To an outsider, the SA Communist Party's 75th anniversary celebrations must have looked quite extraordinary. For it was during these celebrations that leaders of the Tripartite Alliance used the same platform to express very different views of the government's macro-economic strategy.
Both Cosatu's Sam Shilowa and the SACP's Charles Nqakula expressed reservations about the strategy. ANC president Nelson Mandela reiterated the government's commitment to the plan, saying its framework was 'non-negotiable'.
Since then numerous commentators have heralded this development as a signal of the imminent demise of the Tripartite Alliance. But then, the same commentators have been predicting that for quite a while.
The events of the last few days might appear extraordinary to an outside observer, but then the alliance itself is quite an extraordinary phenomenon. It is extraordinary, firstly, because it has been able to survive for so long and under such difficult conditions. It is extraordinary, secondly, because it has been able to bring together people of differing political and ideological perspectives into a common struggle for democracy and justice. And it is extraordinary, because it has brought together people from numerous walks of life and backgrounds into a single movement.
What the recent events have also demonstrated is that the alliance is extraordinary precisely because it can tolerate differences and disagreements between the member organisations - and still survive.
The alliance has never shied away from debate. Rather it has encouraged it, and viewed it as a way to strengthen the alliance and its member organisations.
As Mandela noted during his speech at the SACP anniversary celebrations, the alliance exists in order to address a particular social reality. The continuation of the alliance and the future role it plays will be determined by that social reality. Mere statements and media speculation cannot end the alliance, he said.
The alliance will continue to exist because its historic tasks have not yet been completed. The same inequalities and injustices which forced the members of the alliance together still exist. The poverty, the homelessness and the unemployment which apartheid left in its wake is still very much with us.
Until the members of the alliance have managed to get the better of these things, it has no choose but to continue on the historic path which it has forged.
A tradition of discipline
Speaking of extraordinary events, the press briefing by ANC NEC member Bantu Holomisa on his reaction to charges brought against him by the National Disciplinary Committee was quite unusual.
It is in the tradition of the ANC that internal organisational matters are dealt with within the structures of the organisation, using the processes established in terms of the ANC's constitution.
Holomisa's press briefing is a stark break with that tradition. It is a break which does not bode well for the organisation. The tradition of discipline and loyalty which has been developed in the ANC has a very sound basis. It exists to bolster democracy within the organisation, not to undermine it. It exists to protect the organisation and its programme from the abuse of power, and the pursuit of narrow, individualistic agenda's. It exists to enable the ANC to pursue its historic objectives in the most effective manner possible.
A breakdown of organisational discipline undermines the ability of the organisation to pursue its programme. It weakens ANC structures and opens the way for dissent and factionalism. It undermines democracy.
The ANC needs to ensure that this press briefing remains 'out of the ordinary'. Such behaviour cannot become commonplace in the organisation. The ANC has spent much time deliberating over its constitution, its structure and its processes. Every ANC member should consider it their duty to respect and uphold these processes.
If we abandon discipline, then we abandon the organisation.
Sixteen people were killed and several more were injured during a stampede at Tembisa railway station, east of Johannesburg, when railway security guards using shock sticks tried to control a crowd of commuters.
Transport minister Mac Maharaj said the government had appointed a committee of inquiry to investigate the cause of the stampede. The commission, headed by Pretoria advocate Tiego Moseneke, would start work immediately.
The commission would investigate the circumstances surrounding the incident and propose measures to prevent similar incidents.
Two new deputy ministers were appointed by president Nelson Mandela. Former parliamentary advisor to deputy president Thabo Mbeki, Essop Pahad was appointed as Deputy Minister in the Office of the Deputy Minister. His responsibilities would include the National Youth Commission, the Commission for Gender Equality and the SA Communications Service.
Former Youth League president Peter Mokaba was appointed environment affairs and tourism deputy minister to replace Bantu Holomisa.
President Nelson Mandela made high profile state visits to Britain and France during July. While in Britain, Mandela stayed as Queen Elizabeth's guest at Buckingham Palace and addressed an historic joint sitting of Britain's two houses of parliament.
During his time in both France and Britain, Mandela devoted a lot of time to speaking to business people about investment opportunities in South Africa.
South Africa's relations with the United States were strengthened by the second meeting of the Binational Commission, established last year between the two countries. Deputy president Thabo Mbeki led a delegation of South Africans, including several cabinet ministers, to the annual event, which aims to develop bilateral relations between the two countries.
South Africa had scored some significant achievements at the Atlanta Centennial Olympic Games, with swimmer Penny Heyns winning two gold medals for breaststroke events and runner Hezekiel Sepeng winning silver in the 800 metre final. Another swimmer, Marianne Kriel, won bronze in the backstroke.
South Africa's athletes were joined in Atlanta by large contingents of cabinet members and SABC staff, both drawing a degree of criticism.
Political parties would make their submissions to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission during the week of 19 August, the commission announced. The party submissions had been postponed from mid-July at the request of a number of parties.
Parties which would be making submissions include the ANC, National Party, Pan Africanist Congress, Freedom Front and African Christian Democratic Party. The truth commission was still trying to persuade the Inkatha Freedom Party to make a submission.
State prosecutors and advocates embarked on a work-to-rule protest last month after an announcement of salary increases for magistrates. Prosecutors and state advocates were unhappy with the salary agreements reached in the central bargaining chamber. Justice minister Dullah Omar said he was unable to do anything about their salaries because state prosecutors and advocates had not been de-linked from the public service.
Bitterly cold weather, including widespread snow, disrupted traffic in several parts of South Africa, leaving travellers stranded and many rural communities isolated for several days. Heavy snowfalls caused the N3 between Johannesburg and Durban to be closed at Van Reenen's Pass for a number of days.
Hikers in the Drakensberg and Maluti mountains had to be rescued by helicopter, while remote villages in Lesotho received food and blankets from airplanes and helicopters.
The news of the death of a number of youngsters after customary circumcision rites in villages around the Northern province has saddened the people deeply. There are people who still carry out these rites without giving credence to hygiene.
The commissioner for traditional authorities, Benny Boshielo, held a number of meetings with chiefs in the past fourteen months urging them to ensure that the rites are carried out in consultation with the health department and medical professionals to avoid the spread of dangerous diseases and possible death.
President Nelson Mandela visited the Eastern Cape in July
to attend a Veterans Party held in Port Elizabeth. The party was attended by 1 500 veterans of the struggle against apartheid. The party was to honour and thank veterans for their contribution to the birth of a new South Africa.
The party brought together veterans from such diverse groups as the ANC, PAC, Black Consciousness Movement, Democratic Party, Non- European Unity Movement, churches and sports bodies.
In Gauteng over 100 delegates representing the regional leadership from the province's six regions attended an inter-regional summit to assess the state of the organisation and the achievements in government.
Recommendations were made around an assessment of Operation Vuka and restructuring the ANC in Gauteng; the relationship between provincial and local government; the economic policy debate; measuring performance and deployment of leadership; development and planning in government; the character of the organisation; and progress in the transformation process. All the recommendations made will be tabled at the inter-provincial summit later in the year.
With the final count of the cape metropolitan local government election results, the ANC in the province has made significant inroads into what the National Party claimed to be their stronghold.
The ANC is in firm control of the central substructure of Cape Town. In the rural areas, where farmworkers and rural settlement residents also cast their vote, the ANC improved its support from 9 percent in 1994 to 33 percent in 1996. The ANC is still firmly in control of 15 of the biggest towns throughout the Western Cape.
The ANC in KwaZulu/Natal has put up an outstanding performance in the local government election. In all the areas that it had targeted, it achieved its targets, and in may instances it performed better than expected. The ANC gained over two thirds of the vote in Pietermaritzburg and Ladysmith. The ANC improved its performance from that of the 1994 elections in many of the smaller towns.
The ANC won in the areas where the economic future of the province will be determined. And it will be in these areas where the foundations will be laid for RDP delivery which will benefit all the people of KwaZulu/Natal.
A United Nations development report contains some important lessons for South Africa, Steyn Speed writes.
A United Nations report released last month contains valuable lessons for South Africa as it strives to achieve economic growth and increased employment.
The Human Development Report, compiled annually by the UN Development Programme, measures the level of human development in countries in terms of life expectancy, education and income.
The 1996 report, which focuses on the relationship between economic growth, human development and job-creation, reveals that economic growth does not automatically translate into increased employment. Of the 46 countries in the world which showed economic growth, 40 percent of these showed a decrease in employment opportunities. They experienced jobless growth.
Over half of the countries in the world experienced no economic growth at all.
