Vol 11 No 8

4 - 10 march 2011


VIEWPOINT | by Mathole Motshekga
Whither the Moral Regeneration Movement

Viewpoint by Mathole MotshekgaThe greatest challenge facing the ANC government is to review its moral regeneration programmes and to enter into partnerships for moral and social transformation because, as Former President Nelson Mandela correctly observed, social and economic transformation could not be achieved without spiritual transformation. >>> MORE
VIEWPOINT | by Buti Manamela
Score not cheap political points

Viewpoint by Buti ManamelaInstead of being obsessed with factional aggression against the SACP, let us focus on a militant programme of action that unites all our youth formations premised on the challenges of unemployment, and especially the crisis levels of youth unemployment in our society. >>> MORE

The poor must access tertiary education

Viewpoint by Lazola Ndamase

In the past two weeks, hundreds of thousands of students have been spewed into street corners by institutions of higher learning with brazen impunity. These institutions claim lack of space. But, these are the same institutions that have spent millions revamping management offices and business centers, but have barely spared a cent to develop and expand academic facilities such as lecture halls, libraries and computer labs. >>> MORE

VIEWPOINT | by Mathole Motshekga

Whither the Moral Regeneration Movement

Viewpoint by Mathole MotshekgaOn 23 February 2011, sixteen women from several Cape Town townships called at the Office of the Chief Whip of the Majority Party at Parliament to appeal for the intercession and intervention of the ANC in the deepening moral degeneration in the townships of Cape Town. The women came from various Christian denominations.

This meeting took place after President Zuma had visited a drug rehabilitation centre in Mitchell's Plain and announced in his State of the Nation Address that government will convene a national summit against drug abuse. The discussion with these women revealed that the problem is much more serious than the Mitchell's Plain case study reveals. At this meeting we received eyewitness accounts of the depths of moral degeneration in our country.

The moral degeneration in the country revolves around drug and alcohol abuse which manifests themselves in dysfunctional families, women and children abuses, violence in schools, teenage pregnancies and the spread of HIV/AIDS infections. The women we met included senior citizens aged between seventy and eighty-five.

These women graphically illustrated how school children gather at parks to take drugs before going to classes, return to these parks for the same purposes during break, and disappear into shebeens and taverns after schools. Challenging the proliferation of shebeens and taverns rather than recreational facilities in the black townships, the women posed a very disturbing question: does the government want to kill our children and the nation to enrich a few individuals and their families?

The women claimed that after work, many men go to taverns and shebeens and have no time to interact with their families especially children. They come home when children are asleep and leave for work before children are up. They also claim that youth of school-going age hardly sleep or do their school work because of nightlives created by taverns and shebeens. Thus, families have become largely dysfunctional.

The women are crying out for the reform of liquor laws or at least the application of those laws as strictly as they are in historically white suburbs.

In its 2009 Manifesto, the ANC committed itself to build cohesive, caring and sustainable communities. The deepening moral degeneration in black townships negates this commitment. The levels of moral degeneration in our communities require a serious national intervention that goes beyond advocacy of healthy life styles.

The ANC stated categorically in its 2010 January 8 Statement that human development has both spiritual and material aspects. The interdenominational women we met called for an interfaith effort to ensure that our schools do not focus on the intellectual without spiritual development of the children. The common tenet of all faiths is that a human being is both mortal and immortal because his perishable physical body embodies an eternal spiritual element that survives death.

This belief awakens children and the youth to the need for ethical conduct and the respect for the equal rights and freedom of others. Above all, it leads to self-knowledge, self-worth and self-esteem, and a sense of progress and development. These values are essential for the spiritual or moral growth and development of children.

The consensus of the religious sector on interfaith moral education and the birth of a single interfaith organisation, the South African Interfaith Council (SAIC), that brings the National Religious Leaders Forum (NRLF) and the National Interfaith Leaders Council (NILC) together, has created a formidable force for the moral regeneration movement.

The South African Interfaith Council (SAIC) could take the Moral Regeneration Movement to greater heights by going beyond advocacy of healthy lifestyles to practical programmes for early childhood and youth development in partnership with government. In his response to the State of the Nation Address, President Zuma hinted at this when he said that the government would partner with the religious sector for the delivery of skills development and other programmes.

There is an urgent and great need to occupy children and the youth after school and over the weekends. The National Conference on the Values of a Just and Caring Society proposed the establishment of cultural centres in townships and informal centres at or through which school children and out-of-school youth could be engaged for spiritual growth and development by means of practical programmes, for instance by spiritual music, indigenous games, cultural and creative industries.

