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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

Statement on the 30th anniversary of our April 1994 democratic breakthrough - South African Communist Party



South African Communist Party



Wednesday, 27 April 1994 marked our victory in the protracted battle against the oppressive regime consolidated in our land by the imperialist Britain and white minority supremacists in 1910 from its preceding Cape, Orange River, Natal and Transvaal colonial state formations.


Saturday, 27 April, marks the 30th anniversary of the historic April 1994 democratic breakthrough against the apartheid regime, the last of the racist colonial state formations that expropriated and oppressed the majority and held sway in our country.


We are celebrating our hard-won April 1994 democratic breakthrough without losing sight of the fact that, despite the commendable progress benefiting millions of our people, not all the goals of the Freedom Charter have been fully realised.


A luta continua!


The struggle to dismantle the entire legacy of racial and gender oppression, transform and develop South Africa to achieve all the goals of the Freedom Charter, and advance towards a socialist society in which the exploitation of one person by another and all forms of oppression will be eliminated, continues. This is our central message on the 30th anniversary of our hard-won democratic dispensation.


Looking back, appreciating our advances, marching forward more resolutely


As South Africans, we must not forget the painful past and our struggles to overcome it and its legacy. The British imperialists and the white minority supremacists were equally interested in the merciless capitalist exploitation of the oppressed African in particular and black people in general. The colonialists’ agenda was centuries old, dating back to the worldwide expansion of the exploitative capitalist system from Europe.


As Karl Marx shows in his three-volume book, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, England served as the “locus classicus”, meaning the classic ground, of the exploitative capitalist system. Britain used this as the foundation from which it expanded the system, building its imperialist agenda. The Dutch also expanded, culminating in the colonialist white minority supremacists in South Africa. So did the Germans, French and Portuguese, colonially capturing other parts of Africa. The list goes on, dating back to the beginning of the settler and other colonial misery that Africans endured, including Africa being turned into a hunting ground for slaves.


Africans experienced untold misery in human history. This aspect is globally downplayed in prevailing historiography, which encompasses the history of history itself. The misery that the African endured and its legacy remain unresolved problems. This requires the reinvigoration and intensification of the African Revolution towards achieving accountability, ensuing justice and securing complete freedom.


In the “Manifesto of the Communist Party”, which he co-authored with Frederick Engels, Marx highlights the Europeans’ rounding of the Cape among the key developments that gave worldwide capitalist system expansion its impetus. This development paved the way for long-lasting colonial misery after the Europeans settled in our land in the 1600s. But let us be clear. That was not without resistance. Our liberation struggle was, therefore, not the first response to colonialism in our land. It was a revolutionary continuation of the gallant wars of resistance fought by our forebears, mainly under heroic, traditional leaders.


During our liberation struggle, we faced an imperialist bloc of powers that had entrenched economic and political interests in our land. By the 1970s, in addition to Britain, major imperialist powers, including West Germany, France, the United States and Japan, had established enormous economic control and political influence in our country. As the ANC noted in its 1969 “Strategy and Tactics” adopted in exile, Morogoro, Tanzania, the imperialist bloc constituted “a formidable support for the apartheid regime”. The imperialist regimes could, in a “situation of crisis… pass over from support to active intervention to save the racist regime”.


The United States considered our liberation struggle as nothing but a terrorist agenda. Subsequently, it listed many of the struggle’s leading members, including President Nelson Mandela, as terrorists. It did not end there. The US maintained Mandela on its “terrorist watch list” even after his democratic election as South Africa’s president in 1994. As a result, he remained on the list throughout his entire term as South Africa’s president, and beyond, until 2008.


Our victory in the battle against the apartheid regime marked a radical rupture from the centuries-old era of colonisation and colonial expropriation, dehumanisation and oppression, all based on the system of capitalist exploitation. It is a radical democratic breakthrough that will go down in history as a revolutionary milestone against an imperialist-backed oppressive regime. The SACP takes this opportunity to salute the working class for playing a great role in all the four pillars of our liberation struggle – the armed struggle, mass mobilisation, underground organisation and international isolation of the apartheid regime.


The leopard has not changed its spots


In celebrating the 30th anniversary of our democratic dispensation, not for a moment must the working class and its organisations and allies lose focus from the fact that “the leopard has not changed its spots”. As the SACP General Secretary Solly Mapaila said during the 31st Chris Hani annual commemoration on 10 April, unrepentant supporters or beneficiaries of oppression, as are the imperialist forces, have not changed their attitude. They have formed separate parties under white leadership in a country whose population is overwhelmingly black. This is part of the stubborn legacy of apartheid, its preceding forms of colonial oppression and ongoing capitalist system reality.


