When South Africa achieved her political independence in 1994, the masses had high hopes that they were now going to elect a government of their own choice. This government was going to rule based on the will of the people and their aspirations. In order to heal the injustices of the past and restore confidence to the masses, the ANC government was resolute on the path that it needed to take moving forward, in order to free the masses from the shackles of colonialism and slavery. One of the paramount interventions that the government had to do was that of using the state as the vehicle for transformation and give value and meaning to the democratic constitution. Chapter 2 in the Constitution, which is the Bill of Rights, is quite clear on the duties of the state with regards to issues of social security and delivering basic necessities to its people. The failure or rather the inadequacy to fully deliver these constitutional obligations on the part of the state, can thus be said to be one of the reasons for the violent protests that have unfolded in South Africa recently.
The focus of this paper is on the service delivery protests, on the townships surrounding the Johannesburg City. These protests have been happening in townships such as Mothutlong, Sebokeng and Bekkersdal. The statement from the African National Congress (ANC) in Gauteng at that time, issued by the then Secretary of the ANC, Mr David Makhura, said that there was 'a third force' behind these service delivery protests. One would agree with the Sunday Independent (2014) when it asserts that “according to Makhura, service delivery protests in the country are a result of a ‘third force’, an external element on a mission to discredit the gains of our democracy”. This quote from the Sunday Independent sets the topic of this paper, which is ‘The Third Force: A Fanonian Critique’.
Fanon’s work is rich when it comes to understanding the importance of realising that the ordinary masses have the capacity to think. The myth behind this statement that there was a ‘third force’ behind the service delivery protests, or rather a third force is always prevalent whenever the masses are protesting, needs to be demystified as a matter of urgency. Malaika wa Azania wrote an article in the Sunday Independent critically looking at this statement that was issued by David Makhura. According to the Sunday Independent (2014) “those of us who are more preoccupied with reasonable arguments have a duty to employ a more serious analysis of this phase of protests by tracing its genesis and moving beyond the simplistic rhetoric of ‘third force’. Through using the term ‘third force’ the leadership of the ANC is basically relegating the intellectual capacity of the poor to nothing. People are independently organising themselves and expressing their dissatisfaction through mass demonstrations.
This paper will thus be theoretically grounded in the work of one of the great liberation philosophers - Frantz Fanon. The paper will be peppered with quotes from Fanon’s books such as the Wretched of the Earth and ‘A Dying Colonialism’. Fanon’s work has also inspired thinkers of this dispensation and among them we can count the likes of Lewis Gordon, Michael Neocosmos, Nigel Gibson and Sekyi-Otu. I will mainly refer to the works of these contemporary theorists to corroborate the argument that is the gist of this paper, which is that the ordinary masses in themselves have a capacity to think. This paper will start by historicising the politics of South Africa, so that one can come to terms with the fact that during the struggle against apartheid people’s voices were to a certain extent being listened to by the liberation movement. Through historicising, the aim is also to understand the initial objectives of the ANC with regards to the fundamental societal changes that needed to occur in order to fully declare South Africa as free. The basic aim behind this is to demystify Makhura’s statement of a third force and reveal that it is the people themselves who are realising the economic injustices that continue to define South Africa and their own lives. This paper is not aimed at assassinating the character of the ruling party, neither is it aimed at individual-character assassination of the party leaders. However its basic aim is to demystify the notion that the people cannot think for themselves and that for anything to happen they have to rely on the technocrats and government officials.
The paper will therefore look at pre-democracy South Africa and discuss the vision that the people of South Africa had for this country, and the ANC bestowed with the duty of leading, was thus entrusted by the overwhelming majority that voted for it to deliver the promises. The paper will then proceed to look at the negotiation process and the long-bearing consequences that the decisions during negotiations, have had for the masses of this country. With the adoption of the so called democratic constitution, this paper will then also look at how the constitution guarantees equality but is very vague on justice. The paper will proceed to look at the importance of shifting the geography of reason. The crux of this course was to work out new concepts, and that is exactly the objective of this paper. In working out new concept it of paramount importance to acknowledge the failures and look at the necessary mechanisms that should be made available to abate the failures and their consequences. Thus this paper will emphasise the need for the government to start taking the views and the ideas of the poor seriously.