To this end, it was proposed that the Department of Public Works identify and renovate under utilised and un-utilised government buildings in towns and cities, black townships and rural areas and make them recreational facilities, cultural centres and community development centres. While we create decent jobs and transform the economy, we need to build the character of our children and youth by not only instilling positive values in them, but by also creating conducive conditions for them to live out these values. We must ensure that our children become addicted to activities that lead to spiritual growth and development - not drug and substance abuse.

The creation of decent jobs and improvement of the quality of life of our people should translate into the spiritual and intellectual development of our children and youth, such a youth should place self-development for national service above the pursuit of selfish interests.

In his inaugural speech, President Zuma called on all sectors to partner with government for reconstruction development and progress. The religious sector responded swiftly by working together for greater unity and development and by offering their infrastructure for development of programmes in partnership with government.

The greatest challenge facing the ANC government is to review its moral regeneration programmes in partnership with the South African Interfaith Council (SAIC) and to enter into a partnership with this council for moral and social transformation because, as Former President Nelson Mandela correctly observed, social and economic transformation could not be achieved without spiritual transformation.

We believe, therefore, that the Ubuntu Alive Campaign proposed by the National Conference on the Values of a Just and Caring Society should be supported and used to mobilise our people for spiritual and social transformation as a prerequisite for economic transformation.

The Moral Regeneration Movement should not be an end in itself. It should be an integral part of the presidential nation-building project of creating decent jobs and transforming the economy.

>> Dr Mathole Motshekga is an ANC NEC member and ANC Chief Whip in the National Assembly

VIEWPOINT | by Buti Manamela

Score not cheap political points

Viewpoint by Buti ManamelaTwo issues ago the ANC Today published an article by ANC Youth League Spokesperson, Comrade Floyd Shivambu which in our view fails to contribute qualitatively towards: (1) the national and internal alliance discourse on questions such as the role and unity of the alliance, (2) the role of the SACP and working class parties in South Africa and the world, (3) the autonomy of the communist youth movement within the revolution, and (4) the national growth path and seizure of economic power.

After careful reading of Cde Floyd's article, I asked myself: SO WHAT? This is because I had just read a small piece of factional propaganda that is extremely paranoid (such as "lies and conspiracies being spread against youth leadership...at the forefront of the revolution" and extremely anti-communist). This is very unfortunate.

Yes, the youth were mobilised to overthrow Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and Ben Ali in Tunisia. So what does this have to do with the so-called neo-liberal nature of the communist party lately or some adventure that Cde Floyd calls a revolution? Yes, the South African Communist Party's (SACP) initial reaction welcomed and fully backed the objectives of GEAR...so what? And what about the SACP's role in relation to GEAR going forward thereafter? Why is that revolutionary role downplayed? What are the intentions of that downplaying?

Yes, some youth leaders in their time and prime made an impact in participating in transforming society from oppression, imperialism and anti-capitalism...so what - more so that there are other young leaders who either became a bag of cabbage or were used by leaders such as Hitler under a so-called National Socialism (read fascism, which ultimately inspired organisations such as the AWB).

The ANC is the leader of all forces towards the attainment of the main objectives of the National Democratic Revolution...now what does this have to do with the role of young people in Egypt' or any of the fantasies propagated by Cde Floyd?

There are also some matters of fact and of ideological inconsistency abused or scorned by Cde Floyd either to claim easy victories and score cheap political points, or to bestow solely the tasks of our current revolution to himself and some within the ANC Youth League in order for them to be in the hall of fame as mentioned in the extract from Cde Malema's Political Report to the last ANC Youth League National General Council.

These matters of fact and ideological inconsistency relate to what we mean by autonomy and whether a stratum or a class can drive revolutions. Even the word revolution is itself abused as a single action by the youth in having participated in activities that led to the resignations of Mubarak and Ben Ali in Egypt and Tunisia.

I raise these points as the main pillars of the article by Cde Floyd because each time he advances a point to justify his factional and anti-communist rhetoric he closes his eyes before the truth, and then proceeds to another dreary pontificating. Let's take each in turn.

Firstly, elementary political education teaches us that revolutions happen when the revolutionary class overthrows the ruling class and assumes power. Importantly, revolutions are completed after destructing the old order" including the old state and when "revolutionaries help build a new state (and not just government) that adheres to the emerging social relationships. This is why we characterized ours as a breakthrough and a transition, not necessarily a revolution, and has since been implementing (regardless of disagreements of this or that tactic) the National Democratic Revolution (which is a process and not an event).

