Umsebenzi Online, Volume 7, No. 10, 18 June 2008
In this Issue:
* Honouring the 16 June 1976 contingent: People's Education for
People's Power in South Africa's transition to democracy
* For the SACP, the recall of President Mbeki is not an obsession
* Mbeki exacerbates our objective problems: he must go!
Honouring the 16 June 1976 contingent: People's Education for People's
Power in South Africa's transition to democracy
by Blade Nzimande, General Secretary
During this week and for the rest of this month, our country will be
celebrating the role of our youth in the struggle for national
liberation and reconstruction of our country.
Indeed the SACP wishes to pay tribute to the class of 1976, and all the subsequent youth
generations who have played a truly heroic role in these struggles.
In our last edition we wrote about the tasks and challenges of building
street, block and village committees as part of building people's power
in the locality, and as an important platform to fight the scourge of
crime in our country. We located this task within the overall context of
some of the complexities and challenges facing (former) national
liberation movements now in power. Of particular importance in this
struggle is the continuing role of youth from within the ranks of the
In essence what we are calling for in building street committees is a
return (but not a mechanical one) to the struggle to build working
class-led, people's power in the locality as the key platform upon which
to consolidate the advances made in Polokwane to advance and deepen the
national democratic revolution.
If there is one major lesson from the 1976 student uprisings, it is that
they were the foundation for the mass semi-insurrectionary struggles of
the 1980s and provided the platform upon which we built organs of
people's power that spearheaded the final onslaught against of the
In these struggles it was the working class and the
youth, particularly that drawn from the ranks of the workers and the
poor, that played a leading role on this front. As we commemorate 16
June 1976, we still expect the youth from the urban and rural working
class and the poor playing a more prominent role, as we consolidate the
gains of the 1994 democratic breakthrough.
Youth is not homogenous: Socialism for the youth, and youth for
Much as it is important to seek to unite all strata of our youth, it is
absolutely imperative to remember that youth is not a homogenous social
and political category, but is made up of youth drawn from various
classes in society. Since 1994 there has been a further stratification
of our youth, as a result of the contradictory realities of, on the one
hand, upward mobility of black youth, and, on the other hand, the high
levels of unemployment amongst youth, including retrenchments and
casualisation. The opening up of new opportunities since 1994, there is
a growing layer of black youth drawn from the sections of a rapidly
upwardly mobile black middle classes and a small, albeit growing layer
of an emergent black section of the bourgeoisie.
Addressing the problems facing South African youth today in essence
calls for intensified and not lessened focus on youth drawn from the
ranks of the workers and the poor. The intensity of the many social ills
facing our youth today continues to be acutely felt by youth drawn from
the ranks of the working class and the poor; the scourge of HIV/AIDS,
unemployment, casualisation and poverty are all acutely felt by youth
drawn from the ranks of the (urban and rural) workers and the poor.
It has now become fashionable to talk about 'youth' devoid of its class
content, mainly as a means to advance and privilege the notion that the
solution to the problems facing youth is narrow BEE and affirmative
action. This obscures the fact that it is not narrow BEE and affirmative
action that is the primary solution to the problems facing our youth
today, but a radical restructuring of our economy in a manner that will
prioiritise the interests of the workers and the poor of our country.
BEE and affirmative action has on the whole benefitted the youth that is
already upwardly mobile and has left the majority of urban and rural
poor youth in the same socio-economic condition as before.
The current capitalist trajectory, with all it's claimed 'growth
credentials', has hardly transformed the socio-economic conditions
facing the overwhelming majority of the youth of our country. It is not
only black youth whose condition has not improved, if not deteriorated,
but the overwhelming majority of young black women has remained at the
bottom of the ladder of the current 'growth' path in our country.
The youth of 1976 never fought for the co-option of a small section of
the youth into the capitalist echelons of society, but for the radical
transformation of the South African economy in line with the vision of
the Freedom Charter.
