People don’t sleep because of the violence and crime

People don’t sleep because of the violence and crime. Early in the morning from 5am to 7:30 the screaming starts as people are robbed on their way to work and school. But the police resources continue to follow the apartheid patterns and, with the chance to change that unequal picture, the South African Police Service, or SAPS, is often making the same decisions as they did 25 years ago. So now we campaign for #PoliceResources.

Now they are suggesting building an extremely expensive police station in Muizenberg. People in Vrygrond, Seawinds, Capricorn can’t get to Muizenberg, but no matter. Communities in Delft, Nyanga, Mitchell’s Plain, Harare, Khayelitsha and many more are still not fixed. So, we need actions that join these dots and connect the different communities.

We held a meeting and here are some ideas from the room:

“We are gatvol” We are fed up and done with it.

Why 100 000 000 rand for one building???

We must watch how that money will be spent.

We must organize, not just the people suffering the worst crime and the least protection, but the white and re middle class too.

Interdict the SAPS, stop the building.

Occupy SAPS until we get a real commitment

#PoliceResources

 

(Image Credit: Facebook / Social Justice Coalition)

Bondita Acharya and Micaela Garcia refuse to let women be crushed

In case we needed any reminder, this week has already demonstrated that rape culture is expanding, intensifying and globalizing. Yesterday, across Argentina, thousands marched and protested violence against women, femicide, and rape. They marched under the banner of Ni Una Menos and Justicia Para Micaela. Micaela Garcia was a 21-year-old feminist activist who dedicated her life to the struggle to end femicide and violence against women. Last week, she was raped and murdered. In India, human rights activist Bondita Acharya criticized the arrests of three people for the crime of possessing beef. Very quickly after Bondita Acharya expressed her views, she was threatened with acid attacks, rape, and death. According to Bondita Acharya, “They threatened me with death, rape, acid attacks, and also hurled sexually explicit abuse to defame me … I also feel the anger was directed at me because I am a Brahmin and a woman.”  And in South Africa, yesterday, a prominent cartoonist decided to make his point by graphically describing the gang “rape” of South Africa. The nation was drawn as a Black South African woman, held down by three men.

Women have responded forcibly and directly to each and all of these atrocities. In Argentina, women mobilized by the thousands. As Marta Dillon, of Ni Una Menos, explained, “It is a day of mourning, but we know how to turn pain into power.” Nina Brugo added, “We are going to take revenge for Micaela by getting organized.” In India, Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression strongly condemned the persecution and harassment of Bondita Acharya, and are pushing the State to take action. Others have joined in the cause. In South Africa, women have led the charge against the abuse of their bodies and lives. Kathleen Dey, Director of Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust, capturing the feelings of many, wrote, “The impact of rape on survivors is severe, many will lie awake at night and are not be able to sleep or eat properly for days because of the powerful emotions they feel. Feelings of fear, anxiety and vulnerability in particular provide the kind of undermining emotional preoccupation that often prevents women from working, studying or parenting effectively. Reliving rape is easily triggered. It disturbs and disrupts everything rape survivors do and distresses the people close to them who feel helpless to do anything to mitigate these powerful feelings. The fact that these same women often face the stigma of being socially disgraced when they speak out about being raped is another example of rape culture. Challenging rape culture in South Africa and asking ourselves what a culture of consent might look like and how we would build that culture instead would be a worthy subject for the media.”

It would be a worthy subject indeed. In 1986, feminist political economist Maria Mies wrote, “It is a peculiar experience of many women that they are engaged in various struggles and actions, the deeper historical significance of which they themselves are often not able to grasp. Thus, they do in fact bring about certain changes, but they do not ‘understand’ that the changes they are aiming at are much more far-reaching and radical than they dare to dream. Take the example of the worldwide anti-rape campaign. By focussing on the male violence against women, coming to the surface in rape, and by trying to make this a public issue, feminists have unwittingly touched one of the taboos of civilized society, namely that this is a ‘peaceful society’. Although most women were mainly concerned with helping the victims or with bringing about legal reforms, the very fact that rape has now become a public issue has helped to tear the veil from the facade of so-called civilized society and has laid bare its hidden, brutal, violent foundations. Many women when they begin to understand the depth and breadth of the feminist revolution, are afraid of their own courage and close their eyes to what they have seen because they feel powerless vis-à-vis [the] task of overthrowing several thousand years of patriarchy. Yet the issues remain. Whether we – women and men – are ready or not to respond to the historic questions raised, they will remain on the agenda of history. And we have to find answers to them which make sense and which will help us to restructure social relations in such a way that our ‘human nature’ is furthered and not crushed.”