The unrepentant beneficiaries of oppression are happily wallowing in the wealth inherited from it, sparing no effort to safeguard this legacy of oppression. Their parties are still backed by the imperialist regimes and serve as conduits for domestic transmission of imperialist agendas, including, but not limited to, imperialist foreign policy articulations. These parties, like under apartheid, have established political connections with parties that are either led by former Bantustan leaders or have their roots in the apartheid policy of Bantustans. In addition to their support for these two categories of parties, the imperialists are now propping up new popcorn electoralist parties.


The imperialists are relentless in seeking to divide the motive forces and constituencies of our historic liberation struggle. In the upcoming national and provincial elections, their aim is to dislodge the ANC from power and replace it with a puppet regime made up of a subservient, right-wing coalition. This counterrevolution has been joined by rejects from our movement, among whom the most identifiable are notorious for their ill-disciplined, selfish and corrupt tendencies embedded in capitalist accumulation interests, needless to mention state capture networks.


If the unrepentant supporters or beneficiaries of oppression are given another opportunity, they will do the same thing again, albeit differently in certain respects as times have changed. In a video that Clive Derby-Lewis, the convicted racist assassin, ordered to be released only after his death to circumvent his parole conditions, he shamelessly professes that he would repeat the same thing if given another opportunity. 


When the assassins and whoever formed part of their plot planned and carried out Hani’s cold-blooded assassination, their aim was to plunge South Africa into a civil war. They wanted to block our transition to democracy and the expansion of democratisation towards a socialist society. To their shock, widespread working-class anger in response to the assassination compelled the apartheid regime to set 27 April 1994 as the date for the first ever one-person one-vote elections in South Africa. This ended the reign of the apartheid regime through a democratic majority vote. Over and above his decades-long revolutionary activity, the blood of the tireless communist martyr, Chris Hani, played a significant role in our democratic breakthrough that ended the apartheid regime.


Let us remember those who paid the ultimate price with their lives


Let us dedicate the 30th anniversary of our April 1994 democratic breakthrough to the memory of the warriors who fought in the wars of resistance to colonisation and every martyr of our struggle for freedom. The best way to do so is to use the Freedom Day every year as a moment of strategic reflection, with the purpose of intensifying the struggle for the realisation of all the goals of the “Freedom Charter” towards complete freedom, as opposed to the “Free at last”, “The struggle is over” and other superficial notions that characterise our transition from the apartheid regime and the Freedom Day myopically.  


The rallying call, “A luta continua!”, meaning “The struggle continues!”, remains as relevant as ever. It should continue to guide the working class, including women, the youth, unemployed people, and everyone on the receiving end of capitalist injustice, including the legacy of racial oppression, class exploitation, gender inequality and uneven development. These conditions underscore the inherent class inequality within the capitalist system and highlight that complete freedom can only be achieved by overcoming the entire system.


It is the historical task of the working class and its allies, with the Communist Party developing and playing its vanguard role, to intensify the struggle for universal emancipation. The Communist Party played its vanguard role when it pioneered non-racialism and the struggle to transform South Africa into an independent republic with equal rights for all under democratic majority governance, among others. The Party linked this directly with the imperative to achieve an advance to a socialist society.


When it became necessary, the Communist Party took a lead in adopting and integrating the armed struggle into our pillars of the broader struggle to overthrow apartheid. This culminated in the formation, with the ANC, of the original uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) in 1961 and a resounding response by the working class. The heritage of the MK has always lain and will always lie under the political leadership of the ANC-led Alliance. It must not be allowed to be used for private ends.


Let us unite and defend our liberation heritage, including the gains of our democratic dispensation


In celebrating the 30th anniversary of our 1994 democratic breakthrough, let us unite to defend the gains realised by millions of our people. In parliament and the government, it was under the leadership of the ANC as democratically elected, through the active involvement of our Alliance and supported by the working class, that we adopted our current constitution and South Africa embarked on the complex journey to undo the centuries-old colonial injustices. Beyond the constitution, in which we enshrined the Bill of Rights, the democratic gains realised by millions of our people include, but are not limited to, the following.


  • Workers’ rights, now including the national minimum wage and its annual increases.

  • Progressive labour legislation, empowering workers to confront unfair labour practices, facilitating skills development and employment equity, and contributing to improved working and living conditions.

  • As a result, the face of many of our rural areas, notably, and townships, has improved. An increased number of South Africans have built themselves batter homes. The ANC-led government has intervened to upgrade those who are not there yet. This has resulted in over five million government-serviced stands or brick and mortar houses, in the main, built and allocated to the beneficiaries for free of charge. Over 17 million people have benefitted from this caring policy – based on Statistics South Africa’s census 2022 finding that 3.5 people make up our national household average size.  

