Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Interview 4 with Real News on Marikana

See interview entitled: South African Platinum Miners Win Pay Rise at

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Whats Wrong With Fracking? What Can You Do?

Last night David Fig, one of South Africa's leading eco-justice activists, spoke at a WITS University Amandla Forum about fracking.  David challenged us to think about the following issues:

- The country leading on fracking is the USA but the science about fracking and its consequences are only trickling into the public arena; it is an untested technology in terms of its social and ecological impacts. In short,  it is not clear what was the scientific basis for the South African cabinet's decision to remove the ban on fracking. The cabinet memorandum has not been made public. We need to know what was the scientific basis for the cabinets decision;

- The removal of the ban on fracking opens the way for Shell, Falcon and Bundu to engage in exploration for shale gas. The government regulations and practice generally tends to lean towards giving licenses. In short, the removal of the ban opens the way for full blown exploration.

- The consequences of fracking range from methane emissions (hence greater green house gases), water contamination, heavy road traffic in a pristine part of South Africa, the potential destruction of viable eco-tourism and sheep farming in the Karoo and no guarantees that shale gas would be part of the national energy mix.

- South Africa does not have an appropriate regulatory framework. There is no fracking law, we do not have a strict EIA process to deal with fracking, our water laws are not aligned and  monitoring standards are not clear. The ban on fracking should have ensured South Africa tightened its regulatory framework.

- How do we explain the national planning commission's support for fracking and cabinets decision to remove the ban on fracking? Is this part of the 'resource nationalism' of the ANC to encourage elite formation through BEE in partnership with transnational capital? Is this our new 'arms deal' with all the trappings of corruption? Is this what foreign direct investment-led growth is all about? Is this government just continuing a fossil fuel economy without serious commitment to renewable energy options?

- We can we do? The struggle is not over. We need to support September 22nd, the international day to ban fracking, we need to demand tighter regulation of South Africa's gas industry, we need to demand greater community participation and a stringent EIA process, we need to demand a public debate about the science around fracking including the science the SA government looked at, we need to strengthen grass roots mobilisation against fracking including Shell, Bundu, Falcon and other shale gas grabbers,  we need tight monitoring standards, at a minimum.

- If you would like David Figs power point presentation and academic paper he delivered on fracking at a conference in Iceland do not hesitate to contact me. These are great resources which can be used in small group discussions, in workshops and in community meetings.

The struggle continues.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Ban Fracking!!

Send a message to our government on Global Anti-Fracking day, September 22nd 2012, by joining other South Africans who are opposed to fracking, when they CALL FOR A PERMANENT BAN ON FRACKING in South Africa. We will meet in front of the gates of Parliament in Cape Town, corner of Plein Street and Roeland Street at 10h30, until 12h00.

The event is open to everyone and supported by several organisations, including TKAG, Earthlife Africa, SAFCEI, the Southern Cape Land Committee, Environmental Monitoring Group, Coalition for Environmental Justice, and others. For more information, and to RSVP, please visit the facebook event page:https://www.facebook.com/events/188429077955901/. Please invite all your friends – we need many feet on the street!

Please be creative with your anti-fracking banners and posters, and feel free to dress up: 22 Sept is also the first real day of spring, as the spring (vernal) equinox is on 21 Sept - WHAT IF SOUTH AFRICA decided to make a NEW BEGINNING, to live in harmony with nature, to embrace a truly renewable, sustainable energy future, and not allow polluting industries to destroy our people's land and scarce water resources for their corporate profit?

This event is part of the Global Frackdown, a project of Food and Water Watch (http://www.globalfrackdown.org/activist-toolkit/).

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Marikana and the Anti-Worker Role of the ANC-led Alliance

(A shorter version of this blog piece was published in this weeks Mail and Guardian in the Comment and Analysis pages under the heading: Marikana Marks Rift in ANC
Ideology. See http://mg.co.za/article/2012-09-07-00-marikana-marks-rift-in-anc-ideology) 


Workers in South Africa live and work in a social system premised on violence. This is not exceptional, but inherent to the general condition of capitalism. Karl Marx described it as a system, ‘drenched in blood and dirt’.  On August 16th the  Marikana Massacre brought to the fore two forms of violence coursing through the everyday lives of workers. The first is an asymmetric violence expressed through the coercive capacity of the ANC state: the hi-tech and militarised fire power of the police force. The second, more invisible, but shaping the lives of the workers is the structural violence of a globalised and financialised capitalism. It is a violence that works through creating a society in which the link between wage labour and reproducing human life is  broken. Put differently, super exploited, precarious and disciplined work is far from sufficient to ensure a descent life. This implies the secular trend of super profits of South Africa’s platinum mines, despite short-term fluctuations in prices, is simply an act of violence aimed at producing impoverished and degraded human life. It is an act of violence supported, encouraged and promoted by the ANC government’s commitment to deep globalisation and foreign direct investment led growth. More sharply, this is a government that privileges risk to capital over risk to human life (particularly the working class) and nature.

