South Africa

As Tiger Woods returns to golf, not all his affairs are salacious headlines. In Dubai, the Tiger Woods Golf Course is costing $100 million to build. Dubai relies on cheap Third World labour, as do certain consumer brands that have helped make Woods a billionaire. Nike workers in Thailand wrote to Woods, expressing their “utmost respect for your skill and perseverance as an athlete” but pointing out that they would need to work 72,000 years “to receive what you will earn from [your Nike] contract”.
The political rupture in South Africa is being presented in the outside world as the personal tragedy and humiliation of one man, Thabo Mbeki. It is reminiscent of the beatification of Nelson Mandela at the death of apartheid.
South Africa, up until the recent outbreak of xenophobic violence, was one of the rare, relatively stable African countries where refugees like myself could expect their basic rights to be protected.
Below is an abridged May 26 statement by the Anti-Privatisation Forum (APF).
“It is a sad day for South Africa when we see our brothers and sisters from other countries being attacked, killed and injured in our communities and streets”, a May 21 statement by the South African Anti-Privatisation Forum (APF) stated, in response to the wave of violent attacks against foreigners in the townships and working class suburbs around Johannesburg.
The one thing that President Thabo Mbeki has to be given credit for is his consistency. Ever since he ascended to South Africa’s political throne, the would-be king has stuck doggedly to the fundamentals of a macro-neoliberalism that has underpinned this country’s developmental path for the last decade and more. It is a consistency that has, not surprisingly, greatly benefited the elite few and cost the majority dearly.
On March 24, 20 members of the Alexandra Vukuzenzele Crisis Committee (AVCC) were arrested after having re-occupied houses in Alexandra extension seven since March 20. They were released on free bail the next day, but were rearrested on March 28 for contempt of court.
Should poor people be given pit latrines and other devices to limit their consumption of water? A resounding yes was heard at the Africa Sanitation conference held during February at the Luthuli International Conference Centre in Durban.
It is tragic but understandable that South African society ranks — with the United States and China — at the bottom of a recent worldwide climate-consciousness survey by polling firm Global Scan: only 45% of us believe global warming is a “serious problem”.
The murder of South Africa’s reggae icon Lucky Dube on October 18, in an attempted car hijacking — one of South Africa’s most common crimes these days — has been condemned by all. The African National Congress (ANC) government has urged the nation to unite against the scourge of crime threatening “our democracy”. For opposition parties, Dube’s killing is further proof that crime is out of hand. As a deterrent, some have called for the reinstatement of capital punishment. There is a general feeling that the four “monsters” who recently appeared in court in connection with the crime should “rot” in jail. Typically, however, the debate remains very narrow and shallow.
The June 27-30 African National Congress (ANC) Policy Conference and the South African Communist Party’s 12th Congress, held in July, confirmed what many political observers in South Africa have known for a long time: that the politics and practical work of the SACP and Congress of South African Trade Unions have become umbilically tied to the intensifying personal and positional power struggles inside the ANC-led Tripartite Alliance. The result is the paralysis of the SACP and COSATU’s ability to organise and mobilise on a genuinely practical, working class/poor-centred basis.
Internationally known environmental activist Sajida Khan passed away on the night of July 15 in her Durban home at age 55. She was suffering her second bout of cancer, and chemotherapy had evacuated her beautiful long hair.
After several days of intensive, sometimes heated, discussions and membership consultations, public-service unions voted on June 28 to end their national strike and accept the South African government’s “settlement offer”. The strike, which began on June 1, was the longest and largest public-sector strike in South Africa’s history, with more than 700,000 workers on strike and another 300,000, for whom it was illegal to strike, taking part in militant marches, pickets and other forms of protest.
As the national strike by more than 700,000 South African teachers, nurses, health workers and other public servants entered its fourth week on June 22, the African National Congress (ANC) government steadfastly refused to seriously revise its miserly pay offer. President Thabo Mbeki knows that if his neoliberal, pro-big business regime relents and grants the public-sector workers a much-needed above-inflation pay increase, it will embolden the country’s private-sector workers to fight for a similar rise.
Up to 2 million workers have hit back at the African National Congress (ANC) government’s sacking of striking health workers, its deployment of army strikebreakers and increasing police violence against strikers. On June 13 the more than 700,000 teachers, nurses, health workers and other government workers on strike for higher pay were joined by hundreds of thousands of other unionists and supporters in a nationwide solidarity strike. Hundreds of thousands of people marched across the country.
More than 1 million public servants across South Africa have embarked on the largest public sector industrial campaign in the country’s history. On June 1, more than 700,000 workers downed pens and clipboards for an indefinite stoppage, while another 300,000 “essential workers”, who are prohibited from striking, joined huge nationwide marches, pickets and other protest actions. While the immediate demand is for a significant pay increase, an important undercurrent of the mass action is working-class and poor people’s growing dissatisfaction with the pro-rich policies of the African National Congress (ANC) government.


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