17th Aug2011

I miss JayZet

by admin

Two years in office and our used-to-be popular president Jacob Zuma is constantly subjected to criticism from his political counterparts in the media. While former president Thabo Mbeki’s brother, Moeletsi Mbeki, can be forgiven for his ‘disrespectful and disingenuous’ remarks as per ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu, Zuma did after all usurp (I mean democratically attain) his brother’s throne and well that is bound to sting a little. Similar remarks are, if nothing else, shocking when coming from COSATU general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi and ANCYL president Julius Malema. This is the same man that publicly announced that he would ‘kill for Zuma’ 3 years ago.

Back then Malema and many of the people (the undifferentiated masses) were affectionately calling him JayZet and/or Msholozi, rooting for him to become our next president. His trademark Zulu dance exhilarated us and we enthusiastically chanted along to Awuleth’ umshini wam (bring me my machine gun) after his lead. See, controversial ‘struggle hymns’ are definitely no stranger to the post-apartheid political scene. My friend said the only reason that one didn’t make it to the constitutional court, Juju, is because it connoted black-on-black violence and well AfriForum did not care (words I never said).

Back to JayZet, even when he faced corruption allegations, believing in our hearts of hearts that it was all a political conspiracy, we followed the trial religiously sternly awaiting his acquittal and exoneration. And as anticipated he was eventually acquitted. All twelve charges against him, including corruption, money-laundering, racketeering and fraud were dropped. That acquittal, the one before it of the rape trial and his inauguration were all met with jubilant celebrations by his ardent supporters. “After all the things people have done to him, he will prove people wrong”, Ms Kau (a supporter) was reported to have said.

His inauguration was viewed as a blessing, “When it rains before a big event, there is a Zulu saying: ‘Ilamagu Livumile’ which means, the ancestors have given their blessing”, Nankhithe Mampheele was saying. Moreover, as COSATU and all the many other ANC delegates had hoped when backing him at the 52nd ANC annual conference in Polokwane in 2007, Mr. Zuma’s leadership would lead to the democratic redistribution of the country’s wealth to benefit the poor masses, as was envisioned by the Freedom Charter and the Reconstruction and Development Programmed (RDP).

The replacement of Mr. Thabo Mbeki by JayZet was meant to reverse the 22 million under poverty and the 6 million unemployed. Brutal capitalist neoliberal policies have blatantly exploited and suppressed the working class all over the world and South Africa is no exception. Millions of people have been retrenched, been cut off from basic services, evicted and generally impoverished due to privatization, cost recovery and fiscal austerity and the neoliberal restructuring of GEAR.

Closer to home, outsourced supercare workers were subjected to gross exploitation (and even racism) and retrenchments in the private sector. And of course, who’s not feeling the pinch of the yearly tuition fees hike due to commercialization? However all that was supposed to be rectified by the charismatic “people’s leader”. He was our guy. He gave poor people hope. All of us were hoping as Nkompela Xolile that, “He knows the people of this country, those who live in the rural areas and he will help them”.

However GEAR continued and intensified under the Zuma administration. These days he is Mr President Jacob Zuma tweeting marketing campaigns for his daughters’ DSTV comedy show in a nice suit, ambivalent on dictatorship regimes, expanding the family (business) and his nephew’s belly along with it, whose state charged Daryl Peense with assault for spilling his drink on him in last year’s Durban July. What happened to the Zulu boy whose trademark Mshini wam was our cell phone’s ringtone interchangeably with Izingane Zoma’s Msholozi? What happened to Jayzet?

Maybe he never existed. Perhaps, like most other conceptions by the ruling class, the populist pro-poor character was but a fraudulent ideology imposed on the working class (yes I am a Marxist). Or he’s just been muted (or reformed) to suit office. Apparently even Trevor Manuel was a hardcore Marxist back in his day.

Nevertheless all the successes of the ANC-Zuma administration are not to be denied. Neither is the influence of the global setting to the ANC’s adoption of neoliberal policies back in ‘94 and even today. However seeing that these policies are not working (for the majority at least) isn’t it about time for a revision, or dare I say, revolution? Do excuse the radical overtones contained in this article, the point of my piece is this: I miss JayzetJ.

Matshidiso Omega Moagi

08th Aug2011

Topics in Media and Cultural Studies Roundtable: 10 August 2011

by admin

The Department of Media Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand invites you for the first roundtable this semester in the Topics in Media and Cultural Studies series. Please join us this Wednesday 10 August between 14.00-16.00 hrs in CB8 (Central Block, Wits East Campus).

The following speakers will present papers:

Aneesa Hoosen

‘The world sees our shame’: representations of the World Cup in The Star and The Times

Andiswa Makanda

Sacred neoliberalism: neo-pentecostalism and ideologies

Enquiries: janeske.botes@wits.ac.za or 011 717 4161

21st Sep2010

The future of the alliance: ‘an end to an error?’

by admin

Andiswa Makanda reflects on the future of the tripartite alliance between the ANC, SACP and COSATU.

The two-week strike and the events surrounding the strike pose concerns for the relations within the tripartite alliance. The leftist alliance is now at loggerheads with each other on economic policies. The two-week strike was by no means a reflection of the complex, complicated relationship between the African National Congress (ANC), South African Communist Party (SACP) and the Coalition of South African Trade Unions (COSATU). With the next conference coming up in 2012, one wonders if Zuma will still enjoy the support he had from COSATU in the 2007 Polokwane conference which saw former President Mbeki being ousted from leadership.

There is growing speculation in the media that the relationship in the alliance has been strained and ‘wounded’ and that there are fractions within the alliance. There is also growing speculation within the media from unknown sources from within the ANC Youth League (ANCYL) that in the next party conference Zuma will not be elected to serve a second term. One must note that there have been speculations that the ANCYL will no longer support Zuma, probably because of the actions he took against the ANCYL’s President, Julius Malema.

