The ANC 12 Treason Trial - Never on Our Knees

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! No. 2 - January/February 1980

On Thursday 19 November 1979 the racist apartheid regime of South Africa sentenced James Mange to death in a 'court' in Pietermaritzburg. The South African regime intends to add James Mange's name to a long list of people murdered 'judicially' — the most recent being Solomon Mahlangu who was hanged on 6 April 1979. James Mange is one of the African National Congress 12 Treason Triallists.

The ANC 12 Treason Trial was part and parcel of the war between the South African regime and the ANC(SA). This is obvious from the background to the trial, the conduct of the ANC 12 in the trial and the viciousness of the racist court at Pietermaritzburg.

War in South Africa

All 12 comrades were charged under the treason laws, with 43 alternate counts under the Terrorism laws. Two were also charged with conspiracy to incite murder. All 12 were alleged to have been involved in armed actions against the security forces. This was the first time that a South African 'court' has admitted that the security forces are engaged in a war with Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation — the military wing of the ANC).

Part of the evidence against the 12 was a statement from the ANC describing a major battle in Bophuthatswana on August 10 1978. In that battle ANC freedom fighters engaged the South African security forces and the Bophuthatswana National Guard in a 50-minute gun battle, killing 10 members of the security forces. Normally, the South African regime simply denies the existence of such battles. However, the fact is that the campaign waged by the ANC has reached such a pitch that a tiny part of the truth gets through the systematic censorship. In other words, the ANC Treason Trial was a reflection of the strength of the liberation movement.

Rejection of apartheid 'justice'

This strength was demonstrated in the heroic conduct of the 12 throughout the 'trial —which began on September 4th 1979. The fear of the authorities was shown in the fact that a specially built bullet-proof glass dock was constructed for the trial. The whole front row of the public gallery was occupied by police throughout the trial. When the 12 came into court or during any of the frequent demonstrations by the 12, this row of police would stand up so that supporters could not see the 12. The courtroom was surrounded by policemen armed with rifles and sub-machine guns, and armed patrols guarded the whole of the surrounding area. This concerted display of force completely failed to cow either the 12 or their supporters.

Throughout the trial, the ANC 12 rejected the authority of the court, sang freedom songs, shouted slogans, laughed and showed their complete opposition to the apartheid regime. As one South African paper put it:

‘Never before in South African legal history can there have been such prolonged and steadfast defiance of both the political and juridical system from those arraigned before the court' (Sunday Express 18 November 1979)

On 13 September, 'Justice' Heffer ruled that the evidence of state witnesses would be heard in camera. He based his ruling on an ANC statement which said that the ANC `aimed to eliminate police informers, witnesses who testified for the state at security trials and the security police'. At this point, the 12 dismissed their defence and refused to participate in the proceedings any longer. Their statement to the court, read by the defence counsel, pointed out that:

‘the nature of treason is a crime affecting society itself and to exclude the public is to exclude the people affected by what the ANC seeks to achieve'

The statement also defined their 'crime' as:

‘attempting to overthrow the South African Government by all means including violence. They (the 12) consider the courts as part of the apparatus of the Government'

Repeated attempts were made by 'Justice' Heffer to break the united refusal of the 12 to participate in the court. All to no avail. The ANC 12 refused to accept the discipline of the court in any degree whatever. At one point Mandlenkosi Hadebe entered the dock smoking a cigarette. His response to ‘Justice' Heffer's repeated orders to put out the cigarette was simply to say 'Leave me alone'.

Court proves that ANC is a national liberation movement

The evidence, as is usual in such cases, was either circumstantial or based on anonymous informers. However, it amounted to 'proving' that the 12 were disciplined, committed and trained freedom fighters (‘terrorists' in the jargon of imperialism) who were members of a national liberation movement dedicated to the overthrow of the apartheid regime. One incident which particularly horrified the regime concerned James Mange. Whilst in custody, Mange was given a 14.5mm anti-aircraft gun to dismantle and reassemble. Major Adriaan Kleinhans testified that Mange was not only fully conversant with the weapon and highly trained, but also that Mange had cleared the weapon's jammed block in 10 minutes — after Major Kleinhans had struggled unsuccessfully to clear the blockage for more than half-an-hour! The state 'evidence' even included slogans written on the cell walls by the ANC 12. Slogans such as There is only one way to freedom. Fight! and Viva Umkhonto we Sizwe. Such slogans being evidence enough for the racist regime!

