South African CP, Statement on the 29th commemoration of Joe Slovo’s death

1/8/24, 2:52 PM
  • South Africa, South African Communist Party En Africa Communist and workers' parties

South African Communist Party

Statement on the 29th commemoration of Joe Slovo’s death 

Delivered by the SACP General Secretary Solly Mapaila


Soweto, Saturday, 6 January 2024

On this day in 1995, we lost a fine revolutionary, communist, strategist and tactician, an intellectual of note, and a soldier and commander of uMkhonto weSizwe, Joe Slovo. Slovo, who came to South Africa with his parents at nine from Lithuania, where he was born in 1926, denounced white privilege. He went to the Second World War in his youth to fight against fascism. When he returned at the end of the war in the mid-1940s, he went on, as a member of the Communist Party, to play a key role in the interrelated struggles for the liberation of the oppressed black majority and the complete emancipation of the working-class, regardless of race and gender, from capitalist exploitation. 


Slovo was involved in major operations of our struggle and the drafting of its documents, including the Freedom Charter, adopted in 1955. When we achieved, through the struggle, our hard-won April 1994 democratic breakthrough, he served as the first minister responsible for the housing needs of our people. 


Slovo attached great importance to the needs of the workers and poor, who the profit-driven capitalist market excludes from economic demand for houses. The capitalists do not care about people who are homeless. What they care about is whether there are people who have money to buy or rent the properties that they develop through the exploitation of workers in the construction sector.  


As we remember Slovo, the internationalist, we pledge our solidarity with the Palestinian people against the bombardment of their homes, healthcare centres, infrastructure and land by the capitalist, apartheid Israeli settler state through its military. We support the Palestinians’ just struggle for the return of their entire expropriated land and national self-determination under conditions of freedom. Since its latest genocidal campaign on 7 October last year, the Israeli apartheid settler state has killed over 22 000 and wounded over 57 000 Palestinians, including children, women, journalists, and those it has paralysed. Through the indiscriminate bombardment and committing war crimes, the apartheid Israeli leaders have wiped off entire families of Palestinians in Gaza. 


The SACP denounces the apartheid Israeli genocide of Palestinians in the strongest possible terms. We support efforts to hold the Israeli leaders accountable. Despite now having its judges from the legal fraternity, unlike in some past cases, the International Criminal Court has until now not held the apartheid Israeli regime leaders accountable. This confirms our reservations about the ICC. The jury is out on whether the ICC will continue to be on the side of the imperialist-backed forces in conflict situations and/or do nothing about Israel’s crimes against humanity. The SACP fully supports the step South Africa has taken – to file a case with the International Court of Justice – to hold the apartheid Israeli regime accountable. 

30th anniversary of our democratic breakthrough

We hold the 29th annual commemoration of Slovo’s death in a year that marks the 30th anniversary of our democratic breakthrough from apartheid oppression. It is an undeniable reality that the black majority endured deprivation of human rights and racial oppression throughout the period preceding our hard-fought victory against the apartheid regime in April 1994. This democratic breakthrough will be remembered as a pivotal achievement in history, paving the way for a new era of human rights and the commendable progress that ensued. 


This includes, among other achievements, the provision of millions of houses by the government at no cost to workers, the unemployed, and the impoverished. There has been a substantial expansion of access to education at all levels and healthcare services. According to Statistics South Africa's 2022 census, the country has made significant strides in extending access to electricity. In contrast to the present, many of our rural areas lacked paved roads before our victory over the apartheid regime. These are among the achievements we appreciate as the SACP.


It is also an undeniable reality that additional progress, including enhancements in the quality and scope of transformation and development, is under a genuine threat of erosion. A shift in policy direction is imperative to safeguard our democratic gains, build upon them, and move our achievements to even greater heights. As things stand, there is more work that needs to be done.


The 2024 elections provide a crucial platform to advance the work that still needs to be done. In prioritising the interests of the working-class, the SACP will not confine its involvement in the political struggle of the 2024 elections solely to the manifesto, which must be drafted in joint consultation with our allies. We will go beyond the text of the manifesto to put the interests of the working-class forward, including but not limited to the following.  


  1. The working-class needs transformation and development policies that will end the unemployment crisis as an apex priority. The official unemployment rate, excluding discouraged work-seekers, is 31.9 per cent as of the third quarter of 2023, impacting 7.8 million active work-seekers. This shows that our country’s working class has not yet recovered from the unemployment crisis preceding the Covid-19 pandemic, which stood at 29.1 per cent by the narrow definition in the fourth quarter of 2019. Considering total unemployment, including discouraged work-seekers, unemployment is 41.2 per cent as of the third quarter of 2023, affecting 11.7 million active and discouraged work-seekers. South Africa will not afford to follow the same policies over and over, hoping to achieve different outcomes. 


