Socialists accuse state of crackdown
by Kwanele Sosibo
Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) executive member Liv Shange’s visa woes – which may see her barred from re-entering South Africa – are part of a “wider onslaught on democratic rights” and could be linked to attempts to salvage the faltering peace deal in the mining sector, she said this week from Luleå in Sweden.
The DSM has been actively organising mineworkers disillusioned with the National Union of Mineworkers for years – long before the Marikana massacre occurred last year. Its members advised several of the strike committees during the wave of post-Marikana strikes.
Shange, who was fined R2000 for overstaying her spousal visa in South Africa when she left for Sweden on June 20 (although she has a spousal visa reapplication pending), said she could not disregard the fact there had been a sudden change in attitude from the department of home affairs and a concerted campaign to deal with what ANC general secretary Gwede Mantashe referred to as “anarchy” in the mining sector.
Shange’s visa was lost during a mugging. She is seeking legal advice on how to deal with the matter before her envisaged return on July 14.
“There have been months of effort to show the market that there is stability in the South African mining industry, and part of those efforts included an attack on the DSM,” she said.
“[President Jacob] Zuma started talking about shady foreign elements fomenting unrest, [Minerals and Resources Minister Susan] Shabangu said there was an agenda of overthrowing the government, [KwaZulu-Natal Premier] Zweli Mkhize spoke of ‘scare tactics’, of ‘anarchy, violence, intimidation’, and [deputy ANC president Cyril] Ramaphosa spoke of us as a complicating factor.
“Mantashe’s June comments [on Swedes and the Irish fuelling anarchy in Marikana] were a clear reference without mentioning names. I can’t disregard that there is a connection in all of these,” Shange said.
“The peace deal is dependent on reining in Amcu [the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union] as a collaborator and singling us out. Previously we were lumped together but now we’re being singled out to placate Amcu.”
The peace plan, known as the framework agreement for a sustainable mining industry, is faltering. Amcu refused to sign it, claiming some demands had not been met, which meant it needed to get a new mandate from its members.
Several sources associated with the process say the government is adopting a divide-and-rule strategy in dealing with Amcu, which includes separating it from the more militant workers’ committees (specifically at Anglo American Platinum) that are associated with the DSM.
Mametlwe Sebei, Shange’s colleague in both the DSM and the Workers and Socialist Party, said that talk of Shange’s deportation first surfaced after DSM members were arrested at a gold mine in Krugersdorp.
Responding to questions, home affairs’ deputy director general for communications, Ronnie Mamoepa, said Shange should stop insinuating that prohibitions had been placed on her by the state. She would just have to wait until her application was processed.
Political analyst Richard Pithouse said: “The thing that strikes me about the Liv thing and other similar events is the tendency to ascribe the dissident agency of people who are poor and black to malicious white influence. Colonialism and apartheid did exactly the same.”
‘Destabilise the country’
Trevor Ngwane of the Socialist Group, which is linked to the Democratic Left Front, said: “They are out to find out everything about so-called dangerous social movements.
“In 2002, when I was involved in the Anti-Privatisation Forum around the time of the World Summit on Sustainable Development, I even had a meeting with a top NIA [National Intelligence Agency] director. He came with all his top guys and tried to intimidate me. They thought we were going to disrupt the summit. At the time, it didn’t matter to me. We were on a wave.
“But can you imagine [former FBI chief J Edgar] Hoover visiting you with all his lieutenants and you’re just this guy from Nquthu.”
Sbu Zikode of the Durban-based organisation, Abahlali baseMjondolo, which fights for informal settlement dwellers’ rights, said that, after travelling overseas, sometimes the first phone call he got was from crime intelligence officials asking him about details of his trip.
He said sometimes there were xenophobic undertones to their inquiries.
“Politicians will accuse us of going out the country and talking bad about it, and of being used by foreign nationals to destabilise the country,” Zikode said.
“They’re doing their jobs so I don’t take offence, but I have to ask myself: ‘Are we becoming a threat to national security? What is criminal about fighting for people’s rights?’
“Not being able to organise freely will compel people to use other methods, even going underground, which is not safe for the country.”