The state evidence also proved the nature of the 'independent' Bantustans so beloved by apologists for the apartheid state. The battle of 10 August 1978 was fought out between Umkhonto we Sizwe fighters and the South African Defence Force (SADF) on `independent' Bophuthatswana soil. Two of the 12 were arrested in 'independent' Bophuthatswana by the SADF! Security police Major M D Ras muttered in court that `it had occurred to him that he might have been guilty of kidnapping a suspect that he took into custody at the Bophuthatswana border'. The suspect was John Sekete. So much for the much-vaunted 'independence' of the Bantustans!

‘Apartheid is high treason'

Eventually the court was finished with the state 'evidence' —an accumulation of stories, lies, truths and half-truths gathered from touts, traitors and policemen. On Thursday 15 November, sentence was passed. Right up to the last moment, the 12 maintained their courageous defiance of the South African Government and its courts. There they were, completely in the power of the barbaric apartheid regime, yet never once were they victims they were always fighters. As sentences were handed out they sang, shouted and laughed. They even displayed placards smuggled into the dock proclaiming:

Apartheid is a crime against humanity!

Apartheid is high treason

Never on our knees

The petty revenge of the humiliated court was carried out by (In)Justice Heffer who gave all the ANC 12 additional sentences for ‘contempt of court'. James Mange was sentenced to death. In an ironic demonstration of his anger, 'Justice' Heffer also gave Mange 18 months for contempt! Mange replied by shouting Amandla (Freedom). Hadebe shouted Hang us all! and was dragged out of court shouting You will pay!. ‘Justice Heffer' described Mange as a  ‘thoroughly repulsive and objectionable character'. This insult from a man who lives off the barbarity of the racist South African state is typical of imperialist hypocrisy. The other 11 were sentenced to prison for 14-19 years.

Mange must not hang!

 The ANC 12 Treason Trial and the death penalty for James Mange are designed to try to break the heroic struggle of the ANC(SA). The trial is a measure of the regime's desperation. The South African state knows that the liberation movements throughout Southern Africa are moving forward towards victory. It has to try and destroy the liberation movement inside South Africa. It is using all the means at its disposal to do so — terror, torture, and rigged trials. The similarity with British imperialism's war against the Irish people is no coincidence. The entire trial of the ANC 12, with only minor changes of detail, could have taken place in the Six County statelet in Ireland. Throughout the world, imperialism is fighting a rearguard action against the oppressed. The ANC 12 have given inspiration to this struggle. That is why South Africa wants to murder James Mange.

James Mange must not hang! He is appealing against his sentence, but time is desperately short for the campaign to save his life. Pickets have taken place weekly outside South Africa House in London. Messages of solidarity should be sent to James Mange's wife, Dipuo Moerane, c/o the ANC office in London. Dipuo Moerane was herself in detention for a year. She was released at the end of the ANC Trial. Solidarity action should be taken whenever and wherever possible. Mange must not hang!

All 12 Treason Triallists were involved in the Soweto rising in 1976. All 12 have dedicated themselves to the struggle for national liberation in South Africa. The ANC 12 deserve our complete support.

James Mange must not hang!

Prisoner of War status for all South African political prisoners!

Free all POWs!

Victory to the ANC!

Terry Marlowe

Information, leaflets etc. can be obtained from: ANC, 28, Penton Street, London NI.

The Pietermaritzburg 12



Sentence (years)

(the second figure is the sentence given for `contempt of court'.)

John Mofokeng Sekete


16 + 1

Jeffrey Ramasaka Lagbabe


16 + 1

Thibe Jimmy Ngobeni


16 + 1

Andrew Mapheto


14 + 1

Bennet Pantese Komane


16 + 1

Titus Mogaletoe Maleka


16 + 1

Sydney Sekwati Choma


16 + 1

Mandlenkosi Hadebe


16 + 1

Mandla Jack Mthetwa



Vusimuzi Nicholas Zulu


13 + 1

James Daniel Mange


Death + 1.5

Tladitsage Molefe


18 + 1


Communists and the revolution in South Africa

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! no 62 - September 1986

On 30 July 1986 the South African Communist Party celebrated its 65th anniversary at a rally in London's Conway Hall. Joe Slovo was the main speaker. David Reed analyses the issues raised in Slovo's speech: issues at the heart of the South African revolution.