  1. To be sure, unemployment surged to crisis-high rates, exceeding 20 per cent and worsening since 1996. This followed the imposition of an economic policy tangent towards neoliberal reformism, diverging from the national-revolutionary trajectory envisioned in the Freedom Charter and the initial version of the Reconstruction and Development Programme. This shift, which not only failed to address unemployment but actively contributed to its sustenance and worsening as a crisis, began with the economic policy known as GEAR (Growth, Employment, and Redistribution). Similarly, the neoliberal reformist thinking that dominated much of our economic policy space since 1996 has proven ineffective in eradicating poverty, radically reducing class, race, and gender inequalities, and more impactfully tackling uneven development. A report published in 2022 ranked South Africa as the most unequal of 164 countries surveyed. Prior to that, in 2020, 30.3 million South Africans, or 55.5 per cent, were recorded as living in poverty at the national upper poverty line of R992, while 13.8 million people, 25 per cent, were recorded as experiencing food poverty.


2.1.          To resolve these problems, South Africa needs a policy overhaul that encompasses a new macroeconomic framework, including fiscal and monetary policies.

2.2.          Along with resolving the unemployment crisis, the qualitatively different policy trajectory should, as part of apex priorities, be more decisive to eliminate the consistently high rates of poverty, radically reduce the persisting astronomical levels of inequality, and more decisively confront uneven development – between rural and urban areas and between townships and suburbs.  

2.3.          The new policy direction should involve increased support for rural and township development. This must include infrastructure delivery and maintenance both to unlock the economy and support social development in the underdeveloped communities. Our people in rural areas and townships where any of these are missing must have access to bulk water and sanitation infrastructure, roads, streets and recreational facilities, as well as reliable digital infrastructure. Likewise, a more effective integrated human settlement development programme is essential to eliminate squatter camps and replace them with well-developed human settlements.


  1. South Africa needs industrialisation. Along with fiscal policy changes, such as the adoption of a wealth tax and reversal of the last corporate income tax reduction, industrialisation will positively contribute to state revenue. It is a crucial source of funding for transformation and development. To achieve industrialisation, and both overcome de-industrialisation and create employment at a scale that will resolve our national unemployment crisis, we need an adequately supported, high impact industrial policy. This apex priority must include an effective manufacturing, agricultural and mining value chains expansion and diversification, as well as a robust strategy for both the digital and green, but truly just, economy.   


  1. The Freedom Charter envisages a central role of the state in the banking sector. This year marks the 30th anniversary of our hard-won democratic dispensation; however, the government has not established a single state bank since our transition from the apartheid regime in April 1994. This results from, in no small measure, the 1996 turn to neoliberal reformism. The neoliberal agenda attacks the role of the state in the economy in favour of private enterprise monopoly. Until now, the banking sector is still controlled by a handful of profit-driven commercial banks. To this day, the state at all levels, like members of the public, still has accounts at the private commercial banks. In no small measure, the commercial banks use the public deposits to make private profits through transactions, fund management and lending. South Africa needs state banks and a developmental state banking sector in pursuit of the people’s demands as enshrined in the Freedom Charter. Unlike the financially exploitative commercial banks, the state banking sector must use those public funds to advance national transformation and development.      


  1. The working-class needs an integrated, safe and affordable public transport system. This must encompass the revitalisation of the vandalised and looted passenger rail network and its expansion to areas it did not reach under apartheid. 


  1. The productive and maintenance capacity of the public sector in electric power generation and other infrastructure networks, such as freight rail and ports, experienced decay at the hands of neoliberal policy choices, including fiscal austerity and outsourcing, compounded by the rot in governance and corruption under state capture. Adherence to neoliberalism, like corruption, will only benefit private interests, while the majority of our people remain impoverished amid rising costs of living, including as driven by electricity tariff hikes. Retrenchments caused by the load shedding, the breakdown of our freight rail capacity and failures at our ports compound the costs of living crisis. South Africa needs a public pathway, with state investment into new power generation, freight rail and ports capacity to resolve these crises.   


  1. Crime causes sleepless nights, especially working-class communities as the rich and the well-off have turned to and spend more on private security. Public safety and security are essential. To ensure these, the criminal justice system, including the courts, must deal with criminality more decisively. Greater investment to prevent, combat and investigate crime is critical, combined with popular mass mobilisation and strengthening our deterrent laws. These measures must deal gender-based violence a decisive blow as an apex priority. Every organ of the criminal justice cluster must spend their allocated budgets judiciously, as opposed to returning conditional grants, for example, to the National Treasury.


  1. After the National Council of Provinces passed the National Health Insurance Bill in December 2023, the government must promulgate the Bill into law and expedite its full implementation to ensure free quality healthcare for all at the point of delivery, regardless of a person’s inability to pay. Among others, this requires stronger primary healthcare, including more clinics, and training of more healthcare professionals and specialists, and investment into healthcare facilities, resources and cutting-edge equipment in the public sector.     