For our youth, in 1976 and today, their struggle was at its core a
struggle not just against national oppression, necessary as this was,
but a struggle for a radical transformation of the South African
economy. To us this can be nothing else but a struggle for socialism.
That is why when we reconstituted the Young Communist League a few years
back, we did this under the slogan, 'Socialism for the Youth, and Youth
People's education for people's power
Much as the front of struggle opened by the June 1976 uprisings laid a
further basis for the overall offensive against the apartheid regime, we
dare not lose sight of the fundamental issue raised by the 1976
uprising, that of a call for the complete abolition of the bantu
education system, a call that laid the foundation for the later, and
more advanced, struggles for people's education for people's power. We
cannot reduce the 1976 student uprisings to the single issue of the
transformation of education, as the impact of these struggles went far
beyond that, but at the same time we should not obscure the meaning of
1976 for educational transformation.
The above should also be a reminder that much as the national democratic
revolution is an overarching struggle to liberate and reconstruct our
country, at the same time it is made up of a multiplicity of dynamic
sectoral struggles, in education, in health, in the communities, in the
factories, students, youth, women's struggles and so on. In other words,
progressive sectoral struggles are an integral part, and not a
diversion, from the national democratic revolution.
We have indeed come a long way since 1976, with the 1994 democratic
breakthrough providing a unique opportunity to implement the vision of
the Freedom Charter that the 'doors of learning shall be open'. Indeed
we have made many advances on the education front. We have done away
with the more than 18 apartheid education departments, we have outlawed
racially and ethnically based schools; universities are now open to all,
irrespective colour, with the establishment of the national student
financial aid scheme for higher education; and we have laws and
institutions that create space for democratic participation by parents,
teachers, students and communities in the running of the education
However despite all the above advances and many others, our education is
still beset with many problems and challenges. We only wish to highlight
only two for purposes of our argument here. The first and most insidious
are the class glaring and continuing inequalities in our education
system, that unfortunately often reproduce the racial inequalities of
the apartheid era, given the coincidence between class and race in our
society. The second is the progressive demobilisation of the motive
forces that were in the forefront of the struggle for educational
transformation, especially between 1976 and 1994.
The previously white education institutions have done relatively well
since 1994, whilst many of the schools and universities that previously
served black people have remained stagnant, and in some instances, have
experienced serious decline both in terms of resources and quality of
Class inequalities and class bias towards the middle classes continues
to afflict our education system across the board. For instance apart
from the fact that it is largely black middle class students who have
accessed the better resourced former white schools, even progressive
curriculum interventions, like the 2005 curriculum changes, have largely
benefitted the better resourced schools, as they are the only ones with
the necessary text-books and other resources to properly implement these
changes. Even the public discourse on educational transformation has
been disproportionately dominated by middle class concerns, with the
voices of township and rural education communities generally muted.
For example, researchers recently conducted into the cohort of young
people who undertook the matriculation examinations in 2003. Of this
cohort, with almost 1 million learners entering the system in Grade 1,
only 7% of these children would emerge from the system in a position to
apply for study at an institution of higher education. The overwhelming
majority of the learners who do achieve a matric exemption are children
from the middle classes. The probability of a working class child
(overwhelmingly black) achieving a university exemption is much less
than 1%. This is indeed a deeply disturbing state of affairs.
Amongst other things, the above situation calls for an accelerated focus
on provision of basic minimum resources for all our education
institutions, including elimination of the many infrastructural backlogs
in schools and other educational institutions, mainly those serving
black children and students. One possible method of achieving this is to
redirect, at least for the next five years, most the extended public
works programmes towards the provision of such educational
Whilst government has correctly identified issues of quality as being at
the heart of our education system, this should not be seen in isolation
from the challenge of providing the necessary infrastructure. As part of
reviewing our performance in the education system we need to undertake a
public evaluation of how we are doing as a country towards the
attainment of the United Nations Millenium Development goals.
