The labour war which has gripped South Africa’s mining sector has spread.
Workers at a Toyota plant struck for four days, and a strike by Johannesburg truck drivers prevented fuel giant Shell from making deliveries. Mo Ibrahim, the Sudanese born billionaire and philanthropist, has now waded in against the ANC government in South Africa for losing its sense of direction and attacking striking workers! He criticised the ANC for perpetuating extreme right policies as he awarded Desmond Tutu a new prize last week.
The controversies within the ANC and the hostility to any media penetration into their internal workings have led some commentators to speculate on a new presidential succession and a possible split in its ranks. ANC leaders have had mobile phones confiscated so no leaks can escape from the higher committees of the party!
Scandals and corruption are rife in the ANC and there is a clear recognition that the Marikana platinum mine strike has exacerbated the factional struggles.
It is increasingly recognised that ANC rule is often little different from that of its apartheid predecessor when it comes to dealing with labour disputes and critics. Instead of acting as the left conscience of the ANC the South African Communist Party has displayed its absolute commitment to neo-liberalism and to the elimination of workers’ self-organisation.
South African activist Ben Fogel has pointed to the case of Dominic Tweedie, a high ranking SACPer and ironically a former editor of the Shopsteward magazine, who backed the cops over Marikana.
Meanwhile leaders of wildcat strike actions have been meeting in Marikana to intensify the struggle against the official ANC-backed NUM and the corporations.
Drawing up programmes for workers’ control and occupations, the miners have refused to be cowed by vicious state repression and are agitating for a general strike against capital in South Africa.
There are many socialists involved in the dispute and in the wider solidarity work, but they are hampered by the ineffectiveness of the left in the face of the ideological and physical power of the SACP — largely as a consequence of its role in the liberation struggle.
The workers in the platinum belt itself have abandoned their traditional allegiances to the official COSATU-backed NUM and to their political betters. They are talking about working-class self-organisation — particularly the power of wildcat actions to take on the physical repression of the police state and for workers themselves to bypass the official trade union bureaucracy and challenge the perversion of liberation represented by the ANC.
This includes the challenging the ideological narrative of the ruling clique — that the striking workers are gangsters aiming to sow discord and civil war. Neither are the workers Julius Malema’s puppets.
The workers will not be silenced by the authoritarian control of the press or by the ANC police bootboys.