27 April 2013

We have our Freedom, But The Struggle Continues For a Better Life for All

It was 16 days after the assassination of Chris Hani and 14 days after the death of Oliver Tambo that FW de Klerk was forced to announced, through both national and international pressure and unsustainable resistance by his apartheid regime, that he had to succumb and announce that in 12 months, there will be ‘One Man One Vote”.

This announcement came at a significant cost as thousands of black South Africans, over and above Chris Hani and Oliver Tambo, sacrificed their lives in sanctioned and unsanctioned ‘low intensity war’ that was sponsored by the regime.

The majority of our people celebrated this monumental announcement and hoped that there would be peace and that ultimately, the blood shed would stop. There were others who hoped were opposed to the negotiations process itself, the IFP, the Conservative Party, the AWB, the PAC and AZAPO. There were intensive engagements within the liberation movement about what the prospects of negotiations would yield and what compromises should be reached in order to set up a new government and begin the long arduous road of rebuilding the economy, political institutions, adopting a new constitution and setting up a new parliament. Ultimately, most political parties started preparing ground for the elections campaign, voter education, registration of voters and setting up election’s the rules.

Thus, 19 years ago, on 27 April 1994, South Africa became a new country. This was not some ‘Madiba Magic’. It was not out of the goodness of the heart of FW de Klerk. It was through struggle. Although millions of lives of South Africans died; many of them unknown unlike Hani, Tambo or Solomon Mahlangu; we did not see uMkhonto we Sizwe marching into the Union Buildings and taking the seat of power and transferring it into the hands of the majority of our people.

Negotiations were entered into in order to stop more blood-letting. Compromises were reached in order to enter into a transition. A future was built for a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous society. This was the essence of what Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Ahmed Kathrada, Andrew Mlangeni, Elias Motsoaledi, Joe Slovo, Dennis Goldberg and many others took up arms, went to prison, went into exile and even sacrificed their lives for.

The key question is, how far are we and how long do we have to go to achieve their vision of a truly united South Africa.

19 Years Later…

South Africa has indeed changed since then. We have a constitution that all our people hold supreme and are prepared to defend with their lives. Everyone has the right to participate in elections and Vote for a Party of their choice. Everyone has the freedom to express themselves without fear of arrest, banishment or incarceration. Everyone has the right to participate in the economy. Everyone has the right to a fair judicial process. All of these rights should not be taken for granted. They are rights which we should never allow, irrespective of which political party comes to power, to be taken away from us. They are rights which sets the process towards common prosperity, equality, human rights, political rights and social justice.

Many politicians and political parties will claim that these rights came as a result of their efforts, as we have seen the Democratic Alliance (a party whose predesessors advocated for a qualified franchise and opposed many efforts, such as armed struggle and sanctions against apartheid) and individuals such as FW de Klerk (who could not keep the lid of a boiling pot closed and had to succumb to national and international pressure).

It is quite unfortunate that the DA believes that they have reached their quota of black people in membership and leadership who fought against apartheid and therefore, can claim to have themselves fought against apartheid. They go to an extent of mentioning people whose relationship with the struggle was only to sniff the smell of teargas, or look over the window as police were torturing freedom fighters, or gasped in awe as they watched another act of police brutality in the archives of the Apartheid Museum.

The reason why millions of young people believe that Helen Zille and the Da will bring back apartheid lies not in powerful propaganda, but in the reversal of the gains that the ANC brought after 1994 when they took over government here in 2009. This has essentially become a ‘white bantustan’ wich protects ‘white previlages’ and seeks to control the movement of black South Africans into the Western Cape by calling them refugees.

…And more has been done to Change the Quality of Life of our People…

Beyond these changes of the foundations of the apartheid political superstructure, the quality and access to education, health, social security, safety, housing, roads, access to water, land, telecommunications and many others are significant and can never be matched with what any other regime. More than 6 million houses, more than 1000 schools, two more universities, more FET Colleges, quality roads and infrastructure, 90% of people with access to water, 85% of people with access to electricity. The list is countless.

But beyond that, as the new generation, we have benefitted from practical unity and have begun to build a rainbow nation to as envisioned by Nelson Mandela. We have racially integrated schooling, college and university systems. We go to the same social and recreational places and are not hindered by racial laws. There is progress in terms of building a non-racial society. This is freedom, although incomplete, as expressed in the Freedom Charter and the Reconstruction and Development Plan (RDP).