The ANC Polokwane conference resolved, inter alia, that education must
be treated as a priority, with the ANC NEC January 8 statement correctly
calling for 'Education must be elevated from being a departmental issue,
or even a government issue, to a societal issue - on that occupies the
attention and energy of all our people'. To this end the ANC is calling
for a campaign centred on a 'Code for Quality Education' which outlines
the role, responsibilities and discipline required from all the key
stakeholders in the education system. This Code must contain what the
ANC further calls 'non-negotiables' in education where departmental
officials, teachers, learners, parents and communities commit themselves
to certain basic minimum goals and performance standards in order to
accelerate the transformation of education.
The idea of a commitment to key 'non-negotiables' (teachers must teach,
learners must learn, departmental officials must carry out their duties
fully in support of our educational objectives, parents to actively
participate in school governing bodies, and for communities to ensure
that every school-going child goes to school and protect our schools) is
indeed an important step towards revitalisation of our education system.
But this 'Code of Conduct' will require that we reclaim the spirit and
vision of the 1976 student uprisings and the subsequent struggles for
people's education. This means that such a code and implementation of
these 'non-negotiables' will not be realised unless we focus on building
local education committees throughout the country as organs of people's
education for people's power. The single biggest weakness in our
struggles to transform education has been the large-scale demobilisation
of our communities in participating and taking forward our education
agenda. The key challenge therefore is the remobilisation of our
It is through this that we shall truly honour and protect the legacy of
the class of 1976!
For the SACP, the recall of President Mbeki is not an obsession
By Cde Jeremy Cronin
Joel Netshitenzhe ("Rush to remove Mbeki smacks of opportunism", Cape
Times, June 9) singles out the SACP as part of a band of craven vultures
circling over "a political-death-in-the-making". We are accused of
"irrationality" and of "trashing a legacy". All of this because we have
suggested President Mbeki should be recalled.
The SACP has not made this proposal lightly. We are aware of several
potential pitfalls. "While there is not yet support from our allies in
this regard", the recent SACP central committee statement asserts, "the
SACP continues to believe that the President of the country should be
recalled. Quite how this should be done without creating more
instability is a matter to be considered soberly - perhaps the calling
of an early election could be considered."
That is the collective view of the SACP leadership. Netshitenzhe greatly
underrates the resonance of our call within COSATU (which has said that
it does not YET support the SACP position) and indeed within the ANC's
senior leadership. However, it is true that without our allies'
wholehearted support, the implementation of a recall is unlikely. In any
case, as Netshitenzhe correctly notes, President Mbeki's term is now
fast approaching an end.
So does that mean that the SACP's position is purely academic? Not so.
In the first place it establishes a bench-mark, not just for the
present, but for any future incumbents. The right of recall must be a
fundamental cornerstone of our democracy.
Note we have suggested a recall, not an impeachment as Netshitenzhe
continually implies. But let's be honest with ourselves, if we were
living in a more mature democracy, the events surrounding the
Selebi-Pikoli affair would have long been the subject of an impeachment
inquiry. The SACP has not called for impeachment proceedings, and we do
not want to pre-judge the findings of a hand-picked Ginwala commission.
Still less do we want to speculate on where the German and the now
fast-tracked UK inquiries into the arms deal might lead. Suffice to say
we cannot be complacent about these matters, either as a movement or
Among the dangers in making our recall proposal is that it will be used
to divert attention from the substantial issues at hand. It is a danger
that Netshitenzhe seeks to exploit to the hilt. He wants to assure us
that everything is on track. Government is busy consolidating its Medium
Term Strategic Framework and the ANC will hold a lekgotla in July. We
can all chug along guided by the State of Nation address apex
priorities. In short, although the slogan is "business unusual", there
is a profound sense of complacency. "With all of these ducks neatly in a
row", Netshitenzhe asks, "why then the clamour for political
Clearly in Netshitenzhe's estimation political instability is what the
SACP is intent on stirring up artificially in an otherwise serene
environment. Things are fine in Khutsong. All is well in the SABC, the
judiciary, and the SAPS. The hundreds of township revolts have not
really taken place. Yes, there might be a problem or two, but, as
President Mbeki assured Parliament in January in regard to Zimbabwe, all
that remains are a few "procedural matters".