A Fanonian critique of the service delivery protests, would require one to go to the root causes of today’s dissatisfaction amongst the masses. To theoretically ground this analysis along the axiom of Fanon’s philosophical work is absolutely imperative, as it will enable one to have a broader view of the reasons for the violent service delivery protests, and also why they have persisted for so long. Perhaps a brief historical account of the struggle against the brutal apartheid system is necessary, so as to understand Fanon’s analysis of a post-colonial society. Fanon through his work did visualise where we are today. For Fanon, what gave impetus and inspiration to the African struggles against colonialism was not the intelligence or rather the intellectual prowess of the party leaders, but it was the colonised masses who have been denied access to the basic necessities of life in the land of their birth.
The myopic view that the mass demonstrations in the townships of South Africa in general, and those that are geographically located within the Gauteng province in particular- are a result of a ‘third force’, begs for further scrutiny. It is of paramount importance to revisit the 1955 Freedom Charter of the ANC, whereby people from various race backgrounds assembled in Kliptown to collectively agree on a kind of South Africa that they aspired to live in. At that time the apartheid system was already institutionalised and it necessitated that the fight against apartheid be heightened. The people who were assembled there under the banner of the ANC took resolutions on fundamental social change that the democratically elected government must introduce. A part of the Freedom Charter captures the issue of service delivery and that the state will have to ensure that ‘all people shall have the right to live where they choose, be decently housed, and to bring up their families in comfort and security’ (Freedom Charter, 1955). The Freedom Charter also stressed the importance of ensuring that the foundations of apartheid are shaken at the time of transition. According to the Freedom Charter (1955) “the national wealth of the country, the heritage of South Africans, shall be restored to the people…the mineral wealth beneath the soil, the Banks and monopoly industry, shall be transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole”. Deducing from this quote, it is quite clear that the people were firm and resolute on the kind of transformation that was necessary, and the liberation movement after capturing the state machinery would use the state as the vehicle for transformation.
As the years went by, when the apartheid government did not want to relinquish power, the ANC kept reviewing its modus operandi and its raison d’etre. In the party’s Morogoro Conference that was held in Tanzania in 1969, there was unanimity with regards to the core policy of the liberation movement which was that the country’s wealth has to be restored to the masses in order to achieve full human dignity. One would agree with the Strategy and Tactics of the ANC (1969) when it postulates that “We do not understand the complexities which will face a people's government during the transformation period nor the enormity of the problems of meeting economic needs of the mass of the oppressed people… But one thing is certain - in our land this cannot be effectively tackled unless the basic wealth and the basic resources are at the disposal of the people as a whole and are not manipulated by sections or individuals be they White or Black”. This statement was made after a thorough analysis of the South African socio-economic context and the assessment was that the masses of South Africa have been denied of their due to the country’s wealth; and through the poor quality of education their skills have been supressed and that, poverty and starvation have been their life experience (ANC Strategy and Tactics, 1969). These resolutions echoed the sentiments of Fanon (1963:34) when he argued that “for a colonised people the most essential value, because the most concrete, is first and foremost the land; the land which bring them bread and, above all, dignity”.
The ANC had a clear mandate as mandated by the masses, to liberate them from the abyss of poverty and subjugation. However this liberation was not to come from on high, as an elitist project. The masses were to be part of each and every process and aspect that pertained to their own liberation. The United Democratic Front which emerged as a resistance machinery against apartheid in the 1980s, was also given impetus by the people themselves. One would agree with Swilling (1990:1) when he asserts that ‘the driving force of black resistance that has effectively immobilised the coercive and reformist actions of the state has emanated from below as communities responded to their abysmal urban living conditions”. The masses who were organised under the UDF were very clear about what needed to be done in order to abolish racial oppression and class exploitation. Together with the trade union movement, the ordinary people of South Africa continued to frustrate the apartheid system and they were often met with police brutality by the apartheid vigilante groups.