Thirty-one years later, rape remains on the agenda of history but too often not on the agendas of nation-States nor organizations nor the media. We still await that revolution.

 

(Photo Credit: José Granata / EFE / El Pais)

As we scramble to understand and “articulate” the true nature of our political crisis

As we scramble to understand and “articulate” the true nature of our political crisis, unpacking strategies and the “political programme”, how to position ourselves and what positioning this or that way means for where you are perceived to be sitting in the political ideological spectrum (i.e are you woke or not/ radical or liberal/ coconut or sellout…).

I am reminded of the lonely days of struggle as an activist in the Treatment Action Campaign. I was a young person full of the beautiful dreams of liberation. Coming from a working-class family, watching other young, working class people like me die whilst the powerful ones used their power to let them die. This wasn’t Apartheid South Africa. Leaders of our ruling party and democratic government and Tripartite Alliance partners were labelling us agents of drug companies and all manner of descriptors to delegitimise our struggle. There is a particular NEC/alliance meeting we were once “invited” to after we launched our civil disobedience campaign, where I watched the big men of the then ANC Top 6 and alliance partners (Lekotas, Blades, etc were there), perform power in the grossest, most nauseating way. Having been summoned, we were made to sit for hours waiting for them to deliberate important things, then we were given a few minutes to be interrogated, then sent off with nothing. We warned them we would not back down and left. That meeting shuttered all my hopes, it showed the depth of callousness of our leaders, how self-obsessed they have always been…!

Then, as now, the “clever” ones debated, analysed, researched, “articulated” whilst young working class black people, many of them young women, in villages, townships, servants’ quarters in white middle class suburbs, were dying like flies. The clever ones criticized our campaign for not being “systemic”, because we were not speaking in clever phrases about how “neoliberalism must fall”. Mandela’s ANC had chosen GEAR, that meant that public goods like lifesaving medical treatment would remain for-profit commodities, to be traded at the highest margins for shareholders, and government had to toe the line of those who control the rules of international trade, that Government wouldn’t defy WTO rules in defence of their people…

Organizing was all complex then, as now. But then, as now, government had a choice, power to make that choice in favor of justice, accountability for a just future for all, particularly the poor. It was black working class people who were dying, who’d been left to own devices, those with money were dying because of denial and fear of stigma not inability to afford medical care. It was black working class people who showed up, filled the picket lines and fought for their lives and won. Many of the black-like-me’s with education who could interpret medical science to help people understand how to save their lives, who could have given their education privilege to contribute, many did not. As Edwin Cameron said, being “white, privileged and middle class meant he could access lifesaving drugs” at a time when one month’s treatment cost more than a year’s wages of a black working class family. It is unforgivable what our leaders did, the silence and hubris of the middle class illustrated how as the middle class we’re fickle, trapped in our parochial class lens and interests, and are not to be trusted, even when we spew revolutionary rhetoric. The issues were raced and classed and gendered then as they are now. The betrayals from soapbox podiums often dominated by men happened then as they are now.

