The ruling party is not really in power

2017-05-25 06:00

I was recently invited to facilitate a symposium which was convened by the Langa chapter of the Black Youth Study Group (BYSG) to discuss the meaning of Freedom Day.

The study group pondered over many questions that boggle many.

We wanted to know and to understand what freedom is and whether freedom day and voting day is the same thing.

We know that in 1994 people, irrespective of colour were allowed to vote for parties of their choice.

We battled to see how this translated into freedom.

Some may have thought that study group lacked capacity or even too academic.

We felt, however that it was in our interest to promote robust debate and intellectual engagement around this issue.

In our attempts to understand the definition of freedom, we came to the conclusion that freedom means to be set free from oppression.

Also to be free to speak one’s mind or associate with any organisation of one’s choice, provided that the rights of others are not infringed in anyway.

At the same time, we felt that such a definition was in a way limiting.

Then we wanted to view freedom from the perspective of the oppressed. We wanted to know what oppression is.

The Oxford dictionary defines oppression thus: (to) keep in subservience by coercion.

We then sought the South African Students Organisation (SASO) manifesto definition of the term Black in the early 70’s.

SASO defined Blacks thus: All those who are by law or tradition politically discriminated against, socially degraded and economically exploited.

It is from this definition that the group understood that in 1994 we were politically freed because we have since had a right to vote in this country.

However, we were bothered by the fact that other forms of freedom were not forthcoming.

The oppressed were not fighting just to share toilets with their former masters. We were fighting over the skewed distribution of resources.

Those who oppress the majority are hell-bent on maximising profits at the expense of the providers of their labour.

Because of the history of racism and settler colonialism, capitalism was and still is perceived in terms of colour in our country.

Our lack of land ownership, the primary source of wealth, and fair distribution of resources meant that those who were disadvantaged would continue to be in that state of affairs, even 23 years into our political freedom.

This continues to confine the majority of our people in the mire of poverty.

Black life is so cheap and our dignity is still being dragged in the mud.

We are frustrated by the realisation that our people are in no way near real freedom.

Economic dominance still is firmly in the hands of whites, with Blacks owning a miserable percentage of the cake, BEE deals notwithstanding.

We wanted to understand the powers at play in the whole game.

Initially we wanted to blame the ANC for this mess, but we were well aware that even though they are not off the hook, they are not entirely responsible for this. They are in office and not in power.

Dr Mosibudi Mangena once narrated a story of one Long John Silver, who was doing time.

Thinking that he wielded power, he bullied all around him in his prison cell. In reality, he was no different from the rest of them, trapped in there.

To make our point, we concluded that the ruling clique is the main force behind all this.

But what is a ruling class and how do we differentiate it from the ANC.

Some members of the ruling party are also of the ruling clique, in other words they have a lot to lose if the status quo is changed.

Even though the ruling party once had more than 2/3 of votes in the country, they did nothing to change the sunset clauses.

The ruling party is abusing the confidence bestowed upon it by the vast majority of our people.

By identifying with the few that owns everything to the disregard of the landless majority, the ruling party has defined itself as the stumbling block to the ultimate demise of capitalism and of ushering in of workers’ control of the means of production.

In the view of the group, the ruling clique is in cahoots with the ruling party which keep on shifting the goalposts in order for the oppressed to remain super- exploited.

The ruling party is under the grip of this clique. We then concluded that the right to vote, speak and associate are just a soporific, a smokescreen.

These are bourgeoisie rights that are meant to further protect and insulate the ruling clique against the power of the majority of the working class.

Sibongile Somdaka via email

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