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D 7 mars 2011     H 05:21     A DEMOCRATIC LEFT FRONT     C 0 messages

On 18 and 19 February 2011, the National Steering Committee of the Democratic Left Front (DLF) held its first meeting after the historic DLF’s
founding conference held last month at Wits University. This committee meeting was held in eThekwini as part of initiating the launch and growth of
the DLF process, campaigns and structures in the province of KwaZulu-Natal.
The meeting was held in the immediate aftermath of the people’s revolutions for democracy and wealth redistribution in the countries of the
Maghreb and the Arab world, President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation Address, the forthcoming municipal elections and the current wave of
worker and community protests as we have seen with the recently-ended truck driver’s strike, the Equal Education Campaign’s protest outside
parliament concerning the crisis in the Eastern Cape education system, and the community protests in Grahamstown, Ermelo and others bubbling
The meeting decided to utilise the municipal elections as an important political moment to galvanise popular voices for change. This is in the light of
growing community voices and approaches to the DLF for considering support for community-supported independent candidates to stand in the
elections. The DLF will work with other popular, progressive and democratic forces to use the municipal elections period in order to consolidate
worker and community action into sustained social mobilisation that can win the demands, needs and interests of poor and working people. In the
view of the DLF, such mobilisation must also be directed at challenging and overcoming neo-liberal and capitalist policies of the South African
The meeting also discussed the growing lawlessness of the South African state, the inadequacy of the announcements by President Zuma to address
the unemployment crisis, and the forthcoming COP17 conference (the 17th Conference of the Parties for the United Nations Framework Convention
on Climate Change) to be held in eThekwini from 28 November to 9 December 2011.

Revolutions in the Maghreb

The meeting saluted the martyred Mohamed Bouazizi whose self-immolation sparked the historic Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions for people’s
power and against the combined failure of dictatorship and neo-liberal economic and social policies. The DLF expresses its full solidarity with the
people’s movements and struggles of Tunisia, Egypt, the entire Maghreb region and the Arab world. Their struggles are not just for a representative
democracy but represent a global wave of popular struggle against oppression, repression and anti-poor policies promoted by global capitalism over
the last several decades. Their struggle is part of the common struggle of humanity for social justice, equality, genuine people’s democracies and
freedom of expression. The DLF will now work with other organisations to consider hosting a solidarity visit to South Africa by activists from these
countries, which would include a speaking tour, activist forums and a possible solidarity conference.

The growing lawlessness of the South African state

The irony in Mohamed Bouazizi’s self-immolation lies in the fact that his humiliation, pain and suffering are visited daily upon thousands of poor
and working people in South Africa.

On 12 February 2011, the Western Cape provincial government unlawfully destroyed 26 houses and shacks in Mandela Park, Khayelitsha. When the
people in Mandela Park protested at the criminal actions, the leaders of the Democratic Alliance (DA) had them arrested. This is yet another example
of how successive governments in the City of Cape Town and the Western Cape province (both ANC and DA governments) have systematically
committed crimes against, and failed to meet the interests of the poor in Cape Town.
Our comrades in the Unemployed People’s Movement (UPM) in Grahamstown were victims of severe repression at the hands of the Makana
Municipality and the local South African Police Services (SAPS) following the obstinate and completely unreasonable denial of the right of the UPM
to protest against police inaction in cases of rape and violence against women, unemployment, lack of housing, poor service delivery,
mismanagement and corruption. As recently as September last year, the DA-led municipal and provincial governments sent in the City Police and the
SAPS to attack and demolish the Hangberg shack settlement in Hout Bay. This was done without a court order. Instead of listening to the cries and
demands of the protestors from the Wesselton settlement in Ermelo, the ANC municipality relied on the massive deployment of the SAPS who
proceeded to display wanton repression and violence. This same lawlessness saw the September 2009 attack by the ANC and the SAPS on the
Kennedy Road structures of Abahlali baseMijondolo.

Unemployment and other socio-economic crises in South Africa

In our collective analysis, the ongoing worker struggles and community protests represent an ongoing crisis and failure of the social and economic
policies of the ANC government. For policies that create decent jobs for large numbers of people, there must be a fundamental change to the
structure and direction of the economy away from domination by the financial sector and away from energy- and capital- intensive sectors. As a case
in point, the committee noted that the Richard’s Bay aluminium smelter consumes around 10% of our country’s energy resources and yet provides
only 1,800 jobs. As the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) has convincingly demonstrated and argued before, the
immediate closure of the smelter and the reorientation of the skills-set held by the 1,800 workers to renewable and other ecologically sustainable
industries would create thousands many more jobs whilst also releasing a significant amount of electricity to the country. The lopsided structure of
the South African economy continues at the behest and profit interests of large conglomerates : there is little consideration for sustainably meeting the
social, economic and ecological needs of society as a whole. This path will not produce jobs. Instead, it will produce and reproduce job losses, wider
systemic unemployment, inequality, poverty, ecological destruction and massive profits for a few.
The State of the Nation announcements by President Jacob Zuma of tax incentives and state subsidies to private sector companies for job-creating
investment reinforces the above logic : by setting the minimum amount of investment at R200 million to qualify for tax incentives, the schemes
announced can only be accessed by large companies and fail to oblige investment. In addition, Zuma’s incentives and subsidies still assume the
availability and endless flows of cheap water, oil, land, energy, food supplies, and wastes for the still dominant energy- and capital- intensive sectors.
Zuma did not announce a multi-billion rand scheme for workers, unemployed people and communities to take over companies as collectively owned
and democratically controlled enterprises that create decent work and also fundamentally change the nature and process of production and the
distribution of surplus.