The Marikana Massacre as an event takes on a profound historical meaning,  as a defining moment in post-apartheid South Africa, in this context. It is a defining moment in its withdrawal of  the ideological warrant for core tenets of national liberation ideology: ‘the working class leads’ and   ‘working class bias’ of the much vaunted ANC-led ‘National Democratic Revolution’. If these ideological precepts had traction in reality Marikana should not have happened. The murder of workers by the ANC state renders hollow and hypocritical these ideological props. After Marikana, working class support and commitment to the ANC and its monopoly of power is unhinged; it is no longer a certainty in South African politics. The memorialising of Marikana (like Andries Tatane) at the grassroots, as a massacre of workers by the ANC state, can never be erased from working class consciousness in South Africa. After Marikana, when the ANC calls on workers to vote for it the foremost question in the minds of workers would always be that this state has murdered workers; the lives of workers are not important to the ANC state. The workers that make up COSATU and the working class in general will find it impossible to ignore this fact. Marikana as a defining moment in post-apartheid South Africa represents  a fundamental rupture  in working class consciousness and its  commitment to ANC rule.

It is this recognition by the ANC state that assists in explaining how it has tried to smear and scape goat the Marikana workers with collective purpose murder charges but then temporarily withdrawn by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA). In itself this is an act of desperation which has not worked and which has prompted  more serious questions to come to the fore in the  national conversation: why has the ANC state not suspended, charged and started investigating the police officers that shot the workers, the National Police Commissioner and Minister of Police  for the Marikana Massacre? Why has Zuma not fired the head of the NPA after the ridiculous collective purpose murder charges were imposed?  These are the questions on the minds of most South Africans which further expose the anti-worker orientation of the ANC government and ultimately ANC-led Alliance.

However, since August 16th the ANC state and Alliance has not only tried to smear the Marikana workers with collective murder charges to crush the strike. Various reports from Marikana community members suggest ongoing police harassment and arrests. This accounts for the 270 (not just miners but also community members) that were arrested over two weeks since August 16th but recently released. Currently, there is a heavy police presence in and around Marikana. In addition, the most insidious move by the ANC state and alliance to crush the strike has been to actively champion from above a ‘peace accord process’. This process was surfaced in the public arena by none other than Cyril Ramaphosa, former general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers, member of the National Executive Committee of the ANC and board member of Lonmin. This entire process centred around pressurising the workers to return to work and then bargain for wages. Essentially the ‘peace accord’ has been a strike breaking tactic, supported by the ANC-led Alliance, that has been emphatically rejected by the striking miners and AMCU(  Association of Mine Workers and  Construction Union). With the ANC-led Alliance being out manoeuvred by the workers the most Gwede Mantashe, General Secretary of the ANC, could concede on national radio was the ongoing strike was because of Lonmin. Actually, the ongoing strike was more than this but a rejection of ANC rule and the dubious anti-worker leadership of the ANC-led Alliance.

Will Julius Malema save the ANC by preventing working class re-alignments away from the ANC? To answer this question requires a distinction between Malema the individual and Malema the populist phenomenon. Malema the populist phenomenon is scripted and performed by Malema but constituted in our public sphere by sections of the media. The Malema phenomenon  in the context of the Marikana Massacre has been brazenly opportunistic, as captured by the cartoonist Zapiro.  However, it is an opportunism that extends to sections of the media that constitute this phenomenon and cheer Malema on. After August 16th, Malema was given space and voice in two leading Sunday newspapers. Malema’s populist politics was diffused into our national conversation as a cleavage in the ANC-led Alliance. This is the real value of Malema to sections of the media. However, like him these sections of the media are also responsible for his unscrupulous appropriation and instrumentalising of the Marikana tragedy.