The important aspect that needs to be deduced from this historical account of the struggle against apartheid, is that, people’s voices at the time were not entirely suppressed within the mass democratic movement, even though it can be argued otherwise, that the distance between the leaders and the masses was already prevalent. Gibson gives an account that will further take this paper to the crux of the matter, when he postulates that ‘the betrayal came earlier than is often thought, revealing itself when the new movements of the 1980s were rammed back into the old binaries of leaders and masses, and when what Fanon called the ‘sclerosis of thought’ meant that a new beginning would not be allowed to emerge’ (Gibson, 2011:65). This quote by Gibson is paramount for the following section, which will extensively look at how the negotiation process was itself a failure and part of that failure could be attributed to what is my contention in this paper, which is the exhausted mode of thought that assumes that ordinary people cannot think and that the party leadership should do the thinking on their behalf.
Thus it is this that the rear-guard of the national struggle, that very party of people who have never ceased to be on the side in the fight, find themselves somersaulted into the van of negotiations and compromise-precisely because that party has taken very good care never to break contact with colonialism- Frantz Fanon
I do not intend to come up with a lengthy discussion of the negotiations between ANC and the National Party government. However the basic objective of this part of the discussion is to tease out the elitist kind of a thinking that was prevalent within the ANC elite at the time of negotiations. During the tough times of apartheid, it was the people who were playing the important role in consultation with the leadership. The majority of the decisions were taken with the people on the ground and one would have expected that, this culture of consultation between the leadership and the people was going to be maintained. In his text titled A Dying Colonialism, Fanon (1965:2) argues that “liberation does not come as a gift from anybody, it is seized by the masses with their own hands…and by seizing it they themselves are transformed; confidence in their own strength soars, and they turn their energy and their experience to the tasks of building, governing and deciding their own lives for themselves”.
The masses in the South African struggle played the decisive part in frustrating the apartheid state, to the extent that even the international community was flabbergasted by the nonsensical tendencies of the gruesome apartheid regime. Fanon emphasised the importance of the people being their own liberators, and that is clear on his account of the Algerian Revolution. A Fanonian analysis of the negotiation process in South Africa is thus quite clear that the masses or rather the struggle itself was betrayed. Certain conditions ought to have been met for the struggle to not have been betrayed. One of the chief conditions is that the party leaders maintain a culture of widespread consultation with their constituency. One would agree with Hamber (1998:3) when he asserts that “The negotiators also began to distance themselves, as a negotiation process demands, from their constituencies. Constant report-back to the wider political party, consensus on every issue, and confrontation of the more radical fringes would have frustrated and slowed the already haphazard progress”. This quote is self-explanatory in the sense that it depicts a vivid picture of the dichotomy that emerged between the masses and the leadership of the liberation movement.
The march-of-line coming from the masses was that out of those negotiation processes, the masses must come out victorious. The masses of South Africa at the time of transition wanted their voices to be heard. They were longing for political independence that will be matched with economic emancipation. The South African masses who have been subjected to economic deprivation and slavery wanted white monopoly capital to be dismantled. These negotiations were thus a glimmer of hope to the masses that something positive was going to come out of the talks. Paradoxically and contrary to the initial objectives of the struggle against apartheid, and the expectations of the masses, the elite group of negotiators within the ANC, agreed to this principle; seek ye first the political independence, and all other things shall follow later. In a nutshell, the ANC government did achieve the political breakthrough and managed to start a process of dismantling the legislative and judicial structures of apartheid. However it did not succeed on radically changing the apartheid economic structure, which meant that white monopoly capital was going to be kept intact.
