|VIEWPOINT: *Khusela Sangoni-Khawe
Why Marikana miners show NUM middle finger!
"The recent events at Marikana, and the declaration of the National Union of Mineworkers as "persona non grata" must be a wake-up call to the mass democratic movement, particularly the ANC led Alliance. Marikana is one of the sternest messages as yet that we could have a Normandy on our shores. The challenge is that of us as a liberation movement providing leadership at every social and economic sphere as guided by the Strategy and Tactics and the various policy positions we have adopted at National Conference".
The Battle of Normandy, that decisively ended the Second World War, like many other major socio-political events such as the Storming of the Bastille during the French Revolution and the 1918 October Revolution in Russia, provide lessons on how revolutions may succeed or fail.
Certain events may seem to be sporadic and without any meaning beyond the time and space of their occurrence, while some may trigger enduring implications, such as the June 16 Student Uprisings in 1976. The tragedy in Marikana continues to be in our minds and the consequences will endure even longer with the families that lost their loved ones as well as bread winners. We dare not treat such a tragedy as mere statistics that sum up to 34 miners dead killed by Police because our Constitution enjoins us to value life as an inalienable right. Statistically we know that 10 more people had already been killed prior to the fateful police shooting.
Amongst those were 8 workers and two police officers. But to the families of all those who lost their loved ones, these statistics have names and void resulting from their untimely death will never be filled.
We point out to history to learn about what seem to be a repeat of past events in slightly different form, because some are quick to dismiss such major events as passing parades of no consequence, when in fact if carefully deciphered, we could learn that such could actually become trigger for a bigger end as June 16 did in our country. As a revolutionary movement, we must continue to pose the questions critically and honestly on whether or not we are one with the people we claim to lead. Questions could abound as to where were the ANC branches when service delivery protests simmered into violent protests over such a long period? Where was the National Union of Mine Workers (NUM) when the Marikana tragedy unfolded? Where was the South African Communist Party when the mine workers rejected organised labour unions in general and the NUM in particular?
Hitler may have been the ultimate tyrant to the course of a humane world as envisioned so from the lessons of the First World War. The League of Nations was established in 1918 as a commitment to the values of international peace, security and stability, a vision that Hitler shredded with impunity as he pursued his fascist vision aimed at controlling the whole world until he was stopped by the combined will of the world's people led by the Allied Forces.
Various accounts as to why an otherwise superbly armed Nazi Germany was defeated are made, amongst them are the combined sheer numbers of the Allied Forces marines and military hardware on the one hand, and the extensive intelligence work that saw the codification of various assaults and the employment of various decoys. Even the main assault on Normandy on June 5, 1944 was presented as a decoy when it was the main battle. Still some point to the view that Hitler's men were war weary and old. Still more could point out that some were actually recruits from the Prisoners of wars that Germany had captured, who then surrendered to the Allied Forces at the earliest opportunity during confrontation and were therefore unreliable.
But some could point out that Hitler was actually asleep at the most crucial point in the Normandy battle and could not exercise the sole powers he had arrogated to himself to deploy the infamous Panzer units to confront the Allied Forces early upon their landing at Normandy. Even when alarm bells were relayed to Hitler, his staff were reluctant to wake him from his slumber, probably an attitude generally displayed to a typical dictator.
No doubt Hitler remains one of the most disdained villains of the last millennia, however, the prowess of his military strategies and the circumstances leading to his downfall provide lessons on how to successfully or unsuccessfully conduct a strategy, such as the revolutionary strategy led by the ANC.
Even Hitler's under deployment of the Panzer along the Normandy beach which was against the advice of Rommel was an indication of a leader who relied on distorted information because he was far removed from the battle grounds. Despite his famous battle heroics, Hitler was making mistakes that were to cost him dearly in the ensuing Second World War, mistakes aggravated by his dictatorial tendencies of micro managing every major aspect of the war, including the strategic deployment of troops on the ground.
As the tides of service delivery protests against government and strike actions by mining workers continue, we should be asking ourselves the crucial question if indeed we are not facing our own Normandy. No doubt there are limited resources at the Local Government sphere, but it seems much of the trouble emanates from the amongst others rampant corruption and inefficiency.
Complicating the challenge is whether or not ANC structures on the ground are one with the people, so that the limitation of resources and their priority deployment is appreciated by members of the local communities.