Everywhere communists are watching, assessing and analysing the South African revolution. Its outcome will have a dramatic, perhaps decisive, impact on revolutionary developments worldwide. This fact alone would give enormous significance to the speech* made on 30 July 1986 by Joe Slovo, chairman of the South African Communist Party (SACP), Chief of Staff of Umkhonto we Sizwe, and member of the National Executive Committee of the ANC. That this speech was commemorating the 65th anniversary of the SACP and was given in London, the political centre of the imperialist power which is the main backer of the apartheid regime, would add to its significance for British communists.

Over 700 people filled every bit of available space in the large Conway Hall for this meeting. A speech from a leading communist in the SACP could be expected to give an incisive analysis of the latest developments in the South African revolution. Further, given the speech was being delivered in London, an urgent call to British communists to step up the struggle in Britain in solidarity with those fighting for liberation in South Africa was also to be expected. In fact there was neither. Rather we were offered a political standpoint which did not go, in any serious sense, beyond the ANC's Freedom Charter, together with a crude political defence of the SACP against a number of alternative political trends.

The key issue for communists in the South African revolution is the relationship between the national democratic revolution to overthrow the racist apartheid state and the socialist revolution. The SACP holds to a theory that South Africa is a colony of a special type. According to this position, the relationship between the dominant white minority and the oppressed black masses in South Africa reflects the typical pattern of relationships between the imperialist states and their colonies or neo-colonies. It is this, says the SACP, which makes 'the main content of the immediate struggle for change the national liberation of the African people and with it the destruction of all forms of racial discrimination' (Slovo, South Africa —No Middle Road, 1976).

The view that South Africa is a colony of a special type cannot be sustained in a Marxist understanding of capitalism and imperialism**. However such a theory serves the purpose of breaking the necessary historical link between the development of capitalism in South Africa in the epoch of imperialism and the brutal oppression and exploitation of the black masses under the apartheid system. This can be seen in the following remarkable passage from Slovo's speech:

'In general, capitalist exploitation and race domination are not symbiotically linked. But the historically-evolved connection between capitalist exploitation and racist domination in South Africa creates a natural link between national liberation and social emancipation; a link which is virtually too late to unravel.'

But we are not dealing with capitalist exploitation 'in general'. We are dealing with capitalist exploitation under imperialism and have been since the turn of the century. And under imperialism capitalist exploitation and race domination are symbiotically linked. The link between national liberation and social emancipation is not 'natural', whatever that is supposed to mean, but social, rooted in the development of capitalism in South Africa in the epoch of imperialism. Whether Joe Slovo wants it to be or not that link cannot be unravelled.

This loose language is not accidental. What are we to make of 'a link which is virtually too late to unravel'. Is it too late or not? And why is the point being made? Do we want to unravel it? And if so, why? What is at stake is the precise relationship between national liberation and the socialist revolution in South Africa. And on this question, at this time, Joe Slovo simply refuses to be precise.

'We believe that the kind of victory to be aimed for in the coming struggles must provide a launching-pad for the creation of conditions which will make it possible to work for a socialist future.'

Before you have a chance to work out what this deliberately vague formulation can possibly mean, Slovo immediately goes on the offensive. He attacks unnamed critics who oversimplify this process, use rhetorical flamboyance and simplistic sloganising of 'class against class' and want to take the Party back to the days of 'splendid isolation from the national movement and the black working population'. To use such demagogic and rhetorical methods of arguing against unnamed critics is an unacceptable way for a communist to deal with a crucial political argument. Clearly Slovo feels vulnerable on this issue and doesn't want his argument too deeply probed. As he goes on it is easy to see why.

There is some difficulty in following Slovo's argument from now on as he continually switches back and forth from the role of the Party in the ANC-led liberation alliance to the measures to be taken after that alliance has attained political power. He does this to avoid confronting the problem of power — the fundamental problem of all revolutions. Nowhere in fact does Slovo tell us how power is to be transferred from the white racist regime to the ANC-led liberation alliance. The socio-economic programme of any revolutionary democratic government in South Africa will be determined, as Slovo later says, by 'the actual correlation of class forces which have come to power'. However, what Slovo does not say is that this 'correlation of forces' will depend on the political struggle waged by the working class and its allies among the oppressed strata now until the seizure of power. The task of the vanguard party is to fight for the best possible conditions for the working class in alliance with the oppressed masses so that it is able to impose its interests on any revolutionary democratic government after the seizure of power.