‘Democratisation which ultimately has its roots in the struggles of people from all walks of life for greater control over their daily lives hence in the self-constitution of a demos- is now transformed into a technical process removed from popular control and placed into the hands of experts such as human rights lawyers, social entrepreneurs, government professionals, who together staff an industry whose tentacles hold up to the liberal global hydra of the new imperial democratising mission on the continent’- Michael Neocosmos
The obese discussion above, about the historical account of the struggle for liberation and compromises that were made at the negotiation table, rooted in the philosophy of Fanon, its objective was to historicise the people’s struggle in order to be at a position to analyse whether it has been fulfilled or betrayed. After the negotiation process, there was an agreement to establish a government of national unity and also to usher in a democratic constitution, whose aim was to ensure that a new society will be constructed. Chris Hani, who was representing the South African Communist Party, made an opening statement in the CODESA talks on the 20th of December, in 1991. According to the CODESA talks (1991) Hani asserted that “such a new constitution must also provide the framework within which this society can be transformed from a paradise for a small minority and misery for others, to one where all can enjoy peace and social justice”. The democratic constitution was clear on stressing the importance of a right to equality and human dignity. However it also endorsed a private property clause which ensured that the land issue was not going to be effectively tackled. I vehemently agree with Bakunin (1871:2) when he states that “I am a convinced advocate of economic and social equality because I know that without it liberty, justice, human dignity, morality and the well-being of individuals, as well as the prosperity of nations, will never amount to more than a pack of lies”. The rights guaranteed on the Constitution mandates the state to provide the basic necessities such as water, electricity and proper sanitation. The so called ‘progressive’ South African constitution preaches equality which is not matched with justice, and therefore it is not progressive at all if one looks at it through the lenses of the masses.
The recent service delivery protests bear testimony to the argument that the economic detour that was taken at the CODESA talks, has had long-bearing consequences on the lives of the masses. This detour came in the form of the leadership surrendering the economic aspect of oppression, which meant that white-monopoly capital was going to carry with the business as usual. The economic programme that the ANC government had in 1994, an economic programme which advocated for a heavy state intervention on the economy in order to accelerate the process of eradicating poverty and misery on the lives of the people was the ANC’s Reconstruction and Development Programme. However as Professor van Niekerk (2014:7) argues that “the RDP agenda was also compromised by the form of accommodation made with organised business to preserve a market-based economy underpinned largely by laissez-faire economic principles”. The cost-recovery system necessitates that the users pay for their usage of services like electricity. Many people after 1996 were being cut off from access to electricity. In 2011, Abahlali baseMjondolo issued a press statement on the Human Rights Day. The Khanya Journal for Activists (2011) captured their statement when they argued that “instead of providing people who cannot afford to pay municipal rates with sufficient water, they cut off people’s water, and, instead of building houses for the poor, they demolish people’s houses and evict people to the edge of the city”. To this day, this is what continues to define the daily lives and experiences of the ordinary people, in the townships that are surroundings the city of Johannesburg and other areas of South Africa.
Che Guevara (1960:3) did issue out a warning about regressive governments when he argued that “anytime that governmental measures cause a halt along the road to economic emancipation or a turning back, even if its one step, everything is lost and inevitably begins to return to the more or less covert systems of colonisation, according to the country’s characteristics and social context”. There is a plethora of examples, whereby the South African democratic government has continued to undermine the ordinary people. Partha Chatterjee’s Politics of the Governed, is a rich text that looks at how the state treats the people whom it considers the citizens and those who are considered as populations. One would agree with Chatterjee (2004:34) when he postulates that “unlike the concept of the citizen which carries the ethical connotation of participation in the sovereignty of the state, the concept of population makes available to government functionaries a set of rationally manipulable instruments for reaching large sections of the inhabitants of a country as the targets of the policies- economic policy, administrative policy, law and even political mobilisation”. In the South African context, the manner in which the government treats the poor, is as if they are only populations and not citizens. Citizens are those who are wealthy enough and who do not rely on government for the provision of basic necessities. Citizens are those who are not targets of welfare programs such as social grants and food parcels. It is also those who can afford to get the best lawyers to represent them, and can afford access to the promises delivered in the constitution without difficulties. The majority of the population, are the poor people who are today, still ravaged by perpetual poverty.
The manner in which the state treats the people, whom Chatterjee refers to as populations, has been a very disrespectful one. The same Manichaen thinking that sought to establish ontological differences at the times of colonialism, is thus perpetuated again by the government when it comes to the manner in which it deals with its people. The state as mandated by the constitution of the republic, has an obligation to ensure that people do receive quality services. As I was looking for further articles so as to corroborate my argument on this subject matter, I came across an article in the Khanya Journal for Activists which was published in 2005. Thabiso Twala wrote a poem there which is titled ‘is this freedom’? The poem goes like this:
‘Ten years later, I suffer from diseases
Ten years later, I have no land of my own.