Without undermining the advances made by young people in Egypt, it is important to point out that the military (very much part of the state that has been and is still in place) they seized power and are in the process of determining the transitional rules (the constitution and election date) as a result of the breakthrough (the forced resignation of Mubarak). This, unlike what happened in our country in the late 80's and early 90's is not an inclusive process but a military-handled process.

The millions who filled the Tahir Square are not involved in the negotiations process towards the breakthrough, but the military council which seized power and the Muslim Brotherhood. Egypt is yet to fulfil the basic characteristics of a revolution, let alone Tunisia. This is introduction to political education that I expected Cde Floyd to appreciate since he refers to himself as a revolutionary (and is responsible for political education in the ANCYL).
To forget that "the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle" and to fragment the antagonistic classes in terms of age is the neglect of elementary political education.

The thrust of Cde Floyd's argument is that "it is the youth in South Africa and everywhere else that are the seed of the revolution" and not the working class or its party. Thus, he commits another negligence of the elementary political education in reducing the Party to the Class, and the ANCYL to the youth (strata). In doing this Cde Floyd conflates many misconceptions. In the first place you can't counter-pose "youth" (a generational category) and "class" as if we have to choose between them.

Cde Floyd also refers to militancy. In the second place, militancy and a revolutionary position are not necessarily and universally the same thing. Yes, young people are often in the forefront of militant democratic action (as we have recently seen in Tunisia and Egypt) - but militant action is not necessarily and inherently progressive or revolutionary. Demagogically mobilized youth have been the street-fighters on behalf of emergent fascist regimes in Germany and Italy, and martyrs on behalf of reactionary fundamentalist movements, mouthpieces and militants or youth militia of reactionary forces as partially indicated earlier.

Cde Floyd might also want to reflect on the fact that the prime target of popular revenge in Tunisia was a youthful playboy relative of the deposed President Ben Ali. This particular relative was lynched in the course of the uprising, and he was especially unpopular because of the extravagant parties that he threw, flaunting his wealth in a society beset with mass youth unemployment.

In the third place, Cde Floyds potted history tells us that revolutions are led by the youth Lenin was young in 1917, Fidel was young in 1959, etc. But Lenin in 1917 did not think of himself as a "youth" per se. His break with the Mensheviks was not based on a generational divide or ageism, but on principled ideological politics. Yes, Fidel was young in 1959. But did he cease being revolutionary as he grew older?

What about leaders who were more mature at the time of the revolutionary breakthrough in their countries, say, Ho Chi Minh? And what about those who led us to our 1994 revolutionary breakthrough - Mandela, Tambo, Sisulu, Slovo, Hani and so forth, who never ceased to be revolutionary once they had lived beyond their youth. In fact, when Mandela spoke about, for instance, nationalization as a policy that the ANC should advance, he was more than double the age of Cde Floyd and did not qualify to be called youth.

Of course, the youth question in our country and throughout, particularly, the Third World is of paramount importance. The capitalist agrarian revolution in the South is uprooting millions of former peasant households, leading to rapid and squalid urbanization and wage-less proletarianisation. The protracted global capitalist crisis (that dates back to at least the late 1990s) has further impacted on Third World workers and lower-middle strata. Unemployment, and particularly youth unemployment (a massive 74% in Egypt) is at crisis levels and the recent events in the Arab world need to be analyzed contextually and taken into consideration as well. Those bearing the brunt of the crisis are, essentially, working class youth - which is why it is so misguided to counterpose youth and workers.

It is also factually wrong to underestimate the critical role played by the employed and unionized working class in both Tunisia and Egypt. In the latter case, for instance, a general strike involving transport and other workers were central to the demise of Mubarak. Of course, we should also not assume that there would always be a spontaneous alliance between youth movements, and trade unions and left-wing parties. The relative defeat of the youth and student uprisings in France, Germany and Italy in 1968 is a case in point. By contrast, successful revolutions (as in Cuba) succeeded in uniting trade unions, the youth and student movements, the peasantry, a national movement and a communist party in a common programme of action.

Also, selectively pointing out to the immediate reaction of the SACP towards GEAR as constituting neo-liberalism by the Party and judging its capacity to lead the working class towards a revolution constitute weak intellectual opportunism and an attempt to rewrite history.

Cde Floyd deliberately chooses to forget, young as he is and recent as the facts are, that it is the Party that came to characterise the pre-Polokwane internal ANC and Alliance crises as being caused by the 1996 class project. He also selectively forgets that immediately after that statement, the SACP has and still remain committed to opposing the macro-economic paradigm as imposed by GEAR.