I respect Netshitenzhe's loyalty to his political principal. Without
agreeing, I also respect an argument that a presidential recall might
add to (rather than help resolve) the current political drift. What is
deeply disappointing, however, is the blend of complacency and denialism
- hallmarks of the Mbeki presidency - that Netshitenzhe brings to his
argument. Even more disturbing are his inclinations, once the
complacency is threatened and the denialism wears thin, to rubbish and
demonise alternative views.
Why is there a proposal for a recall, is the basic question Netshitenzhe
reiterates throughout his intervention. Flashing a polemical sword, he
then wades into straw-persons in all directions. "There are some who
seem to have expected Mbeki to line up behind the MDC and its
international backers in pronouncing Morgan Tsvangirai the outright
winner in the March presidential election." Well, there might have been
some who had this expectation, but certainly not the SACP. However, that
is not the issue. The issue is that, by this sleight of hand,
Netshitenzhe seeks to divert us away from any substantial evaluation of
President Mbeki's past and continuing Zimbabwe policies.
Netshitenzhe continues: "There will be ongoing debate about"
(spin-doctor's code for "okay, there might be a tiny problem here") "the
president's public relations activities. But this can hardly be an
argument for impeachment." Well said, comrade Joel! Yet another
straw-person be-headed! But, on second thoughts, who on earth has
actually argued that the president should be impeached for his PR
Could the recall proposal be based on Mbeki's belated response to the
attacks on foreign immigrants, Netshitenzhe rhetorically wonders. He
then answers his own question: "Objective observers know that the
president cannot wave a magic wand to prevent economic migrants from
Zimbabwe, Mozambique and elsewhere."
Again a straw-person. Again a sleight of hand that avoids asking
fundamental questions like: Has Mbeki presided over an effective
"Or is it about the electricity emergency?", Netshitenzhe wonders. "But
how", he responds, "will an immediate change of president resolve this
Of course President Mbeki is not single-handedly to blame for the
electricity crisis, or HIV denialism in our country, or the implosion in
Zimbabwe, or the arms procurement fiasco. And therefore, of course, a
recall will itself not be the silver bullet that miraculously resolves
any of these deep-seated challenges.
However, if Mbeki is not single-handedly responsible, he certainly
presided over these and other crises. For instance, it was Mbeki's
cabinet that in its 1998 energy white paper came up with the
preposterous claim that "the most significant international shift in
consciousness is a realisation that commercial energy sources will not
become scarce in the short or even medium term. The 'limits to growth'
school of thought has receded." (Who advised them on this? Enron?) From
this the Mbeki government concluded that national energy sovereignty was
irrelevant and Eskom could be sold off. When COSATU and the SACP
protested, we were accused of trying to overthrow the state (by those
who were trying to sell it off).
For the SACP, the recall of President Mbeki is not an obsession. It is a
suggestion. We do have obsessions, like the rocketing food and energy
prices. Our concern in this regard is about a truly obsessive Reserve
Bank that persists in firing blanks at the price of a barrel of Brent
Crude, and a government that imagines externally-driven inflation can be
curbed with self-defeating macro-economic measures instead of
micro-economic interventions that aim to ensure as much food and energy
sovereignty as possible.
Unless there is an honest reflection on what President Mbeki continues
to preside over, the challenges we face on so many fronts will persist
and deepen - regardless of who happens to be the incumbent.
Mbeki exacerbates our objective problems: he must go!
By Cde David Masondo
The nub of Joel Netshitenzhe' s article (06 June 2008), is that Mbeki
should not be recalled as President the Republic because problems that
beset South Africa and the Southern African region, particularly
Zimbabwe, are beyond his control. '...how will an immediate change of
president resolve' the problem of electricity, Netshitenzhe asks. So
change of leadership will not change anything, we are told. We are also
re-assured that South Africa is still safe under Mbeki's stewardship.