But despite support for the Malema phenomenon, within sections of the media, it is not given that Malema would build a political base amongst the working class outside the ANC. The Congress of the People (COPE) experience highlights the limits of building an alternative to the ANC in the mould of the ANC; it is not given that the working class has an appetite for another dead end. Moreover, it is not given that Malema’s facile populism has a class belonging amongst the working class despite his rhetoric about nationalisation. If it did, all of COSATU and the unemployed would be marching behind him, for instance.  Moreover, it would seem that the post-Marikana working class are likely to use Malema rather than be  instrumentalised by his narrow self-seeking populist politics. Although building a political base amongst the working class is  a  necessary condition  for his survival outside the ANC, the most Malema might  achieve is a deepening rift in the ANC. Such a rift  might split the ANC, given the deep factional cleavages tearing through the ANC,  but Malema is unlikely to deliver the awakened post-Marikana working class back to the ANC.

However, the blind spot in this very fluid Marikana moment are the convergences taking place in progressive civil society. Mainly unreported and unacknowledged by most in the media. This confluence of solidarity with the Marikana workers  in this space is around building the Campaign For Solidarity With Marikana, based on two guiding principles. First, determining solidarity actions in dialogue with the Marikana workers and communities. Second, democratic practice within the campaign that is transparent and mediated through collective decision-making. Both these principles keep in check crusading and opportunism; instead this engenders a principled solidarity. For the first time since the 1980s, the dynamism of progressive civil society solidarity is bringing together grass roots movements, legal NGOs, humanitarian organisations, womens groups, religious organisations, left groups, transnational activist networks and concerned individuals to take a stand with the Marikana workers.  The organising practices coming to the fore straddle face-book networking, online petitions, blogging, symbolic protest actions, pamphleteering, localised community actions, mobilising solidarity funds, building watchdog capacity over the governments judicial commission and organising conventional mass protest actions. The Democratic Left Front is a crucial non-vanguardist actor within this emergent campaign to build principled solidarity with the Marikana workers. Inadvertently, the Marikana moment is also strengthening the tide for a post-national liberation and post-neoliberal politics in South Africa; it is bringing to the fore alternative political forces unwilling to sit back and let South Africa’s democracy be destroyed by an increasing authoritarian but self destructing ANC-led Alliance.

 Author: Dr. Vishwas Satgar is a senior lecturer in international relations at WITS University. He is a member of the national convening committee of the Democratic Left Front.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

NPA Charges Against Marikana Workers: An Abuse of Power!


30 August 2012

The Democratic Left Front (DLF) is shocked, disgusted and angered by the decision of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to charge the 270 workers from the Lonmin platinum mine in Marikana currently in custody with the murder of their 34 fellow workers, comrades and strikers who were callously mowed down by the South African Police Service on 16 August 2012. The NPA has the audacity to justify this decision on the basis of the common law doctrine of common purpose where “suspects with guns or any weapons and they confront or attack the police and a shooting takes place and there are fatalities” (as stated to the BBC by an NPA spokesperson, Frank Lesenyego). Infamously, the common purpose charge was last used in a high profile case by the apartheid regime with the Upington 6 case. So much for all the last week's meaningless platitudes and crocodile tears over the Lonmin massacre from the ANC and government! 

Clearly, President Zuma’s Judicial Commission of inquiry has been rendered irrelevant by this charge. Why waste money on a Judicial Commission when the state has already decided that the workers are responsible for having themselves shot at and their comrades killed by the police? What a travesty of justice! This amounts to cynical cruelty and a flagrant contempt for truth. This opens the door to an official cover-up of the publicly witnessed shooting of the striking workers by the police. Already, there has beenwanton destruction of evidence at the crime scene. All this, together with today’s problematic decision of the Garankuwa Magistrate’s Court to grant the State permission to postpone the bail application of the workers for another 7 days. These workers have been in jail for more than 15 days. All this militates against a fair trial of these workers.

On the basis of a doctrine of common affront, and solidarity, the DLF calls on all people in South Africa who stand for the truth and social justice to all line up at police stations demanding to be charged with murder. We call for this action for Thursday, 06 September when the arrested workers next appear in court.

The DLF calls on the NPA to withdraw the charges of common purpose against the Lonmin workers. The DLF calls on the NPA to lay charges of murder against the police. We say no to a police cover-up. We say no to a Judicial Commission of Enquiry that will whitewash the police.

The DLF calls for solidarity and the mobilisation of all legal, financial and other resources in order to ensure effective legal assistance to the charged workers as well as to ensure that the stories, voices and interests of the affected workers and communities are effectively heard in a transparent and unbiased process. The DLF reaffirms its support for an independent commission of enquiry as endorsed by various Marikana solidarity campaigns launched in Johannesburg and Cape Town in the last week.


