'Our people are facing extinction'
Mass protests this week will make the people's voice heard, writes Julius Malema
ON Thursday and Friday the ANC Youth League will lead mass protests of the underemployed and unemployed youth, the landless, the homeless, informal settlement dwellers and those aspiring to quality education and decent lives.
They will be led in mass marches to the heights of the economy and of power in SA - the Chamber of Mines and the Stock Exchange in Johannesburg, and the Union Buildings in Tshwane.
The league's political and ideological motivation for engaging in such mass action comes from, among others, African thinker Amilcar Cabral who said, in 1965: "Always bear in mind that the people are not fighting for ideas, for the things in anyone's head. They are fighting to win material benefits, to live better and in peace, to see their lives go forward, to guarantee the future of their children. Hide nothing from the masses of our people. Tell no lies. Mask no difficulties, mistakes, failures. Claim no easy victories."
These words sound more true in SA today than at any other time. Since democracy, the liberation movement has - because of what the ANC says are the "sins of incumbency" - tended to confuse and conceal the real essence of the struggle against colonial and apartheid domination.
The ANC-led liberation movement has also tended to leave the masses behind in confronting the challenges and crises of the untransformed post-apartheid state, economy and society.
At the Youth League's 24th national congress , we said explicitly that while the ANC-led liberation movement had consolidated political power since the 1994 election , almost nothing had been done in the transfer of SA's wealth to the ownership of the people as a whole. The slow pace of transformation and of the economy, particularly transfer of wealth, is testimony to the fact that the liberation movement has failed.
Most historically excluded and disadvantaged individuals continue to live in squalor, poverty, and hopelessness - just like before the transfer of political power in 1994.
Those who controlled SA's wealth before 1994 continue to do so today and tend to be contemptuous of the democratic breakthrough.
Political emancipation and control with no economic emancipation are meaningless.
The ANC-led liberation movement constantly changes economic policy and direction, with no tangible results in solving the problems of racialised poverty.
The lives of black people in SA are valueless because we are doing nothing to improve their living conditions.
The fact that the average life expectancy of white South Africans is more than 30 years higher than the life expectancy of their black counterparts is evidence enough that our people are facing extinction because of racialised poverty inherited from apartheid.
Our people are dying due to poverty and starvation because we have not changed the economic ownership pattern that is informed by apartheid.
Such a dire existence happens alongside massive wealth and the capacity to eradicate poverty, starvation, unemployment and crisis levels of inequality in SA. The reason why the economy is not transforming at the required pace is because there is no will from those commanding the economy to transfer wealth.
Instead of coming with sustainable solutions allowing all South Africans to benefit from SA's wealth, those in economic command threaten and blackmail the political leadership with disinvestment.
And because the political leadership has fought political emancipation struggles for a long time under extreme difficulties, it surrenders to the interests of predominantly white monopoly capital.
The political leadership in SA is scared of capital and sometimes scared of white people because capital instils fear in it, and white people present a picture of indispensability in the economy. This is sad because if such fear continues, the economy will never be transformed and white supremacy, racism and subjugation of the majority will continue forever. It would be sad to fear capital and white people because 80% of SA's productive land would then continue to be controlled by less than 5% of the white population.
Now, 17 years into democracy, nothing has been meaningfully achieved with regard to land reform and restitution - less than 5% of land has been restituted.
As economic freedom fighters, we refuse to be oppressed and exploited forever because of the control of the economy by a few individuals. We will never settle for anything that will gradually eradicate the fruits of democracy. We refuse to see elderly people and children live in squalor and starvation, next to rivers that cause havoc during rainy seasons, in places such as Scwetla informal settlement in Alexandra, Thembelihle in Lenasia, Diepsloot and many others.
We refuse to see more than 60% of African children who are admitted to institutions of higher learning drop out because they do not have money for fees or are excluded due to a lack of academic support programmes.
We refuse to live with high levels of unemployment, poverty and starvation while SA is among the richest territories in the world when it comes to economic resources.
Mines produce precious, industrial and valuable minerals, and the only things left for workers are disease, injury, deeper poverty and the preventable deaths that are the consequences of unsafe working conditions. The extent of HIV/Aids and many other diseases around mining communities is high because these communities are treated like sub-human settlements.
We believe the only way to fight these horrible manifestations of an unequal, racialised and uncaring capitalist system is to mobilise its victims to confront it.
Capitalists in SA believe there is permanent stability, because they are not exposed to the suffering and starvation of our people. The protests that happen in communities are an expression of anger at inequalities, poverty and starvation. As an immediate authority, local government institutions face the brunt of such protests. It is not the responsibility of municipalities to meet all the economic needs of communities. That is why we are mobilising all communities to join the march and direct their anger at the authorities, in particular those who own the means of production.
The Chamber of Mines is historically and currently responsible for the repressive laws and regulations which condemned African labourers to permanent and fatal subjugation, exploitation and oppression. The first demands will be handed over to the Chamber of Mines because mining capital resides there.
The JSE recently released statistics which claim blacks own 17% of shares in listed companies, which is not true. Believing that SA society is gullible, JSE authorities spread misleading information in the hope of mitigating frustration and anger at their refusal to transform. The JSE will be the second recipient of the memorandum of demands.
In a move reminiscent of the ANC Youth League Jobs for Youth march in 2007, the league will lead a march to the Union Buildings.
We will lead all the affected communities to the Union Buildings to say to the leadership of the government that all the demands made in communities are urgent and need prompt responses.
Why do we still have dangerous, unsafe and inhuman informal settlements 17 years after democracy?
Why do we still have communities with no water and electricity?
Why is there no free education, even when the ANC agreed in 2007 that there should be free education?
Why is unemployment deepening? Statistics point to the fact that we now have more than eight million people who cannot find jobs.
These are questions we will ask at the Union Buildings, in the presence of all people who need jobs, houses, free education, land and the nationalisation of mines and to have many other basic demands met, because when we ask these questions in their absence, we are treated with contempt and isolated as attention-seekers.
These struggle and transformation questions only become real when they are asked by the people who are affected.
Like Cabral, our approach is that we should "hide nothing from the masses of our people. Tell no lies. Expose lies whenever they are told. Mask no difficulties, mistakes, failures. Claim no easy victories."
- Malema is the ANC Youth League president