It was the SACP that introduced the critique of neo-liberalism into our movement in the early 1990s, and from the middle of 1996 it was the SACP that LED a consistent struggle against GEAR. Of course Cde Floyd holds his breath when he is about to tells us about the role of prominent ANC YL leaders who, long after 1996, without exception supported GEAR and maliciously attacked the SACP and COSATU, portraying their anti-neoliberal stance as an "attack on the ANC".

The SACP has never regarded these mistakes by the ANCYL leadership as a reason to write off the ANCYL as "inherently neo-liberal". We cannot also say because in the first bilateral meeting between the ANC Youth League and the Young Communist League of South Africa (YCLSA) the former dismissed the latter's campaign for the expropriation of mines and free education as outdated and failed USSR socialism - then the ANCYL is neoliberal.

The only current issue that Cde Floyd appears to disagree with the SACP on is its "general" support for government's New Growth Path. He is not interested in explaining why the SACP's "general" support for New Growth Path is wrong. He simply throws this and a whole lot of garbled potted history into the fray.

As a matter of fact, and not fictitious imagination, the SACP welcomed the tabling of the New Growth Path as marking a paradigm shift and resolved to deal with its details through a thoroughgoing internal process of consultation in order to respond comprehensively to the details. Cde Floyd's engagement is not a critical engagement with any particular perspective emanating from the SACP, or from comrades within the SACP, but an attack on the SACP in general.

Indeed in seeking to advance his half-baked anti-communism Cde Floyd begins to write off communist parties all over the place - whether in Venezuela in the present, or in Cuba prior to 1959, or Latin America over the past decades. The SACP and no doubt various other communist parties are not infallible. But the spirit of Cde Floyds piece is not to point out mistakes (real or imagined), but to factionally condemn the Party.

Instead of being obsessed with factional aggression against the SACP, let us focus on a militant programme of action that unites all our youth formations premised on the challenges of unemployment, and especially the crisis levels of youth unemployment in our society.

Finally, the youth-wing of the SACP, the YCLSA, remains committed to and is involved in practical programmes that raises the profile of the struggle that young people face. The YCLSA has overtime managed to ensure that some of these struggles are addressed in the immediate or long-term policy interventions are put in place to address them.

This year, for instance, the ANC-led government has prioritized jobs creation as central to its programme, targeting in particular youth unemployment. It is the YCLSA that invited more than 80 youth formations last year to discuss and make proposals on both the ideological, structural and socio-economic issues that causes unemployment. The Summit's resolutions characterized this as the crises of capitalism and the neo-liberal paradigm as adopted in the 1996 macro-economic policies.

The unity of these youth movement under the banner of the YCLSA has never been seen lately, and we never had to threaten people that we will ‘kick them out of office' or labeled them as this or that if they do not prioritise job creation. We opted to engage in what any ‘revolutionary youth formation' does before making empty violent or electoral threats - we engaged into a militant but yet qualitative debate and persuasion, and thus, we made progress.

There are many other things - including our popular demand for free education, now becoming a reality (when the then leadership of the ANC YL had dismissed this demand of the YCLSA as an unrealizable, communist pipedream); provision of free sanitary towels; the closure of shebeens next to schools and many others which we managed, the creation of a state bank, we are beginning to see movement in this regard. We can label these as reforms, but so is nationalization of mines, which are qualitative demands of a revolution in the making. And this revolution is through influence, and as Cde Floyd argued elsewhere (heaven knows where), "autonomy is elementary to the successes and extent of influence a youth movement can impact in a revolution"

For Cde Floyd to suggest that the YCLSA is "nowhere near being revolutionary, because it is not ideologically and politically autonomous" and to not further substantiate this justifies no further response except this. The YCLSA is a Marxist-Leninist formation of young people and it is the youth wing of the SACP that established it. Its conduct and perspectives are drawn out of a concrete analysis of concrete conditions. In this, both society and history are not static but require appropriate adjustments in accordance with constantly occurring change in the interest, not just of the youth, but "importantly of the working class.

We can only assume that for the YCLSA to justify being ideologically steadfast, consistent and fearless" in the eyes of the self-imposed revolutionaries means it has to shout empty slogans in the ears of the leadership of the SACP in order to catch the eager ears of newspaper sub-editors or to be seen to be involved in a sound-bite contest with the leadership of the SACP.