The recent events at Marikana, and the declaration of the National Union of Mineworkers as "persona non grata" must be a wake-up call to the mass democratic movement, particularly the ANC led Alliance. Marikana in one of the sternest messages as yet that we could have a Normandy on our shores. The challenge is that of us as a liberation movement providing leadership at every social and economic sphere as guided by the Strategy and Tactics and the various policy positions we have adopted at National Conference.
However, it seems the continued propaganda bombardment by the political opposition and the complicity of an apparently slumbering leadership has brought us to Marikana. In this decisive moment, we must have the guts to awaken the leadership and not be as reluctant as the staff who could not wake up Hitler amidst the ensuing battle of Normandy. They had good reason, because Hitler was a dictator, whose pedigree was later to cause the early retirement of his trusted and most able general Von Rundstedt because he dared tell him the truth when he declared "Make peace, you idiots!" Literally, our leadership may not be asleep like Hitler, but the denial of a persistent problem may have equal effect.
The National Democratic Revolution is far from being lost and there is no doubt about it. However, complacency with power may mean we dismiss service delivery protests, Marikana and other such events as of no consequence to our outlook as a liberation movement. While it is true that a journey of a thousand mile begins with one step, the destination could either be the National Democratic Society as environed in our Strategy and Tactics document, or it could be the demise of the liberation struggle and the progressive agenda. History is abound with grand revolutions that failed and some are not too distant from our shores. Even though we should be happy that Hitler and his men miscalculated the Normandy invasion because it led to the end of fascism and one of the most misguided and bloodiest wars ever fought. But similar complacency may lead to the end of even progressive agendas because no matter how progressive they are, they will always be contested by counter revolutionary forces as it continues to be the case nationally and internationally.
One of the tragedies of Marikana is that the workers do not want the NUM. Growing up in the post 1990 dispensation, we were initiated into an ANC led Alliance where the Communist Party was presented as the "Vanguard" and an "Educator", implying that it was responsible for the political and ideological conscientisation of the working class, particularly unionised workers under the banner of COSATU.
Marikana is therefore an indictment against this expectation: that the South African Communist party will ensure that the working class in whose favour the National Democratic Revolution is being waged, will remain ideologically, politically and organisationally united with the Unions that are members to COSATU through political education and mobilisation. It is no co-incidence that COSATU and affiliate Unions have supported the SACP financially.
The question is what is the role of the SACP in the current conjuncture, is it to contest power within the ANC as in Polokwane and Mangaung or is it to educate the masses in general and unionised workers in particular to validate its claim of being the "Vanguard"? Can Comrade Baleni and his NUM leadership collective face the striking workers? Why should Comrade Julius Malema become the scape goat of what is clearly a leadership vacuum created by a leadership collective that must be awakened to the realities suffered by workers on the ground? Did Comrade Julius advise the workers on the formation of AMCU? This is not to defend Comrade Julius Malema but to honestly interrogate some o f the kneejerk responses to the Marikana debacle.
We believe that the SACP may take leaf from the fact that the founder of the communist ideology, Karl Marx himself, made his mark not only by the grand views he espoused, but by being one with the working class, particularly organised and unionised labour. It was him who famously made the clarion call "Workers of the world unite!" We agree with Comrade Zwelinzima Vavi that unity of the workers is paramount, but unity is of course not a mechanical solution but a dynamic process that amongst others must start with political conscietisation and continuous mobilisation as opposed to milking the workers through their subscriptions while apparently selling them out to the mining bosses. The allegation of the funeral scheme at Marikana is a case in point.
Perhaps, one is nostalgic, because while the SACP was "Vanguard" and an "Educator" of the working class, then it had a diverse number of leading Communists who have since deserted the party. Marikana could partly be a reflection of the desertion by able leaders whose names one would not want to personalise lest one be seen as merely glorifying them.
But it could be that the SACP is a hallow of its former self, hence some have actually desperately even suggested that both the Blade Nzimande and Jeremy Cronin should be recalled back to the Party from the Executive to become fulltime again. But one can also ask the question of what difference could merely two leaders do if indeed the SACP ship is stuck in the doldrums and all it could entertain are the leadership politics of the ANC.