So then, let’s organize, and march to end racialised, gendered inequality. Let’s organize to end white supremacy, for land, for neoliberalism to fall, for the black young women set up for infection and who still die to live with dignity. For mine-workers to get their fair share of the wealth they dig. For domestic workers not to live in servants’ quarters not even dogs live in and be sent off into the wilderness with nothing when their old legs and hands can no longer hold the weight of the labour needed to prop up white and elite black capital. For men who rape to not be rewarded with more power. For corrupt, captured politicians and their parties to be ejected from power. For women to not live their lives like we’re in a war zone, under brutal patriarchal rule. For an intersectional struggle against corrupt power, in all its manifestations. A society that sustains life and dignity for all. And then, all of us middle class, black white and whatever shade, to have an honest interrogation of our own complicity in the mess. Our cronyism and rent seeking and what it has made of us, and life for many who’re on the wrong side of the game Board. So, I will join the action for intersectional justice Bethuna. And no I don’t mean who’s twittering about it? Who’s organizing it? And no, I have no interest in going to Saxonworld!

 

(Photo Credit 1: Council on Foreign Relations/Reuters/Mike Hutchings) (Photo Credit 2: South Africa News Today)

#RememberKhwezi today more than ever

Ahmed Kathrada died and was buried this week. Part of the funeral and mourning invoked an open letter Kathrada wrote last year, calling on Comrade President Zuma to resign. With Ahmed Kathrada’s death, that letter turned into a warning from the grave. On Wednesday, Ahmed Kathrada was laid to rest. On Thursday, in the middle of the night, President Zuma did what he does. He went for his machine gun and “reshuffled” the cabinet, in particular Pravin Gordhan. Once again, the President has thrown South Africa into uproar and disarray. Once again. In October 2016, Fezekile Kuzwayo was laid to rest. Fezekile Kuzwayo was better known, to the public at least, as Khwezi. Remember the One in Nine Campaign, the purple shirts, the women? Remember the four young Black women, dressed in black, last August, who stood, in silent protest, before President Zuma, and held up five placards: “I am 1 in 3”, “#”, “10 years later”, “Khanga” and “Remember Khwezi”? Remember Khwezi? We should, today more than ever. Today, more than ever, #RememberKhwezi.

Remember how Jacob Zuma responded to Khwezi? He sang umshini wam, Bring My Machine Gun. As Pumla Dineo Gqola has written, “When Jacob Zuma sang the hugely popular struggle toyi-toyi song `umshini wam’ when he was charged with rape, he understood the power of heroic masculinity, having previously embodied it himself and know how to reference it to shame Khwezi … Khwezi becomes the enemy and safe to treat in any way because she is an enemy that has been marked with associations that come from apartheid. All righteous, freedom-loving people are reminded of the wound of apartheid, incited to anger, always ready because the apartheid memory is too fresh in all of us, so that Khwezi becomes possible to burn. It is therefore not a huge leap from seeing her as a political enemy … to chanting `burn the bitch.”

And that strategy worked … up to a point. It didn’t work with Khwezi herself, who remained steadfast and revolutionary to the very end. It didn’t work with the courageous women of the One in Nine campaign. But it did work. Jacob Zuma walked free, while Khwezi and her sister comrades had to look over their shoulders more than once. Zuma has gone on to govern with his machine gun, or at least his love song to the machine gun, always already at the beck and call.

So, today’s tumult has everything to do with Pravin Gordhan, nuclear deals, state capture, and much more. Today’s tumult reminds us we should re-read Ahmed Kathrada’s letter from last year, and we should study it, discuss it, and share it, and make it part of a popular education campaign. And even more, we should remember the four young Black women who last year dared us to remember Khwezi, and we should remember the courageous women of the One In Nine Campaign, who dared to break the silence and challenged us to stand with and listen to the women who refused to shut up. And today, more than ever, we should remember the revolutionary Khwezi. #RememberKhwezi

 

(Photo Credit: Simphiwe Nkwali / Sunday Times)

Watch where you walk

Watch where you walk

Watch where you walk
we are advised
by folks in the know

don’t do a midnight
or an early hours one

(boyfriends bury
their girlfriends
in backyards)

don’t frequent the hotspots
police cannot be everywhere

behind closed doors
in gated mansions
in ivory towers
be-suited in committees

(you know dangerous areas
places like home like school
like the workplace like)