Ten years later, I still use pit toilets,
Ten years later, I still cannot find a job.
Ten years later, I am still paid peanuts,
Ten years, I am still evicted from my house.
Ten years later, I am still victimised by the police,
Ten years later, I still cannot afford water and electricity’.
This poem must be further supplemented by the argument by Abahlali baseMjondolo in 2011 on the Human Rights Day, when they stated that “as ordinary citizens of this country, we find it frustrating and disappointing to see that there is a huge gap between the constitution of this country and its citizens in reality, the South African government does not adhere to its constitutional obligation to provide citizens with basic services such as water, electricity, toilets and housing”. The manner in which the state continues to treat its masses, treating them as victims, who need the state intervention for political and economic direction must be problematised. However when the people start to act, the state because of its discourse which perpetuates that the state must always do the thinking for them, it then recognise their actions as those of misbehaving hooligans or ill-disciplined children who need parental guidance.
The late former President, Nelson Mandela, when he was addressing the United Nations General Assembly in 1996, stated that “the very right to be human, is denied every day to hundreds and millions of people, as a result of poverty, and the unavailability of basic necessities, such as food, jobs, water and shelter, education, healthcare and a healthy environment”. These are the basic necessities for humans to survive and yet the South African government at the time agreed to a neo-liberal economic project that they were fully conscious of its devastating effects. The political victory, that of being able to shape the constitution was indeed a necessary condition for the government to implement radical transformation programmes. However, the preoccupation with neoliberal growth path that was aimed at being a quick solution to resolve an unemployment crisis, was a short-term gain for a long-term pain.
Fanon emphasises the point that the national liberation movements, after seizing power from the colonisers, they must shake the firm foundations of colonial oppression. Colonialism thrived on an economic base that was dominated by the white minority, which in South Africa, legislated laws that were aimed at safeguarding its interests. One would agree with Fanon (1963:27) when he argues that “it is true that we could equally well stress the rise of a new nation, the setting up of a new state, its diplomatic relations, and its economic and political trends”. As I have already adumbrated in the discussion relating to the demands which were made by the people as captured in the Freedom Charter, it is thus quite clear that the people’s frustrations stem from the fact that we have in South Africa, a neo-liberal structure of an economy. The context of these protests is the structural inequality that has continued to prevail unabated. When Cuba obtained her independence, Che Guevara did articulate on the importance of economic emancipation as something which should be treated as a basic dictum. One would agree with Che Guevara (1960:2) when he articulates that “the pillars of political sovereignty, which were put in place on January 1, 1959, will be totally consolidated only when we achieve absolute economic independence…and we can say we are on the right track if every day we take measures to assure economic independence”. This was the motto behind the South African struggle against apartheid, that to be entirely free from the chains of colonialism, the masses were to share in the country’s wealth.
The 1996 class project ensured that people were now going to receive poor quality of services. Whilst the services have been poor and the pace of building house continues to be slow, these failures have not acted as deterring factors to the government to stop with its patrimonial tendencies. One would agree with Marx (1871:1) in the Paris Commune when he postulates that “at the same pace at which the progress of modern industry developed, widened, intensified the class antagonism between capital and labour, the state power assumed more and more the character of the national power of capital over labour, of a public force organised for social enslavement, of an engine of class despotism”. There are many examples that speak to the issue of corruption that is so embedded in the ANC government. This corruption happens at the expense of the poor, because certain services that are fundamental for human survival are not being delivered. According to an article released in the South African Local Government Journal Article (2014:16) “the pervasive corruption in local government has adversely affected its ability to deliver services…according to Plaut, satisfaction in water services dropped by more than 10% from 76.3% in 2005 to 63.6% in 2010”. After the Audit by the Auditor-General, only few municipalities manage to come out clean. Many funds are being misused not only at the local government level but also at the national government level. Recently the Public Protector exposed a shenanigan, in which the Department of Public Works paid an exorbitant amount to upgrade the house of the President. Corruption has continued unabated in the South African government, and yet every time the ANC goes for elections it always commits itself to fight corruption.
