Category Archives: Ebrahim Harvey

Blade’s Not That Sharp

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Blade Nzimande, general secretary of the South African Communist Party, is a strange communist leader of a strange communist party. His online attack last week in the journal Umsebenzi, on some of the left (outside the tripartite alliance) who stood in the elections or who advocated a boycott is unbecoming.

These movements are eager to realise the promise of a better life made by the ruling African National Congress but thus far denied to them.

The Operation Kanyisa Movement of Trevor Ngwane and Abahlali baseMjondolo (shack dwellers), based in Durban, were singled out by Nzimande. The former, which cannot compete with the electoral resources at the disposal of big parties like the ANC, won just one seat in the Johannesburg municipality while the latter advocated a boycott of the elections, which is also their right. The ongoing attacks the shack dwellers have faced in Durban over the past six months, including the banning of protests, is the main reason why they chose to stay away from the polls.

A basic task of any communist party is to build unity with all strata of the oppressed and exploited and provide real leadership to the struggles against the ravages of neo-liberalism in the vital areas of everyday life. Aside from the pervasive importance of jobs, it is the struggle for housing, water, sanitation and electricity that poor people the world over cry out for. This is what these organisations are all about.

But the SACP has been conspicuous by its absence in these struggles. Why?

Contrary to its denial, this is largely because of its subordinate relationship to the ANC, whose social policies are responsible for much suffering in black households.

If this is not true, why have we not seen the party strongly leading any struggle for water, sanitation, electricity and housing anywhere in this country? The taps, toilets and electricity infrastructure are often there but there are frequently no lights, no electricity to cook with, no water to flush toilets, drink or wash with because people don’t have money to recharge expired prepaid meters, which have spread over the length and breadth of our country. Not in rich areas, however, but in the poorest black areas. Does Nzimande think of this when he praises the achievements of the ANC?

Who is really out of touch with the realities in this country? Nzimande must take a short drive to Soweto, Orange Farm and Kagiso and talk to families about their heart-wrenching deprivations, simply because they are too poor to pay for their basic daily needs. These households are trapped between unemployment, poverty, a miserly and terribly limited free basic service, and an indigent system that is stigmatising, demeaning and a bureaucratic nightmare.

Instead of working with the organisations taking up these struggles, he belittles and ridicules them, much to the delight of his political masters in the ANC. A committed and genuinely independent party of the working class would be united with these organisations and in the forefront of struggles they are instead sadly absent from.

Ebrahim Harvey is an independent political writer and former Cosatu unionist