Slovo argues that the main thrust of the immediate struggle is to implement the ANC's Freedom Charter— 'a minimum platform for uniting all classes and groups for the achievement of a non-racial, united democratic South Africa based on the rule of the majority'. It is imperative, Slovo continues, to create the broadest possible front against the `racist autocracy'. This front would 'contain disparate forces', however, the ANC-led liberation alliance, representing the main revolutionary forces, is 'clearly the key sector of this front'. Included in these 'disparate forces' will be a 'variety of other groupings' including recent 'defectors from the white laager', who favour a 'far-reaching shift away from apartheid' . While not part of the 'revolutionary forces', they obviously 'contribute to the weakening of the main enemy and some of them are clearly part of the opposition line-up'. Who these 'disparate forces' are and which class interests they represent is left to the imagination. Will the demands of even the Freedom Charter be diluted to include them? After all a 'far reaching shift away from apartheid' is very different from its revolutionary overthrow.

The ANC-led liberation alliance, as Slovo states, also represents 'different classes and strata (overwhelmingly black)' and while all may subscribe to `the slogan of People's Power they cannot be expected to share exactly the same vision about its content and the future', since they suffer varying degrees of national oppression and exploitation. Only the black working class is the most consistent guarantor of genuine liberation as 'it has the smallest stake in the status quo'. However, not to worry, both the ANC and the Party 'emphasise the dominant role of the working people in the coalition of the class forces which constitute the liberation front'. Nevertheless the ANC 'does not and should not commit itself exclusively to the aspirations of a single class', so only the Party can safeguard the dominant role of the working class in the ANC-led liberation alliance. How will it do this? Apparently by not seeking itself 'to occupy the dominant position in the liberation alliance'. This can only mean that the SACP will attempt to contain the demands of the working class within the political limits already set by the ANC. And that is presumably what Slovo is getting at when he says

'if correct leadership of the democratic revolution requires the strengthening of the national movement as the major and leading mass organisational force, then this is precisely the way in which a party exercises its van-guard role in the real and not vulgar sense of the term.'

In other words, the SACP will refuse to play a vanguard role and refuse to fight for the independent interests of the working class in the national movement.

This conclusion is reinforced once Slovo leaps forward and discusses the socio-economic measures that a revolutionary democratic government led by the ANC would take on coming to power. In one case Slovo seems to back track on even the demands of the Freedom Charter. The Freedom Charter says that 'the mineral wealth beneath the soil, the banks and monopoly industry shall be transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole' . This surely means the expropriation of land, the mines and monopoly industry. In his speech, however, Slovo is again deliberately imprecise and speaks of 'immediate state measures on the land question and against the giant monopoly complexes which dominate mining, banking and industry' after a 'democratic victory'. Slovo then goes on to state that partial measures to redistribute wealth do not in themselves point in a socialist direction. Even Gavin Relly chair of Anglo-American, says Slovo, thinks such measures might be necessary 'albeit in truncated form'. But then the Freedom Charter is not a programme for socialists but a 'common programme for a free, democratic South Africa, agreed on by socialists and non-socialists'. The issue now, it seems, is how far these 'non-socialists' stretch.

Any concessions Gavin Relly could be forced to make would only be in the interests of maintaining the massive profits of Anglo-American — profits wrung out of the super-exploitation of black workers in South Africa. There is one way and one way only to deal with Anglo-American and that is to nationalise it transfer it to the 'ownership of the people'. A communist should be absolutely firm on this issue. In his speech Slovo is not.

In spite of the fact that Slovo has stated that the future socio-economic programme will be determined by the 'actual correlation of class forces which have conic to power', this does not stop him from giving clear projections for the relations between private and social property after the seizure of power.

'For some while after apartheid falls there will undoubtedly be a mixed economy, implying a role for levels of non-monopoly private enterprise rep-resented not only by the small racially oppressed black business sector but also by managers and business people of goodwill who have or are prepared to shed racism.'

Anyone who questions this projection becomes 'an indigenous representative of the disastrous Pol Pot philosophy who can project a pole-vault into socialism and communism the day after over-throw of white rule'. Again Slovo deals with potential critics by demagogic and rhetorical methods.