"The report underlines that there are no automatic links between economic growth and human development," UNDP resident representative in South Africa David Whaley said at the Johannesburg launch of the report.
He said the rising tide of unemployment could be reversed, but commitment to that goal needed to be a major economic priority. Strong political commitment to job-creation was also vital to ensuring increased levels of human development, Whaley said. The report calls on developing countries with low human development to reduce military spending and divert the money to raise skills and educational levels. This could greatly increase the scope for people-centred, employment creating, sustainable growth, the report said.
South Africa is placed 100 out of 175 countries on the Human Development Index. This places it in the category of 'medium human development' alongside countries like the Philippines, Lebanon, Indonesia, Egypt and several countries of the former Soviet Union.
Nedlac executive director Jayendra Naidoo said South Africa didn't only need to look to the East Asian 'tigers' which had registered rapid human development along with economic growth, but should also look to its neighbours - one success story being Botswana, which ranked 71, evidence of considerably sound levels of human development for a developing nation. Naidoo emphasised that Botswana's achievement came from a strong government commitment to access and provision of basic social services such as health care and education.
South Africa's ranking, however, does not reflect the disparity in development between black and white South Africa.
The white section of the community has achieved levels of human development "very close" to the high development countries like Australia, Japan, the US and Western Europe - while black South Africans were placed at around 125 on the Human Development Index alongside countries like Swaziland and Cameroon.
"South Africa is actually two countries, in terms of skills, income and [access to] services," Naidoo said.
According to Whaley this disparity underlined "the magnitude of the challenge of overcoming three centuries of colonialism and half a century of racial segregation for South Africa to rejoin the community of nations not only on political, but also in economic, social and cultural terms".
In a special written contribution to the report, South African president Nelson Mandela said: "The task of government is to harness the energies of the people into a material force for growth and development. What is required is a partnership, among communities, government and the private sector."
The potential for economic growth and development in South Africa was better now than it had been for decades, Mandela said.
"Despite the welcome growth, very few jobs have been created. In fact, against the backdrop of new entrants into the job market, there has been a shrinkage in opportunities," he said.
He said South Africa needed a national vision to lift it out of "this quagmire".
"If we do not act together in the public and private sectors to develop and implement such a national strategic vision, the danger is that even the modest growth we have attained will peter out in a matter of a few years," Mandela said.
Government's Macroeconomic strategy was the subject of heated debated at a recent UN Development Programme seminar called "Economic Growth and Equitable Human Development".
A number of interest groups, including the trade union movement, big and small business, government, academia and community-based organisations discussed the strategy's potential for job-creation in light of findings and policy recommendations of the Human Development Report.
Finance minister Trevor Manuel, delivering the keynote address, said the findings of the report provided valuable policy suggestions for South Africa. He stressed that South Africa's programme for reconstruction and development prioritised provision and access to social services, vital to human development.
Reacting to questions from seminar participants, Manuel said government's macroeconomic strategy did not need to spell out issues of targeted assistance such as affirmative action for women, youth and the disabled. It also did not need to spell out government's commitment to ensuring access to social services.
There were other government documents, such as the Reconstruction and Development Programme and the Labour Market Commission report, which outlined government policy and commitment to ensuring job-creation, education and health care. He stressed that the macroeconomic strategy followed the same broad principles of the RDP, and in no way compromised government's commitment to these objectives, but would rather strive to attain them.
With the recent release of a foreign affairs policy discussion document, Mziwakhe Hlangani investigates some of South Africa's foreign policy challenges.
As everything else in South Africa is facing transformation, foreign policy has come under the spotlight as perhaps the most important domain of the country's external affairs which needs reshaping. South Africa's foreign policy needs to inform its position on a number of issues with regards to our relationships with other nations, as well as our positions in international organisations. In an increasingly globalised world this challenge is far more complicated and delicate than in the cold war era. Today, the issues range from the broadly contested terrain of human rights to the very competitive word of trade.
Do we trade with an economically powerful nation with a poor human rights record? Do we trade with nations which were historically apartheid government allies? Should our foreign policy state special circumstances to our anti-apartheid allies, particularly our neighbours who often fed, clothed, educated and sacrificed for us in the name of combatting the apartheid government? These are only some of the issues which the drafters of South Africa's foreign policy need to consider when coming up with a blueprint for South Africa's relations abroad.
A major issue under debate at present is whether South Africa ought to get involved in peace-keeping operations in the region. This issue is an urgent one, considering the desperate situation in Burundi at present. While on the one hand South Africa clearly has the resources to assist its neighbours in peace-keeping operations in the region, President Nelson Mandela has stated time and again that we need to get our own house in order before getting involved in regional peace-keeping issues.
Since South Africa's return to the international community after the 1994 democratic elections, diplomatic relations have been formalised with 78 countries and it representative offices abroad have increased significantly.
Other important events that followed the inauguration of the new government include regaining its membership of the Commonwealth, resuming its seat in the United Nations and its specialised agencies like the International Labour Organisation, joining the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), Southern Africa Development Community and the Non Aligned Movement.
Its position within the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, recently hosted by South Africa, with minister of Trade and Industry, Alec Erwin leading the way in transforming this organisation, once on the merge of collapse, into the voice of the developing and underdeveloped world, ensuring they are not marginalised and fair trade deals are ensured for the south.
South Africa's neighbours are a vital consideration for our international relations. The RDP explains that if South Africa were to develop at the expense of its neighbours, this would spell disaster for both South Africa and the region. The current problem of mass labour migration, for example, would intensify if no attempt is made to create jobs in neighbouring states. The issue of refugees is another issue which needs consideration, and recently government has been pressured to take a position on refugees, with refugees currently in South Africa unhappy with treatment they receive.
Pursuing the principle of universality and even-handedness, South Africa's relations with Israel, Palestine, Iraq and Iran is maintained in line with UN Resolution requirements and South Africa's own commitment to the Middle East peace process.
With South Africa's national interests with almost every state in Asia region, bilateral relations with each were developed to the optimum, through furtherance of top-level government contacts. From Afghanistan, India, Sri Lanka, Japan, Peoples Republic of China and other states in the region presented a wide range of opportunities for South Africa in the field of human development, technology, bilateral tourism, trade and investment.
To unlock the opportunities in the region the government is committed to support increased involvement of the private sector in Asia. Politically, the region offered several bilateral and multilateral opportunities for economic cooperation.
Economic relations with Europe represent more than half of South Africa's international economic relations so good relations with the EU are vital.
Relations with Latin America is receiving higher priority and much progress has been made. With a number of Latin American countries experiencing high levels of economic growth and human development there is much potential for further cooperation with this region. Many Latin American countries share a similar history to South Africa - one of a struggle against colonialism and oppression, and many, such as Brazil, have similar levels of disparity and inequality. For this reason Latin America's experience may have more value than mere case studies, but may in fact hold answers to many of South Africa's challenges.
The USA's economic size and power cannot be ignored, and for this reason alone, good relations are important. The Binational Commission, headed by deputy president Thabo Mbeki and vice president Al Gore exemplify the good political relations that both countries enjoy.
South Africa's foreign policy challenges are many and varied. Answers lie with improved relations with the East Asian countries, Latin America and Japan. These nations are increasingly important, The 'two China's debate' needs to be resolved as both nations are important to South African development. Cuban relations are fast improving, and the effect this will have on our relationship with the US remains to be seen.
It is clear that our foreign policy needs to be guided by the same principles that guide our internal ones - whether we will find a balance between important trade relations and human rights records remains to be seen.
The government's national crime prevention strategy is a broad effort to tackle crime - and transform policing in South Africa. Mziwakhe Hlangani reports.
For the ANC-led government to remain true to the promise of a better life for all, it was necessary to achieve acceptable "levels of stability and personal security", according to safety and security minister Sydney Mufamadi.
Speaking about the newly-released National Crime Prevention Strategy, Mufamadi said high crime levels were a serious threat to the emergent democracy and economy. For the first time in the history of this country "social ills" like crime were seen as a priority to be addressed by the criminal justice system and law enforcement agencies, he said.
It became necessary for the government to come up with a macro-strategy that enabled the government to address crime prevention in a coordinated manner, focussing on efficient and effective use of all government agencies and civil society resources, he said.
The crime strategy would reintroduce the "element of deterrence that has been missing for such a long time".
Other government departments, like defence, justice, welfare and correctional services, would work out their own departmental programmes in line with national crime prevention strategy. The national commissioner's annual police plan - which is required by the new Police Act - would form the basis of the safety and security department's contribution to the strategy.
The national crime prevention strategy, initiated jointly by government ministries, Business Against Crime and other stakeholders, is based on a new fundamental approach of ensuring the development of wide responsibility for crime prevention and a major shift from reactive to proactive crime control.
