The arrangement whereby Whites surrendered political control of South Africa, while continuing to dominate the economy, has become indefensible. “Workers seeking to organize outside the government-sanctioned unions are hunted down and prosecuted under spurious charges, physically tortured and vilified as enemies of the state.”
Since the transition to Black political rule, in 1994, South Africa has been governed by the African National Congress and its partners in the so-called Triple Alliance: the Congress of South African Trade Unions, or COSATU, and the South African Communist Party. It is a complicated and sometimes incestuous alliance, in which membership in the various legs of the triangle is often intertwined. And it is a relationship riddled with contradictions, the most fundamental of which now threaten to plunge South African society into a long night of bloody conflict.
In recent months, about 100,000 mineworkers have found themselves in deadly confrontation, not just with foreign-owned management, but with the South African state; with their own COSATU unions that are aligned with the South African state; and with a Communist Party that behaves as if it is part of the state. The mine workers, who thought the South African struggle had been waged for the benefit of people like themselves, have discovered there is no one to protect their interests, or even their very lives. In August’s police massacred of 34 striking mine workers, at Marikana, showed that South Africa cannot forever put off the revolution that was left unfinished 18 years ago.
It is infinitely sad to hear Black South African union officials urge police to treat mine workers as “criminals” for demanding a living wage. It is bizarre in the extreme to hear high officials in a party that claims to be communist label workers that want to be represented by a union of their own choosing as “counter-revolutionaries.” Yet that is the madness unfolding in South Africa under the unholy Triple Alliance.
Late last month, in Rustenburg, police fired rubber bullets and live ammunition todisperse thousands of workers wearing T-shirts in remembrance of the slain Marikana miners and demanding that the police not “get away with murder.” All across the mining regions, workers seeking to organize outside the government-sanctioned unions are hunted down and prosecuted under spurious charges, physically tortured and vilified as enemies of the state and of their own class.
But the mineworkers know something about class warfare and class betrayal. They have seen that their unions, under COSATU, are aligned with a government whose main priority is to keep foreign investors happy, and that will sacrifice the mine workers living standards, their freedoms, and their blood, to keep the system just as it is. And they know that this damnable arrangement benefits a small class of new Black millionaires whose fortunes are tied to White multinational capital.
The great tragedy is that COSATU, the Communist Party and the African National Congress are so deeply embedded in the political culture of South Africa, that it will take a gargantuan struggle to pry loose that which has been hopelessly corrupted and to preserve those legacies worth salvaging. In the process, it seems inevitable that many thousands of Black South Africans will die.
By; Glen Ford