…But a lot more needs to be done…

Beyond all these changes in political, economic and social lives of our people, a lot more needs to be done. The challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality should be dealt with. This can push the country into a precipice. It will not be about which political parties which are in power, it can only be about a battle between the rich and the poor, and the natural desire for everyone to have a meal on their table, a roof over their heads, clothing to cover their bodies, health care when they are sick and education if they are illiterate. It will also go down to a war between those who have land and those who do not. A war between those who live in squatter camps against those who live in gated townships.

The income inequality in our country, were senior management in the retail or mining sectors rake in millions of rands a year in earnings and bonuses whilst workers average wages remain a mere pittance needs to be confronted. We need to now move with speed to ensure that there is legislation not only for a minimum wage but also for a maximum wage. The profits that are pocketed by CEO’s and Directors of companies should be reinvested into the economy and be used to create more jobs instead of being in the bank accounts of individuals.

The rate of unemployment and poverty wages, which is a result of retrenchments, casualization, labour brokers, capitalist greed for profit maximization, should come to an end. The implementation of the Youth Employment Accord, which was signed by most youth formations, including the DA Youth, should be a matter of urgency to deal with the 70% of youth unemployment. We need to realize the vision of a new skills development regime.

Young people should be trained as plumbers, electricians, IT practitioners, builders, painters, lawyers, pilots, doctors, broadcasters, artists, enginners, artisans and apprenciseships in order for them to become independent contractors or take advantage of the millions of jobs to opened up by the government infrastructure plans. We want to be trained as co-operatives, entrepreneurs and Small Business owners through the NYDA. This is what freedom will mean for the new generation.

We have to fight against corruption, both in government and in the public sector because it degenerates our society back to underdevelopment. As much as we are bound to our future by the actions of todays leadership in government and civil society to deal with their graft, we cannot overlook the excessive greed and profitable crimes committed by business (through, amongst others, meat-labelling scandals, Marikana, price fixing in construction and bread etc).

A new generation that liberates itself…

The previous generation of liberators brought about democracy, new laws, equal opportunities and the basic freedoms that we should use to ultimately bring down the remnants of apartheid. We are called the born-frees by Helen Zille and the DA. We must resist this label because we are not yet completely free. We are still overlooked for better paying jobs in the private sector because of our colour. We are still excluded from some universities besides the law preventing this. We are still unemployed because of the capitalist system.

We are not free and we will forever blame apartheid for the conditions which our parents found themselves, and the fact that they could not build a better future for us. The struggle continues. Anyone who says we should never blame apartheid for our poverty, for our misery, for our unemployment; should reject the inheritances that they received from their parents in the form of land, millions in trusts, and so forth, for we only inherited poverty from our parents because of apartheid.

This generation has the opportunity to break away from the racial and social stereotypes because the glass ceiling that was put by the apartheid regime was broken when Mandela was freed from jail and Oliver Tambo came back from exile. We are a generation that is committed to protect their legacy and build a better, non-racial, non-sexist and democratic society. We are up to that challenge. And that challenge is to completely liberate Black and Africans from economic and political bondage. Until then, the struggle continues.

…and what are our STRUGGLES…and DEMANDS!

Our task is the building of socialism, in our lifetime. We can only see the complete defeat of apartheid and its remnants if we dedicated our lives to the struggle for socialism. The capitalists class, the DA, their business sponsors, wants us to abandon this struggle. They argue that we this system has been discredited. They say it is a utopian dream. We say to them it is better to dream, and work for, such a social and economic system than live in this nightmare, in this misery, in this chaotic economy that relies on surviving from one cyclical crises to another.

The ANC declared that we are entering into the second phase of our National Democratic revolution. As young people, this means that we have to define a programme for what this second phase is. In 2006, the YCLSA adopted the 10 Youth Demands. These demands remain relevant and should be pursued whatever the cost, and within the broader programme for national liberation. These are:

  1. Universal economic participation for all young people through quality employment
  2. Universal access to quality and free secondary and tertiary education
  3. Universal access to quality and free health care
  4. Universal ownership and control of the economy
  5. Universal and equal access, and usage of land
  6. Universal access to quality justice system
  7. Universal and access to credible, qualitative media and telecommunications
  8. Universal and access to quality public service
  9. Universal access to financial services for Small Business, Housing, Youth Co-Operatives by both government and the private sector, and
  10. Universal and access to recreational facilities, equal participation in sports and the arts

We say, as was echoed in 1955, South Africa belongs to all who live in it, Black and White.