"Having inherited 11 police forces to whom fighting crime was never a priority, whose priority instead was fighting political opponents of the NP government and its puppet bantustans system, was a serious problem," he said.
The number of different police forces meant that resources needed on the ground to successfully fight crime were not equitably distributed, he said.
In the new dispensation the criminal justice system had to be re-assessed to ensure it was designed to protect citizens and not encourage gross human rights violations, Mufamadi said.
Though national police commissioner's annual plan looked at provincial and local differences. This included an approach to specific types of crimes, such as politically-motivated violence in KwaZulu/Natal; vehicle thefts and hijacking in Gauteng; gang-related conflict in the Western Cape; and stock theft in the Eastern Cape.
Mufamadi said corruption within the criminal justice system was seriously undermining the legitimacy and effectiveness of the system. It contributed to a general climate of lawlessness.
"For some of those crimes to be committed with a measure of success with regard to evading arrests, the syndicates needed to have and in most cases they got collaborators within the system.
"The success on our part, in dealing with corrupt elements within the criminal justice system, must mean that we are depriving the organised crime syndicate of an important pillar of support which they had in the past," he said.
One of the government's challenges was to rehabilitate the image of the police service in the eyes of the public.
"At the same time as we succeed with regard to this objective of rooting out corrupt police members, an impression is created in the public that the police service is becoming more corrupt than it was in the past. The previous government closed one eye to corrupt elements within its system and we cannot stop dealing with the problem of corruption for fear of such a perception," he said.
The process of building partnerships among ministries and other stakeholders started in 1994, and included the unprecedented growth of community policing forums, designed to ensure community participation in crime prevention.
Out of 1,121 police stations countrywide, community policing forums had been set up in about 900 police stations.
The transition of the police service and crime prevention must be effected simultaneously, he said. The plan itself in fact provided a better rational basis on which to begin to introduce the necessary transformation within the police service.
The government was faced with the "immense task" of finding a formula by which to devolve power from one tier of government to another without disrupting the chain of command, Mufamadi said.
He said a situation should be avoided where the national minister gave direction to the national commissioner who in turn gives instructions to the provincial commissioner, only to find that the MEC gave an instruction to the provincial commissioner which ran counter to the command that came from the national commissioner.
The death of a worker at a Rustenburg factory has united workers against ill-treatment by management. Khensani Makhubela reports.
It is around 3.30 on Friday afternoon when we finally find Trek Engineering, a company in Rustenburg in the North West. The factory is quiet as workers finish early on Fridays. But Johannes Thwesha, a shopsteward for the National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa (Numsa) is waiting patiently to tell us how his comrade and colleague, Lucky Ncube, died.
"It hurts to lose a comrade in this manner. He was just five minutes late for work and he died for that," he says.
On the morning of 20 May this year Lucky Ncube arrived at work five minutes late. He was confronted by his supervisor Ezekiel Sedumedi about his lateness. Sedumedi allegedly pushed Ncube around and he squeezed his private parts while Ncube was trying to explain why he was late.
Ncube fell against a roller conveyer and became unconscious. The supervisor allegedly continued to kick him while he was lying on the ground. Ncube eventually died.
"We were aware that this tragedy was going to happen one day. The company does not allow firearms on the premises, but management and supervisors come in with them. Sedumedi carried a gun at all times and when workers brought it to the attention of the management were ignored," Thwesha says.
Thwesha says management has been aware that Sedumedi treated workers unfairly and encouraged it.
The company's personnel manager Dan van der Westhuizen says when management learnt about Ncube's death, they were as shocked as the workers:
"This is the first time we had such tragedy and I don't think it will happen again. It is unfortunate things had to happen this way. We have suspended Sedumedi on full pay, and after the court hearing this month we are going to conduct an internal disciplinary hearing."
Numsa Rustenburg organiser Onismus Tshoga doesn't agree with Van der Westhuizen. He says the company is not sorry at all.
Thwesha says he doesn't distance management from Ncube's death. Management does not care about the wellbeing of workers, "all it cares about is production". He also says management is not sorry the incident happened.
Trek Engineering workers and the union demanded that management pay all the funeral expenses. The union and the company's management are still negotiating on the maintenance of Ncube's children. The company has agreed in principle that they should pay for the education of Ncube's children.
"We are not going to allow this to happen again. This should be the first and last time. Nobody is ever going to treat us like this again," Thwesha says.
Civic organisations are urging banks and other private sector institutions to be more socially responsible. Mziwakhe Hlangani reports.
The challenge in South Africa's housing crisis is for all stakeholders, including the government, to undertake painful reforms by ensuring favourable conditions for mass delivery and adequate access to housing for everyone, according to SA National Civic Organisation deputy general secretary Linda Mngomezulu.
Sanco's immediate priority was to ensure housing delivery became one of the priorities of all stakeholders, including banks, political parties and government, he said.
Housing and unemployment were among the country's worst problems, and closely linked: "Those jobless are the ones without shelter and these areas need to be dealt with as a matter of urgency."
The organisation sees the role of local government structures as vital and was engaging them in taking proactive steps which would considerably alleviate both housing and the unemployment crisis.
Mngomezulu said the Masakhane campaign should be made an organisational people-driven campaign by all sectors. Once Masakhane was driven by other organisations as well there would be no more perceptions of failure. It was a crucial drive by Sanco for people to pay for services in order to uplift the living conditions and quality of life, he said.
"Sanco is not ambiguous around Masakhane. We are behind Masakhane. The boycotts era is over. All should contribute positively to the economy and dealing with the social problems of this country. We therefore say the existing boycotts must be resolved," he said.
Mngomezulu attributed the long standing dispute between banks and Sanco
to the banks' "myopic approach" in charging high interest rates for low cost houses.
He said banks, in collusion with developers, were delivering defective houses with serious quality problems. Sanco had since reopened negotiations with the banks to ensure banks' commitment to quality service by the developers.
Mngomezulu lamented the exclusion of Sanco and other major stakeholders, like the building and material industry, from the record of understanding signed between banks and the government. He said simmering tensions and confrontations could have been avoided and bond boycotts, alleged exploitation of home buyers and other points of impasse would have been resolved.
"Sanco also views the intended evictions of bond defaulters to be unjustified since negotiations had to be re-opened and the record of understanding amended. Therefore, transparency and true democracy were fundamental principles in dealing with such matters that call for our participation," Mngomezulu said.
Even before these negotiations, Sanco had never called for boycotts of bond repayments. It viewed boycott actions as detrimental, not only to the economy but to prospective housing investors as well.
He said bond boycotts were not strategies to be used in the new era. Sanco had also not campaigned in favour of land invasions, he said. The organisation had merely engaged in discussions with relevant authorities to ensure land accessibility to afford people a shelter: "In a move to redress the legacy of apartheid, the housing department in the Gauteng province had made available pieces of land for resettlement of the homeless in various areas."
The housing crisis had to be addressed through methods that adopted various concepts other than the conventional bank's approved housing schemes.
"Judging from last year's successful housing delivery projects, much has been dependent on what the banks thought was the best way of providing houses. Fortunately, the government is beginning to see the importance of drifting away from using the banks as the only way," he said.
Mngomezulu said Sanco would persuade financial institutions through various strategies to play a role in financing low cost housing, since the private sector had a social responsibility to the people of this country.
"It is not for them to simply make profits. Banks have to introduce some kind of socially responsible interest rates," he said.
Sanco has urged the government to investigate the possibility of introducing a monitoring mechanism to ensure the private sector was taken to task for running away from their initial commitment, the banks in particular, through accounting to some kind of Community Reinvestment Act.
"It is a very problematic situation where businesses generates lots of profits from poor communities and decides to reinvest in other sectors and exclusive posh areas, since it ends up being a racial divide investment," he said.
Newly-appointed home affairs deputy minister Lindiwe Sisulu is determined to tackle the thorny immigration issue. Mziwakhe Hlangani spoke to her.
A complete overhaul of immigration policies is indispensable for the new democracy of South Africa, according to newly-appointed home affairs deputy minister Lindiwe Sisulu.
The government has been repeatedly accused of flouting international law on basic human rights and for being insensitive to the plight of illegal immigrants.
"There is no doubt the people of this country are becoming very xenophobic and the service we provide requires urgent overhaul, as immigration remains a problematic area.
"More work has to be done in the area of transformation of the department and in implementation of the dreaded Aliens Act legislation dealing with immigrants that was passed recently," she said.
Immigration policy is a touchy area. It has sparked xenophobic conflict. Often, the issues of legal and illegal immigrants are conflated in the minds of the public.
