10 April 2020

This year the commemoration of the late General Secretary of the South African Communist Party (SACP) and chief of staff of uMkhonto we Sizwe comes a day after the centenary of the late Central Committee member of the SACP, Brian Bunting.

Brian Bunting joined the Communist Party of South Africa in 1940, exactly 80 years ago, meaning that he participated in the CPSA (now SACP) 10 years before the Suppression of Communism Act of 1950.

Brian Bunting participated in the 1946 Mine Workers strike which inspired the founding slogan of the ANC Youth League, Freedom in our Lifetime.

In 1998, he rightfully became the first recipient of the Moses Kotane Award at the 10th Congress of the SACP together with Billy Nair, and left the world of the living a decade later.

Both Chris Hani and Brian Bunting were seasoned communists who understood the pain of being defined as foreign and illegal in the land of the birth and lived in exile, to fight for freedom against the barbaric apartheid capitalist exploitation.

Today, while religious people are commemorating Easter and Passover, to us as communists it reminds us that the assassination of Chris Hani took place on same Easter weekend in 1993.

Sadly, this year, the commemoration of this day, takes places under serious restrictions when the world is battling a stubborn pandemic: COVID-19. Moreover, a day after the pronouncement of a further 14 days extension of the lockdown by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Globally, governments are fighting to curb the spread of COVID-19 while other countries have unfortunately experienced death on a large scale. The public health system even of some powerful capitalist countries is left naked, full of deficiencies, with policies that act in favour of commercialisation of health, and the capitalist profits.

In South Africa, the pandemic has made urgent, the call for the full implementation of the National Health Insurance as a means of accelerating the provision of universal health coverage in the interest of health as a public good and not a commodity.

Therefore, the YCLSA has joined the call by the SACP for private health facilities to provide free healthcare services, testing and support to the poor and the working class during these difficult times.

It was Chris Hani’s ambition, much as it was a resolution of the SACP, that free medical care and support should be made free and compulsory. Under the current economic conditions, this resolution remains urgent for the poor and the marginalized workers.

The YCLSA welcomes the announcement by the President for a further addition of 14 days to the 21 days lockdown which started on Thursday the 26th of March 2020 at midnight.

However, the lockdown remains a response to the urgent health crisis of COVID-19 and not necessarily a response to the socio-economic conditions of the majority of young people, especially the working population and the poor.

Students will be expected to study online and remain at home, some in rural areas where network coverage remains a problem. As a result of this reality, the YCLSA will continue to fight for government to enforce measures for data to be free to students in order for them to be able to study.

We are pleased that the Department of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, together with the management in institutions of higher learning and student leadership, have ensured that students will continue to receive their NSFAS allowances.

The extension of the lockdown means that TVET students who were supposed to write their trimester exams will either be required to write online or their academic calendar will be delayed. Either way, the reality is unfortunate. We hope that exams will not be migrated online without any adequate training to ensure proper ICT skills and understanding required to students.

Another sad reality is that many young people will experience even harsher socio-economic realities post the lockdown. Many jobs are at risk and many are a pay cheque away from unemployment. Given this reality, the YCLSA will make a proposal to government to mitigate this reality.

In the immediate, government should exercise their expected responsibility of building a capable developmental state through intervention in the market to regulate food prices and other basic essentials to ensure that the lockdown is not sever on the poor and the working class.

The President should equally condemn populism amongst other government leaders. This National Disaster should not be present as some form of populism or nightmare for South Africans but rather a cohesive plan to fight the spread of the global pandemic.

The YCLSA is part of the agreement by Communist Youth Movements across the world that agreed on the need for young people to practice all recommended safety precautions to protect others and be protected against the virus, but we don’t lower the voice of our demands! We demand:

  • The Public Health System in all countries to be reinforced with state funding, so that the efforts of the medical and nursing staff get strengthened now.
  • The necessary protection means to be provided for free to everyone (such as masks, gloves and alcohol-based hand rubs).
  • The working rights of the workers to be protected. No to dismissals and salary reductions. No to the curtailment of democratic rights on the pretext of COVID-19.
  • End all sanctions and measures of economic exclusion, which in this situation are even more unjust and criminal and make the life of the peoples in the countries they turn against to even more difficult.
  • To take all necessary measures to protect the health and life of the peoples.
  • We say no to imperialist interventions and military exercises, such as those of NATO, and demand that public resources be redirected to support the needs of the peoples, such as the financing of public health and social security systems.

As we commemorate the life and times of Chris Hani, we still say “we want to be like Chris Hani” and are confident that capitalism has no solutions for the world and this global pandemic has made urgent the need for a socialist world order.