‘We are not only struggling for service delivery. We are struggling for justice and dignity, equality between men and women and a democracy that includes and allows poor people to plan their own communities and their own future’. Ayanda Kota
It is against these kinds of doings that the people are angry at. Shawn Hattingh, wrote an article in the South African Civil Society Information Service, in which he critically looked at the issue of corruption. One would indeed agree with SACSIS (2014) when Hattingh postulates that “Under neoliberalism, however, the practice of officials using the state to secure private wealth has become even worse. Privatisation and tendering via public-private partnerships offers state officials, their family members and people that are politically connected the opportunity to become extremely rich. Since South Africa embraced neoliberal policies, outright corruption associated with privatisation and tendering across the world has also grown – and like all countries ours has not been immune”. Fanon did visualise these kinds of manifestations in his Wretched of the Earth, when he argued that “the party, which during the battle had drawn to itself the whole nation, is falling into pieces…The intellectuals who on the eve of independence rallied to the party, now make it clear by their attitude that they gave their support with no other end in view that to secure their slices of the cake of independence…in other words the party is becoming a means of private advancement”.
The assumption by the likes of David Makhura and other senior ANC leaders when people mobilise to resist poor service delivery, is that the people are oblivious about the sins of incumbency within the ruling party. To characterise the service delivery protests as a manifestation of a third-force element that seeks to denigrate the gains of democracy, is to deligitimise the grievances and agency of ordinary working class people and the poor. A recent social research by the University of Johannesburg, which the Mail and Guardian article covered some of its key findings, looked at the main reasons behind these service delivery protests. According to the Mail and Guardian (2014) “the reasons for community protests were varied…according to UJ’s research, the top grievances were about service delivery in general, housing, water and sanitation, political representation and electricity…corruption, municipal administration, roads, unemployment, demarcation of land, health and crime also featured”. The ANC officials come to the media and say that it is a result of a third-force that these service delivery protests are occurring. Neocosmos (2003:4-5) cites Ranciere when he argues that “politics begins when those who cannot do something show that in fact they can, when those who have hitherto been excluded affirm their inclusion, then it is not difficult to visualise ‘depoliticisation as the reversal of this process”. People demonstrate on the streets to tell the government that enough is enough. Enough with their exclusion from the space of key decision making. And enough with being relegated to a status of people who do not have the capacity to think.
As I mentioned in the introduction that the work of Frantz Fanon has also inspired contemporary scholars whose work is grounded on the liberation philosophy which basically postulates that people can think, it is thus important that I bring in the work of Sekyi-Otu and Lewis Gordon. I vehemently agree with Gibson (2011:14) when he argues that “ideas are not exclusive property of the intelligentsia, the party, the expert or any elite group…any Fanonian practice must be rooted in strict adherence to the axiom that everyone can think”. By the virtue of them being objects for policy making and other programs, the view of the state is that poor people cannot act on themselves. Just like Fanon once said that ‘when I entered the room, reason left the room, and when I was gone reason then came back’. The distorted view of the government about the poor and their incapacity to think, requires a further politico-philosophico analysis. Lewis Gordon, one of the scholars who has engaged Fanon’s philosophy, advocates for the existential stance in trying to understand the nature of human kind. The crux of existentialism is that existence precedes essence, which means that the most important consideration for individuals is the fact that they are individuals independently acting and responsible, rather than what labels, stereotypes or any other preconceived categories the individuals fit (Oxford Concise Dictionary, 2010:75). It is thus what Fanon might refer to as a ‘lazy thinking’ that of arguing that there is political factionalism behind the mass demonstrations about poor quality of service delivery, inequality and ballooning figures of unemployment. Lewis Gordon when referring to the work of Sartre, he argues that “bad faith is the effort to hide from oneself, from one’s freedom and responsibility, is constantly a threat, a way of being that is ultimately not being” (Gordon, 1995). The ordinary masses of South Africa when exercising good faith are given preconceived categories by the state, such as ‘they are under the sway of blind forces’.