Support for Robertson Abattoir workers and other community struggles

The DLF calls on all working class communities and organisations to use Saturday, 12 March as a day of solidarity with the 48 workers of Robertson
Abattoir who were first subjected to an illegal lockout on the 30th November 2010, and then dismissed on the 3rd of December. These workers and
their unions (the Commercial, Stevedoring, Agricultural and Allied Workers’ Union - CSAAWU) critically need support from individuals, activists,
trade unions, community organisations, lawyers, professionals and other progressive organisations. The employer (who is also a commercial farmer)
treated black workers not as human beings but as an extension of machinery. Workers at the abattoir were forced to work excessive hours under
conditions that bear resemblance to slavery. Often they had to work as many as 39 hours overtime in a week being paid a basic wage of only R315
(without benefits). This is illegal and in contravention of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act of 1995 (BCEA). The workers resisted these
conditions and joined CSAAWU to organise for decent working conditions and a living wage. The lockout and the dismissals are the employer’s
response to penalise the workers for their exercise of their right to freedom of association. The excessive exploitation of the workers was made
possible because of the failure of the Department of Labour in Worcester to enforce compliance with the law. In due course, CSAAWU will release
details of the solidarity actions for the 12 March 2010 day of action.
All the above actions demonstrate the yearning need for sustained social mobilisation of the overwhelming majority of workers, unemployed people
and communities behind a programme and set of demands for universal employment, decent work, universal free basic services and an adequate
social wage. In the comings months, the DLF will undertake consultations and briefings with trade union federations, community organisations and
social movements single-issue campaigns, religious formations and other key progressive organisations behind the goal of building such mobilisation
and solidarity. Amongst others, this will include COSATU, NACTU, the UPM, Abahlali baseMijondolo, the Treatment Action Campaign, the
Anti-Privatisation Forum and the South African Council of Churches.

Climate justice : 1 million climate jobs

In discussing COP17, the DLF committee resolved to work closely with the Climate Justice Now ! network and other organisations towards making
COP17 a focal point to expose the alignments of the South African government to green neo-liberal capitalism as can be seen in the global climate
change negotiations and in its approach to national development. Its increasing expenditure and commitment to coal fired power stations, nuclear
energy, fossil fuel based agriculture, mining, industrial and urban development have to be critiqued as part of the build up to COP17.
Despite its apparent distance in time and space from the day-to-day reality of ordinary people, the issue of climate change is not remote. The DLF
calls for efforts to use the COP17 conference as a moment to bring the interests, needs, concerns and aspirations of ordinary people to the streets of
eThekwini. As the DLF we will also mobilise for a build-up to, and a follow up to COP17 to present, debate, build mass consciousness around, and
mobilise for immediate and long-term democratic eco-socialist alternatives to the South African ecological crisis. For the majority, the issue of
climate change must be about jobs and food, especially the demand for creating 1 million climate jobs through immediate and coordinated steps to
shift to a low carbon economy away from the capital- and energy-intensive production. The demand for 1 million climate jobs can galvanise the
masses of the people, South African civil society and most importantly reorient government policy in relation not just to climate change but also in
relation to the economy.
As part of this, the DLF will promote the vision of ecological justice that was adopted at the People’s Climate conference that was hosted by the
government of Bolivia in Cochabamba in April 2010. The COP17 is an important opportunity to mobilise mass struggles aimed at putting pressure
on the South African government to accept and promote the Cochabamba resolutions for ecological justice and for the replacement of COP17 with a
more accountable, people-driven, and democratic global climate justice structure.


Name 1 : Mazibuko K. Jara, cell – 083 651 0271

Name 2 : Martin Legassick, cell – 083 417 6837

Members of the National Steering Committee of the DLF :

Brian Ashley : email - brian@aidc.org.za, cell - 082 085 7088

Jane Duncan : email - jane.duncan3@gmailcom, cell - 082 786 3600

Mazibuko K. Jara : email - mazibuko@amandla.org.za, cell - 083 651 0271

Ayanda Kota : email – ayandakota@webmail.co.za, cell – 078 625 6462

Martin Legassick : email – mlegassi@iafrica.com, cell – 083 417 6837

Alan Murphy : email – alan@ecopeace.co.za, cell – 084 203 7721

Phumzile Mtetwa : email - phumi@equality.org.za, cell - 072 795 9194

Noor Nieftagodien : email - noor.nieftagodien@wits.ac.za, cell - 082 457 4103

Trevor Ngwane : email - trevorngwane@gmail.com, cell - 079 030 7657

Vishwas Satgar : email - copac@icon.co.za, cell - 082 775 3420