SACP’s Jeremy Cronin tackles SA’s struggles

2008-04-29 00:00

While there are strong indicators that South Africa could go the route of Zimbabwe, there are important differences that show it may not, Jeremy Cronin, deputy general secretary of the SA Communist Party, told a gathering yesterday. He was speaking at the Chris Hani Memorial Lecture held at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Westville campus.

Cronin spoke on the topic, "The challenges facing liberation movements who are in power". He quoted prevailing literature, which says that, while national liberation movements were magnificent in the time of their struggle, in power these groupings become dismal at best or criminal at worst. A pattern of serious degeneration occurs.

He said as South Africans we must realise that we could go down the Zimbabwean path — we must not be denialists — rather, seriously engage and look at what the challenges and threats are, if we don’t, we risk repeating history.

Cronin added, however, that South Africa was fortunate in having important counter-tendencies, which shows that it can rise above and does not have to go on a downward spiral. He said these include the ANC’s Polokwane conference, which showed that inside the ANC there is a mass of ordinary members who, "perhaps in unclear ways don’t want to see this trajectory happen".

Another indication he said were the laudable actions of Satawu (The Transport and Allied Workers Union) who took a stance against unloading the shipment of arms destined to kill fellow workers in Zimbabwe. They must be applauded for this moral stance.

He added that the ANC was also a very old organisation with old memories and traditions that are diverse and pluralistic, with a culture of non-racialism and anti-tribalism. Zanu-PF on the other hand was made up of a group of middle-class teachers and other professionals who set about mobilising peasants, had a strong militaristic tendency and a shallower political culture.

According to Cronin, worrying similarities that the ANC shares with Zanu-PF are that, while both governments have had some measure of success in terms of delivery, their actions have fallen short of true transformation, in all sectors, and this is particularly true in the area of land reform.

He said there is also a similarity in the growing isolation of the ruling elite, gradually losing touch with their mass base. Cronin said that, while he did not want to personalise the issue, under Mbeki there are worrying signs such as the incessant attempts to demobilise and marginalise Cosatu and the SACP, his constant denying that there are problems such as the Zimbabwe crisis, or his police commissioner, Jackie Selebi, saying, "trust me on this". There was a growing sense that the general public need not know what was happening, but must abdicate their trust to an all-knowing ruling elite.

Cronin added that there are problems that require a vigilante working class and civil society who need to ask questions and debate on such issues as to why the black poor are getting poorer, why food costs are spiralling and what the solutions are.

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