To politically legitimise his argument, Netshitenzhe goes at length in
showing that the opponents of the ANC agree with the SACP on the recall
of the state president; thus implying that the SACP is right wing.
Unfortunately this is the old trick and sleight of hand by what we call
the 1996 class project, which has brought us the many crises we face
today, especially in governance. It was this habit that directly led to
the Polokwane revolt, as it evaded dealing with problems facing us, thus
alienating the majority of the constituencies of our movement.
The SACP is pointing to Mbeki's inability to lead in order to save
ourselves from sinking into an abyss. If we were to follow
Netshitenzhe's logic we can equally lump together Mbeki and the ANC
opponents because the latter supports him on many issues, eg on the SABC
Board (virtually now supported only by the DA), GEAR, the firing of
Jacob Zuma from government, etc.
It is true that politics of personalities may neglect objective
structural conditions that produce problems that beset Southern Africa.
What eludes Netshitenzhe's tirade though, is the failure to see a
correlated relationship between the roles of individuals in reproducing
those objective conditions. Of course removal of Mbeki will not
immediately obliterate the underlying structural causes of poverty,
inter-and intra-national migration, energy crisis, corruption, and
absence of democracy in Zimbabwe. But certainly, it will eliminate some
of the precipitating conditions arising out of his inept leadership.
Leadership is also about facilitating subjective conditions necessary
for human beings to exorcise themselves from undesirable objective
conditions. So the led elects the leadership to do exactly that. Has
Mbeki succeeded to lead? No! Mbeki has actually contributed to the
emasculation of our capacity to deal with our problems. How has
criminalisation of dissent within the ANC, Alliance and society in
general served the mandate of our people? How is the 2004 electoral
mandate served by appointing an SABC Board which is factionalist and
unrepresentative? How is the selective rule of law serving the mandate
of 'movement'? How is HIV-AIDS denialism serving the people? Why didn't
he listen to people's objections on the restructuring of ESKOM? How will
the 53% electricity tariff hike serve the mandate of the people? Mbeki
and Netshitenzhe's answers on these are muted with deafening silence.
Netshitenzhe does tell us how Mbeki's leadership is helping in dealing
with the Zimbabwean crisis. No one has ever said, at least from the
SACP, Mbeki must side with the MDC as Netshitendze alleges. Mbeki's
collaboration with the Mugabe regime has actually precipitated the
Zimbabwean crisis, which he still denies its existence. Lack of prompt
and firm response to the xenophobic attacks has laid conditions for the
escalation of the xenophobic violent attacks.
Lack of decisive action and the selective application of the rule of law
in dealing with corruption have accentuated lack of confidence in the
state institutions, thus undermining our constitutional democracy. How
do we for instance explain that more than a year after the surfacing of
the 'Special Browse Mole' and the subsequent findings by parliament on
this, no action has been taken against those who compiled the document?
In actual fact, the 52nd ANC elective conference Polokwane outcome was
also a vote of no confidence on the President on how government has
allowed blatant abuse of some of the state apparatuses to undermine
democracy within the ANC and in society. And therefore the ANC
membership is not content with his state leadership.
Unlike the Mandela-to-Mbeki transition, the Mbeki-Zuma transition is
complicated by the fact that the current leadership in the state clearly
did not want the current leadership to be elected. This explains why the
state leadership under comrade Mbeki successfully failed to provide
correct and principled political leadership to state apparatuses. The
state was deeply implicated in fighting Mbeki's political opponents.
So the issue here is not about Mbeki per se. But about principle of
revocability, which is part of our democratic practice. This means if
the new ANC president precipitates our objective problems; the power to
recall him must be duly exercised. This will set us apart from
Netshitenzhe's obsession with defense of an individual at the expense of
South Africa and her neighbours.
However, the critical issue raised by the SACP is how we overcome, inter
alia, the many crises created by the 1996 class project by transforming
the current economic growth path and building capacity for a
developmental state. Part of moving towards this objective in the
current period is by creating the necessary conditions, including a
recall of any leader deployed by the ANC in government. No one is above