"Most South Africans have not been exposed to people from outside [the country]. Apartheid itself was so structured that black and white were cocooned and very few, either than those who experienced the same treatment in exile, had such exposure. Now they find themselves almost overnight faced with the influx of people from other cultures very far even beyond the borders of this continent," she said.
It was a natural reaction one would find in any country faced with the same immigration problems, she said.
Sisulu said massive education of communities was the only way to ensure that the government's immigration and foreign policies were understood. In that way insecurities would be dealt with and the people would be in tune with what was happening in government.
An educational project was scheduled to be launched jointly by the departments of home affairs and foreign affairs soon.
With the new set of laws which came into effect on 1 July, visitors travelling to South Africa either for studies, holiday tour, medication and those seeking temporary work permits were required to deposit money at South African embassies abroad. Stricter visa and permit requirements were also introduced.
South Africa had signed all the accords that give refugees protection. But the sudden influx of illegal immigrants overnight had obscured the difference between illegal immigrants and those with refugee status, she said.
"Though existing laws to deal with illegal immigrants from areas like Mozambique and other parts of the sub-continent remain, it is our feeling at the same time we are partly responsible. The old apartheid regime had devastated the development of the sub continent," she said.
For areas unable to sustain themselves, it is a natural phenomenon that when there is a place of plenty, those in surrounding underdeveloped countries areas would flock and even jump walls towards that country, she said.
Sisulu said the Immigration Board needed to be transformed to be representative of South African society: "I am led to believe that the immigration board has a lot of power in newspaper reports, but it does not reflect our society at all. We will be looking into this, and of course, I would like to see its members, and establish out how they were chosen to serve in it," she said.
The National Youth Commission was recently established to direct government policy on youth development. Mziwakhe Hlangani spoke to commission chairperson Mahlengi Bhengu.
MAYIBUYE: Youth in South Africa face enormous problems. What are the most pressing ones?
Mahlengi Bhengu: The problems affecting the youth vary from the fact that they have been a product of political marginalisation. Youth have also been a product of social marginalisation because of the legacy of apartheid that we carry with us.
As a sector youth in society have specific needs that should be catered for, even outside the framework of the political legacy that we have.
Among the specific problem issues for South African youth today are low educational levels or no education at all. The lack of educational opportunities is a particularly serious situation.
The unemployment crisis in the country is affecting young people. Joblessness itself is not the only problem. The fact that the majority of the youth are unemployable because of lack of skills, proper training and lack of education is more distressing.
Drug abuse and teenage pregnancy are also high on the list of key problems affecting youth in society. At the moment the majority of Aids carriers are, according to statistics, among youth.
A policy framework in government is urgently needed to address these issues from within different government ministries and parastatals. This is what the National Youth Commission is all about.
MAYIBUYE: What are the key objectives and responsibilities of the commission?
MB: The commission's primary function is to coordinate and develop an integrated national youth policy... which is in line with the Reconstruction and Development Programme. Part of the commission's objectives include developing principles and guidelines and making recommendations to government in regard to the implementation of such a youth policy. Also [one of the commission's tasks is] to engage in an audit of all youth programmes undertaken by the government at national and provincial levels, as well as by non-governmental organisations.
Young people and youth organisations are encouraged to maintain contact and make submissions to the youth commission around a whole range of issues affecting the youth.
The commission is in the process of setting up a secretariat in order put in place its proper administration. The commission is based in the deputy president's offices at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.
MAYIBUYE: How is the commission expected to monitor the implementation of the national youth policy and its impact on youth?
MB: As precisely expressed in the Youth Commission Act, one of the objectives of the commission is to monitor the implementation of legislation and its impact on young people. The commission is obliged to do that alongside discussions and consultations with parliamentary standing and select committees. And, we will have to do that further alongside government departments.
The commission is going to have its own vote, which means it will have its own budgets, own administration and accounts for its resources allocated to it by the government. So it will have its own separate budget vote.
At the moment there have been no specific funds allocated to the commission. But the commission is an organ in the office of the executive deputy president Thabo Mbeki. At the moment we have had discussions with the deputy president's office and are receiving assistance and taking forward our work as a new commission. But in future, we will have our own separate budget.
MAYIBUYE: What resources are at the commission's disposal and how is it expected to influence government?
MB: The commission is located in the Union Buildings right in the president's office, whose powers have been delegated to the deputy president's office. In terms of the Act the commission is required to report to cabinet, and to submit reports to the president four times a year.
At the same time the commission is empowered to make submissions anytime on its recommendations to the cabinet and the president as far as possible, in terms of the work that affects the commission. It is basically through these channels that we are going to be able to take up discussions and influence the processes in government.
MAYIBUYE: Are there any specific youth development projects in the pipeline?
MB: Talking about youth driven development basically is meant to ensure whatever policy the youth commission is to coordinate will be informed by the key objectives and the principles of reconstruction and development.
One of those principles is that development must be people-driven and people-centred. It is even more critical when it comes to young people, since the work of the commission requires youth involvement itself.
Though it is a statutory body in government, the commission must work with the young people in line with the commitment that the people of this country have made in the RDP about driving development themselves.
Certainly, specific projects will be adopted and the commission is going to coordinate these with departments and government ministries, aimed at uplifting the living conditions of young people.
MAYIBUYE: What is the commission's programme of action and when will it be presented to the commission's constituencies?
MB: The recent inaugural meeting of the commission decided to convene a National Youth Commission Summit with the main objectives of bringing together national youth organisations across the racial, religious and political spectrum. Our aim is to solicit their views on what they think a youth policy programme should contain and also to solicit views on what areas the youth programme led and coordinated in government should focus on. The other objective is to cement our relationship with youth organisations, including international youth bodies, with the aim of formalising and institutionalising those ties.
We are planning to hold a strategic workshop, or a bosberaad, of the National Youth Commission from 8-11 August, in which finality on the dates and other information relating to the summit will be reached.
MAYIBUYE: How is the commission itself structured?
MB: This commission is comprised of 19 commissioners, with five full-time office bearers, and five part-time commissioners at its national office. Another nine part-time provincial commissioners, representing provinces to the national forum, had been nominated by the respective premiers of each province and appointed by the president. So all in all it is a representative structure, [with commissioners] from different political parties and non-governmental organisations.
The commission for gender equality is almost a reality, writes Khensani Makhubela.
Throughout history, women's oppression has taken many different forms. Democracy and human rights will only be meaningful to women if the oppression of women is tackled.
National Women's Day is on 9 August. This was the day in 1956 when South African women marched on the Union Buildings in protest against pass laws. This year, on the 40th anniversary of that march, the Commission for Gender Equality, which is required by the interim constitution, is about to be set up.
The commission is intended to promote gender equality, and advise and make recommendations to parliament or any legislature about laws which affect gender equality or the status of women.
The functions of the Commission for Gender Equality are to:
"There is a general consensus inside the country and internationally that countries do need a specialised policy machinery for the advancement of women and the mainstreaming of gender in general. This machinery concept stems from the view that no government activity or even private sector activity is likely to be gender neutral and thus a need for a special tool to ensure that policies are monitored and programmes audited for their gender specific effects," says Angie Ramorola, director in the deputy president's office.
"South Africans, after considering the strengths and awareness of other machineries, decided on having the Commission for Gender Equality as the main tool for ensuring that the programme for gender equality succeeds," she says.
The commission is a constitutional mechanism which has been created to ensure that the rights of gender equality are protected and entrenched, explains welfare ministry spokesperson Brian Sokutu.
"The Act is very strong on the protection and entrenchment of the rights on gender equality. It is so strong that there were even fears expressed that its powers could even have a harsh backlash," Ramorola says.
"The commission has investigation powers, it may require a person to appear before it; it may compel any person to answer all questions put to him or her; it may enter and search any premises or person; attach anything on the person and premises which have a bearing on the investigation," she says.
The commission can only act if it receives a complaint about the violation of rights on the basis of gender or sex. It will conduct investigations with due regard to the circumstances of each complaint. The problems of the most marginalised and disadvantaged groups should be the guiding factors to achieving and addressing gender inequality.
The commission may also order that expenses incurred by any individual during an investigation be paid by the state, Sokutu says.
He further says, "if a person who without a just cause, refuses to comply, gives false evidence, defames the commission, influences its proceedings or acts contrary to the authority of a warrant [they] shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months."
A new national programme aims to address the needs of South Africa's children, Khensani Makhubela reports.
The National Programme of Action for Children - a coordinated strategy to provide for the needs of South Africa's children - was launched by the health ministry in May. The launch of the programme or NPA emphasised the commitment of the government towards the improvement of the wellbeing of children in South Africa. The ministry, various non-governmental organisations and the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) are all involved in the implementation of the NPA.