Watch where you walk
twin knifes mom and sister
famine on the horizon
for millions of children
(what way our grant fiasco)

femicide is the order
women besieged
sexual assault the daily custom
(in the broad light of day)

(a woman or girl raped
every 25 seconds down here)

Watch where you walk
International Women’s Day
and our 16 days anti-abuse campaign
has long since passed us by

Watch where you walk

‘Watch where you walk’ – cops (People’s Post Athlone, 14 March 2017). “Boyfriends bury their girlfriends in backyards” (Cape Times, January 31 2017), “Twin ‘knifes’ mom, sister” (Cape Times, February 6 2017); and “Millions of children are facing famine” (Sunday Argus, January 29 2017)

(Image Credit: 702)

What happened at Life Esidimeni and Asha Kiran? The routine torture of the mentally ill

In the past week, two examples of systematic torture of adults living with mental illness have been revealed. In South Africa, a report revealed that at least 94 residents of Life Esidimeni facility died when they were dumped into various “dodgy NGOs”. This week, the Delhi Commission for Women, DCW, conducted a surprise inspection of the government-run Asha Kiran “home” for persons with mental disabilities. Along with disgusting and deplorable conditions and violations of human and women’s rights, they found that, in the past two months, eleven residents, more like prisoners, had died. Asha Kiran never reported the deaths. We live, and die, in an age of global abandonment, and the zone of abandonment is growing as it intensifies.

The stories of Life Esidimeni and Asha Kiran are heartbreaking, first, and then howl-inducing bay-at-the-moon outrageous. The story of Life Esidimeni, or this latest chapter, began in 2015 when the Gauteng government decided to cut costs by cancelling its contract with Life Esidimeni and move close to 1400 residential patients into community care and ngos. According to report and to family members, the move was chaotic, at best, and the residents were treated “like you don’t treat a dog”. Most of the ngos had no certificates, but no matter. The State had decided on its priorities, and the most vulnerable were dumped into hellholes with pretty names, like Precious Angel. Within a matter of months, almost a third of the patients tossed into Precious Angel died. Their last days were slow and agonizing.

The story of Asha Kiran, or its latest chapter, is one of in-house cruelty. Overcrowded and filthy, the place is covered in urine, feces and menstrual blood. Women are forced to line up naked in order to bathe, and of course the corridor is monitored by CCTV. Children are forced to sleep on the cold floors, without sheet or mattress, for the offense of having wet the bed. Asha Kiran is designed for a maximum of 350. In 2015, it housed 900. Since 2001, over 600 deaths have been reported at Asha Kiran, but, as the last two months demonstrate, how many more go unreported remains unknown.

The unreported loss of almost 100 people in Johannesburg or 11 in Delhi is part of the expanding State policy and practice of abandonment: “Zones of abandonment … accelerate the death of the unwanted. In this bureaucratically and relationally sanctioned register of social death, the human, the mental and the chemical are complicit: their entanglement expresses a common sense that authorized the lives of some while disallowing the lives of others.”

As the events surrounding Life Esidimeni and Asha Kiran demonstrate, the abandonment is neither neglect nor forgetting. Rather the abandonment is a full on, brutal, vicious, totalizing assault on body and soul, in which our brothers and sisters, friends and strangers each and all, are slowly and swiftly tortured, and then tortured again.

Life Esidimeni means “place of dignity”. Asha Kiran means “ray of hope.” They are what happens to dignity and hope in the age of abandonment. We are at “the end-station on the road of poverty … the place where living beings go when they are no longer considered people.” Now, as the mortuaries fill up, there is outrage: this must NEVER happen again. Where was the outrage before, as the end-station was being built in plain sight?

 

(Image Credit: The Daily Vox)

From `service delivery’ to #FeesMustFall, protests target decades of neoliberal austerity

According to Ivor Chipkin, the FeesMustFall movement runs the risk of being coopted by the politicians and business people around Jacob Zuma who are stripping state owned enterprises like Eskom to the tune of billions. This after some student activists called for protests targeting the National Treasury and academic Kelly Gillespie pointed to the role of the treasury in making higher education unaffordable for the majority of Blacks.

