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Viewpoint by Lindiwe Zulu

CELEBRATING 40 YEARS OF INDEPEDENCE IN ANGOLA: LEST WE FORGET BY LINDIWE ZULU

The story of South Africa's struggle for liberation and the ultimate triumph of our revolution cannot be complete without a detailed story of the role and contribution of Angola and other frontline states. The people of South Africa owe the government and people of Angola a debt of gratitude that we will never be able to repay in our life-time.

Viewpoint by Thulas Nxesi

NATIONAL MINIMUM WAGE FIGHTS POVERTY AND INEQUALITY BY THULASI NXESI

In the ANCís 2014 Election Manifesto, the soon to be re-elected ruling party, committed to driving a process to investigate the modality of introducing a National Minimum Wage in South Africa. With our 63% majority mandate, the ANC-led government, working together with all key social partners is currently driving that process through NEDLAC.

Viewpoint by Mac Maharaj

WITHOUT MEMORY IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO LEARN BY MAC MAHARAJ

A fund raising dinner for the Lenny Naidu Development Institute gives me an opportunity to share with you some challenges we face in relation to nation building.

GOOD STORY TO TELL

VIEWPOINT BY LINDIWE ZULU

Celebrating 40 years of indepedence in Angola: Lest We Forget

Comrade Lindiwe Zulu is an ANC NEC Member. She under went military training in Angola as an MK soldier

The story of South Africa's struggle for liberation and the ultimate triumph of our revolution cannot be complete without a detailed story of the role and contribution of Angola and other frontline states. The people of South Africa owe the government and people of Angola a debt of gratitude that we will never be able to repay in our life-time.

The African National Congress identified international solidarity as one of the pillars of the national liberation struggle. Angola sacrificed everything they had and risked the wrath of the imperialist West in pursuit of solidarity with the struggle of South Africans and the people of Namibia, led by the African National Congress and SWAPO respectively. They took the side of the freedom struggle at great risk to their own security and the real prospect of economic destabilization of their country. Indeed, many of our fellow MK soldiers perished in the hands of UNITA, a group of counter-revolutionary bandits supported by the racist regime.

When they decided to take the side of the people of South Africa and the Namibians against the brutality and aggression of the apartheid regime, the people of Angola never asked: “What will happen to us once the apartheid regime and their imperialist allies decide to unleash their vicious might on?” No, they posed the question differently: “What will happen to the oppressed and exploited masses of fellow Africans if we do not take their side?” This is the practical meaning of solidarity.

After our liberation, the Angolans are still confronting the challenge of rebuilding their own country whose economy and infrastructure was so cruelly and heartlessly ravaged by SADF and UNITA forces. The people of Angola and their government have demonstrated their determination to defend the gains of their liberation and to continue to care for its people.

Angola stood by us despite the escalation of violence in southern Africa and the Reagan administration's determination to support the racist dictatorship through its “constructive engagement” project.

The arrival of the Cuban Five to our shores recently revived painful memories of our armed struggle. Two of them fought alongside Angolan forces against the apartheid in the eighties. This is vivid reminder of how central the role of Angola and Cuba were in our national liberation struggle. The people of Cuba, inspired by their internationalist outlook, have taught the world the content of international solidarity.

To appreciate the meaning and content of solidarity and internationalism, as well as what motivates and inspires the revolutionary people of Cuba, let me quote the immortal words of Ernesto Che Guevera:

"After receiving my degree, I began to travel through Latin America and I got to know it intimately. And in the way I travelled, first as a student and then as a doctor, I began to come into contact with poverty, with hunger, with disease, with the inability to cure a child because of lack of resources with the numbness that hunger and continued punishment cause, until a point is reached where a parent losing a child is an unimportant accident, and often happens among the hard-hit classes … and I began to see that there was something that, at that time, seemed to me almost as important as being a famous researcher or making a substantial contribution to medical science, it was helping these people".