At the launch of the programme president Nelson Mandela said: "In launching comprehensive and long-term programmes, sight is sometimes lost of immediate needs and particular problems. It is not the intention that the launch of this programme should be at the expense of any children anywhere, nor of the organisations which played an important role when government neglected our children. On the contrary, such a programme should involve steps to deal with existing problems and to assist the organisations to adapt their roles to present needs."
South Africa has adapted the World Summit goals for the year 2000 to meet the needs of its children. By ratifying the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in the 1995 parliamentary session and accepting the 1990 World Summit for Children's goals for survival, protection and development, the government has committed itself to placing children's affairs as a top priority.
The NPA aims to strengthen broader nation development programmes, combining revitalised economic growth, poverty reduction, human resource development and environmental protection. And at the same time, the provinces are also encouraged to implement plans of action for children, taking into consideration the inter-sectoral nature of the challenge.
Having a specific integrated programme to ensure the survival, protection and development of South Africa's children is therefore a vital element in building an economically dynamic and healthy nation. Children can be the country's spearhead for attacking poverty, reinforcing human rights, and accelerating growth and development.
Such a programme will also help alleviate the urgent plight of the children of today, the principal victims of yesterday's neglect of the majority of South Africa's people.
"South Africa has the resources, if we use them wisely, to change the situation. There is no reason for our society to allow one out of every eight children born to die before their fifth birthday; and a quarter of those that survive to grow up physically stunted," Mandela said.
"It should not continue to be the case that more than half of rural South Africans live over five kilometres from a medical facility. The extent of illiteracy amongst adults and emotional disturbance amongst young children must not be part of our future," he said.
The health ministry said that tackling the needs of children called for a comprehensive approach that affected all areas of policy, legislation and practice. And this will mean that departments and offices of government at all levels should cooperate and join hands with non-governmental organisations and all sectors of society.
The ministry said that they must find ways to unleash the power and wisdom of all South Africans in this endeavour. Effective implementation requires a reliable monitoring and information system to measure progress and identify further needs. The needs, the targets and the progress should be known not just to decision-makers, but to ordinary people throughout the country.
In that way they too can help in mobilising resources, rejoice in progress and successes, and urge more action when it is needed. Improving the welfare of the children should become as much a part of the new patriotism as success on the sporting field and progress in overcoming the divisions of the past.
A report to the United Nations on the progress that South Africa has made towards improving the wellbeing of children by implementing the NPA is due in June 1997.
The South African tourism industry need to give visitors a taste of the real South Africa, its people and its cultures, writes Mtutuzeli Matshoba.
Numerous ideas to boost South African tourism have been suggested by various stakeholders in the industry. Most of the ideas revolve around luxurious packages in cities and holiday resorts as well as safaris into game parks.
The human factor is limited to the employees of the industry who are paid to be friendly, and who probably like to get away from the tourists to get on with their own lives as soon as their daily contractual liability is over.
There are several reasons why this is so. During apartheid it was government policy and subsequently that of the white monopolist tourism industry to suppress the colourful diversity of indigenous culture and to wish away the vast majority of the people of South Africa. As a result the industry ended up offering tourists a bit of Europe and America in Africa, and perhaps the spectacular game reserve bush.
Apart from the safaris, there is nothing unique about South African tourism, because having been designed, among other things, to sell apartheid to the world, it continues to do so. For instance, all tourist accommodation facilities are limited to what are still effectively white areas, while the legend of crime infested black areas is either overstated or even perpetuated to ensure that tourism remains a white monopoly.
Yet, ask Jimmy Ntintili and other Africans who are pioneering into the industry and they will almost all agree that their best drawcard is the people of South Africa who were hidden behind the mine dumps by apartheid. The fascination with the cultures which have hitherto been undermined, with the people who were heard about but not supposed to be seen, let alone be heard, is irresistible to the curiosity of the free world.
There are no monuments and entertainment facilities in the black areas but, even when apartheid was still the order of the day, there was a continuous stream of South African whites and foreigners into the so-called black areas or township to savour the magic of 'ubuntu' where a stranger is stopped in the street and invited in for a meal or a drink and a photo session just because they are a stranger. African non-governmental, community-based workers and political organisations have been the main protagonists of this 'informal tourism'.
Without the 'discovery' element, tourism is no more than just a guided hike or drive. 'Discovery' lies in the mystery of strange cultures. People flock to the Mediterranean shores and the Orient to rediscover themselves in the mysteries of the cultures which have survived time in those parts of the world. Without culture as part of the package, South African tourism will never see its full potential.
Culture is nothing but the people. When people visit other countries, they not only do it to marvel at the landscape and the animals and the facilities, but also to learn something of the way of life of their hosts.
The South African tourism industry should not make the mistake of perceiving itself as the hosts of visitors to the country. It is merely the facilitator. The hosts are the people of South Africa. Tourists want to make friends if they are to recommend or return to any destination. Stone-faced waiters and programmed guides are not the most attractive product to tourists. They want to learn a few words of the indigenous languages; to learn a few dance steps; collect a few indigenous recipes, clothes, art, literature; and most of all make friends. If a tourist buys a set of beads they want to know who made it, its significance.
Therefore, a word of wisdom for the tourist industry: Ignore the human/cultural element and go begging; promote the human/cultural element and grow. Most, if not all, foreign visitors who are asked about their experience in South Africa, never forget to mention the generosity of the people of South Africa - not the generosity they buy at hotels, but the human generosity.
To achieve this the tourism industry needs to nurture the indigenous cultures, invite and take the tourists to experience the cultures. The plural is used to highlight the fact that we have an abundance of culture to share with the rest of the world. Surely we are no worse off than some of the South American countries and tropical islands which survive only on tourism. People often want to escape the rigours of the first world to be part of the so-called third world's closeness with the elements.
In fact, so ashamed of the culture of apartheid was the tourism industry, that it also became ashamed of South African culture as a whole. Hence its limitation to the 'first world' or frankly Eurocentric patches of the country, which reduces our tourism to selling ice to eskimos. The tourism industry can play a leading role in opening the doors of South African culture for the world and in the process make profits for themselves and the country.
On the fiftieth anniversary of the 1946 mineworkers strike, Marcus Toerien of The Shopsteward magazine looks at the significance of this historic event.
On the morning of Monday, 12 August 1946, some sixty years after the start of South Africa's gold-mining industry, one of the most important strikes ever to be staged in South Africa began.
Among the few participants still alive today, the strike is best remembered as the 'Ten Shillings Strike', in recognition of the demand for a wage of ten shillings (about one rand) a day. Although not the first large-scale strike by African mineworkers to rock the industry - there had been one in 1920 involving similar numbers - it was at the time the biggest to be organised under a union banner, and with union recognition as one of its core demands. The strike changed many things, not least of which was the way the liberation struggle was to be conducted.
Popular history has it that when shifts were to commence that Monday, thousands of African mineworkers at mines across the Reef downed tools.
The strike started off fairly small and localised, but grew rapidly, eventually involving some 70,000 miners.
The Star of Thursday 15 August reported that all but two of the reef's 45 producing mines were working normally. On Tuesday 13 August, the Council of Non-European Trade Unions' leadership called for a general strike in support of the African Mine Workers' Union (AMWU). This failed to materialise as police mounted watches over train stations and bus terminuses. Calls to white workers to rally to the defence of African mineworkers went unheeded.
Over the course of the ensuing week, the strike was routed. Strikers and volunteers staffing the AMWU office were arrested. Underground sit-ins were broken up and workers were driven back to their compounds at bayonet point.
On some mines, strikers were driven back to work underground. Marches were violently broken up on the East and West Rand. The AMWU offices were ransacked by police. The incidents of violence against strikers are documented in the Rand Daily Mail and The Star of that week. The strike was brutally crushed. Twelve workers were killed and 1,200 injured.
The war years and the origins of the AMWU
Prior to, and during the early stages of World War II, gold-mining capitalism organised in the Transvaal Chamber of Mines exercised a stranglehold over the economy. Virtually every aspect of government social and economic policy - the pass laws, job reservation, taxation - was geared to ensuring a stable supply of labour and profits for the mining industry.
But as the war progressed, secondary manufacturing industry experienced a relative boom, based on a form of import-substitution. The period was effectively a war economy. As white workers - unskilled, semi-skilled, skilled, and supervisory - were drafted as soldiers into the war effort, a few black workers made their way into positions in sections of industry to replace them. On the mines, a few African workers even entered low-level supervisory positions, resulting in the formation of the Native Mine Clerks' Association. African unionisation grew.