Chipkin provides no evidence that there is a real danger that the student movements will inadvertently support the looting of the state, which seems to be the project holding the Zuma group together. In fact, he can only make his point by ignoring the politics of the FeesMustFall movement, which on the whole is diametrically opposed to that of both the Zuma and the Gordhan group. Chipkin’s political agenda is not so much that he seriously believes the students are about to support Zuma; he wants FeesMustFall to support the Gordhan group, even if only by not targeting National Treasury with criticisms and protests.

In order to support his political point, Chipkin argues that the National Treasury has not had a policy of neo-liberal austerity over the last 16 years. But the evidence he provides is as weak as his political framing of no possibilities outside of either Zuma or Gordhan.

To review the evidence, we need an idea of what ‘neo-liberal austerity’ is. Is a simple rise in spending on ‘social protection’, even a doubling over a thirteen-year period, proof enough that there is no neo-liberal austerity? This is what Chipkin suggests, but it is simplistic.

Cutting social welfare spending has been a burning ambition of neo-liberal treasuries everywhere. They have not always succeeded, because they had to contend with the balance of forces. Where there was strong resistance to such cuts, all they could do was keep this kind of expenditure as low as possible. In these cases, it does not mean they are no longer neo-liberal; it means they are neo-liberals who are not getting their own way one hundred percent.

The political essence of neo-liberalism is using the state to create the conditions for maximum wealth transfer from everyone else to the richest elite among business corporations. This is exactly what the ANC has been doing over the last two decades. This is precisely why the elite among the capitalist class is showing Gordhan so much love. From water to land to minerals to investment to monetary matters and agriculture, the ANC’s policies have included privatization, deregulation, commodification and all the other building blocks of neoliberal politics around the world. These long words all mean the same thing – state policies that protect and create opportunities for giant business corporations to make profits at the expense of everyone and everything else.

It is laughable to argue that in the middle of this general neo-liberal approach of the ANC, the treasury stands as the lone exception. Yes, expenditure on social grants has risen (though not in Gordhan’s last budget where it dropped in real terms). But these rises were never driven by what the actual needs for poverty relief and eradication were. It was carefully framed to be affordable while the tax regime leaves the wealth of the big corporates untouched and growing. A treasury that was pro-poor and against neo-liberal austerity would not have dropped taxes on these billionaire corporates as Gordhan and his predecessors have done. Instead they would have taxed them heavily not only on profit but also on accumulated wealth, which is the only way to seriously move towards ending poverty and inequality.

Research by Nandi Vanqa-Mgijima and Christopher Webb of the International Labour Research and Information Group (Ilrig) further exposes the claim that social grants is a sign that there is not a regime of neo-liberal austerity at the treasury. They explain how the payment and distribution has been outsourced to a company listed on the stock exchanges of Johannesburg and New York. Furthermore, all along the chain of the distribution and spending of the grants, micro-lenders and giant supermarkets are set up to make profit at the expense of the poor grant beneficiaries. Undoubtedly grant recipients have benefited, but the neo-liberal manner in which the grants have been distributed have benefited the usual shareholders and creditors for whom neo-liberalism is designed.

Quoting percentage increases in spending on social protection allows talk of ‘more than double’ and ‘well above inflation’, which has the sound of opulence rather than austerity. But the word austere means having no comforts or luxuries. To suggest a child grant of R350 per month means there is no austerity is fucking sick. The thing is that the grants started from such a scandalously low base, that even these large percentage increases still leave grant recipients in poverty. If this is not neo-liberal austerity, then the concept has no meaning.

Finally, Chipkin’s own account of the situation in higher education reveals that the treasury has deployed a strategy that is quite common for neo-liberal treasuries and has been used by Trevor Manuel with regard to local government. This is the strategy of ‘unfunded mandates’. An explosive increase in the number of tertiary students, without a corresponding increase in funding, pressured universities to raise the extra funding through fee increases and corporate funding that further subordinate knowledge production to neo-liberalism. The one is a direct consequence of the other and confirms the neo-liberal orientation of treasury beyond doubt.

