno de los días más dramáticos de los últimos tiempos en la política sudafricana, Jacob Zuma -y sus amigos, los hermanos Gupta- están siendo purgados por un ala rival de la clase dominante. La purga es el signo más enfático de que las dos facciones rivales ya no pueden cohabitar.

"There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks when decades happen.” - Lenin

"Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.” - Euripides

As we write these lines, the Zuma-Gupta empire is crumbling. In one of the most dramatic days in South African politics in recent memory, Jacob Zuma – and his friends, the Gupta brothers – are being purged by a rival wing of the ruling class. The purge is the most emphatic sign that the two rival factions can no longer cohabitate.

Extraordinary events over the last few days, surrounding the fate of Jacob Zuma, have plunged the ANC – and the country – into a deep crisis. Zuma’s scandal-plagued presidency is clearly untenable for the Ramaphosa faction, which marginally controls the ANC. Moreover, Zuma’s continued presence is destabilising the whole political situation and could damage the ANC’s electoral prospects in 2019. Big business is desperate to dig itself out of a hole. The problem for them is that the balance of forces between the two fighting ANC factions is very even, as we saw at the national

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Cyril Ramaphosa’s election as ANC president in December has coincided with the meltdown of the main bourgeois opposition party: the Democratic Alliance. But while the DA’s fortunes are declining, paradoxically, Ramaphosa’s victory at the Nasrec conferencewas widely welcomed by large sections of the ruling class, including big business, which now feels more secure with one of its own at the helm of the ANC.

The factional fights in the ANC have left its 54th National conference in deadlock. It confirmed what we have known all along – that the organisation is in terminal crisis. It also revealed that the ANC is divided straight down the middle. In the end the leadership tried to come to some sort of agreement. But the effect of this has only led to paralysis. The process could end up in court with the ANC even weaker as a result.

The African National Congress (ANC) is holding its 54th National conference - at the Nasrec Expo Centre near Gold Reef City from 16 to 20 December - more divided than ever before. Tottering on the brink, the party has never been in such a lamentable state, not even in the days of the underground and in exile.

The news of heavy fraud and corruption in two of South Africa’s biggest monopolies has thrown the big capitalists into turmoil. The scandals, which broke out almost simultaneously, involve two global behemoths, Naspers and Steinhof, and implicate some of the very biggest tycoons in the country, such as Christo Wiese, Markus Jooste and Koos Bekker.

The announcement on Wednesday of more than 3000 job cuts at Sibanye Gold represents a clear attack against the South African working-class. Sibanye announced 2,025 ‘retrenchments’ and 1,350 ‘voluntary redundancies’, i.e, 3,375 job cuts at its Cooke mines in Gauteng and Beatrix West operations in the Free State.

Over the recent period sections of South African big business have been very vocal against corruption and have promised to “fight against” it.

But all of this hue and cry is merely a cover for an ongoing clash between different wings of the ruling class. These are primarily between the traditional big business section and the upstart wing of the Gupta family, which has close ties with president Jacob Zuma and a big section of the ANC government.

The murder of former African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) Secretary-General, Sindiso Magaqa, was received with shock, anger and revulsion across the country. Although his shooting is connected to the infighting in the ANC at local level, it reflects the present crisis in the party generally. Now, three months before of the National Conference, the factions in the party are in an open civil war with serious consequences for the class struggle.

Over the weekend of the 21-23 of April, 1384 delegates from 24 unions gathered in Boksburg for the founding congress of the South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU). The launch of South Africa’s second biggest labour federation comes at a time of heightened political tensions and could be a decisive event for the labour movement.

Over the last few days the political crisis in the country has deepened. The ANC government is in turmoil after President Zuma’s midnight purge of his cabinet on Thursday. Leading members have openly come out against Zuma, bringing the factional battles which have been raging over the last period clearly into the open.

South Africa is in turmoil. President Jacob Zuma has effectively carried out an overnight soft coup. By purging the opposing big business faction from the cabinet and replacing it with stooges from his own faction he has brought the ANC infighting to a head. The consequences will be monumental, not just for the factions involved but for the class struggle in general.