As we join the Angolan people in celebrating 40 years of independence, South Africa should never forget the sacrifices made by the people of the great countries of Angola and Cuba. Cuban soldiers fought side by side with our liberation movement in pursuit of a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic South Africa. They made all these sacrifices, not for personal glory or recognition, but to give practical expression to that which defines us true revolutionaries - solidarity with the oppressed.

The Battle of Cuito Canavale in 1987-88 was indeed a decisive moment which turned the tide against apartheid aggression and in favour of the democratic movement. After many centuries of resistance against apartheid and colonialism, it was the battle of Cuito Canavalle that was to be a defining moment in the people's struggle to seize power. The role of Angola was critical to the surrender of apartheid South Africa, with Cuban military prowess proving decisive.

The humiliating defeat of the might of the apartheid army, which forced the National Party to the negotiation table, was not only a victory for the people of South Africa and the entire international progressive movement, it also shattered the mythology of SADF invincibility.

Viewpoint by Thulas Nxesi

VIEWPOINT: THULAS NXESI

Comrade Thulas Nxesi is an ANC NEC member and Minister of Public Works

National minimum wage fights poverty and inequality

In the ANC’s 2014 Election Manifesto, the soon to be re-elected ruling party, committed to driving a process to investigate the modality of introducing a National Minimum Wage in South Africa. With our 63% majority mandate, the ANC-led government, working together with all key social partners is currently driving that process through NEDLAC.

As the ANC, and ANC-led government we are not ‘Johnnies-Come-Lately’ to the struggle for a national minimum wage. At Kliptown, in 1955, the ANC together with its Congress Allies, including the South African Congress of Trade Unions, SACTU - the direct fore-runner of today’s COSATU - called in the Freedom Charter for a national minimum wage. We have never abandoned that vision.

We are not Johnny-Come-Lately’s, we are not amateurs, we are not demagogic entryists trying to insert ourselves from the outside into the labour movement riding on the back of worker struggles to advance our own personal ambitions. Within the ANC leadership there are many who have served decades and decades in the trade union movement. Which is why, the ANC together with its Alliance, in the immediate context of the 1994 democratic breakthrough clearly understood that simply declaring a national minimum wage on its own could have many unintended, anti-worker and anti-poor outcomes.

In the United States, for instance, where there is a National Minimum Wage, successive administrations have used a State-declared National Minimum Wage to by-pass and therefore weaken (not strengthen) the role of trade unions and worker shop-floor organisation and struggles. We understood in the mid-1990s that a National Minimum Wage needed to be embedded within a wider set of progressive advances.

That is why the ANC and its alliance partners ensured that worker rights were strongly affirmed within our progressive 1996 Constitution. We achieved this in the face of considerable opposition from certain political formations because we understood that advancing towards a national minimum wage required many other progressive advances.

The ANC-led government, working with our social partners, introduced successive waves of legislation, including the Basic Conditions of Employment Act. This Act empowers the Labour Minister, working with social partners, to make Minimum Wage Determinations for sectors in the economy where workers are particularly vulnerable.  There are currently Minimum Wage Determinations for nine sectors -including: Domestic workers; contract Cleaners; private security workers; workers in the whole-sale and retail sectors; farm and forestry workers; taxi sector workers; and those on learnerships.

In the context of these advances and in the face of persisting inequality and poverty, we have lost no time in advancing the National Minimum Wage agenda. Under the leadership of Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and within the framework of NEDLAC, an Indaba was convened in November last year. It involved government with our social partners - the main trade union federations (COSATU, Fedusa and NACTU), the community sector, and business.

The Indaba issued a joint declaration - the Ekurhuleni Declaration.  Amongst other things the Declaration stated that:

The Nedlac constituencies recognise:

  • That wages are the most important component of income for South Africa’s working people;
  • That income from wages is the main source of ensuring a sustainable livelihood for workers while also being a key factor in the competitiveness and sustainability of enterprises…
  • That large pay differentials between executives and low income workers undermine the prospects for cooperative labour relations and workplace cohesion.