Ato Sekyi-Otu, is one of the contemporary scholars who have indulged in the liberation philosophy of Frantz Fanon. In his text, titled Fanon’s Dialectical experience, he stresses the importance of new ways that have to emerge out of the struggle. Sekyi-Otu was of the firm view that as the people’s experiences changes, the ideas do also change. One of the strengths of Sekyi-Otu’s text is the manner in which it discusses what Mbembe referred to as the mutual zombification and brutalisation of the postcolonial regimes. The text complicates this understanding, and not only discusses the violence and brutality in relation to the regime themselves, it also locates violence of the liberation history in how the effects of that experience manifest itself in the contemporary times and actually informs their behaviour and sometimes paranoia. This is especially seen with liberation movements who have waged war with the colonial project for a significant number of years, when they get into power and they lose the legitimacy of their rule, they resort to the liberation discourse and invoke the ‘imagined other’ as the enemy that is undermining the democratic gains. The ways of thinking arise as the material conditions during the struggle dictates. In the Algerian revolution, the masses were always coming with new ways of challenging the status quo. In South Africa the masses are demonstrating violently because they are unhappy with the lackluster performance of the government, and the government assumes that there is a third force.
The fundamental aspect of this course, was that ‘we must work out new concepts’. The masses across South Africa are faced with a government whose reply to their demonstrations, is armed attacks on defenseless masses. Angry residents in the township South of Johannesburg, during February this year took to the streets because of the poor quality of services they were getting. According to the Sowetan Online (2014) “residents argued that there are 10 water taps in the community that are supposed to serve 15000 residents… there is also no electricity and decent toilets”. When these protesters are demonstrating on the streets they are often met with police brutality. According to the Mail and Guardian Online (2014) reporting on the findings of the research that was conducted by the University of Johannesburg; “the number of protests since the beginning of this year is not exceptional, but the number of killings of protesters is significant, said Prof Alexander, the research chair in social change at UJ. The people are fed up with the disastrous performance of the state, and its inability to radically change the status quo. What these quotes from the two newspaper articles allude to, is the fact that, exactly 20 years into the democratic dispensation, South Africa remains a racially defined country where the economy is centralised in the hands of an elite white minority together with the black comprador class, which owns the means of production.
The continued underdevelopment of townships and poor infrastructure in black dominated areas is in contrast to the affluence in which the white minority and an elite black capitalist class exist. Our people are still subjected to perpetual bastardization and indignification, and when they show signs of being fully conscious of their situation, they are labelled as empty people, who are under the sway of a third-force. As Malaika wa Azania notes in her article in the Sunday Independent (2014) that “what we are witnessing in this country is not a third a force at work; it is the ramifications of a revolution betrayed by an economic growth path that has kept the majority in economic bondage and a government that has turned its back on principle”.
The stark differences between the quality of lives of whites and blacks during apartheid days were clear. The townships had poor quality of services and were always under the surveillance of vigilante forces of the apartheid government. This omnipresence of the repressive state apparatus was also one of the things that the masses wanted to abolish so that there could be peace in their communities. Fanon in the Wretched of the Earth (1963:30) argues that “the settler’s town is a strongly built town, all made of stone and steel…it is a brightly-lit town; the streets are covered with asphalt, and the garbage-cans swallow all the leavings, unseen, unknown and hardly thought about”. The apartheid legislation, with its seven pillars also further entrenched segregation and demarcation of areas as Williams (2000:167) outlines some of the laws that were unveiled by the then Minister of Native Affairs, Mr Hendrik F. Verwoerd among other laws these were the following “every town or city, especially industrial cities, must have a single corresponding black township; black townships should be separated from white areas by an area of industrial sites where industries exist or are being planned”. It is against this bastardization and indignification that the people of South Africa and also the ANC decided to assemble in order to bring down the pernicious ideology of apartheid to its knees. The apartheid colonial city is prevalent in this democratic dispensation. Indeed no one can dispute the fact that much work has been done to try and bring services to the people. However, the manner in which these services have been brought and their quality, still resembles the manner in which apartheid dealt with the masses.