Jacob Zuma at World Economic Forum. Photo: Matthew Jordaan (CC-BY-SA)

At his annual State of the Nation Address (SONA), South Africa’s president  Zuma made a song and dance about embarking on a programme of “radical economic transformation”. At the time we explained that this was actually a ruse. What he was actually embarking upon was an attempt to promote the interests of the emerging parasitic black bourgeoisie around the Gupta family at the expense of the black working masses.

The mobilisation of thousands of South African students taking their futures into their own hands has shaken up South African society. This is an extremely significant development. It means the youth are not content to leave their fate to the those politicians and leaders who have adapted themselves to life under capitalism. The youth are now some of the most politically active layers in society and are taking the road of class struggle.

Events over the past week have deepened and accelerated the political crisis. In addition to the relentless student protests for free education, the so-called “war within the government” has intensified. This political turbulence is shaking the country to its foundations.

This week has seen a dramatic escalation in the student protests which have flared up on a national scale over the past four weeks. The protest movement is sweeping across the country and shows no signs of abating. Protests of the scale and scope of these have not been seen since the student uprisings of the mid-1980s.

On Tuesday, 20 September, mass student protests erupted across the country after Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande announced that universities can raise tuition fees by up to 8% next year.

The recent local government election results represent a decisive shift in the South African political landscape. It comes in the wake of years of ferocious class struggle in which all the contradictions of South African society have come to the surface in an explosive way. The result of these elections provides us with a snapshot into this process in which the collective mood of anger, frustration and disillusionment among the masses are the dominant features.

Just slightly more than six weeks ahead of the 2016 Local government elections, the ANC is to battling on many fronts to contain the fallout from a deep political crisis. The party is deeply divided and in its weakest state ever. It is not only struggling to contain the wider social, economic and political crisis, but it is also forced to fight to manage the internal factional battles which is threatening to tear it apart.

At a mass rally in Soweto on April 30th the Economic Freedom Fighters launched their manifesto for the August 3rd local government elections. This was a big event with a sea of red filling Orlando Stadium. For the working class people, the students and the poor who were in attendance, it was an opportunity to listen to Malema’s speech, in which he made the manifesto public.

The recent Constitutional Court judgment against President Jacob Zuma is only the latest in a series of rapid-fire events which have shaken South African society fundamentally. From the Marikana massacre in 2012, to the latest revelations, society has been staggering from one crisis to another. The turnover of these events is astonishing. New shocks crop up almost on a weekly basis, and old controversies resurface periodically only to assume new convulsive forms. In the final analysis, this shows that, on a capitalist basis, none of the fundamental problems of society can be solved.

The clashes among the South African ruling class which erupted into the open last December have now turned into open war. The revelations that the Gupta family have offered cabinet posts to various people on behalf of president Jacob Zuma have thrown the ANC government into disarray. This indicates the extent to which corruption has extended itself to the executive branch of government and to the heart of the ANC itself. The fact that private families can decide who serve as ministers in the cabinet shines a spotlight on the rottenness of the scandal-prone Zuma presidency.

For the past several months there have been persistent reports in the media about the possibility of a coalition between the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and the main bourgeois opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), at local government level. Now the leadership of the EFF have confirmed that discussions have taken place.

On Wednesday, 9 December the government of South Africa was thrown into a new crisis when president Jacob Zuma unexpectedly fired his finance minister, Nhlanhla Nene and replaced him with David van Rooyen, a little known ANC backbencher. This decision was so unexpected that neither the ANC nor members from his own cabinet were aware of it. The events over the four days which followed, once again shook the country to its foundations and ushered in a new period in the class struggle.

Below is a resolution of the which is being discussed in Marxist societies all over Britain this week. As Marxist students fighting tuition fee rises, privatisations and attacks on our living standards, the struggle of the South African students is a great inspiration to us. Their struggle is our struggle. Workers of the world unite!

On Friday, 23 October, South Africa’s president, Jacob Zuma, announced that there will be no increases to student university fees for next year. This was a clear attempt by the government to contain a movement which has became too big to control.

On 25 June year, President Jacob Zuma released the report of the Farlam Commission, which was appointed by the government to investigate the killings of 44 people at the Lonmin mine in Marikana in August 2012. This includes the massacre of mineworkers on 16 August that year, when the police opened fire on the striking workers, killing 34 and injuring 78 more.