Having forged this very important shared understanding, the ANC government and its social partners at the NEDLAC Indaba then resolved to:

  • Engage on the modalities of introducing a national minimum wage in South Africa; and
  • Explore ways of reducing pay differentials, while maximising job creation efforts”.

This agreement locked the key stake-holders into a focused process, which has made important progress, and we are now at a critical stage in that process. Under the auspices of the National Economic Development and Labour Advisory Council (NEDLAC), the work of both the Wage Inequality (Minimum Wage) Technical Task Team and the Labour Relations Technical Task Team is being monitored by the Committee of Principals chaired by the Deputy President, bringing together senior leadership of all the social partners.

The NEDLAC task teams that have been meeting since January 2015 have agreed on the following: 

  • “The national minimum wage shall be the legal floor for a defined period of time, guaranteed by law, below which no employee may be paid in South Africa.”
  • The national minimum wage will apply to all employees, both in the public and private sectors, unless provided for otherwise by an exclusion, phase-in or phase-out in an upfront agreement. 

In relation to the existing systems of collective bargaining and sectoral wage determinations, the Task Team on Wage Inequality has also agreed that:

  • Collective agreements, including bargaining council agreements, sectoral determinations and contracts of employment may not make provision for a wage that is lower than the national minimum wage, but may only vary wages upwards. 
  • Depending on the minimum wage level, however, certain exceptions may be needed. Nevertheless, it is generally agreed that comprehensive coverage is desirable and that a patchwork approach should be avoided.
  • The body that will be responsible for determining a national minimum wage will be a body similar to the Employment Conditions Commission, which currently recommends minimum wages and conditions of employment on a sector basis to the Minister of Labour.
  • The composition of the Employment Conditions Commission includes representatives of organised business and labour and independent researchers. 

A very important consideration will be the empirical evidence that is being gathered relating to the possible effects of introducing a national minimum wage. From this brief account of NEDLAC processes underway, it is clear that debates around introducing a national minimum wage are complex. Whilst international experience indicates that a national minimum wage can assist in combatting poverty and inequality, the level at which the minimum is set is going to be critical:

  • If the level is set too low, the exercise is rendered meaningless - we fail to combat ultra-exploitation, and indeed we end up reinforcing low wages;
  • If the level is set too high, this can lead to non-compliance, or more seriously, job losses.

As we grapple with these complexities, it is vital that we base our decisions upon research and concrete data rather than ideological assertion. In March 2013, following the impressive worker and community strikes in De Doorns and Hex River region, the minimum wages of farmworkers were raised from R69 per day to R105. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth from the DA. They warned of massive job losses in the sector. So what are the facts?

According the latest Stats SA Quarterly Labour Force Survey, employment in the farming sector has gone up 25% nationally since the raised minimum wage determination. In the Western Cape farm employment has gone up by 73% in the same period!

There are a number of issues which still need to be resolved between the social partners at NEDLAC including:

  • The impact of a national minimum wage on small businesses.
  • The need to ensure a national minimum wage does not adversely affect employment.
  • Using the national minimum wage as one of the tools to alleviate poverty.
  • How to maximise compliance with a national minimum wage.

Most importantly, the process of determining the actual level for the national minimum wage will involve difficult negotiations - there are, after all, vested interests which benefit from cheap labour. We remain guided by our commitment to decent work and a living wage - whilst closely monitoring the employment effects of introducing a national minimum wage.

I appeal for support of the NEDLAC processes. We need to ensure that NEDLAC outcomes do not simply produce outcomes that are, at best, ameliorative, leaving class, race, gendered and geographical inequities in place. A sustainable National Minimum Wage must be an important component of a wider, radical strategic programme that includes an improved social security net, a wide range of employment creating strategies, including the State-led infrastructure build programme, State-led industrial policy plans, and much more.

