Media statement by the Working-Class Summit Steering Committee, 16 July 2018
July 16, 2018
SAFTU President, Mac Chavalala’s Keynote Address to the Working Class Summit, 21 July 2018, Soweto
July 21, 2018

Growing support for Working-Class Summit

Excitement and support is growing for the Working-Class Summit to be held this weekend on 21-22 July 2018.

82 working-class organizations (excluding SAFTU and other trade unions whose numbers we are still consolidating) have confirmed that they will attend this first ever and historic Working Class Summit taking place this weekend, 21–22 July, at UJ Soweto campus. More are confirming all the time and we will provide the list of the participating organisations tomorrow morning.

This is further evidence that more and more South Africans have had enough of the catastrophic levels of poverty, unemployment and inequality and the erosion of democratic rights.

Even the very pro-business Financial Mail – representing the capitalist monopolies, which are the main cause of the crisis – has woken up to the fact that “there’s a toxic brew bubbling under on the fringes of our country”

Its editorial (19 July 2018) goes on: “Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen a sharp rise in protests around SA — be it increasingly volatile demonstrations near Hermanus, or in Mitchells Plain and the Bo-Kaap near Cape Town or in Centurion in Gauteng or in Kimberley. The country has seldom been so close to the edge… It is beginning to whip up into a squall that, some fear, can’t be tamed.”

They are mistaken to think that these protests are only “on the fringes” of society. They are happening all over South Africa and spreading to all the oppressed majority of the people.

The magazine notes that: “Nothing has shifted unemployment from its stubbornly high level of 36.7% (using the expanded definition). Few other democracies could tolerate the human impact of having more than a third of their labour force out of work. Here, we’ve done it for years.”

It quotes from the report by Municipal IQ, which tracks and monitors protests across SA: “The unrest in communities was set to reach a record high this year. By the end of June, Municipal IQ had recorded 144 major service-delivery protests. This is already more than 2016, when 137 such protests were recorded for the entire year. Municipal IQ MD Kevin Allan says there is an “alarming increase in violent confrontations between protesters and police”.

“It’s the sort of volatile undercurrent”, says the editorial, “that, in 2010, sparked the Arab Spring protests across the Middle East, laying waste to the administrations of Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Libya… It is little wonder citizens are fed up and taking to the streets. But the ruling elites are still behaving as if the fuse hasn’t been lit — holding “consultations”, “workshops” and “indabas”. They must act now, if there’s still time.”

This most glaring fallacy in the editorial, however, is its view that it is just “the ruling elites” in the ANC who are responsible for this crisis, which is “the consequence of years of neglect under former president Jacob Zuma, whose administration shifted its focus from delivery to accumulation.”

Of course Zuma and his cronies added to the problem with their looting of public resources, but the Financial Mail cannot pretend that it is just the ANC which is implicated, when there is growing evidence that corruption is at least as prevalent the private sector.

It is the billionaire capitalists, and journals like the Financial Mail who slavishly support their “free-market” system, who have brought about this crisis, and who have ignored its inevitable outcome of mass protests.

The ANC leaders share the responsibility precisely because they have for 24 years have equally slavishly followed the policies dictated by these business leaders and the global capitalist financial institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and their enforcers – the credit ratings agencies.

The GEAR strategy and the National Development Plan are infused with these same ideas, which were translated into successive austerity budgets, which hastened the deterioration of public services, education, healthcare and public transport.

The removal of protective tariffs, even faster than the WTO recommended, speeded up the country’s deindustrialisation and the the collapse of the mining industry, which had dominated the economy for over 100 years. In 1980 mining created 21% of South Africa’s GDP; today that figure is 7%.

These measures have resulted in the dire state of the economy, which is in free-fall, with no sign of recovery, and, as always it is the working class and the poor who suffer most as a result.

These are the policies which have led to the 36.7% unemployment and 60% of South Africa’s black population living in poverty and which have made us the world’s most unequal society, in which 10% of South Africa’s population owns 90% of the country’s wealth.

That is why there has been such a wave of strikes and angry protests across the country. These are both about specific and absolutely legitimate grievances but also part of a groundswell of anger at the way the country and the economy is run, and a call for wealth and power to be transferred to the people as a whole and not the elite class of white monopoly capitalist billionaires.

That is why the Working-Class Summit is so important. It will be an opportunity to unite working class formations, employed and unemployed workers, those in the informal sector and in more secure work, the students and the landless, the homeless and those fighting against the water crisis and the scourge of violence against women and children, into a mass campaign to struggle for a truly free, democratic and equal society.

We call on all those interested in participating in a conference to contact us.