We will not play Hitler's staff who feared waking up the dictator from his slumber. In contrast ours is a progressive revolutionary cause within a revolutionary democratic space. That is why we must be concerned and highly alarmed at the news that suggest Comrade Julius Malema is censored by the SABC, the Public Broadcaster. We must collectively condemn this kind of behaviour reminiscent of similar allegations we had to deal with towards Polokwane on the alleged behaviour of one Snuki Zikalala. We must re-assert without fear of contradiction that such behaviour is alien in the ANC and stands against every grain of values that our martyrs died for.
As we commemorate the tragic death of Steve Biko, we must re-iterate the wisdom of "I write what I like", that being freedom of speech and association even for those with whom we differ ideologically and politically. The scare-tactics by some when characterising those with whom they differ as "dangerous" is ironically the danger itself to the fabric of free speech and all the democratic values enshrined in our Constitution.
Neither Comrade Julius Malema nor any person must be regarded as dangerous for merely airing their views because such propaganda is exactly the same mentality that led to the assassination of Chris Hani. Even the DA that we differ with on every thrust for a new and equal society as espoused by the ANC's vision of a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous society, we nonetheless must defend their rights to free speech and ideological orientation as guaranteed in our Constitution. In turn it is a guarantee that our own rights will never be undermined by anyone in powerful positions.
All democrats worth their salt will disagree with the alleged censoring of Comrade Julius Malema. If we do not stop this practice, it is an environment that may in time bite us as such inconsistency cannot be justified going into the future.
One of the lessons that we derive from the Normandy invasion, is the wisdom advanced by Hitler's army general Rommel, when he insisted that the Allied Forces had superior airforce and that it would therefore be better to contain them upon landing at Normandy with at least one Panzer than to deploy more later because then it could be too late and they would suffer inevitable defeat.
His advice was unheeded by the dictator who preferred some all pleasing compromise between that and a competing view and that contributed to the speedy invasion through Normandy by the Allied Forces and the defeat of Nazi Germany later.
We could say it is better to entertain the South African members of the SANDF grievances now than to let them simmer into more complex social discontent. Ignoring the problems of this magnitude will not make it go away hence Comrade Malema must be left to exercise his democratic right to meet them, even if we may differ with him on whatever ground.
If the religious priests want to broker peace in Marikana, let them do so, even if we differ with them because this is a democracy and not Hitler's Germany! We, including the unions such as NUM, must play our role and not accuse others as excuse for our ineptitude.
We know that service delivery protests stems from very complex socio-economic conditions, some of whose factors are historical, but some which are by and large due to our own complicity as a ruling party.
Unless we honestly and thoroughly grapple with these challenges, we help bring a Normandy situation upon ourselves, albeit that ours is a progressive revolutionary course and not the ill-founded vision of Hitler's fascist, dictatorial and unjust world under Germany's hegemony. Going towards Mangaung, these are some of the issues that we must grapple with regards to the programme of action that must be adopted.
It could be helpful to note that we have in fact adopted many progressive policies with regards to building the organisation as well as creating a Developmental State capably of intervening in favour of our progressive agenda for change.
However, the main problem could be with the quality of leadership we elected in Polokwane and to suggest so is not anathema in a democratic organisation hence we said leadership renewal is part and parcel of the organisation's culture. It is in this context that we say there must be leadership renewal in Mangaung. There must be a new generation of leadership, one that is alive to the issues faced by people on the ground, be it service delivery protests around the country or Marikana.
Such a leadership that must be elected must lead effectively and efficiently on transformation as guided by the array of progressive policies we have already adopted at the National Policy Conference and for consideration as policy in Mangaung.
We have no illusion that quality of leadership is the main difference between success and failure as many of the policy positions appear to be a regurgitation of policy stances we have repeatedly adopted over the years but not successfully implemented.
Leadership issues must be raised prominently in Mangaung so that they are not limited to nominations and elections but also the qualities requisite to take us forward. It is clear that voting for the simple reason of negating a specific individual may not be helpful as we may make the blunder of electing just anyone.
Anger must not be the ultimate guide, but translated into sober analysis of the challenges we face with regards to leadership. The ANC is not about its leadership but the people as a whole, and we must spare no criticism to ensure that we deliver a leadership collective that will serve the people inspired by the spirit of Steve Biko, Solomon Kalushi Mhlangu, Chris Hani and many other martyrs of our struggle. Amandla!!!
*Khusela Sangoni-Khawe is a member of the ANC Youth League National Executive Committee