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ROAPE deplores the recent attempt in South Africa to quell growing resistance to the ANC government’s neo liberal policy. A recent document was released claiming to be authored by ‘concerned members within NUMSA’ (the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa), targeting NUMSA’s leadership and supporters. Among named activists were members of RoAPE’s International Advisory Board. Supporters have been intimidated including with a break-in, stolen hard-drives from office computers and acts of vandalism.
They have been accused of championing an agenda of illegal, anti-constitutional ‘regime change’. The document was titled ‘Exposed: Secret regime change plot to destabilise South Africa’. The paper said, ‘The alleged plot is led and facilitated by key leaders within various political organisations, institutes of higher learning, international companies and civic groups, both locally and abroad…Central to the success of this initiative are plans to influence mainly the poor, presenting the so-called ‘socialist philosophy’ and socialism as a fix-it-all solution to problems facing South Africa and its people.’
Attempts to stymie debates about the promotion of alternative development policies undermine the historical role of the liberation movement in opening debate and promoting alternatives to neo liberalism.
South Africa’s ruling alliance links the trade union federation, COSATU, with the ANC and the South African Communist Party, and it now faces its greatest challenge since 1994. The largest affiliate to COSATU, (NUMSA) has recently rejected the ANC-led alliance and the party’s economic policy. It refused to campaign for the ANC in national elections earlier this year.
COSATU has been the most militant working class trade union organisation in Africa but in November COSATU’s Central Executive Committee expelled NUMSA; a move which reflected the bitter factional struggles within the federation. At the end of 2013 NUMSA launched a debate on radical political and economic alternatives for South Africa. Launching the initiative, The Movement for Socialism, NUMSA has explored with other global movements a discussion on a possible socialist project for South Africa. In August 2013 NUMSA hosted a symposium bringing together dozens of African organisations and international left-wing parties. As part of this initiative NUMSA hope to form a United Front.
Support for NUMSA’s initiative has attracted an input from radical intellectuals and NGOs in South Africa. But this widening support has also led senior figures in the ANC and SACP to condemn NUMSA for ‘counter-revolutionary’ or ‘anti-majoritarian’ activities. Their supporters are denounced as ‘New-Left pseudo revolutionaries’.
The so-called plotters include former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils and Moeletsi Mbeki, brother of former president Thabo Mbeki. Other international ‘conspirators’ from Germany, Venezuela and the Philippines were also named.
Ronnie Kasrils has already condemned the document and these attacks. He sees this as part of a ‘dirty tricks’ campaign against government opponents and as an attempt to destroy NUMSA. Kasrils argued this behaviour resembled the activities of the apartheid intelligence service.
Vuyo Lufele, a regional secretary of NUMSA has explained that they are not seeking unconstitutional ‘regime change’, ‘One would have to understand that we are in the class struggle, and ours is to ensure that we are overthrowing neo-liberal policies… The only thing that we hate is the neo-liberal policies, and therefore if people would interpret doing away with neo-liberal policies as to overthrow government it is their choice.’
The ROAPE EWG condemns the behaviour of those who have launched these most recent attacks. We also express solidarity with those in South Africa who have been named and targeted in recent weeks. With thousands of others, in South Africa and the rest of the continent, ROAPE, in keeping with the journal’s traditions, welcomes all discussions in South Africa that open up debates about radical alternatives to neo-liberalism.