In this piece, I will analyse some of the reasons that have caused this strained relationship and discuss whether the alliance should be seen as the ‘end of an error’. One must note that the alliance was formed during apartheid to consolidate and mobilize revolutionary actions to oust the apartheid government. The coalition was a consolidation of the struggle against the apartheid system. I argue that with the introduction of neo-liberal policies adopted by the ANC post-apartheid, a tripartite alliance with a leftist orientation is nothing but doom.

The adoption of neo-liberalism: ‘beginning of an error’

To understand the tensions within the alliance, one must look at the moment that this strain began. It did not begin with the two-week strike. The possible root cause of the strain dates back to the 1990s when globalization was a buzz word and the order of the day. It has been argued that former President Mandela took a loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank on the condition that neo-liberal economic policies would be adopted, which were then spear-headed by former President Mbeki when he took office. We all know that international organizations such as IMF and World Bank set up conditionalities for granting loans, which meant a lot of African states adopting systems of governance such as liberal democracy that did not fit with African realities (Nyamnjoh 2002; Occiti 1997) since they were still recovering from colonialism and apartheid in the case of South Africa. [1] This then saw the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP), with its socialist orientation, being dumped for the Growth, Employment and Redistribution (GEAR) policy when Mbeki was in office. It must be noted that COSATU and SACP were not consulted. This marked the ‘beginning of an error’[2].

One must also be aware that capitalism and socialism cannot function properly and uniformly without any clashes. Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) was introduced which meant the introduction of black capitalists and a capitalist ideology which is not in the interest of the working class. In capitalist societies, we are bound to see class struggles. The paradox in South Africa is that during apartheid it was a race struggle, and now in the liberal-democratic state we live in – a capitalist society with little government intervention – we see class struggles. Neo-liberalism also had its effects on state institutions. Based on media reports, one can observe that the state hospitals and education systems are under-funded and malfunctioning. The consequence has also manifested itself in civic servants being underpaid, which has led to the two-week strike and other strikes preceding the strike. There have also been poor service delivery which has led to violent protests.

The alliance: an end of error?

During the 2007 Polokwane conference, President Zuma had a huge unconditional support of COSATU, SACP and the ANCYL, with its President stating they would ‘kill for Zuma’. The reason for this leftist support is probably because Zuma was seen as a leftist and a man who was inclined to the working class and the grassroots, given that he was not as educated as Mbeki. He was hailed as a people’s person and it was heralded that the ANC has gone back to the people. Another possible reason was that Zuma would probably advance socialist policies. Conversely, this was not the case because Zuma has not changed any of the economic policies that were set out during the Mbeki era.[3] Another possible reason that should not be ruled out is the fact that Zuma was deemed as a people’s person and very accessible. The media have speculated that he was an easy man who was easily manipulated and could be influenced. The reason for the support was that he would probably advance some of the selfish interests of politicians. According to Martin Legassick, he is a man who likes to please everybody. The public civic strikes are a manifestation of the conflicts between the alliance members – with COSATU at loggerheads with the ANC over wage disputes.

What was interesting for me during the strikes is how the ANC condemned the strikes, including Zuma. Gwede Mantashe was reported in the online version of The Times criticizing COSATU and how it handled the strike. The Mail & Guardian also reported that some COSATU leaders (Frans Baleni to be exact) said that the ANC failed on its promises once the elections were over. There are also growing concerns about the policies supported by the factions, with COSATU arguing that a two-tier market is a recipe for disaster. Though Zuma tried to handle the strike and appease the civil servants, there are claims that it was just for his reputation and to gain popularity. However, what was interesting in the strike were the attacks between COSATU and the ANC, with the SACP somehow caught up in the middle. COSATU even stated that it regrets having supported some ‘individuals’ during the Polokwane conference.

That being said, it is impossible to have right-wingers operating with left-wingers. It is clear that COSATU and the ANC will never agree on anything and reach a consensus unless the ANC takes a more socialist stance. On the one hand we have an organization that is pro-capitalist and on the other hand, an organization that fights for workers rights. It has been speculated by some political analysts that even if people may not want to vote for the ANC, there is no alternative. I personally think that it would be imperative that Zuma and the ANC appeases the poor working class because it is them that are the majority in society and it is in them that their victory lies.

I am also jittered by the statement made by Vavi that the strike is political. I can sense a conspiracy spiralling, where a working class movement – maybe under the leadership of Vavi – would be the alternative to the ANC. With all the bold statements made by Vavi, condemning corruption in government, exposing corrupt governments, publicly disclosing his income and how he spends it. It is no doubt that he has filled a niche in public concerns of corruption in government and mismanagement of funds. If we wake up one day and find Vavi standing for elections, he would be an alternative and maybe the best alternative if he has the support of the poor working class and those who are dissatisfied with the ANC. There have been arguments that socialist movements are always underfunded and could never succeed, but this time we would have to wait and see. What does Vavi mean when he says the strike is political? Could he be referring to an alternative? Will he have the courage to break away? Or does he simply mean that he would put other ANC officials in power. If that’s the case, then I do not want to know the details because the ANC is yet to prove itself to me. Also, let COPE be a lesson to all politicians.

References

Nyamnjoh, F (2002).

Occiti, J. (1997).


[1] One must note that apartheid is the continuation of colonialism since the Afrikaners were Dutch descendants that had colonized South Africa when they landed in the Cape many centuries ago (1662).

[2] It has been argued by Martin Legassick that the introduction of GEAR policy put the ANC in conflict with COSATU and later SACP.

[3] Martin Legassick deems Zuma as a pro-businessman who is yet to change the economic policies.

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