South Africa: ZACF statement of support for public sector strike

Statement of support by the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Federation (southern Africa) for the public sector strikes which are currently sweeping South Africa.

Submitted by Sifuna Zonke on June 15, 2007

ZACF Statement of Support for the Public Sector Strike
This year, it was recommended by the Independent (state) Commission for the Remunaration of Public Office Bearers that President Thabo Mbeki get a 57,3% pay rise, taking his total package from R1,1-million to R1,8-million annually. The Commission also recommended that Members of Parliament receive a total of R650,000 annually. Compare this to the insulting 6% wage increase initially offered by the state to public sector workers, one of whom, a hospital clerk, told us she fed five mouths with an annual take-home salary of under R12,000.

The Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Federation (southern Africa) supports the public sector strikers, not just in their demand for a wage increase of 12%, which has now been reduced to 10%, but also in their struggle to improve the standard of all public sector services. We call on all workers and community members to show their support for this strike, as it is not just about wages but an attempt to raise the quality of public services provided to us all.

We strongly condemn the government's attempt to intimidate workers into ending the strike by issuing dismissal notices to striking workers, and by using apartheid-era police brutality against picketers - even though the police are headed by SACP national chairperson Charles Nqakula. We support the workers' demands that any agreement reached must be accompanied by the unconditional reinstatement of any and all workers dismissed during the strike.

We strongly condemn the government's duplicity in its negotiators, led by Kenny Govender, having pretended for four whole months to be negotiating in good faith when Govender's team turned out not to have the mandate of the four ANC Cabinet ministers tasked with managing the strike: Nquakula, Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota, Finance Minister Trevor Manuel and ex-communist Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi.

We strongly condemn the attempts by certain reactionary sections of the media to portray the strikers en masse as violent when the few incidents of violence have been caused by a handful of shady characters and ill-disciplined strikers. It is remarkable that the economic abuse perpetrated on workers by being paid starvation wages is not considered to be violent.

We commend the great display of solidarity to be shown by the municipal workers today and, with great respect, wish them strength and courage in their actions. We also commend the remarkable solidarity shown between the union federations and the independents on this strike as the foundation for an undivided working class-based mass movement.

We are confident, however, that even if government concedes to the demands of the public sector workers, it will not be long before the workers have to strike again, to keep up with inflation and the rising cost of living. That is why we say that this strike should not just be for higher wages and better public services, but that it should be part of a larger struggle against the system whereby the rich and powerful profit of the suffering and labour of the poor.

As long as we live under an economic system where public services are operated as profit generating enterprises we will have to fight just to have our most basic needs catered for. This is why we anarchist-communists say that a struggle between the rich minority and the poor majority, between the bosses and the workers, in this case between government and public sector employees, must go on until the boss class has been overthrown and all the enterprises necessary to meet the needs of the people have been taken under the control of those who work them.

This strike illustrates very clearly, as anarchists have always maintained, that the government, any government - be it black, white, socialist or capitalist - does not serve the interests of the working and poor people, but those of the rich, comfortable and privileged classes. The government is an employer and, as such, acts as a boss, willing to fire on it's own employees in order to defend its profit margins.

That is why we are adamant that, regardless of the outcome of this strike - although we hope it will be in favour of the workers - there will not be adequate service delivery, and access for all to the necessities of life, until such time as the workers have properly organised themselves to take back all the industries of the land, to operate them not for profit but to meet the needs of all.

When the factories and land are controlled by those that work them, education by the educators and students, and the communities by those that inhabit them, then we can say we are free. When goods are produced and distributed not according to ability to pay and the profit motive, but according to need, and everybody has access to the necessities of life, then we can say we are free. When all the public services are controlled both by those that they cater to and by those that they are operated by, then we can say we are truly free.

Until such time we must organise and unite all the workers of the land, in both the factories and fields, together with the students, unemployed and all the communities of the poor and working poor, for one last liberation struggle. The struggle not for democratic control of a government - black or white, socialist or capitalist - that controls our lives, but for the very control of our lives, ourselves, and all that that entails. For popular control of the resources and industries of the land. This is the new liberation struggle, the struggle for total liberation.

Phambili ngomzabalazo!
Phansi 7.25%! Phansi 10%!
Sifuna zonke!

Jonathan Payn
Federation Secretary
ZACF (South Africa & Swaziland)
Cell: 078-577-4394