This is not the mettle of a revolutionary. Only true action - and not revolutionary sounding phrases not backed by results but by insults. That is not being "fearless or militant" it is merely seeking fame. We are not angels or saints, but so are most of the revolutionaries.

>> Buti Manamela is National Secretary of the Young Communist League of South Africa

Viewpoint | by Lazola Ndamase

The poor must equally access tertiary education

Viewpoint by Lazola NdamaseSouth Africa where hundreds of thousands of unemployed youth loiter in the streets while some sit in the backyards of their homes with no hope or prospects of progress in their lives. They live on the meager pensions of their grandparents who are not only burdened with supporting themselves but their children and grandchildren, all of whom sit at home unemployed and unemployable.

To make matters worse, institutions of higher learning continue without any remorse to exclude students from the poor backgrounds. The higher education system year in and year out spews hundreds of thousands of students into the streets. We also have hundreds of thousands of young people who do not even bother attempting to register in institutions of higher learning out of the knowledge that there is no way in hell they could afford higher education fees.

It is only the students who sprout from working class backgrounds that suffer this calamity, sending their dreams and those of their families flying off the window. Without education that could empower students from poor backgrounds to compete on a sound footing in the labour market their lives are doomed. Students from well to do backgrounds do not feel the pinch of education costs and they effortlessly acquire tertiary education that makes them be able to compete with ease and an added advantage in the labour market. As a result, poverty and opulence get recycled in an unbroken chain within poor family lineages regardless of the fluidity of capitalist society.

In the past two weeks alone, hundreds of thousands of students have been spewed into street corners by institutions of higher learning with brazen impunity. These institutions claim lack of space. But, these are the same institutions that have spent millions revamping management offices and business centers, but have barely spared a cent to develop and expand academic facilities such as lecture halls, libraries and computer labs. Isn't learning and teaching at the core of institutions of higher learning mandate or the pendulum has swung?

When the state attempts to intervene, institutions of higher learning hide and lodge behind the woodworks of institutional autonomy and academic freedom. Institutional autonomy and academic freedom has now become the finest instrument with which to keep the democratic government at bay whilst allowing unfettered room for ruthless economic calculation to hold sway in institutions at the expense of community service. Things cannot be allowed to continue this way.

Right under the noses of our democratic government which has put education as one of its apex priority, the institutions of higher learning continue to slam shut the door to education on the faces of poor working class students. It is clear that the continued exclusion of working class students is nothing but a continuation of class apartheid. There is no other way to explain that working class students have been the most prominent casualties of the registration period. Working class families often look up to the education of their offspring as a way out of poverty and penury.

To add salt to injury, the Minister of Higher Education, Dr Blade Nzimande, ineptly argues that the flocking of students into institutions of higher learning was "unexpected", both by the institutions and the Ministry. What was expected? That good Matriculants from poor backgrounds should have continued to stay at home than seek higher education?

While the government continues to yelp about apex priorities, higher education's share of the total budget has decreased by a whopping 20% since 1996. So much for an apex priority, so much for radically pursuing skills development in order to grow the economy.

It is more than an indictment that the post-1994 government does not have a single campus, let alone university that it can point to as a product of its own work. Rather than see the building of more campuses or universities, we have seen the merger of institutions shrink rather than expand the number of campuses. Almost every merged institution has at least one campus closed down. It is in this context that it was shocking to hear Dr. Blade Nzimande stand tall and say: the flocking of students in institutions of higher learning was unexpected.

Just as the case of those who cannot access the system seems strong. Hundreds of thousands of graduates sit at home unemployed watching the sunrise and set. It is not because their qualifications are superfluous to the needs of the economy, but that capitalist economies need reserve labour in order to extract lower wages from those already in capitalist employ.

Captains of industry keep increasing profit levels in order to feed their ever-expensive lifestyles. This can only be achieved through employing as less as possible while producing as much as possible. The dictum: "higher productivity at the lowest possible cost" taught in our curriculum and imbibed by economic students everyday is the locomotive that drives our economic direction.

More than ever, progressive minds need to ensure that they work together to save our future by wrestling the direction of our education from the hands of the wolves of the capitalist market who will not only destroy the ever decreasing access to education but will damage South Africa's future.

Our government must be willing to take institutions of higher learning head on, not the toothless critics we now have become. We need to do away with the notion that institutions of higher learning are enclaves of the rich and wealthy, otherwise we will fall flat on our noses in our quest to defeat apartheid and its economic edifice: capitalism.

>> Lazola Ndamase is Secretary General of the South African Students Congress - SASCO