As the NEDLAC partners have agreed, a National Minimum Wage discussion cannot be separated from closing the outrageous pay gap that exists in many parts of our economy, as we recognise that the current pay inequities are a major contributor to social instability. There are many international examples where effective National Minimum Wage policies, as part of an array of developmental initiatives, improve incomes for the working poor, preserve jobs, and actively contribute through demand stimulus to economic growth.

Viewpoint by Mac Maharaj

VIEWPOINT: MAC MAHARAJ

Comrade Mac Maharaj is a former ANC NEC member

 

Without memory it is impossible to learn

A fund raising dinner for the Lenny Naidu Development Institute gives me an opportunity to share with you some challenges we face in relation to nation building.

I take as our point of departure a statement by Archbishop Tutu written in 2001. Reflecting on the importance of memory the Arch reminded us that “without memory it would be virtually impossible to learn; we could not learn from experience, because exp erience is something that is remembered. I would forever have to start from the beginning, not realizing that a hot stove invariably burns the hand placed upon it. What I know is what I remember and that helps to make me who I am.”

This led him to capture is a single sentence one of the our most formidable challenges, namely, that “Nations are built through sharing experiences, memories, a history.”

It is in this context that we celebrate that in five years of its existence, the LNDI has provided bursaries to 21 students to pursue their studies at the tertiary level. The recipients are drawn from  four schools located in Lamontville, KwaMashu and Chatsworth - the areas from which the Golela Nine came from; the the three female and six male MK guerillas, including Lenny Naidu, who were ambushed and murdered by the hits squads of the monstrous apartheid security forces in June 1988, The idea behind earmarking the four schools from these three areas is to ensure that their communities will perpetuate the memories of the commitment and service of these gallant freedom fighters to whom we owe so much for the freedom we enjoy today.

There are today many such initiatives . All share the common thread of seeking to keep alive the memory of individuals who have contributed to the making of SA.

At the same time, if we measure ourselves in terms of the Arch’s definition that “Nations are built through sharing experiences, memories, a history”, I am afraid progress has been too little, almost infinitesimal. And the biggest obstacle is a four letter word spelt r-a-c-e.

I am reminded of an incident that occurred in the prisoner of war camps in Egypt during the S econd W orld W ar, where captured German soldiers were held in camps were manned by soldiers from the allied forces, in this instance by British and SA soldiers. Cutting a cross the divide of prisoner and camp guard members of the German, the British and the SA communist parties used to hold joint political classes and discussions. Bound by a common ideology, the discussionswere always friendly and marked by their shared comradeship, until the day they were discussing political systems in the future post-war world. A German communist suggested that the first thing they would have to do is to get rid of the monarchy. This was too much for a British communist who rudely intervened “You bloody Jerry. Lay off our King!”

The idea of building a SA nation embracing all its people received legal and constitutional sanction with the adoption of the Interim Constitution of 1993 and the final Constitution of 1996.

It came from the lineage of the Freedom Charter of 1955, which proclaimed the SA belongs to all who live in it, black and white. This vision was the product of the experiences of the indigenous people who came to be dispossessed through wars of conquest, wars that individual tribes tended to resist on their own. From this they learnt the need for African people to unite as one people, which became the central platform for the formation of the ANC in 1912.

The Three Doctors' Pact of 1947 sought to lay the basis for African and Indian struggles to wage joint campaigns in their fight for freedom. Also at the political and trade union levels, the idea of unity in struggle gradually took root and led to the emergence of the Congress Alliance led by the ANC. This happened despite the fact that colonial and apartheid rule had developed an elaborate system of differential treatment affecting the jobs one was allowed to do, the wages one received, the schools one attended, the areas where one lived, in short even the dreams one dreamed, based skin colour and hair texture. It was divide and rule with a vengeance with the singular aim of perpetuating white minority rule permanently.