Vice-chancellors now find themselves in a similar position to mayors. In the Manuel era funding for municipalities were cut by 90% at the same time that their service delivery responsibilities were increased manifold. Hence we had the ‘service delivery’ protests similar to the FeesMustFall protests, both ultimately caused by neo-liberal austerity policed by the treasury.

It is these community protests that won the increases in social spending, just as the student protests has already won increases in higher education spending. Both are up against the neo-liberal regime of the ANC, of which both Gordhan and Zuma are part. FeesMustFall is completely correct in targeting them both.

 

(Photo Credit 1: City Press / Ndileka Lujabe) (Photo Credit 2: Time / Siphiwe Sibeko / Reuters)

nine times

 

nine times

a student leader shot
in the back
nine times

not Sharpeville
not Langa
not Thormton
or Belgravia Roads
on the Cape Flats

not under apartheid
but right here and now

students’ residences raided
teargas and rubber bullets fired
doors knocked down

post-apartheid
post-1994
under democracy
a constitution lauded
everywhere

a student leader shot
in the back
nine times

a woman to boot

(what will be said
when 16 Days of Activism
for No Violence against
Women and Children
is ritually celebrated)

so much has changed
so much transformed

so much
not

“Student leader shot in the back nine times” and “Sasco to ANC: Test free education” (Mail and Guardian, October 21 to 27 2016)

 

(Photo Credit: ewn) (Video Credit: YouTube / SABC)

The University Currently Known as Rhodes: Stop shooting at us! Stop shooting!

Watch this video:

What do you see? Is it a turning point, a tragedy, a farce, or just another day of escalating violence? Stop shooting at us! Stop shooting! What do you see when you watch this video? What do you hear?

For the past year and more, students across South Africa have led the national debate, and struggle, towards, and away from, justice, democracy and equality. Starting with the assault on a statue of Rhodes at the University of Cape Town to today, students have consistently pushed everyone to engage in a national movement-based inquiry into, again, justice, democracy and equality. From #RhodesMustFall to #OutsourcingMustFall to #PatriarchyMustFall to #FeesMustFall, and between and beyond, students have insisted that the time for waiting is long past due. From primary and secondary schools to universities, students have taken on racism, sexism, classism, cis-privilege, homophobia, transphobia, and violence, and intersections of violence, of every sort.

Time and time again, they have been met with State violence, from the language of members of the national government to the weapons and arms used by police and private security. While these incidents have been reported, the video of yesterday’s “event” has caught the attention of many. “President Jacob Zuma has instructed the justice, crime prevention and security cluster to `deal with the mayhem’”, but it’s not clear which mayhem is being referenced. “Rhodes University management says it’s outraged at how police manhandled and shot at students on campus”, but then who called the police in the first place?

None of this is new. Worse than not new, it’s all too familiar. As the editor of the Con Magazine lamented, “It’s like the eighties again. South Africa is an angry place, burning itself out at all ends. Beefy white men in police uniforms are hiding behind hedges and shooting at students. They are firing into the Rhodes University campus. The Black body is violated. White Lady Babylon be shoving. Babylon be shoving. All the time. Police open fire at students without warning. They shoot. They shoot without warning. At unarmed students. They grab and bully and shove and violate and traumatise and shoot.”

For some, while reminiscent of the 80s, the theater of violence is also new, in that it has been in process for quite some time: “Fees Must Fall is about how a democracy deals with a history of oppression. It’s about healing broken bones, about a generation’s phantom limbs and its children refusing amputation.” A year ago, Sisonke Msimang noted, “South Africans can no longer educate their children on the basis of luck and the goodwill of overstretched students. The students who have been protesting since April have not yet won the results they are after. Despite this, the mass action has served as a powerful reminder to South Africans that they are capable of far more than they are presently achieving. Emboldened by the courage of those who took to the streets, older South Africans have also been inspired to tell their stories. We are all beginning to understand that what has been hidden must now be made public.”

