Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/345/5748
South Africa 10 Years On
TEN YEARS ago saw the first election in post-Apartheid South Africa where the entire adult population, black, white and coloured, was entitled to vote.
The African National Congress (ANC) won by a landslide, with Nelson Mandela elected as the first President of the 'new' South Africa.
A decade later, with the ANC re-elected with nearly 70% of the vote (see last week's the socialist) and former 'communist' Thabo Mbeki as President, what has really changed for the people of South Africa?
Steve Bush gives his impressions.
AS A visitor to South Africa, I went to a branch meeting of the DSM (Democratic Socialist Movement - the Socialist Party's sister party in South Africa) in the Cape Town suburb of Belleville.
The comrades were keen to hear about the situation in the UK, particularly the attitude of workers here towards the war and occupation of Iraq. They were also very interested to hear of our experiences regarding privatisation and the Blair government's attacks on the working class.
The ANC is still seen popularly as a liberating movement - but one with an increasingly capitalist leadership. The ANC's position on 'multi-racism' has in reality been geared towards the acceptance of the existence of wealthier classes by the poor.
It has been an almost seamless transition from racial segregation to class segregation, with the emergence of both a black capitalist class and a poor white working class, both still tiny in numbers.
At present there is no alternative perceived amongst most workers to the ANC but the decline in their support has been evident electorally in recent by-elections. The local elections next year will be a better test of their support.
There has been some confusion amongst 'coloured' or mixed race voters. Under the apartheid system the coloured population fared slightly better than the black populace. The division was exploited by the regime, nonetheless many supported the ANC, but now feel let down by the government, with little improvement and a perception that they still face prejudice from both the new ruling class and the old.
This has lead to an attempt to create a new party for coloured workers, ironically calling itself the New Labour Party. This confusion is also rife in the townships where the majority of poor black and coloured people live, and unemployment is very high.
THE ANC government has pursued, since coming to power, two economic 'restructuring' schemes - the first was the Reconstruction and Development Programme, which was a limited reformist programme, offering small improvements to the black working class.
This was abandoned in 1996 in favour of the GEAR (Growth Employment and Redistribution strategy)
This has been a wholesale neo-liberal economic assault, with privatisation programmes and attacks on the working class. Since then, our comrades in South Africa have abandoned working inside the ANC in favour of working outside it against these neo-liberal attacks.
One of the key areas has been in the Anti-Privatisation Forum (APF), but other groups have also been set up in some areas - particularly in the townships. I visited a meeting of COREMO - the COncerned REsidents MOvement in the KTC area outside Cape Town.
New workers' party
COREMO was established in 2001 as a voice for the residents in this township, because the 'official' residents group is run by the ANC. When the area was flooded a few years ago, the government promised money for residents affected by the flood but when they went to collect it they were told that local ANC luminaries had already collected their compensation "on their behalf". Needless to say they have never seen their money.
COREMO is not even allowed to use the local community centre to meet, because it charges rates that no residents group made up of more than 50% unemployed could ever afford. In spite of having been built "for the community" it stands empty most of the time.
Many local people have to spend all their time just trying to exist, and those that do work are super-exploited, often having to travel hours to work on dangerous public transport or in the back of ancient pick-up trucks.
Both COREMO and the APF called for spoiled ballot papers in the elections. Spoiled ballots outstripped the vote for the former ruling New National Party and turnout plummeted by more than 13% compared to the last elections. Even though there were 35 parties standing, many of the poorest voters simply felt they had no-one to vote for.
The DSM, APF and COREMO all see the task ahead as being the building of a new mass workers' party in South Africa, one that can truly represent the poor and oppressed people of this wonderful country, a people with so much to offer, and so little on which to exist.
In The Socialist 1 May 2004:
Socialist Party campaigns
International socialist news and analysis