The minister, his farmworker and the ?betrayal?of the SACP

2014-06-11 12:00

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In November 2004, the SA Communist Party (SACP) told the media that its Mawubuye Umhlaba Red October campaign included “mass meetings with thousands of farm workers” who told it that white commercial farmers “simply ignore the sectoral determination on minimum working conditions for farm workers”.

From this, the SACP called for urgency from the department of labour “to enforce the law in all farms” in order to free “farm workers from poverty, insecurity and violence”.

This statement suggests that back then, Vuyolwethu Ndabambi (like many other exploited farm workers) would have probably looked to the SACP as his inspiration and shield.

Today, he would probably be somewhat unsurprised to hear that like most political parties, the SACP was no longer so enthusiastic about calling for the enforcement of the farm worker minimum wage.

In his job as a cattle herder for new Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Senzeni Zokwana, Ndabambi earns about R26 a day compared with the legal minimum of R111.69 a day. Zokwana is also the SACP’s national chairperson. Back in 2004, the minimum wage for farm workers was set by the government at about R30 a day.

Instead of fighting all starvation wages irrespective of who the employer is, the SACP has played out a tragic real-life dramatisation of our own Animal Farm: it has opted to delegitimise media reports of Ndabambi’s situation.

At the very same press conference where the SACP did this, it also mouthed some platitudes about the need for a living wage for mine workers as a basis to resolve the five-month-old strike on the platinum belt.

Zokwana’s claim that the R800 he pays enables Ndabambi to have food is exactly what the DA argues in defence of the controversial youth wage subsidy, which the SACP has criticised.

This logic seeks to maintain South Africa as a low-wage economy, thereby continuing the reality of cheap black labour.

Ndabambi’s case is not an aberration. Such SACP hypocrisy is echoed in the story of the Kameni mines Buffelshoek and Kalkfontein in southeastern Limpopo. In October 2012, the SACP admitted to owning shares in Kameni. This company fails to consult local communities and employs workers under the same exploitative conditions as the Marikana workers.

Beyond the Kameni issue, other undeniable facts confirm the SACP is a force for the oppression and exploitation of workers:

.?Its unashamed defence of the butchers of Marikana;

.?The absorption of many of its layers as key administrators and managers of the corrupt, pro-capitalist Jacob Zuma administration;

.?Its systemic absence from the wave of working class explosions for a social wage; and

.?Its overall failure to consistently champion sustained working class mobilisation against neoliberal policies of the ANC government.

This is far from Joe Slovo’s hope that the SACP would earn its “place as a vanguard force by superior efforts of leadership and devotion to the cause of liberation and socialism”. Clearly, this is no longer the SACP of Moses Kotane, Slovo and Chris Hani.

The “Numsa moment” – which could be defined as the National Union of Metalworkers of SA’s plan to break away from the tripartite alliance – underlines the collapse of an outdated and irrelevant SACP vision of transformation from above, where only the all-knowing SACP central committee, ANC national executive committee, the president, Cabinet, state bureaucracy or Parliament can transform South Africa.

The imminent possibilities that Numsa has now opened up must avoid such a tragic cul-de-sac.

The Numsa moment must open the door to a reimagination of a “self-aware” new left pole that is built and propelled by workers like Ndabambi.

In such a process, can the many genuine socialists remaining in the large working class base of the SACP have a genuine socialist home instead of remaining prisoner to the long-collapsed ideal of a revolutionary SACP?

Ndabambi’s case is a clarion call for any genuine socialists still in the SACP to leave and embrace the Numsa moment now. This is the only way the promise of the 2004 Red October campaign can be taken forward.

» Jara is a member of the Democratic Left Front. He was expelled from the SACP in 2010

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