  • By 2022, over 82 per cent of households in South Africa gained access to piped water either inside or outside their dwellings or yards.

  • The per cent distribution of households that use a flush toilet as their main type of toilet facility has increased, from a racially skewed low base before 1994, to approximately 71 per cent in 2022. 

  • Household electrification expansion has covered the formerly oppressed – excluded by successive colonial and apartheid regimes for hundred years from 1894 to 1994. Now South African households using electricity as the main source of energy, at least for lighting, have reached nearly 95 per cent. 

  • We now have tarred access roads in rural areas, to which the formerly oppressed were confined and neglected or at best underdeveloped by successive colonial and apartheid regimes. South Africa’s roads network increased to over 750,000 kilometres by 2020, leading to our country having the tenth longest road network in the world. 

  • We now advanced to near universal access to education attendance for children aged five and six years. Access to basic education for those older than six years, at primary and secondary school levels, has remarkably expanded as well. This is supported, among other government policies, by the School Nutrition Programme. Also known as the school feeding scheme, this programme protects children, mainly from poor households, from teaching and learning on an empty stomach.

The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) has funded over five million students since its inception. Prior to the establishment of the NSFAS under its Act of 1999, the Tertiary Education Fund of South Africa did not cover Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) college students. The ANC-led government expanded student financial aid to TVET colleges, commendably contributing to the provision of free access to college and university education through NSFAS bursaries. 


  • Healthcare expansion, including free healthcare for pregnant women and the elderly, as well as HIV treatment, are among our national democratic gains. The government’s comprehensive anti-HIV programme has resulted in 79 per cent of those who know their status receiving treatment and 93 per cent of them being virally suppressed.

  • Nearly 19 million people receive social grants. During the April 2022 to March 2023 financial year, 8.5 million people received the Social Relief of Distress Grant, which the government introduced at the height of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic. This brought the total number of people who received social grants to over 26 million. Social grants play a critical role in poverty alleviation.

  • Although reflecting slow progress and remaining a great concern, highlighting the imperative of upgrading, adequately funding and accelerating poverty eradication programmes, the rate of poverty in South Africa has declined from 71.1 per cent in 1993 to 60.9 per cent in 2010 and then further down 55.5 per cent in 2020. 

 

Our advances could have been far-reaching by now in terms of both extent and scope. The capitalist system, characterised by the accumulation of society’s wealth and its concentration in the hands of the tiny minority of capitalists on one end, alongside wage labour, where wages fall below the value that labour creates, leads to mass poverty, misery and perpetuates class inequality on the other end. Capitalism, as well as the corruption it engenders, hinders progress by imposing resource constraints on the public. We need broader working-class unity and fundamental change to resolve this systemic problem and drive transformation and development to greater heights, ultimately aiming for equality and a better quality of life for all.      


A decisive victory for the ANC on 29 May


The SACP calls upon the working class, both women and men, and the youth, as well as students, peasants, progressive middle-class sections and everyone supporting democratic transformation and development:


Let us go to the voting booths on 29 May and cast a resounding vote for a decisive ANC electoral victory on all ballot paper.


Let us strive for maximum patriotic unity to safeguard our democratic achievements towards greater heights.


Let us unite to expand democratisation and dismantle the centuries-old legacy of colonial and apartheid-era capitalist expropriation, racial and gender oppression.


The ANC’s election manifesto, drafted in consultation with alliance partners, is anchored in a progressive thrust. This includes the following commitments for implementation in the next five years.     


  • Expansion of public employment programmes to create and sustain at least 2.5 million work opportunities in the delivery of public goods and services. Contrary to the misreading by opposition elements, by no means is this the only employment-creation and poverty-reduction commitment in the manifesto, as many of the next commitments show.

  • Implementation of the National Health Insurance (NHI) to ensure quality healthcare for all. Following working class struggles, now the parliament has passed the NHI Bill and the president is considering signing it into law.

  • Alignment of monetary, fiscal and trade policy, along with advancing the transformation of the financial sector, to meet basic needs and pursue industrialisation.

  • Use of financial sector transformation to move towards a public banking sector, by creating state development and sector-specific banks aligned with industrial policy goals, and by building a public retail banking system to serve the people’s financial needs.

  • More investment in a large-scale social and economic infrastructure.

  • Increased levels of exports to global and continental destinations, leveraging the African Continental Free Trade Area and the BRICS Plus international relations and co-operation, among others.

  • Acceleration of land redistribution to reduce asset inequality, protect security of tenure, improve agricultural production and food security, promote rural and urban development, and enable greater access to housing.

  • Establishment of a sovereign wealth fund to support broader social transformation and development.

