South Africa

Election results can provide an important barometer of the mood in society. The results of the Sixth National and Provincial elections on 8 May confirm that there is a deep ferment in South African society. The sharp drop in voter turnout, together with the high abstention from the election process, especially by the youth, meant that, for the first time ever, a minority of the voting-age population voted in the elections. This is highly significant in a country where the working class conquered the right to vote from the ruling class only 25 years ago.

Since the start of the academic year, there has once again been a major upsurge of mass protests at nearly all universities in South Africa. These protests are a continuation of the mass movement in the universities in 2015 around the issues of affordability of higher education.

A forensic report by investigators appointed by the South African Reserve Bank into the collapse of the Limpopo-based VBS Bank has confirmed “one of the biggest bank frauds that we’ve seen in South Africa”. Over a period of three years, nearly 2 billion rand of poor people’s money was stolen. The report has identified at least 53 individuals who, through various schemes, benefited from a combined 1.89 billion rand between 2015 and 2018.

On Friday 14 September, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced his much-awaited economic stimulus package, which is supposed to “kick-start” the sluggish economy and “ignite” growth. With the economy back in recession and the support for the ANC at a record low seven months before the next general elections, Ramaphosa has to move quickly to prevent the party losing its majority, which would usher in a new period of instability in the form of coalition politics.

Over the last week, some sections of the ruling class have changed their tune about the debate around land expropriation without compensation in South Africa. The rabidly conservative and far-right Afrikaner groups such as Afriforum, which were given a strong voice in the mainstream media at the beginning of the debate, are increasingly being squeezed out by the big capitalists.

Two weeks ago, British Prime Minister Theresa May embarked on a three-day jaunt across Africa, visiting South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya. The purpose of May’s whistle stop tour (aside from showcasing her inimitable dance moves) was to strike up post-Brexit trade relations with Africa’s “emerging economies”. The visit was a cringe worthy affair that saw May shuffle awkwardly from one public relations blunder to the next, and it highlighted the decline of British imperialism and the crisis facing the capitalist class as the Brexit cliffedge looms.

SAFTU’s general strike on Wednesday was a serious warning to the government and the capitalist class. It was part of a sharp intensification of industrial action by workers in big sectors of the economy. The attacks on the working class are preparing a backlash and an upsurge of the class struggle.

Across the country, workers are mobilising for a mass general strike on 25 April. Although all sectors of the economy are likely to be affected, the strike is expected to hit municipal services, transport, manufacturing, mining, construction and the public sector particularly hard. The government’s determination to continue with the legislative process on proposed changes to the labour law is preparing the ground for a confrontation with the unions.

On 27 February, the National Assembly of South Africa passed a motion on land expropriation, tabled by the Economic Freedom Fighters and supported by the majority of parties in parliament, including the ANC. Ben Morken in South Africa looks at the real meaning of this proposal and provides a Marxist perspective on the question.

On 21 February the middle-class illusions in Ramaphosa received a shattering blow when the outgoing finance minister delivered a brutal austerity budget. This was just one day after the new president had told everyone during his State of the Nation Address that a “new dawn” has broken.

A wave of optimism has swept across South Africa since Jacob Zuma resigned as president of the country last Wednesday. There was a collective sigh of relief that the 9-year scandal-ridden presidency of Zuma was finally over. Middle-class commentators said that a ‘new dawn’ has arrived. But Marxists have explained many times that the crisis facing South Africa is not that of an individual, a single political party nor one section of the ruling class. The political crisis is only an expression of the crisis of the capitalist system as a whole. And as long as the system survives, changes at the top will not result in changes of anything fundamental.

Mientras escribimos estas líneas, el imperio Zuma-Gupta se está desmoronando. En uno de los días más dramáticos de los últimos tiempos en la política sudafricana, Jacob Zuma -y sus amigos, los hermanos Gupta- están siendo purgados por un ala rival de la clase dominante. La purga es el signo más enfático de que las dos facciones rivales ya no pueden cohabitar.

"There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks when decades happen.” - Lenin

"Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.” - Euripides

As we write these lines, the Zuma-Gupta empire is crumbling. In one of the most dramatic days in South African politics in recent memory, Jacob Zuma – and his friends, the Gupta brothers – are being purged by a rival wing of the ruling class. The purge is the most emphatic sign that the two rival factions can no longer cohabitate.

Extraordinary events over the last few days, surrounding the fate of Jacob Zuma, have plunged the ANC – and the country – into a deep crisis. Zuma’s scandal-plagued presidency is clearly untenable for the Ramaphosa faction, which marginally controls the ANC. Moreover, Zuma’s continued presence is destabilising the whole political situation and could damage the ANC’s electoral prospects in 2019. Big business is desperate to dig itself out of a hole. The problem for them is that the balance of forces between the two fighting ANC factions is very even, as we saw at the national

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Cyril Ramaphosa’s election as ANC president in December has coincided with the meltdown of the main bourgeois opposition party: the Democratic Alliance. But while the DA’s fortunes are declining, paradoxically, Ramaphosa’s victory at the Nasrec conferencewas widely welcomed by large sections of the ruling class, including big business, which now feels more secure with one of its own at the helm of the ANC.

The factional fights in the ANC have left its 54th National conference in deadlock. It confirmed what we have known all along – that the organisation is in terminal crisis. It also revealed that the ANC is divided straight down the middle. In the end the leadership tried to come to some sort of agreement. But the effect of this has only led to paralysis. The process could end up in court with the ANC even weaker as a result.

The African National Congress (ANC) is holding its 54th National conference - at the Nasrec Expo Centre near Gold Reef City from 16 to 20 December - more divided than ever before. Tottering on the brink, the party has never been in such a lamentable state, not even in the days of the underground and in exile.

The news of heavy fraud and corruption in two of South Africa’s biggest monopolies has thrown the big capitalists into turmoil. The scandals, which broke out almost simultaneously, involve two global behemoths, Naspers and Steinhof, and implicate some of the very biggest tycoons in the country, such as Christo Wiese, Markus Jooste and Koos Bekker.

The announcement on Wednesday of more than 3000 job cuts at Sibanye Gold represents a clear attack against the South African working-class. Sibanye announced 2,025 ‘retrenchments’ and 1,350 ‘voluntary redundancies’, i.e, 3,375 job cuts at its Cooke mines in Gauteng and Beatrix West operations in the Free State.