  1. Like healthcare, education and training have not been spared the sharp edge of the neoliberal austerity agenda. We have only 26 public universities and 50 public TVET colleges in a population of 62 million, having increased from 51.7 million people in 2011. Yet, these institutions must not be limited to the full-time equivalent model of students but should expand the provision of continuing education and training. Still, many TVET colleges lack state-of-the-art training equipment and technology compared to the most advanced industrial world of work for which their students are prepared.


Every TVET college must be a centre of excellence, and both the numbers of public universities and TVET colleges must increase to match our population in need of education and training as part of human development. All this will require a review of fiscal policy to allocate adequate funding resources. We also need continuous improvement of quality and better learning and teaching outcomes at all levels of schooling and throughout the post-school education and training system.


  1. The working class requires both the government and industry to respect and honour the outcomes of collective bargaining across the economy. Neoliberal policies have led to the outsourcing of state functions, externalising and leaving affected workers vulnerable to exploitative tenderpreneurs in various spheres of the government and public entities. Despite commitments in previous elections, there has been no major review of outsourced functions with a view of adopting an in-sourcing programme. It is imperative to implement this review.  

Reconfiguration of the alliance, forging a popular left front and building a mass-based socialist movement

Our strategy for the 2024 elections will involve mobilising the working-class to achieve its immediate aims, enforce its momentary interests, and actively shape the future in the here and now both in terms of the demands and mass political organisation. While we will still engage with our allies to reconfigure the Alliance as our preferred modality, our objectives now go beyond that. They include forging a popular left front and building a powerful, socialist movement of workers and poor, along with our standing Party Building task to strengthen our capacity to serve as the democratic vanguard of the working-class and its struggles for socialism. This is an important insurance for the working-class, to avoid tactical rigidity and its pitfalls. 

Not unrelated, we want to stress here today that the future of the Alliance hinges on its reconfiguration, just as the future of each one of its components hinges on their renewal to move with the times. This must actually form part of our organisational, political and ideological response to the right-wing coalition manoeuvres and mushrooming electoralist opportunism.


Don’t let the impostor syndrome get away with murder.


Let us make clear, by the time together with the ANC we jointly formed the MK, the SACP had already turned to armed struggle organisation and activities against the apartheid regime, as President Nelson Mandela has correctly said in his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom. It is sad that as we hold this 29th annual commemoration of Slovo’s death, he, Moses Mabhida, OR Tambo, Dorothy Nyembe, Chris Hani, Nokuthula Simelane, Nelson Mandela and other MK stalwarts are turning in their graves. This is because a grouping, supported by one former President of the ANC, has clothed their newly found party with the name of the MK to contest elections like a wolf in a sheep skin. We denounce this impostor syndrome. It is part of the mushrooming of narrow electoralist groupings masquerading as the saviours while in fact they are pushing self-serving agendas, offering no alternative to the exploitative capitalist system. 


How can South Africa forget the state capture from which the fugitives from justice, the Guptas, and others, including foreign controlled multinational corporations from Western Europe and the United States, benefitted. The facts about this betrayal of our democracy, including the conservative estimates of the losses South Africa incurred, are detailed in the report of the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture. This must never be allowed to rear its ugly head again. 


Today, we want to use this opportunity to reaffirm our recognition of the MK Liberation War Veterans as the only legitimate association and voice of bona fide former MK commanders and rank-and-file members.


To former President Jacob Zuma, we say, “Remember everything you said and all the songs you sang in disapproval of the faction that supported your predecessor in Polokwane forming the electoralist splinter party called COPE”. If you consider yourself an honourable man – and we presume you still uphold some sense of the decency an honourable man should reflect – it would be appropriate for you to redirect the disapproval equally sharply towards yourself at this moment, as your actions do not seem to differ from that tendency in any meaningful way. 

Steadfastness in the struggle against corruption 

Contrary to the allegations spread by OUTA without hearing the other side of the story, the SACP has never approached any person to seek illegitimate funding. It is unacceptable for anyone to try to co-opt the name of the SACP in their gossip or shenanigans. We remain steadfast on our stance against corruption. 

International solidarity  

We reiterate our solidarity with and express our support for the people of Swaziland struggling for democracy.


The SACP endorses the efforts for a truce in the Sudanese war, to foster a democratic transition and bring an end to all hostilities in Sudan.

We reiterate our solidarity with the people of Western Sahara against occupation by the Moroccan regime, which must end its occupation of Western Sahara unconditionally with immediate effect.


The SACP expresses its solidarity with the people of Syria against the foreign occupation of the Syrian Golan Heights by the Israeli apartheid regime backed by the imperialist regime of the United States. 


We join revolutionary movements and governments worldwide in extending our congratulations to the government and people of Cuba on the 65th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution, which occurred on 1 January 1959. The SACP further commends the resilience of the Cuban government and its people in defending their revolution. We reiterate our unwavering international solidarity with the government and people of Cuba against the criminal economic, financial, trade and investment blockade of Cuba, unilateral sanctions, and occupation of the Cuban territory of Guantanamo Bay by the imperialist regime of the United States. 


We reiterate our solidarity with the people of Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia against imperialist machination by the United States.