South Africa: Workers and Socialist Party Launched

CWI reporters, South Africa

On 21 March – coinciding with the 1960 Sharpeville massacre memorial day – over 500 Tshwane workers, mineworkers’ delegates, trade union and community activists packed Lucas Van Den Bergh Community Hall in Pretoria, South Africa, for the launch of the Workers and Socialist Party (WASP).

The hall could not accommodate the turnout and attendees over-spilled onto the neighbouring field.

The launch surpassed all expectations. It is without a doubt that WASP is striking a chord with working class people.

This new political workers’ formation has been born out of the titanic strike struggles of workers in 2012, especially in the platinum and gold mines following the Marikana massacre when 34 miners were gunned down by police on one day last August.

Struggles against the rich capitalists and their political allies in Jacob Zuma’s African National Congress (ANC) government have also developed among farmworkers, service delivery users and the wider working class.

The Socialist Party’s sister organisation in South Africa – the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) – has also played a pivotal role in both the workers’ struggles and in taking the initiative to launch WASP.

The launch will have worried many in the establishment – the ANC and their partners in government, the Cosatu trade union leadership and big business.

A new power is rising. The working class is getting organised and preparing a mighty challenge to the status quo. The ideas of socialism are being re-embraced.


The meeting was chaired by Weizmann Hamilton, the general secretary of the DSM. Headline speakers included Mametlwe Sebei (WASP spokesman and DSM executive member), Elias Juba (chairman of the national mineworkers committee), Ephraim Mphahlela (president of the National Transport Movement NATAWU), Elmond Magedi (Socialist Youth Movement), Liv Shange (DSM) and Joe Higgins (Socialist Party MP in Ireland).

Speakers from supporting organisations included workers’ delegates from Klerksdorp Uranium, Kumba Iron Ore in Northern Cape, Bokoni Platinum, Gold Fields KDC, Harmony Gold, Mpumalanga coal mines, Anglo Gold Ashanti among others.

WASP will now prepare for its next phase of development. It will shortly announce a date for a conference to establish democratic structures and a leadership and to flesh out its manifesto.

There are many other fronts WASP plans to open up: a campaign to recall corrupt councillors, taking up the issue of labour broking, the collection of one million signatures in support of WASP, and preparing the ground for a general strike should the mine bosses and government dare to enact mass retrenchments (sackings) in the mining industry.

The launch of this new political formation, to give workers a political voice in the fight against capitalism, is an example that should be embraced internationally.

  • WASP needs the political support and financial assistance of socialists and trade unionists internationally in order to become properly established.
  • Send messages of support to: [email protected]
  • Send donations (trade union donations especially welcome) to: South African Miners Fund, c/o PO Box 66682, London E11 9ER

WASP outlined the following manifesto points:

  • Kick out the fat cats. Nationalise the mines, the farms, the banks and big business. Nationalised industries to be under the democratic control of workers and working class communities. Democratic planning of production for social need, not profit.
  • End unemployment. Create socially useful jobs for all those seeking work. Fight for a living wage of R12,500 (£900) a month.
  • Stop cut-offs and evictions – for massive investment in housing, electricity, water, sanitation, roads, public transport and social services.
  • For publicly funded, free education from nursery to university.
  • For publicly funded free healthcare accessible to all.

WASP’s principles:

  • We reject outright the corruption of pro-capitalist politicians and political parties.
  • All WASP candidates for publicly elected positions – whether councillors, MPLs or MPs – are elected subject to the right of immediate recall.
  • For workers’ representatives on workers’ wages. All officials elected on the basis of the WASP manifesto will only take the average wage of a skilled worker. The remainder will be donated back to WASP.