Brian Ashley – 082 085 7088
Mazibuko K. Jara – 083 651 0271  
Vishwas Satgar – 082 775 3420 

Interview With RealNews on Marikana Massacre


Wednesday, 29 August 2012

The Marikana Massacre and The South African State's Low Intensity War Against The People

The massacre of the Marikana/Lonmin workers has inserted itself within South Africa’s national consciousness, not so much through the analysis, commentary and reporting in its wake.  Instead, it has been the power of  the visual images of police armed with awesome fire power gunning down these workers, together with images of bodies lying defeated and lifeless, that has aroused a national outcry and wave of condemnation. These images  have also engendered international protest actions outside South African embassies. In themselves these images communicate a politics about ‘official state power’. It is bereft of moral concern, de-humanised, brutal and at odds with international human rights standards; in these ways it is no different from  apartheid era  state sponsored violence and technologies of oppressive rule.  Moreover, the images of police officers walking through the Marikana/Lonmin killing field, with a sense of professional accomplishment in its aftermath, starkly portrays a scary reality: the triumph of  South Africa's state in its brutal conquest of its enemies, its citizens.

At the same time, the pain and suffering of the gunned down workers has became the pain of a nation and the world; this has happened even without the ANC government declaring we must not apportion blame but mourn the dead. In a world steeped in possessive individualism and greed, the brutal Marikana/Lonmin massacre reminds us of a universal connection; our common humanity.  However, while this modern human connection and sense of empathy is important, it is also superficial.  This is brought home by a simple truth: the pain of the Marikana/Lonmin workers is only our pain  in their martyrdom. They had to perish for all of us to realise how deep social injustice has become inscribed in the everyday lives of post-apartheid South Africa’s workers and the poor. The low wage, super exploitation model of South African mining, socially engineered during apartheid, is alive and well, and thriving. It is condoned by the post-apartheid state. This is the tragic irony of what we have become as the much vaunted ‘Rainbow nation’.

Moreover, the spectral presence of the Marikana/Lonmin massacre speaks to us about another shadow cast by the ‘Rainbow’ fairytale.  It forces us to confront the hard edge of violence fluxing through our stressed social fabric. At one time, violent crime – car jackings, robberies, rapes, murders – defined our everyday understandings of violence.  Our narration of these violent events constructed a sense of criminal violence as a major fault-line running through South African society. Such violence spreads fear, racial division and a sense of siege. It has been our undeclared civil war.  However, the social geography of violence changes with the Marikana/Lonmin moment. A new faultline is revealed. Such a faultline has been in the making  deep inside South African society through xenophobic attacks, violent police attacks on striking transport and municipal workers (over the past few years), violence against gays and lesbians especially in township communities, and police complicity in thwarting legitimate protest actions in poor communities and informal settlements. Through a failure to act decisively (in some instances like during xenophobic violence or by failing to provide policing in informal settlements) or through orchestrated violence the South African state is at war with the working class within its borders; it is a ‘low intensity war’. More specifically, such a war spans shootings, intimidation, failure to allow communities to lay charges, failure to investigate crimes perpetrated against poor communities, failure to be responsive to the safety needs of poor communities, fabrication and smear campaigns against local leaders, complicity with goons linked to local politicians (particularly the ANC) and a failure to act knowing that innocent lives are in danger.

A few examples of police orchestrated low intensity warfare working in cahoots with ANC goon squads or local politicians against communities  illustrates this more clearly. This is based on testimony received from activists. First, after  Abahlali Basemjondolo (Shack Dwellers movement) successfully challenged the Slums Act in the Constitutional Court, ensuring community participation to determine whether there can be relocation from an established community they became the target of police-ANC violence. In early 2010 an ANC goon squad violently removes Abahlali from Kennedy Road informal settlement. This is also captured in a documentary entitled: Dear Mandela. The police carry out arrests of Abahlali leadership on trumped up charges and public violence which are eventually kicked out of court.  Abahlali is not able to return to Kennedy Road informal settlement.

Second, a more recent example in Umlazi township Durban also shows this police-political party nexus working in insidious ways to suppress community demands. The local Unemployed Peoples Movement (UPM) and ward 88 residents demanded a recall of their ANC councillor and a democratisation of the ward committee. In their perception the ANC ward councillor was corrupt, failing to deliver and engaging in clientelistic control of development resources. This unleashed a series of reprisals.  On 23 July the leader of the UPM was arrested under false charges. The complainants turned out to be  incited by the councillor working in cahoots with the station commander at Umlazi police station. These charges could not stick but they held the leader of UPM  for a day. It would seem these trumped up charges were meant to prevent him from leading a community meeting being held on the same day. This story has many twists and turns with the police-ANC apparatus constantly trying to intimidate the UPM and residents of Ward 88 in the course of this struggle.