But no one can really be deceived. Slovo's imprecision, his use of the unscientific term 'mixed economy' — Britain is said by many to have a 'mixed economy' — his failure to specify that the land and monopoly industry will be expropriated and so on, is telling those `disparate forces', especially 'recent defectors from the white laager', that it is safe to join the liberation front led by the ANC. Their interests will be safeguarded. The involvement of the SACP is no problem. They can see it is a very reasonable and respectable Party. The same message is being put over to the international 'community' more precisely international social democracy, including our very own home-grown reactionary Neil Kinnock. Finally, in order to cement the relationship with all these 'disparate forces', Slovo tells us that the drive towards a socialist future in South Africa 'within a truly democratic framework, could well be settled in debate rather than on the streets'. The SACP is in fact laying before us the prospect of a peaceful road to socialism.

At the heart of this discussion is the relationship between the national democratic and socialist revolution. Slovo is forced to discuss this in the form of 'the hardy perennial — the so-called "two-stage theory" of the South African revolution'. It is said that his Party's

'preoccupation with the national democratic objectives of the immediate anti-racist struggle has led to an abandonment of socialist objectives. We are alleged to believe that in the interests of the popular alliance, the working class should not assert its primacy and should forget all about socialist perspectives until apartheid has been overthrown; a scenario which would leave the way open for the revolution to be hijacked by exploiters with black faces who will ensure that it is stopped in its tracks'.

Our analysis of his speech does show that this seems to be the case. It is true as Slovo says that revolution is a continuing process. It is also true that it goes through strategic and tactical phases —including a national democratic phase in the case of South Africa. But 'the ingredients of the later phase' will only `mature in the womb of the earlier' if the Communist Party asserts and defends the independent interests of the black working class at each and every turn. Communists neither put forward the demand for a socialist republic now in South Africa (Trotskyism) nor fail to assert the primacy of the working class until the victory of the national democratic revolution (Menshevism). The alternative to the Trotskyist and Menshevik positions is the Leninist standpoint of continuous revolution.

This recognises that you cannot go on to socialism except by the revolutionary democratic path — through the national democratic revolution. But neither can the national democratic revolution be completed nor its gains defended without going on to socialism. Between the two stages there is an indissoluble connection, they are facets of one revolution and not two revolutions. In 1976, Slovo appeared to recognise this when he said:

'There is objective ground for the belief that "under South African conditions the national democratic revolution has great prospects of proceeding at once to socialist solutions". This follows from the undoubted reality that no significant national demand can be successfully won without the destruction of the existing capitalist structure . . . National liberation, in its true sense, must therefore imply the expropriation of the owners of the means of production (monopolised by a bourgeoisie drawn from the white group) and the complete destruction of the state which serves them. There can be no half-way house ... ' (South Africa — No Middle Road)

In 1986, ten years later, Slovo has retreated far from his earlier position. As the victory of the national democratic revolution draws closer so Slovo seeks to contain and restrict the demands of the only class that can ensure its victory; the black working class.

Now it becomes clear why we heard no incisive analysis of the latest stage of the South African revolution. To give such an analysis, Slovo would have had to point to the significance of the new organs of working class power developing in the townships, the dramatic rise of trade union organisation, power, and struggle, the critical role played by black youth and students and the vital necessity of arming the working class if the national democratic revolution is to be victorious and its gains defended. For a communist analysis of the South African revolution would have made no concessions to the very forces Slovo is now trying to woo — the 'disparate forces' in South Africa. It is also clear why there was no call to communists to step up the solidarity struggle in Britain. For such a call would demand a political struggle against the Kinnock-led Labour Party in Britain.

David Reed

* All quotes from the speech are taken from the pamphlet published by lnkululeko Publications

** See 'An Analysis of South African capitalism — Neo Ricardianism or Marxism?' by Michael Williams in the Bulletin of the Conference of Socialist Economists February 1975

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela
18 July 1918 – 5 December 2013

Throughout the 1980s, the Revolutionary Communist Group and City of London Anti-Apartheid Group actively campaigned against apartheid and for the release of all political prisoners. In particular our members were central to the organisation of the non-stop picket outside the South African Embassy in Trafalgar Square from April 1986 until Mandela was released in February 1990.*

For around the world today, we still see children suffering from hunger and disease. We still see run-down schools. We still see young people without prospects for the future. Around the world today, men and women are still imprisoned for their political beliefs; and are still persecuted for what they look like, or how they worship, or who they love.’

US President Barack Obama, Tribute to Nelson Mandela Soweto, 10 December 2013

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Obituary: Zolile Hamilton Keke /FRFI 232 Apr/May 2013

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 232 April/May 2013

31 October 1945 - 6 February 2013

‘There are people whom you meet who say things that they don’t do, but in our father’s case he lived what he said, not just publicly, even in his private life. So that is what we are taking with us going forward.’ Khanyisa Keke, at his father’s funeral

The Revolutionary Communist Group (RCG) was saddened by the news of the death of an old comrade and friend Zolile Hamilton Keke, who was Chief Representative of the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC) in the UK at a crucial time in the 1980s.