In working out the new concepts, it is of paramount importance that we shift the geography of reason. As things stand at the moment, the masses whenever they try to demonstrate on the streets complaining about the poor performance of the state, the perception is always that there is a third force that is orchestrating the move behind the scenes. Mr Richard Pithouse, wrote a powerful article on the South African Civil Society Information Service which looked at the ‘Vote No Campaign’. It is again the kind of reception that this campaign has received from the powerful figures within the ruling party, which exposes the lazy thinking that only a particular group has a monopoly over rational thinking. In the SACSIS (2014) Mr Pithouse argues that “in recent days Ronnie Kasrils has been referred to as ‘a rebel, a Judas, a scoundrel’, as ‘Satan, and as a ‘disruptive, reckless and counter-revolutionary’ figure spitting on ‘the long struggles and the sacrifices of our people’. This kind of thinking is the one that begs for scrutiny, because every time people try to organise in order to challenge the status quo within the ruling party, they are always called counter-revolutionaries. Fanon (1963:136) looked at the issue of political suppression within the party, when he asserted that “the party instead of welcoming the expression of popular discontentment, instead of taking care for its fundamental purpose the free flow of ideas from the people up to the government, forms a screen, and forbids such ideas…the party leaders behave like common sergeant majors, frequently reminding the people of the need for silence in the ranks”.
It is vital that the government starts to take heed of the voice of the masses. The hysterical thinking that people must always be dependent on government for decisions that will have an impact on their lives, must be put into a dustbin of history. I vehemently agree with Gibson (2011:74) when he argues that “the government’s failure to alleviate poverty is not simply because of a lack of resources or the pressures of multinational capital, but is also due to the specific political-economic choices defined and made during the transition period by nationalist political elites that turned their backs on mass democratic participation”. The bosberaad that took place in the CODESA talks, whereby the voice of the masses was ostracised, continues to be the modus operandi of the ANC government. Another problem with the elite pact that came out of the compromises was the fact that the masses were now subtly told that their role was over.
As Gibson has alluded that mass participation is key for any kind of political-economic project, there are lessons that the South African government can learn from the former President of Brazil, Lula da Silva. Jay Naidoo, writes about the Brazilian ‘Lula Moment’ in the collection of essays by the Chris Hani Institute (2014:1), and he cites Lula when he argues that “I was not the president. The foundations of the ‘Brazilian Miracle’ is not mine. It is that of the people”. What was key about the Lula moment in Brazil, is that the masses participated in the formulation of the programme and this was showed by the policies that managed to take millions out of the trap of poverty. To achieve social equality and dignity, the first step that is necessary is consultation with the masses and to hear what they want. This is a kind of vision that Fanon had for the liberation movements and the masses. It is absolutely imperative that a shift in the geography of reason takes place, in the sense that the people must be recognised as people who can plan their own communities, who should be allowed to choose their own councillors, and so on. Not for an elite leadership to come from on high, to impose things that they do not want. These service delivery protests actually reveal the fact that people’s voices are not being listened to. What happens every time they protest is that they are met with police brutality.
This paper sought to provide a Fanonian critique to the statement that was issued by the then Secretary of the ANC, who is currently the Premier of Gauteng, Mr David Makhura, that there was third force behind the service delivery protests in the townships of Johannesburg. After providing a thorough background of the resistance against apartheid, and the demands which were made by the people at that time, which were that the apartheid government must be dismantled with its economic system, it thus becomes a basic logic that the people are not oblivious about the genesis of their dire circumstances. Also through discussing the betrayal to the struggle that took place during the CODESA talks, it became clear that the notion of a third force was a myth because the genesis of these service delivery protests is that the revolution was sold out. The Fanonian critique sought to demystify such a lazy thinking of using a third force as a scapegoat, and this critique brought forward an argument that the people through these service delivery protests are responding to the elite pact, which has compromised their right to human dignity. Through referring to the works of political thinkers such as Sekyi Otu and Gordon, the paper thus reached a conclusion that there has to be a shift in the geography of reason. Through shifting the geography of reason, this will enable the government to take the masses seriously and come to terms with the fact that the people have the capacity to think, and that thinking is not an ‘exclusive property’ of the technocrats and the policy experts. The example of the ‘Lula Moment’ was used to show that something positive does come out, when the government takes the demands of the people seriously and put the people first.
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