In 1941, communists within the ANC - led by JB Marks - pushed for the establishing of the AMWU. The decision to sponsor the formation of the AMWU, as A Distant Clap of Thunder, the 1986 commemorative publication of the SACP, asserts, marked "...a decisive turn away [for the ANC]from its traditional sources of support - the educated elite and professional classes - towards a new constituency in the black working class..." In the same year the CNETU was formed, with Gana Makabeni and Dan Tloome at its helm.
By 1944, the AMWU claimed 25,000 members. A year later, the CNETU claimed 158,000 members in 119 affiliate unions. Throughout the war years strikes were not uncommon, as unionised and non-unionised African workers seized the opportunity to push for improvements in living standards. Even the introduction of War Measure 145 by the Smuts government prohibiting strikes failed to deter them.
But white soldiers returning from war duty demanded to be placed back in their former jobs, and to be shielded from the creeping competition to employment opportunities from black workers, notwithstanding the existence of the Colour Bar Act. Indeed, War Measures introduced in 1940/1 guaranteed civilians drafted into the armed forces their jobs upon demobilisation.
Some 250,000 men and women were seeking re-absorption at the end of the war.
During the war black workers made comparatively dramatic advances in wages, mainly as a result of a paternal Labour Minister, Wadeley, and the desire of the Union government to keep war production on track. The CNETU during this period actively sought to discourage strikes and mounted no serious campaigns amongst its affiliates. On the contrary, it cosied up to Wadeley, even inviting him to address its founding conference.
Conditions and living standards on the Reef's gold mines, however, did not mirror the modest achievements of organised African workers elsewhere in the economy. The Transvaal Chamber of Mines steadfastly refused to recognise the AMWU, and continued to peg wages at the absolute minimum cost of the reproduction of African mine labour. The mining bosses of the time argued that the incomes of African miners were supplemented by subsistence production on the reserves, ignoring the wastelands that these had become.
The 1943 Lansdown Commission investigation into the conditions of African miners recommended a small increase in wages, but refused to recommend to the Chamber recognition of the AMWU. The immediate cause of the 1946 strike then was the issue of the quality of food rations served to mineworkers in the compounds. But there is no gainsaying that African miners had been increasingly frustrated over the war years in their quest for recognition of their union, for decent wages, for an end to the compound system, and an end to the systematic brutalisation of their world of work. Persistent representations and deputations to the Minister of Labour and the Chamber by the AMWU had met with no success.
The strike aftermath
The consequences of the suppression and failure of the strike were devastating. The Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA) which had enjoyed a measure of institutional toleration during the war years, saw much of its leadership - and the entire Johannesburg District committee of the party - hauled up on sedition charges in the aftermath of the strike. This resulted in a systematic series of measures to destroy the CPSA, culminating in the Suppression of Communism Act in 1950.
White soldiers who had returned from the war at the end of the previous year to find many of their jobs filled by Africans, ditched Smuts and the United Party, and voted Malan's National Party into power in 1948 on promises of, inter alia, tighter regulation of African movement and access to skilled and semi-skilled employment. What was to become apartheid, was on the march.
The AMWU and its parent body, the CNETU, until then the leading non-racial federation with an explicitly political opposition to the state (in contrast to the South African Trades and Labour Council), began to disintegrate, and eventually folded. Effective African mineworkers'
organisation was stymied for more than three decades, and they did not respond again in such numbers to calls for strike action for more than forty years. Mining capital had succeeded in subduing African labour's resistance, and the stage was set for it's domination of South Africa's political and economic development for the next period.
A failed strike?
Many historians have held that the strike was probably mistimed. Had it happened during the war years, they argue, there is every chance that it would fundamentally have altered the course of African unionisation and worker rights, and indeed of South African history. There appeared to be a reluctance (paralysis?) on the part of unions and the ANC to confront the mining industry at a time when it was most vulnerable, an opportunity that would not come again for several decades.
part of the reason for this lies in the reluctance of the CPSA, and the communists within the CNETU leadership, to disrupt the war effort after Hitler invaded the Soviet Union. For the Second International, the struggle against fascism became its rallying platform in the war years. The ANC in turn believed that supporting Britain and the Allies would pay off in the struggle against racial domination.
It was also a time in which some sections of the working class - the newly proletarianised - began to experience for the first time the relative comforts/benefits of waged labour, and were reluctant to jeopardise this.
For the Smuts government and the Transvaal Chamber of Mines, there was too much at stake. They knew that conceding to demands for recognition of a union for African mineworkers would spell the beginning of an assault on the power they had hitherto exercised, unchallenged. Despite the esteem in which Smuts was held abroad - benign, paternal, a humanist, one of the founding fathers of the United Nations - he had no hesitation in siding with the mining employers and using his armed forces to crush the strike.
The bonds that have held together the ANC's alliance with the SA Communist Party will not break soon, president Nelson Mandela told the SACP's 75th anniversary celebrations. This is an edited version of his speech.
The 75th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party is a special occasion for South Africa. It is special because of the critical role the Party has played in our country's history, because of its relevance to today's politics; and because it is bound to make an impact on the future of our society.
We, in the ANC, wish you all the best not merely out of sentiment. We know too well from the rich history of struggle that a party such as yours, which puts the interests of the poor and the voiceless at the top of its agenda, is indeed an asset to our society.
We know that the strand of liberation politics you expound is critical in enriching debate in our country. It is crucial in reinforcing the task of the Alliance to ensure that the powerless are not a forgotten mass, to be remembered only during election campaigns.
As such, we celebrate with you today, to acknowledge an Alliance that is more than just a matter of theory.
The children who sleep in the streets, reduced to begging to make a living are testimony to an unfinished job. The families who live in shacks with no running water, sanitation and electricity are a reminder that the past continues to haunt the present.
The trail of poverty, illiteracy and poor health that is the lot of millions, is their cry of anguish; and they look up to the ANC and its allies to organise and mobilise them to improve their own lives.
We should not allow South African politics to be relegated to trivialities chosen precisely because they salve the consciences of the rich and powerful, and conceal the plight of the poor and powerless.
Such is the significance of the anniversary we mark today. Such are the challenges that political freedom has put before us.
The Alliance between the ANC and the Communist Party is therefore a natural result of a reality of social life that pervades our nation to this day. It is not a product of statements in the media, no matter how well - or ill-conceived. Its future will, therefore, depend on changes to that social reality, and not on the wishes of individuals or statements in the media.
To the extent that the ANC, the Party and COSATU, as well as other democratic organisations will find one another among the poor and disadvantaged, pursuing the same objectives, to that extent shall we continue to work together to bring about a better life.
For some of us on this day, memories come hushing back about our own experiences in the crucible of struggle. Events unfold in our mind's eye about suspicions allayed and views enriched in the theatre of real struggle. And names of South African greats, communists and humanists in one, pour out in a staccato of emotional remembrances.
Gaur Radebe - independent and defiant - whom I met in my truly formative political years when I first arrived in Johannesburg.
Moses Kotane, Dan Tloome, David Bopape and JB Marks - men of great intellect and confidence - who taught us through force of example that mere formal education was not the real test of political leadership.
JN Singh, Yusuf Dadoo, MD Naidoo, Hettie du Preez and John Gomas - outstanding leaders of the Coloured and Indian communities - who understood the relationship between the interests of their communities and the national interest.
Nat Bregman, Michael Harmel, Bram Fischer, Jack Simons, Ruth First and Joe Slovo - privileged and capable of rising in white society - but men and woman who challenged racism and put aside prospective comforts to join the poor and oppressed in the trenches of struggle.
I mention these - and there are many more men and women - members of the Communist Party who were critical in shaping the national liberation movement after the Second World War; and in that way, in shaping leaders like myself who had just entered the theatre of liberation politics.
I mention them too, because of their depth of leadership which we sorely miss. They helped give us a broader view of the world; and forged the Alliance as we have it today.
These Communists influenced us. And we influenced them too. If anyone wants to argue that they used us; we shall retort back to say we used them too.
It is this mutual enrichment that has characterised our relationship. And this is not about to change - whether it be in the ANC's relations with the Party or with the trade union movement. There is no patronage in our Alliance. There is no trusteeship. There is none who constitutes the sole repository of ideas and wisdom. We are sovereign organisations, and none dictates to the other.
We therefore reject the notion that the ANC or the government is hostage to some other organisation. We reject it with disdain because it reflects racism, or contempt for the poor, or political opportunism - or indeed, a combination of all three.