It was the sharing of their individual and collective experiences of life and struggle, understanding the foundations of the humiliating differential treatment they endured, empathizing with each other’s experiences and appreciating the way power was distributed in SA society; it was what people wanted for themselves and for all who lived in SA that breathed life to the Freedom Charter.

Until then the dominant narrative of the SA nation was derived from the inauguration of the Union of SA on 31 May 1910. While it established a geographical entity known as South Africa, the union was a deal between Briton and Boer consummated at the expense of the right to full citizenship for people of colour. To the extent it laid the foundations for a SA nation, it was a schizophrenic nation. Or if you will, it was premised on two nations in one geographical space. It is what led Oliver Tambo, when he was President of the ANC, to explain that apartheid SA made him feel like he was a foreigner in the country of his birth.  [Lyons Corner House?].

How much progress have we made in the short space of two decades?

The challenge remains: we have yet the share the experiences of our diverse peoples in such a way that any particular community appropriates the experiences of another and identifies with it as part of the basket of experiences of the nation. Most of our commemorations have not yet reached beyond the boundaries of particular individual, communal, ethnic, religious, tribal or race defined entities.

Appropriating these experiences into an over-arching frame, building a common sense of community across the divides, is made more difficult in that much of the celebrations and memorials do not show the individual or community in a state of evolution through responding the external stimuli, through interaction - marked both by cooperation and conflict with others, and influencing others as well as events beyond one’s self. In the absence of such a dynamic view, a person is reduced to a wooden image, lifeless and more myth than human.

As Madiba was fond of saying about himself: a saint is a sinner who keeps trying.

This is not a matter of burying aspects of our past under a blanket of amnesia. It is a question of new social developments requiring us to reclaim a past that was denied to most of the people of SA, of a continuous process of acquiring new lens to view what has gone before as well as what happened when it happened, from new perspectives created by the advent of a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic SA in which all people irrespective of race, colour, class, religion, sexual orientation, culture and language unite to forge a nation rooted in our continent.

Yes, most South Africans have come to identify with Mandela as the founding father of our democracy. But it is happening through distorted lens. Most white people do not see the liberation struggle as having benefitted them and given them a stake in our democracy; they do not see liberation as having liberated the oppressor as well!

At the same time there is a growing perception among black people that they have been short changed in the transition to democracy.

In this mix of most members of the white community washing their hands off any responsibility for the present and black people becoming disillusioned by the persistence and widening of the inequality gap, it almost seems as if the idea of a common South African identity remains bogged down in the mire of the Union of SA in 1910. Worse, the tensions generated in this cauldron cloud our pathways as to how we can move SA forward without drifting backward.

It is becoming fashionable for some to critique the present and add as a rider a mea culpa, namely, a person says, I include myself in regard to mistakes we have made in the building of the SA of today. This is not good enough. The past is a very important reservoir of mistakes every society can learn from. It is not enough to simply wring one’s hands and proclaim “I admit I was part of the making of the mistake”. To facilitate and engage in this learning we need identify the “mistake”, delineate its elements - only then do we open the past to learning from it. And this task would be made so much easier if such would-be confessors helped identify the mistakes they were party to. This is not a question of losing face, rather it helps shift the focus from playing the blame game to understanding the consequences of any such mistake and mapping a way forward.

Are those who demanded that Rhodes Must Fall saying that Rhodes has no place in our history? I do not think so. At the heart of their action is the demand that we reinterpret the past from the perspective of the present. And I would argue that the focus of the present is a non-racial, non-sexist democratic SA based on equality. It involves a search for understanding our identity. Who are we? And democratic SA has not undertaken this task as a priority in understanding who we are and where we are going as a people.

I look back on the activities of my generation and see how we let the ball slip from time to time. We set off in 1994 with a programme founded on three legs: reconstruction, reconciliation and nation-building. The three were fundamentally interlinked. Somehow in the aftermath we allowed each leg to be separated from the other. And often we allowed the exigencies of the the present - oh, how the present is always pressing - to blind us to consequences that were taking us away from our goals.

