by Ayanda Kota
The centenary celebrations of the African National Congress (ANC) are
being used to persuade the people that a movement that has betrayed the
people is our government, a government that obeys the people, instead
of a government of the elites, for the elites and by the elites. It is a
hugely expensive spectacular designed to drug us against our own
oppression and disempowerment.
In his Communist Manifesto Karl Marx wrote that “Each step in the
development of the bourgeoisie was accompanied by a corresponding
political advance of that class...The executive of the modern state is
but a committee for managing the affairs of the bourgeoisie”. Here Marx
is referring to the ability of the bourgeois to translate economic power
into state power, thus reducing our governments to mere managers acting
in the interests of capital and not the people. This has happened to
governments around the world. But here our politicians are not mere
managers. They are, like in Russia or India, a predatory elite with
their own class interests and they support capital and repress the
people as long as they can get their own share.
Since 1994 there hasn’t been a reorganisation of the economy. The
commanding heights of the economy continue to reside in the hands of a
tiny elite, most of which is white. Unemployment is sky rocketing. Most
young people have never worked. Anyone can see that there is an
excessive amount of poverty in South Africa. There are shacks
everywhere. In fact poverty reigns supreme in our country. Every year
Jacob Zuma promises to create new jobs and every year unemployment
If things were getting better, even if they were getting better
slowly, people might be willing to be patient. But things are getting
worse every year. Poverty and inequality are getting worse. The
government is increasingly criminalising poverty instead of treating it
as a political problem. When people try to organise they are always
presented as a third force being used to undermine democracy and bring
back racism. But it is the ANC that has failed to develop any plans to
democratise the economy. It is the ANC that has failed to develop any
plans to democratise the media. It is the ANC that disciplines the
people for the bourgeoisie. - a role that they are very comfortable to
play! It is the ANC that follows the line of the World Bank and the
International Monetary Fund. It is our local leaders who taking the leap
from their old bosses, stealing from us, treating is with contempt,
acting like the former colonial government and oppressing us.
During the struggle our leaders embodied the aspirations of the
people. But once they took state power they didn't need us any more. We
were sent home. We are only called out to vote or attend rallies. But
all the time our people are evicted from farms, paving way for animals
as farms are turned into game reserves under the pretext of tourism. Our
people are evicted from cities. Our people are denied decent education.
The party has become a mixture of what Marx would call an instrument of
power in the hands of bourgeoisie and what Fanon would call a means of
Biko wrote that:
“This is one country where it would be possible to create a
capitalist black society, if whites were intelligent, if the
nationalists were intelligent. And that capitalist black society, black
middle class, would be very effective … South Africa could succeed in
putting across to the world a pretty convincing, integrated picture,
with still 70 % of the population being underdogs."
We, as the unemployed, belong to the 70% that Biko was talking about.
We were happy to see the end of apartheid and we will always fight
racism where ever we see it. But we are not free. There has only been
freedom for the 30%. How can a person be free with no work, no house and
no hope for their life?
R100 million is being spent on the celebration - spent to entertain
elites, through playing golf and drinking the most expensive whiskey.
Golf players are even receiving massages from young women sponsored by
SAB. This is not a people's celebration. We are absent! How some of us
wish that all that money could have been used to build houses, create
employment, build sport facilities or schools for kids who continue to
learn under trees! Biko was right. As the world celebrates with the ANC
today they put across a pretty convincing picture of freedom while
everywhere people are broken by the burdens of poverty.
In his Wretched of the Earth, in the chapter called 'The Pitfalls of the National Consciousness', Frantz Fanon wrote:
“The leader pacifies the people. For years on end after independence
has been won, we see him, incapable of urging on the people to a
concrete task, unable really to open the future to them or of flinging
them into the path of national reconstruction, that is to say, of their
own reconstruction; we see him reassessing the history of independence
and recalling the sacred unity of the struggle for liberation. The
leader, because he refuses to break up the national bourgeoisie, asks
the people to fall back into the past and to become drunk on the
remembrance of the epoch which led up to independence. The leader, seen
objectively, brings the people to a halt and persists in either
expelling them from history or preventing them from taking root in it.
During the struggle for liberation the leader awakened the people and
promised them a forward march, heroic and unmitigated. Today, he uses
every means to put them to sleep, and three or four times a year asks
them to remember the colonial period and to look back on the long way
they have come since then.”
I am not opposed to the centenary celebration of the ANC. But if the
ANC was a progressive movement they would have organised a celebration
in a way that includes the people and supports us to build our power.
They could have, for instance, asked people to meet all over the
country, discuss how far we have come and far we still have to go, and
draw up demands for a new freedom charter for the new era. But this
celebration is just a spectacle that we are supposed to watch on TV. It
is exactly what Fanon talks about. It is designed to keep us drunk on
the memory of the past struggle, so that we must stop struggling and
remain in the caves.
In a recent protest in Bloemfontein, police were there in numbers to
flush the demonstrators. This has happened in many other demonstrations.
The message is very clear: “Go back to your caves!” It is backed up
state violence. As Fanon says a party that can't marry national
consciousness with social consciousness will disintegrated; nothing will
be left but the shell of a party, the name, the emblem and the motto.
He says that:
“The living party, which ought to make possible the free exchange of
ideas which have been elaborated according to the real needs of the mass
of the people, has been transformed into a trade union of individual
This is exactly what the party has become. Institution such as
parliament and local municipalities have been severely compromised
because of individual interests. Corruption is rampant. The Protection
of Information Bill (Secrecy Bill), is another illustration of how the
selfish interests of individuals ave taken over the party.
A true liberation movement would never have killed Andries Tatane,
attacked and jailed activists of social movements. It would never send
people to lull – it would encourage people to continue organising and
mobilising against injustices and oppression. A progressive leader would
know that he or she cannot substitute themselves for the will of the
people. A progressive party would never help the government in holding
the people down through fascist attacks on the media by the likes of
Nceba Faku, Blade Nzimande and Julius Malema to mention but a few. A
democratic party would never engage in attacks on protests as we saw
most recently with the ANC and ANCYL fascism against the Democratic Left
Front in Durban during COP17 Conference.
In the Congo, in Nigeria and across the Arab world people are
deserting celebrations of the flag and political leaders as if they
really do represent the nation. Some are turning to a politics of
religious or ethnic chauvinism. Others are turning to the politics of
mass democratic rebellion or a democracy that is truly owned by the
people. This is a free exchange of ideas backed up with popular force.
We are also seeing this in Europe and North America. Latin America has
been in rebellion for many years. Across South Africa more and more
people are deserting the party that spends so much money to keep them
drunk on the memory of the past struggle, their own struggle, the same
struggle that the ruling party has privatised and betrayed. There are
occupations, road blockades and protests and the message is loud and
clear: Sekwanele! Genoeg! Enough!
The only way to truly honour the struggles of the past is to stand up
for what is right now. The struggle continues and will continue until
we are all free.