The Zuma Must Fall Movement.
How should socialists relate?
The first thing that we must realise is that Zuma and his faction are attempting a repeat of what Mugabe and ZANU did in Zimbabwe – appear radical but in reality continue with the same system. Zimbabwean peasants initiated the land re-distribution project but Mugabe opportunistically jumped on the band-wagon and ended up championing the project. The EFF initiated the demand for land and radical economic transformation but Zuma has now jumped on the band-wagon. But Mugabe and company accept capitalism. As a result those who got land were subject to the market forces of capitalism. Today in Zimbabwe thousands of small farmers suffer from low agricultural prices and late payments from government. Unemployment among the working class is over 80%.
The programme for radical transformation – a fake left move
We can get an idea as to how “radical” this transformation will be when Malusi Gigaba admitted that he knew of the first downgrade to junk status before it was officially announced and did not publicise it because he had an agreement with the ratings agency not to do so. He is continuing to respect international finance institutions – the very ones that promote economic neoliberalism and western monopoly capital.
A look at the ANC’s own paper on Economic Transformation discussed at its June 2017 policy conference is revealing. The youth wage subsidy did not reduce youth unemployment but instead provided subsidies to bosses who employed youth workers. Bosses benefitted by having the state pay for their wage expenses while youth workers earned poverty wages. The ANC wants to re-introduce this subsidy – and expand it. The ANC wants to prove an even bigger subsidy to bosses.
The ANC does not commit to end the use of labour brokers. It only wants loopholes in the existing laws to be closed. Labour broking does not provide for pension or medical benefits or guarantee permanent employment. The ANC will not reverse the policies of NDP (GEAR) that consign millions to poverty. The ANC also wants to weaken the strike powers of workers. Government wants to amend labour laws so that if a strike goes on for too long, then government can unilaterally end the strike. This takes away workers’ most effective way to fight the bosses.
There is a proposal to give tax breaks to smaller businesses. This means that smaller capitalists do not pay any corporate income tax. This shifts the burden of paying taxes (PAYE and VAT) onto the working class. The employers end up with more money. The claim is that this is intended for employers to invest more money and to create more jobs. This has never been the case anywhere. The youth wage subsidy is proof of this. Government wants to shift more wealth into the hands of business owners.
The proposal is to dismantle monopoly practises to allow South Africans a greater part in the economy. But if we look at the Marikana massacre and the Xolobeni mining project – where striking workers and activists have been murdered – this claim rings hollow. With the Xolobeni mining project, it is those who are already business people who stand to benefit – and they are in partnership with big international companies. The local community is being terrorised in order to achieve the project. It is clear that, for the Zuma clique, expanding black ownership refers to increasing the share of the economy for those who already own businesses. They want to get small capitalists into the BEE laarger Workers and poor peasants will remain in the same economic position of being stuck in poverty.
On the land question, there is no commitment to seize land without compensation or not to agree to pay market related prices for buying back the land. The programme can be stopped by the government claiming that there are insufficient funds to buy land back. Jacob Zuma and company want to amend the traditional laws that give power to village chiefs and kings. Farm workers and landless peasants who lodged land claims under land restitution over a decade ago are still waiting. These claims are at the mercy of undemocratically elected traditional leaders, and unemployed youth. They will be able to determine which villagers actually get land. The decisions do not have to be based on who needs it, simply who gets it. The rural class relations between rich and landless peasants will be maintained.
The SASSA debacle is also revealing. Former Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene is on the board of Alan Gray, the owners of Net One and Cash Paymaster Services. Alan Gray is part of big capital. Yet it is Bathabile Dhlamini, one of Zuma’s allies, who refused to end the contract with Cash Paymaster Services and placed millions of grants in jeopardy.
So Jacob Zuma and Malusi Gigaba promise radical economic transformation but continue with the same neo-liberal economic policies. Gigaba went to the USA to meet with international investors, as Zuma did just before he became state president. He will reassure them that their investments are safe. He is promising austerity budgets and belt-tightening. He is not driving any working class interests. So the call for radical economic transformation is not a move to the left. It is rather a move to the economic right to economically strengthen the bosses.
The Gupta element
When Zuma became ANC president big capital began to lose its influence over the ANC. But the Zuma faction did not know how to challenge western monopoly capital. It was the arrival of the Guptas under Thabo Mbeki that provided key elements lacking in the Zuma faction. In the process this intensified the hostilities in the ANC.
The Guptas are production capitalists, not just consumer capitalists. They have financial resources that allow them to take on big capital in South Africa. They have the organisational skills necessary. If they break into the circuits between the state and big capital, then they can break into the heart of big capital itself. This explains the drive to capture the Treasury and Public Investment Corporation from the ANC faction aligned with big capital.