What has been hidden has been hidden in plain sight. Now, the students are making demands, in what many feel is a revolutionary moment. Their demands are impossible. Faculty commissions and others have suggested possible avenues towards more equitable fee and educational funding structures. Free education is possible. Whether the danger in student demands is the possibility of free, or even mostly free, education or the fact of students organizing and making demands no longer matters, because what now sits alongside their demands is State violence. It’s State violence that is barricading the roads, all in the name of protection. Today the arrested students were released: “It emerged in court charges against them had not been properly formulated.”

Watch the video. What do you see? What do you hear? “Do you feel our pain? Do you feel our pain!”

“Rhodes becomes the university currently brutalised by police”

 

(Video Credit: The Oppidan Press / YouTube) (Photo Credit: The Daily Vox)

Supporting Gordhan against Zuma weakens the resistance politics of the poor

A sense that there is a crisis at the highest levels of government has taken hold in South Africa. The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations, known as the Hawks, has instructed Pravin Gordhan, Minister of Finance, to make a warning statement on allegations of illegal spying and corruption against him relating to his time as tax commissioner. Gordhan’s refusal to comply, plus his stand-off with senior leaders of some state owned enterprises, have led even Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa to speak of a state at war with itself as he declared his support for Gordhan.

The finance minister is enjoying an outpouring of support, especially from the business sector and academics and journalists aligned to it. Their positions are all presented as ultimately a concern for the poor, who they say will suffer even more should Gordhan be defeated by his enemies. Even some in civil society have now taken this position, although they disagree with the economic policies Gordhan and his fellow neoliberal capitalists stand for.

Supporting Pravin Gordhan in the belief that the poor are better off with him rather than his ANC rivals in charge of the finance ministry is based on a mistaken theory. Perhaps the cruellest tyranny of politics is that no amount of sincerity, passion and effort can deliver desired results if the political framework does not support those results.

Maybe Gordhan is a better person than whoever might replace him. And let’s say a neoliberal capitalist system based on the rule of law, which Gordhan is debatably seen to represent, is better than a neoliberal capitalist system without the rule of law, which the so-called patronage politicians in the ANC fighting against Gordhan are seen to represent. But the amount of resources going to the poor is not determined by the ethical character of the rulers, nor by the presence or absence of the rule of law. All three of these factors are the result of the relative strength of the resistance politics of the poor. Supporting Gordhan against Zuma subordinates the resistance politics of the poor to the factional battles of the ANC and thereby weakens it.

This resistance politics of the poor is ultimately based on two broad tactics known as direct action. The first is where poor people simply take resources denied to them, for example through occupying land for residential or agricultural purposes or through poaching. The second tactic is to disrupt the wealth and comforts of the elites until they concede needed resources to the poor, for example through strikes, road blockages and office occupations. Both of these are high risk options usually forbidden by law and almost always repressed by force, and therefore there are a number of other tactics such as marches, demonstrations, negotiations and media interventions, which are often in effect threats to employ direct action and, importantly, processes of building up the necessary support for it.

How does supporting Gordhan weaken resistance politics? Because this support is framed as supporting the rule of law and the power of the ANC. The rule of law is an idea through which the ruling class legitimises their power. It does not exist in reality, although it influences reality, sometimes in ways that benefit the poor. The ruling class does not seriously operate within the law, least of all the faction that Gordhan is part of, even as they use the law to present their power as just and fair. It is precisely the power of the ANC legitimised by the rule of law that has enforced neo-liberal capitalism and led to explosive growth of poverty and inequality.

The struggle for more resources for the poor is essentially a struggle to build the politics of resistance against elite power. Aligning with one elite faction against another on the basis of a framework supportive of elite power as a whole just consolidates the position of the ruling class. Those concerned that Gordhan’s defeat will mean less resources and freedoms for the poor should step up direct actions and deepen the exposure of the power of the ANC and the so-called rule of law as sources of domination and exploitation of the poor.

 

(Photo Credit 1: Roar Magazine) (Photo Credit 2: Right 2 Know Campaign)