Ours is an Alliance that recognises the leading role of the ANC; not by mere declarations, but because it is the force that brings together all the strands, the classes, strata and groups that are the dynamo of liberation and social change. All these forces have found a home in the ANC because it represents the social and political base for real freedom, for the transformation of our society into a truly democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and united nation.
In giving leadership to this process of change, the ANC has to take into account primarily the interests of the poor; the employed and unemployed, the organised and the unorganised, the urban rural communities. It has to promote the interests of those previously disadvantaged by the apartheid system; professionals, business-persons, students, academics and others. It should built a better life for all.
The ANC is a national liberation movement and not a sectoral organisation.
It is in this context that debate and discussion should be understood within the ranks of the Alliance. This includes discussion on the issue of the best macro-economic approach needed, in the current period, to take our country out of this quagmire of what some have described as "jobless growth".
Such debate and discussion, however, should not cloud the fundamental agreement that exists in the Alliance about the Reconstruction and Development Programme, about the strategic objective that we all share to achieve a normal and prosperous society.
This requires rapid economic growth; it requires investments that create jobs; it requires that we spend within our means as government and spend mainly in socially productive sectors; it requires that we take measures that will prevent galloping price rises; it requires that we acknowledge the realities of the world in which we live.
And it does not need computers to establish that such measures will be in the interest of the country, and particularly the poor; that the realisation of the RDP depends on these bold steps.
The Macroeconomic Strategy adopted by government seeks to achieve these objectives, so that we can have a 6 percent rate of growth and create close on the half-a-million jobs, per year, by the end of the decade.
This strategy is government policy. Its fundamentals are not up for negotiation. Yet we do know that such frameworks rely on assumptions based on an assessment of concrete conditions. As with the implementation of any other area of policy, if conditions change and assumptions are not borne out in practice, then a review may be necessary. Nor does the existence of policy mean that discussion around it should be forbidden, or that the details should not be debated.
An impression has been created that a major clash is looming in the Alliance. There is no such major clash on the horizon. The staying power of the Alliance is its ability to debate issues openly and frankly; and it is out of such debate that the best course is established. This is our experience from struggle, and it will continue to guide us into the future.
We must, however, be honest to say that, in government, there will be instances where urgent and bold decisions will have to be taken. And on that count, we shall not shirk our responsibility. We must acknowledge, too, that some of the decisions may not be popular with everyone; and on that count, we shall continue to engage all interested parties to persuade them to our point of view.
In such discussion, within the Alliance and in society in general, it would be the height of folly for anyone to seek merely to co-opt others. It would be erroneous for one sector of society to sue for the victory of a sectarian approach, at the expense of other social forces whose cooperation is critical for the success of a programme.
Over the years, members of the Party have played an important role in the trenches of the liberation struggle.
Some, like Ruth First, Chris Hani and "Obadi" Mokgabudi were cut down by bombs and bullets. Moses Kotane, JB Marks, Moses Mabhida, Michael Harmel, James Phillips, Alex la Guma, MP Naicker and Yusuf Dadoo lie in far away lands. Dan Tloome, Harry Gwala, Joe Slovo and NJ Singh may be near by, but we can no longer tap their enormous talents and their great wisdom.
With all of them, we shall continue to draw, from memory, the best contributions that they made to bring us to where we are. We shall ensure that future generations do not forget the legion of great freedom fighters - communist and non-communist - as we build the better life they envisioned.
Today we pay tribute to all of them; the founders of our Rainbow Nation. And in their name, we shall soldier on to realise the ideals of the reconstruction and development of South African society.
After his appointment as education deputy minister, Father Smangaliso Mkhatshwa explains to Mziwakhe Hlangani that he his just strengthening the traditional ties between school and church.
Newly-appointed deputy minister of education Smangaliso Mkhatshwa still sees the church as the solid foundation of education and training. The former secretary general of the South African Catholics Bishops Conference, Mkhatshwa's election to parliament in 1994 triggered a bitter row within his church.
The relationship between the church and politics is as old as the founding of the ANC itself, he says.
From the establishment of the ANC in 1912, "men of the cloth" had always been at the forefront of the struggle against apartheid and the involvement of those high profile church leaders had ensured a strong church influence in the struggle against apartheid, he says.
The relationship between the church and politics goes far beyond struggles against racism, and for social justice, to sharing every common good value, he says.
"I come from the church that has been and still is associated with education and training for many years. Most of the best universities around the world have been founded by churches and some are still run by church-related organisations" he said.
Explaining the vehement opposition from his church to his nomination to parliament, he said the church was justified in terms of existing Canon Law 265 which forbids members of the clergy from taking political positions in public office.
In his case, however, the same Canon Law had room for exception that in extra-ordinary circumstances Bishop Paul Nkumishe of the Witbank diocese could allow him to take up such a position during the transitional period between 1994 to 1999, after broad consultation with the church advisory committee
"In the five year transition era, the situation is of such a nature that the church has to continue its contribution towards the ongoing liberation of the people as it has done in the past. Hopefully, after 1999 the situation then would have changed to normal like any other country," he said.
He explained that his appointment to the education ministry fell within that agreement.
"I see myself joining a team headed by Professor Sibusiso Bengu where he is required to try and inculcate particularly moral and spiritual values to prepare the youth [through] education for life," he said.
A totally distorted view had been created about what Christianity and the church were really about, he said. The reason was that churches like the Dutch Reformed Church, which professed to promote spiritual and moral values, had defended apartheid on scriptural grounds. This had led to a large extent to communities being critical of the church's role. But, the fact that the majority christians were opposed to apartheid had saved the image of the church.
In a holistic approach, Mkhatshwa pointed out, education had to prepare not only highly sophisticated, very skilled and educated youth technocrats, but had to make sure that their preparation for life "does not get awfully distorted".
It is a situation where people do not simply avoid corruption because they fear police arrest and jail terms, he explained. "It is a matter of preparing a society that detest immoral activities because it dehumanises people. Those are moral values that wipe out evil activities that destroy the social fibre of the community."
Mkhatshwa's priority objective is to see the whole culture of learning and teaching becoming a reality as reflected in the Freedom Charter.
Without focussing on transformation, access to education and addressing all the past inequities in the educational system, reconciliation remained superficial, he said.
"I am committed to the building of a new nation, a new country with a level of education and training that provides skills to the members of the community, because this in turn determines the quality of democracy," he said.
Mkhatshwa also warned that the government should be aware that the education sector in this country was a highly contested area. The fact that single langauge in education was one of three critical issues which nearly brought the constitution-making process to a halt, he said, demonstrated this.
Mkhatshwa also felt very strongly about the remaining elements in tertiary education institutions who were bent on maintaining the old racist systems by resisting transformation.
It is going to be a real challenge for the government, he said, pointing out that the department was dealing with a special opposition that had vested interests in the status quo .
Born in Barberton in 1939, Mkhatshwa spent most his time in Pietersburg doing primary and high school education. He went to a teachers college, but on completion he decided pursue ministry in the Roman Catholic Church.
He was sent to the Natal Seminary to finish his theological studies and graduated in Pretoria. Thereafter, he went complete his post graduate studies in Belgium's University of Lewen.
Back home he worked for the Southern African Catholics Bishops Conference for 18 years, half of that time as its secretary general.
Mkhatshwa, with his catholic tastes in music, loves jazz, classical, mbaqanga and pop. In sport he is committed to playing golf and tennis. He enjoys movies.
The cabinet recently approved a Bill which, if passed by parliament, would make legal abortions more accessible to all South Africans. Khensani Makhubela spoke to some people about their views on the issue.
Ntombi Makhuvu says that abortion should be legalised in South Africa: "Every woman has the right to her body. People should not impose their views on other people's bodies. After all, it is cheaper to have an abortion than to have a child that you are not ready for," Makhuvu says.
"It is painful to bring up a child you feel that you cannot provide for because you cannot afford to. I am aware that one should take precautions before indulging in sex, but that does not guarantee that you won't fall pregnant, and this leads to unwanted pregnancy," Makhuvu says. She also says this does not happen to teenagers only, but to married couples as well.
Ayanda Noruwana and Mgqibelo Gasela say that abortion affects two people who have fathered and mothered the child. "Religious groups talk about it, but they do nothing about it because they are also not sure of their reservations on abortion. Whether they like it or not, street abortions are being performed and unfortunately women are dying because of them," Noruwana says.
Gasela adds: "Better facilities should be made available for people who want to have an abortion, because street abortions are very dangerous. People tend to say abortion is murder but they do not consider the lives of those who die while undergoing street abortions."
Noruwana says people do not opt for abortions because they want to, but needs force them to do so. She feels people who are anti-abortion normally have double standards.