What is striking about these examples is there challenge to mainstream academic and media explanations of community based violence as being merely reducible to intra-ANC battles. In all these instances a conscious awakening and challenge by communities and movements to the ANC state unleashes a low intensity destabilisation of these community forces through the police-ANC state nexus.

Contrary to Zwelinzima Vavi, the General Secretary of COSATU, who believes South Africa is poised to experience the shock of a ‘ticking time bomb’ rooted in deep inequality and unemployment, this bomb is already exploding in various locales. However, the response of the ANC state has been about a recourse to low intensity violence. The Marikana/Lonmin massacre merely brings this trend into sharp relief. The challenge to COSATU is simple: does it want to remain a democratising force, with a proud history, and take a stand with the wider working class or does it want to be complicit in the low intensity war against the broader working class and citizenry?  At a mass meeting on 22nd August at the University of Johannesburg the Marikana workers and community passionately appealed for solidarity. Such solidarity actions are congealing into but not limited to: calls for  a national and international day of solidarity action with Marikana workers (including 3 minutes of silence on August 29th at 1pm as a symbolic reference to the 3 minutes it took the callous South African Police Services to mow down the 34 workers on 16 August 2012); support for solidarity strike action emerging within the platinum mining industry; a call for an independent ‘peoples commission of enquiry’ to ensure full transparency, testimony and justice for the Marikana workers and communities afflicted with state-ANC violence; calls  demanding the withdrawal of charges and immediate release of miners held in police custody and calls for an end to the police siege and harassment of the Marikana communities. Marikana as a defining moment in post-apartheid politics is essentially about galvanising the battle to reclaim South Africa’s democracy from below. It resonates with and expresses the desire of the majority to end the ugly reality of South Africa’s deep seated and racialised class based inequality that has been widening under ANC rule.

Author: Dr. Vishwas Satgar is a member of the national convening committee of the Democratic Left Front.

Monday, 30 April 2012

DLF Media Release - 2012 Freedom Day and May Day

Democratic Left Front Media Statement
On Freedom Day and May Day Lets Declare To Take Back Our Freedom
Speak Out….In Defense of Popular Democracy Now !

April 27th is not a day of celebration but of mourning for the theft of South African democracy.  South Africa has endured 18 years of market friendly policies that have produced the illusion of a people centred democracy and which has not met the needs of workers and the poor. 

Grinding unemployment and inequality caused by the choices made by the ANC government are made worse as it increases living costs – water, electricity, petrol – and now e-tolls in Gauteng.  Freedom has become freedom for an elite minority!

Top down governance and corruption are made worse by an ANC government that deems it necessary to start limiting our hard won freedoms through undermining the Constitutional Court, imposing the infamous Information Bill, the new Intelligence Act, the Traditional Court Bill and staffing the police force leadership with ZUMA cronies. Freedom has become freedom for an elite minority!

Everyday struggles by the people for accountability, for service delivery, against labour brokers , for better working conditions in urban and rural areas, to prevent land dispossession, for justice against xenophobia, homophobia, sexism and rape are met with disregard and brute force by the ANC government. The murder of Andries Tatane teaches us that: Freedom has become freedom for an elite minority!

The promise of transformation and a better life for all wrings hollow in South Africa today. On Freedom Day and May Day we say to all South Africans including COSATU, the time has come to take a stand.  The toll road issue is part of a larger challenge to take back our freedom. COSATU must not be tamed and capitulate to a state  at the centre of the crisis of democracy and solidarity in our society. For this reason, we also encourage COSATU  to use the national strike weapon to force government to understand it is the servant of the people and not the elite minority.

Moreover, the Democratic Left Front calls on the Labour movement, including COSATU, and all genuine South African Democrats to work with us towards a National Conference in Defense of Democracy and Solidarity in South Africa. Without such an initiative we will continue fighting around issues in localised and sectoral ways; we will never appreciate that the deepening crisis of democracy and solidarity requires a bold and collective response. The democratic freedoms and gains of decades of struggle are being undermined. We need to act collectively, now, to secure South Africa’s future and to say enough is enough!

Its time to defend popular democracy and solidarity !
Its time to take back our freedom !
Speak Out Now…Before its too late!

For the information contact:
Mazibuko Jara: 0836510271
Brian Ashley: 0820857088
Vishwas Satgar: 0827753420