  • Measures to overcome the rising cost of living, among others, by strengthening income support through existing social grants and using the Social Relief of Distress grant as a foundation to phase in a basic income support grant. This, in our view, should serve as a step towards the much-needed universal basic income grant.

 

Working-class and wider patriotic unity


In the past three decades, workers, particularly within the fold of the progressive trade union movement, as well as in the informal sector, and the broader working class, including in the community, have waged crucial struggles. The Communist Party, as part of the revolutionary movement, continued to develop and play its vanguard role in working-class struggles.


The working class played a great role in propelling the progress South Africa has realised. Over and above this, the working class engaged in contradictions with the capitalist class, which dominates the economy and developments that emanate from or are influenced by economic ownership, control and other social relations of production.


The class contradictions still play themselves out in all key sites of power. It was in these struggles that the working class, with the Communist Party playing an active role, fought against neo-liberal workplace restructuring and policies, such as “Growth, Employment and Redistribution”, privatisation, tenderisation, austerity and the conversion of the state sector into a field of capitalist accumulation. We need to intensify this struggle towards ultimate victory. 


The SACP led the financial sector transformation campaign. This struggle registered important advances. However, like other working-class struggles, financial sector transformation still needs to be advanced and deepened towards the goals of the Freedom Charter. These goals include a publicly owned, thriving banking sector, as well as a flourishing co-operative banking and broader financial sector.


State-owned enterprises and other public entities were impacted by neo-liberal machination, corporate capture and other forms of corruption. A part of this came via corporatisation and curtailed state investment to recapitalise and upgrade these entities. This left the productive capacity of many of many of these entities lagging modern capability, declining and failing to move with the times.


Eventually, many state-owned enterprises and public entities fell into financial and operational crises. This formed part of the neo-liberal onslaught against public ownership, presenting private enterprise as the unfailing path forward, as if the world is not flooded with evidence of private corporations that have failed or caused global economic crises. There are many private corporations that were rescued by state intervention, including through direct financial bailouts from public finances, as occurred following the 2008 global capitalist crisis, for example.


Building widest possible revolutionary unity to safeguard and turn around state-owned enterprises and other public entities is among the key challenges facing the working class in our country. We need to defend and re-assert the public economy, reposition it to turnaround, expand and thrive. This must be coupled with the struggle to wrestle economic control and the economic proceeds of our democratic transition from the bourgeoisie. The objectives of this struggle include the imperative to advance collective ownership in the economy, not least through co-operatives and other forms of collective worker ownership, and to strengthen capacity to defeat neo-liberalism, including austerity, as well as both the old and new forms of privatisation.


Through the struggles, the working class must tackle economic exploitation and inequality, including as racially and geographically articulated and gendered, fight retrenchments, advance access to work and income security for all, combat corruption and crime to the finish, deepening the anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist struggle for socialism.


Global warming and climate change is a key challenge facing society as a result of capitalist patterns of production and consumption. The working class needs to strengthen its capacity to tackle this problem and ensure that the much-needed transition to a low-carbon and green economy becomes a truly just transition. 


The SACP will continue to enhance its vanguard capacity and activist role in pursuit of these and other working-class struggles, including through forging a popular left front movement.


International solidarity


As we celebrate the 30th anniversary of our democratic breakthrough, let us remember that there are millions of people across the world who need our international solidarity, in the same way as we ourselves needed international solidarity in our struggle against apartheid and its preceding articulations of colonial oppression.


The SACP stands firm with the people of Palestine for the freedom of historical Palestine and against the genocide by the apartheid Israeli settler state. We reiterate our support for the ANC-led government’s referral of the Israeli regime to the International Court of Justice.


It is against South Africa’s courageous justice-seeking action for the Palestinian people, active membership of the BRICS Plus international co-operation and rejection of imperialist co-option in situations such as the NATO-provoked war in Ukraine, that the hardcore within the collective-imperialist West seeks “regime change” in South Africa, including on the electoral front, against the ANC.


We reiterate our solidarity with the people and government of Cuba against imperialist aggression and call for an immediate lifting of the illegal blockade of Cuba and occupation of Guantanamo Bay by the United States.


We stand with the people of Swaziland in their struggle for democracy and the people of Western Sahara for national self-determination and against occupation by Morocco.


The SACP supports every revolutionary struggle against imperialist aggression and oppressors in every part of the world.  


Our struggle is not a mere national struggle. It is an international struggle against an international system. A vote for the ANC on 29 May is a vote for our democratic national sovereignty and the continuation of the international solidarity struggle. 


-----Issued by the South African Communist Party.


Founded in 1921 as the Communist Party of South Africa

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