How the Guptas are opposed by the rest of big capital is on the basis of laws that protect what capitalists have stolen. Land was stolen by the colonisers and the theft was legalised under the 1913 Land Act. So too is it with monopolies and corruption. The Competition Commission has legalised monopoly practises and corruption in the construction and bread industries by simply imposing fines. Yet the monopolies continue to operate.
We must remember that in any class society the rich steal from the poor in various ways – two of them are via the state (corruption and corporate bailouts) or from the working class (wage theft, appropriating the surplus produced by labour).
Is it only Zuma that we should oppose?
The problem is not only Zuma as some people believe. The exit of Zuma is seen as the ultimate problem-solver. We see this with multibillionaires like Magda Wierzycka willing to pay Zuma to resign. This narrative is false and misleading. The problem is not only Zuma – both the ANC and capitalism are also part of the problem.
Those who argue that we should not get involved in the Zuma Must Fall movement miss the danger. By taking part we do not argue that Zuma is the only problem that we face or that Gordhan is any better. We are not choosing “western” or “white” capitalism over “eastern” or “black” capitalism.
We must remember that under his presidency Zuma has moved to securitise a civil apparatus. He has ordered the police and spy agencies to monitor rights activists. Helen Zille and other leaders in the DA have repeatedly called for the deployment of the army. They want an iron-fisted approach to service delivery protests. They support Zuma. He represents a move, with the support of the Parliamentary opposition, to deal ruthlessly with those who oppose attacks on the working class. Zuma has enforced unaccountability by victimising and threatening whistle-blowers.
The Zuma and Gupta capture of the state is a right-wing movement whose main aim is to target and destroy the working class. Look at what has happened to COSATU under Zuma.
The main argument of those who are reluctant not to be part of the protests is that Pravin Gordhan and Jacob Zuma both represent capital. And they are correct. But they are missing the point. It is only by getting involved in the fight to oppose Zuma that we can contest the idea that either Ramaphosa or Gordhan is the answer. Zuma has the upper hand in the ANC. Those ANC MPs who voted for the motion of no confidence are now being hunted.
It is clear that we have to continue the fight and make it bigger. In fact, the ANC in the post apartheid society has produced many corrupt politicians who have perfected the art of stealing. The ANC politicians work together with business to steal from spheres of government, including state owned companies. As a result, ANC has become synonymous with corruption or it has become well-known for stealing. The ANC throughout its administration has created systems that allow corruptions and poverty to continue.
If we fight to remove Zuma, it gives us the confidence to fight again. If we remove Zuma we can fight to remove anyone else. We can also learn to fight for better economic and social policies as well.
A fight against Zuma is to defend the gains that we have won in struggle, to fight for the labour gains that we have lost under neoliberalism – and to fight for more gains for the working class.
Corruption is not limited to the ANC. The capitalist politicians, regardless which party they belong to, once they are in office they become susceptible to corruption. Just like the DA where it governs corruption take place. It is reported that Helen Zille, the DA premier of Western Cape, used government resources to boost the business owned by her son.
But capitalists are also corrupt. They also use politicians at times to amass wealth. And in most cases, the politicians themselves also want to be wealthy just like the capitalists. In 2010 Gold Fields mine gave Baleka Mbete R25 million in shares so that she could license its South Deep mine.
Capitalists always engage in corrupt practices themselves – Enron, KPMG and proce fixing in construction and bread are some examples. Bribery for state contacts are other examples.
We are not fighting to determine who replaces Zuma as President. We do not have the power to do so. What we must do is to mobilise the organised strength of the united working class and other progressive forces so that whoever takes over from Zuma knows that they too will have a fight on their hands.
We have to be clear on strategies and tactics. Some so-called leftist NGO bosses are saying we must get involved even if we adopt wrong tactics. Never. We must remember the MDC leaders in Zimbabwe who argued for wrong tactics and strategies to get rid of Mugabe. Mugabe outflanked them from the left. Today Mugabe still rules while the MDC has failed. At the same time it is suicidal to unite with so-called progressive capitalists. There is no such thing and has never been such a thing as a progressive capitalist. The MDC tried it in a popular front and look what happened.
It is important that socialists and trade unions must play a leading role in this struggle. Both SAFTU and those in COSATU who agree, should unite in this struggle. We need to form a Red Bloc so that we can bring more working people onto the streets. The solution to both fighting corruption and capitalist economic policies is to build a powerful movement which is rooted in the organised working class and is united across artificial political divides. It was such a movement that ended apartheid and that brought down Thabo Mbeki. It is only mass struggle that can raise working class consciousness. We can and must, do it again – but this time with a longer term goal of throwing out the rotten policies of the system that creates misery for millions.