In the years that followed the Soweto Uprising in 1976, the struggle to liberate South Africa from apartheid rule had spread and deepened into a revolutionary challenge to imperialism itself in Africa. The apartheid regime represented not only the cruel and barbaric oppression of the black majority in South Africa itself, but also the interests of British and US imperialism across the whole of sub-Saharan Africa, as liberation wars were bitterly fought in Angola, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. This was the time when the building of a solidarity movement in Britain to challenge the role of British imperialism in the region was of vital importance, not only for the future of the majority in South Africa, but also for humanity itself.

Comrade Keke’s determination to fight for freedom was forged in struggle over many years. As a teenager, following the Sharpeville massacre in 1960, he had been active in POQO, the armed wing of the PAC. At the age of 17 he was imprisoned for ten years on Robben Island along with Robert Sobukwe and other PAC leaders, who faced a regime of unparalleled brutality. Keke’s commitment to the struggle did not falter and on his release in 1973 he continued his political activities. As a result of his involvement he was one of 86 members of the PAC who were arrested in 1977. 18 men were charged under the Terrorism Act, including PAC leader Zephaniah Mothopeng and Comrade Keke, with fomenting revolution and organising the Soweto Uprising. Most of those detained were severely tortured and four men died during interrogation. The Bethal Treason Trial was held in secret and all 18 were found guilty. As the youngest, Comrade Keke was given a suspended sentence and banned from political activity. Later, when Comrade Keke acted as adviser to Richard Attenborough during the filming of Cry Freedom, in particular in relation to the life of Steve Biko, his experiences of struggle in South Africa were vibrantly portrayed.

As a result of the Bethal trial, in 1981 Comrade Keke went into exile, as many had been forced to, and became Chief Representative for the PAC in London. It was in the course of building City of London Anti-Apartheid Group that we met Comrade Keke and it was no accident that he worked with us to build a principled anti-imperialist solidarity campaign at this crucial time. Comrade Keke’s post was not a sinecure, and despite massive difficulties he inspired everyone he worked with by his commitment to the struggle. He actively gave his time to support events organised by City AA over many years, speaking on platforms, pickets of the South African Embassy, and even turning up as Santa on Christmas day during the Non-Stop Picket. Despite the fact that the Anti-Apartheid Movement (AAM) in Britain was ostensibly acting in solidarity with all liberation forces in South Africa, in practice their support was given only to the African National Congress. As a consequence the representatives of the PAC and the black consciousness movement AZAPO, even of the calibre of Comrade Keke, were never invited on to AAM platforms or given support. It was only as a result of pressure from City AA members present that Comrade Keke was the first PAC representative to speak on the AAM AGM platform in 1985 – such was the AAM’s sectarian contempt for those who devoted their lives to the struggle.

In 1992 Comrade Keke returned to South Africa with his family and he never gave up the fight for the liberation of his homeland. He will always be remembered by us as a most dignified and honest revolutionary leader.

Izwe Lethu – the Land is Ours

Writing on the wall for the South African ‘national democratic revolution’ /FRFI 229 Oct/Nov 2012

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 229 October/November 2012

In 1994 the African National Congress (ANC) was swept to power with a massive majority in the first democratic elections in post-apartheid South Africa. For imperialism, the ‘new’ South Africa was a miracle of democratic achievement, with Nelson Mandela its first patron saint. This most velvet of velvet revolutions would, they hoped, preserve capitalist production yet at the same time slowly reform the worst features of apartheid so that the state could emerge from international pariah status. On the other hand, the tripartite alliance of the ANC, COSATU (the trade union federation) and the South African Communist Party (SACP) held out the promise that the ‘national democratic revolution’ would bring about equality and freedom for the majority without destroying the capitalist infrastructure which they believed necessary to sustain wealth creation. The ‘national democratic revolution’ was, in reality, a compromise between different classes; they promised that the capitalist system would be reformed and controlled to benefit the black majority. Eighteen years later, on 16 August this year, the fault lines of this compromise became clear: 34 striking platinum miners were shot dead by police at Marikana mine, near Rustenburg, 78 were wounded and 270 arrested.

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