Fahamu (Oxford)

10 January 2013

South Africa: From Marikana to Maritzburg: Our Country is Disgracing Itself

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It is an outrage that people who are desperate for jobs were treated in such an inhuman manner. If the apartheid government had done that it would have been an international scandal provoking protests around the world

During the Christmas break we received the most shocking news from KwaZulu-Natal. The provincial traffic department in that province advertised 90 positions for trainee traffic officers.

More than 150,000 people applied. Most of them were aged between 18 and 20 years. On Christmas Day, 34,000 people received text messages saying that they had been short-listed for these jobs. They were divided into two groups and asked to report to the Harry Gwala Stadium on the 27 and 28 December. They were not told what to expect on arrival.

When the thousands of hopeful and excited young people arrived at the stadium they were told that they had to perform a fitness test - running four kilometres.

The weather was very hot and no water or medical care was provided. Many of these young people had already travelled long distances to reach the stadium. Many of them were not properly dressed for the run in the heat. On the first day hundreds of people collapsed and six died. A seventh person committed suicide. On the second day the so-called fitness test was repeated. By Sunday 230 people were in hospital.

This is not an isolated case. There have been many cases where thousands of young people have turned up for a handful of jobs. There was the case of the National Youth Development Agency in East London. There was also the case of Transnet in Bloemfontein.

The politicians are calling the loss of seven young people in Pietermaritzburg a tragedy. They also called the massacre at Marikana a tragedy and the murder of Andries Tatane a tragedy. This is not a tragedy. It is a disgrace. It is an outrage.

It is a disgrace that so many young people have no jobs or income or access to education. It is an outrage that people who are desperate for jobs are treated in such an inhuman manner. If the apartheid government had done this it would have been an international scandal. There would have been protests around the world.

It is very clear to us that we are held in contempt by the politicians that say that they are representing us and carrying out the second transition in the national democratic revolution on our behalf. We are not human beings to them. We are just ladders for them. They are predators, becoming rich and powerful in the name of our suffering and struggle. They are the real counter-revolutionaries.

The lives of people who are poor and black count for nothing in this country. They count for nothing to the capitalists, to the politicians and even to some of the media. It is our duty to insist that the lives of all people must count. People must be held accountable for the outrage in Pietermaritzburg.

We fully support the call for the resignation of the MEC for Transport in the province, Willies Mchunu. He was discredited in 2009 for his role in supporting the armed attack on Abahlali baseMjondolo by ANC supporters. We reject the statement by the South African Communist Party in support of Mchunu with all the contempt that it deserves. The SACP are nothing but apologists for oppression.

Frantz Fanon wrote that: "A society that drives its members to desperate solutions is a non-viable society, a society to be replaced." Our society is not viable. It must be replaced.

Our mission for the New Year is to keep working to unite all the struggles - in the shacks, on the mines and on the farms - into a revolutionary mass movement of the working class and the poor that can change this society from below.

We are also determined to ensure that this is the year in which the NGOs learn to respect the autonomy of our movements and to understand that their role is to support the struggles of the working class and the poor and not to lead our struggles on our behalf. We will not be bussed into NGO meetings over which we have no control and where we are treated with no respect. Solidarity is not the same thing as manipulation and domination.

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