In the hubris of the negotiated transition we redefined the Anglo Boer War of 1899-1901 as the South African War. Scholars brought forth evidence of the large numbers of black people were victims of the war; of the large numbers of blacks who were incarcerated in concentration camps and many died there; of the substantial numbers of blacks who served in the war - some on the side of the Boer forces, and others in the Imperial army. We allowed this to cloud our perception and designated the war as the SA war. Incidentally we did this even before a geographical and/or juridical entity called SA had come into existence. And democratic parliament welcomed this designation. Such was the mood.

If this were only a matter of a change of name, there would be no problem. But the change in name changed our understanding of the nature of that war. It obscured the immanent anti-colonial nature of the Boer cause, which by the way, lost its way by making their freedom an exclusive cause, instead of making it a part of the growing understanding that freedom is indivisible. Calling it the SA War, made all affected, combatant and victim, indistinguishable in their roles and all made ‘men of honour’ in the service of SA.

I think we fluffed it. It obscured the need to reclaim our past and reinterpret the past from the focus of building a SA nation.

This is not the only instance. The present emotionally charged efforts to reinterpret the past are a conjuncture that has arisen because of a series of oversights, mistakes and acts of omission my generation committed with the best of intentions but often without interrogating the consequences for the future.

The TRC legislation was crafted on the basis of widespread consultation and eventually entrusted to the then two deputy presidents together with the then Minister of Justice to find a way past the reservations by were being raised by the party of FW de Klerk.

When I consider the aftermath of the TRC many questions come to the fore. I ask myself how did we allow the idea of a ‘moral equivalence’ to creep in as a measure between actions of the apartheid repressive machinery and the forces of liberation? Such an equation had never arisen before: the actions of the Allied Forces bore no moral or legal equivalence to Nazi Germany’s actions.

The judiciary under colonialism and apartheid was a critical arm of the state - as critical as the security forces - in the perpetration of crimes against humanity, injustice and the suppression of the oppressed majority. That was the norm and enlightened judgments were the exception. Millions had passed through that mill - from pass law offenders to freedom fighters. How did the TRC decide not to summon a single judge, magistrate or prosecutor to account before it? Are we surprised that there is among many black people the perception that the post-1994 judiciary is not sufficiently transformed? Worse, transformation has been reduced to the single dimension of racial and gender representativity! Why have neither members of the TRC not other commentators have deigned to explore this territory as part of the process of understanding the present perceptions and problems. Clearly unless my generation who were at the helm at the time raise such questions the issue will remain buried and therefore our understanding of the present will be that much the poorer.

In the same way, how and why did it come to pass that despite the fact that many editors and journalists in the ranks of the media during the time of apartheid served two masters - their profession and as minions of apartheid and against the struggle for freedom. Yet none was called to account before the TRC the way members of the liberation movement were made to account for their actions!

The examples I have cited have contributed to the current state of inadequate and often lop-sided progress in the fulfilment of the key imperative of our Constitution which enjoins us to build a SA nation founded on equality and unity in diversity.

It is only when we spell out these instances that we can get to grips of how this happened , analyse the current conjuncture and therefore begin to address how we ensure that our people and country move along the correct trajectory.

We are far far from most whites, and many Indian South Africans and so-called Coloureds appropriating the experiences of the oppressed and the liberation struggle and making them part of who they are. Need I ask how many are at the point where Chief Luthuli, Oliver Tambo, Walter Sisulu, Nelson Mandela, Steve Biko, and Robert Sobokwe, and a pantheon of so many others, are part of this SA nation - the nation to which we all belong?

Without the liberation struggle and without the services, among others, of these men and women, there is no SA nation.

Reflect on the statement of the Arch: “Nations are built through sharing experiences, memories, a history” and let us all begin to test consciously what we do from the perspective to the extent to which our actions contribute to or detract from the realisation of this worthy goal.

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