"Abortion will minimise the problem of street children. People do not dump their children because they want to, but because they will be carrying unwanted pregnancies, which in the past the law would not allow them to terminate," says Bridget Saraiva.
Saraiva says abortion should be left to an individual. She says people should not get involved in what does not concern them.
Shari Lagoudis agrees with Saraiva: "Abortion is fine because it is not fair to bring an unwanted baby into this cruel world. Teenage pregnancy is very common in this country and it costs a lot of money to bring up a child. Because of the lack of finance, children born from teenagers get neglected and it leads the children to the streets where it is not safe. Abortion should be left to an individual."
"Whether we like it or not, whether we agree or do not agree with abortion every other five minutes someone is performing a street abortion or a surgical one by the same doctors who say abortion is murder," Mbali Buthelezi says.
"It is not fair that we are losing so many people due to street abortions. The people who can afford to have surgical abortions are the very people who say they are anti abortion," she says.
Keleboyile Seate and Ntombi Madonsela disagree with Buthelezi. They say abortion is murder.
"Abortion is not good at all. A person knows the consequences of having sex. If you have sex you know it very well that you are likely to have a baby so why do it when you know that you don't want a baby," asks Seate. She says never abort your child because your parents did not abort you. She says you never know you might be killing a future president.
"Abortion is wrong. You can use contraceptives to prevent pregnancy. If you know that you cannot afford to take care of the baby, you can take it for adoption where the child will be taken care of," Madonsela says.
Mpho Nkoane says that abortion is not a good move unless one is raped. "If you feel you will not be able to take care of the baby you can take it to an orphanage home where the child will be brought up with love and care," she says.
"I think if it is rape one can consider abortion because it will not be fair for one to carry an unwanted baby from an unwanted man," Nkoane says.
"Abortion is a crime, if one terminates life of an innocent baby the government has the right to sentence him or her for life. A baby has a right to live, just because it has no say you think you can kill any time you feel like, it is wrong," says Lucas Vhilikazi.
Boitumelo Ngcezula says teenage pregnancy should not be an excuse to terminate life. "Give the child you are carrying a chance to live. Don't be a murderer, do not ruin your future by doing what you will regret at the end of the day," she says.
Louise Adams says abortion is murder and it is life that it is being taken away. "You should not kill an innocent baby. It should not pay for your sins, if you feel you cannot have that baby you will rather give it for adoption," she says.
Dudu Mokgwatlheng feels that abortion should be performed at an early stage of pregnancy. She says it is very dangerous to perform an abortion after three months of pregnancy.
"By legalising abortion it does not mean that people are being given the licence to murder innocent babies. Abortion should be considered for special cases like rape, mental illness and depression," Mokgwatlheng says.
The government's new draft arts policy plans to redirect funding to address cultural inequalities, writes Khensani Makhubela.
The recently-released white paper on arts and culture recognises the cultural diversity and celebrates the rich tapestry of the South African nation, according to arts, culture, technology and science deputy minister Brigitte Mabandla.
The ministry's mission is to "realise the full potential of arts, culture, science and technology in social and economic development, nurture creativity and innovation and to promote the diverse heritage of the nation".
The government is faced with the urgent task of creating an environment for sustainable economic and social growth and development, Mabandla says. "The awareness of developing arts, culture, science and technology is vital in this process. South Africa has never had coherent policy in any of these areas," she says.
"Arts and culture is imperative for nation building, enhancing national identity and pride in being South African. Arts and culture are also as yet untapped economic resources. The cultural industries are multi-billion rand industries that can contribute significantly to development, job creation, economic growth and earning foreign exchange," Mabandla says.
"In many countries, culture is big business and we need both to maximise the viability of the cultural industries and to ensure that the public derives the greatest possible benefits," she says.
Like every other sector of our society, arts, culture and heritage have been fundamentally affected by the structured inequalities of our past, Mabandla says. "What we inherited from the past regime is a gross distortion of our cultural heritage, and in effect the greatest challenge of the ministry is to correct these distortions."
The ministry is faced with a situation in which the culture of the majority of South Africans has been neglected. Culture has however played an important role in resisting oppression: "We have a strong tradition of cultural resistance in this country, which we must build."
"In the area of heritage there are vast sites of historic, cultural and archaeological importance which were never afforded official recognition in the past. This is because the philosophy underpinning apartheid undermined the cultural heritage of the black people," Mabandla says.
There is also a need for new monuments to correct the distortions of the history and politics of this country, she says.
There is a task team working on the new legislation to be called the National Heritage Resources Act which will replace the Monuments Council. The council will have a wider sphere of operation as it will be charged with the task of declaring and managing national heritage resources important to all South Africans.
The policies of the ministry of arts, culture, science and technology are essentially informed by the constitutional principles of equality, fairness and non discrimination. The ministry therefore is defining a policy to meet these standards.
"In our draft white paper we propose that there should be a National Arts Council which will fund all arts and culture activities. Whereas previous policy allocated the bulk of funds to the councils, funds will now be spread out among different art forms and institutions through the council," Mabandla says.
"It is our belief that the introduction of a competitive environment will encourage the blossoming of the nations's arts and culture," she says.
Govan Mbeki's new book is a fascinating story of the darkness - and subsequent light - which accompanied the end of apartheid, writes Steyn Speed.
Govan Mbeki's new book, Sunset at Midday, is a brief - yet riveting - account of the last years of apartheid. Mbeki, an ANC and SACP stalwart, seeks to explain the forces behind the fall of apartheid and looks particularly at the role of the ANC.
Being an insider, and currently an ANC senator, Mbeki has no pretensions at being non-partisan. From the outset, he is quite open about his political allegiances - which is fortunate, because he would have difficulty hiding them.
This openness is refreshing in an area in which authors of historical books try as hard as possible to be 'objective'. They present their works as 'scholarly examinations' of historical events, and try to obscure their own beliefs. They seldom manage.
Mbeki's book is free of such pretence. He openly aligns himself with the struggle for democracy, frequently talking about "we" and "us".
Sunset at Midday traces very briefly the roots of the apartheid system, making links between the development of apartheid ideology and the growth of European facism and nazism. Mbeki identifies two important elements in the success of the struggle against apartheid, and devotes some space to sketching their history. These are the development of the trade union movement, particularly from the early 1970s, and the student movement, culminating in the 1976 uprising.
Mbeki also discusses the ANC after its banning in 1960, and its struggle to recover from the destruction of its internal structures and the Rivonia trial. He describes the building of Umkhonto we Sizwe and the ANC underground, and how it managed to link up with the labour and student movements.
The book maintains that the formation of mass-based organisations in the early 1980s, culminating in the formation of the United Democratic Front in 1983, was largely inspired and directed by the ANC, which was consciously trying to build legal organisations in the country in opposition to the apartheid state.
The book describes the brutality of the states of emergency and the dark years of repression - the sunset at midday. It devotes quite a bit of attention to the theoretical motivation for the government's total strategy, its attempts to wipe out opposition, while trying to win the 'hearts and minds' of the people. It credits a Harvard University professor Samuel Huntington - 'one of the top political scientists in the world and perhaps the foremost authority on the subject of reform and stability in modernising multi-ethnic societies' - as having heavily influenced the direction that the NP government took in dealing with reform and resistance.
Mbeki describes the "change of gear" which took place when it became clear to PW Botha and his government that their strategies weren't working. The government started to look at achieving its objectives through the strategy of negotiations. Mbeki traces the roots of this strategy in the Botha era, and how it was developed - and implemented - by FW de Klerk and his colleagues.
For people who don't like to know how a book ends, Sunset at Midday is a bit disappointing. For we all know what happened to apartheid. What is fascinating though, is how we got there.
If there is a conclusion to the book, it is probably this: "It is doubtful whether history can provide a comparable example of a tyrant loosening his grip on power and allowing it to be negotiated into the hands of the enemy. But it is important to acknowledge that the apartheid regime was forced into handing over power by the sheer weight of millions of people who had been mobilised into an irresistible force."
Sunset at Midday is easy to read and well-written. It does expect that the reader has some knowledge of South Africa's recent history, and therefore skips out on a lot of background information.
One of the book's few drawbacks is its brevity. It is a bit too short, covering whole decades of events in just a few pages. Yet this might also be one of the book's strengths: it can be read and understood quickly, without too much effort.
Sunset at Midday is not a comprehensive or exhaustive account of the death of apartheid. Yet it is an important contribution, which includes some new insights, into a period which will undoubtedly be scrupulously studied by authors, academics and activists alike for several years to come.
Title: Sunset at Midday (Latshon' ilang' emini)
Author: Govan Mbeki
Publisher: Nolwazi Educational Publishers