SACP Address to SADTU National Congress delivered by SACP First Deputy General Secretary, Comrade Solly Mapaila
25 September 2019
Theme: Claiming our right to have our human dignity and safety protected and respected in pursuit of a decolonised quality public education
Curb proliferation of drugs and violence in schools
It is most opportune that your congress takes place at a time when our country is in the midst of a battle against widespread violence; in schools, at tertiary institutions, on the streets, in the family, and so on.
To deal with the problem of violence, it is important that we first understand its root causes. This will help us devise a good strategy to curtail its spread in society and finally end it.
The forms of violence that take place in our families and communities are being expressed in schools. These include attacks such as bullying, and even murder of learners by others; attacks of teachers by learners, and vice versa. Teacher-to-teacher violence, including sexual harassment and gender based violence, is also a problem. What is going on in our schools is a microcosm of what is going on in the sphere of social reproduction – the household, the community and society at large.
In the past, successive colonial–apartheid regimes forged violent social relations of capitalist production. The colonially subjugated – black people were at the receiving end. Primitive accumulation, starting with colonial conquest, was a violent history. This continued through colonial–apartheid proletarianisation and dispossession of the colonially oppressed. Violence was codified in law. It formed part of the bloody legislation that was adopted by the successive colonial–apartheid regimes to continue dispossessing the colonised majority.
In production, violence was used as part of on-the-job-training measures, and strategies to raise productivity. This became entrenched as “a way of life”, including in domestic employment where “kitchen girls” – referring to women workers, and “garden boys”, referring to men workers, were employed. These African elders were referred to as “girls” and “boys” and treated as such even by the children of the masters and mistresses or madams.
The violence unleashed at work found its way into the household of the victims themselves, who too conveyed it in teaching their children to perform household chores and to call them to order. Violence became part of the ways that were to be employed to “settle” disputes and “sort out” disagreements. Women became victims in terms of gender based violence.
In schools, violence in the form of corporal punishment was used as part and parcel of the strategies of teaching, or of pedagogy if you like. Again, this found its way into the household and the community. The outbursts directed at the recent Constitutional Court judgment clearly pronouncing that it is unconstitutional to beat children in homes are a reflection of the extent to which violence remains embedded in the minds of the complainants and their “way of life”.
It is therefore imperative to attach great importance on fostering a human rights based, non-violent national psyche in South Africa to eliminate the persistent legacy of the inherently violent regime colonialism of a special type including apartheid was.
A few weeks ago we also saw widespread violence chiefly aimed at but not exclusively affecting foreign nationals, and in some instances to foreign nationals from specific countries, according to the dominant narrative. The SACP condemns these violent acts.
The problem of drugs in our schools and communities
The spread of drugs in schools is another violent societal problem that must be curbed. We are referring to the problem of drugs as a violent problem because drugs are murderous. Security checks in schools may be helpful in the interim, but they are not the ultimate solution. The solution must involve learners, teachers, school governing bodies, families and general members of the community and society at large, as well as, of course, the government and other state organs, including law enforcement authorities. Higher education institutions should also play their part in what is to be done, including through social science research.
Law enforcement agencies must be proactive in uprooting the drugs problem in our communities. They must be empowered to follow drugs to their ‘factories”. Often the focus is limited to those who sell drugs on the streets or secretly in their houses and shops while the big fish – the kingpins – go scot-free. The multi-millionaires and billionaires who manufacture drugs often partner with state officials gone rogue. They have connections with international mafia groupings, along with other international security personnel gone rogue. It is when such operations are stopped that we will be on our way to ridding our society of the proliferation of drugs.
Gender inequality and gender-based violence
The problem of gender inequality remains a reality in South Africa, though some gains have been made since the 1994 democratic breakthrough. This phenomenon, however, cannot be wished away. There must be practical action to end it.
We must also end the patriarchal approach to education we see in our schools. We must combat the unspoken reservation of lower levels in primary schools, in particular, for female teachers. There has been the dominant belief that female teachers are suitable for class at early childhood development level (crèche, Grade R, Grades 1 – 3) and males are more capable of taking the more “serious” levels where learners must grapple with more complex theories and subjects. This reinforces the stereotype that women, and only women, are best for raising and nurturing children, while males are best placed to deal with the more “serious” aspects of education and life generally. This stratification and gender conditioning lead to noticeably more male principals, which contradicts the ideals of transformation in the education sector. This, additionally, leads to a more patriarchal approach towards the constitution of school governing bodies. Whatever the population in school governing bodies, often when determinations of leadership are being made, males are most likely to be elected into the most influential positions.
The SACP strongly and in no uncertain terms condemns xenophobic conduct and attacks against nationals from other countries. While we reject the generalisation that South Africans are xenophobic, we do recognise that there are xenophobic elements in our society. This recognition is important for us to appreciate the strategic task for us to uproot xenophobic attitude from our society.
The African Revolution and regional integration
We want to make use of this platform to reiterate what our General Secretary Cde Blade Nzimande said when he addressed the National Congress of the South African Clothing and Textile Workers Union last week. African leaders must take responsibility for the problems of bad governance, conflict and looting in their respective shores.
It is a fact that the many problems experienced in South Africa are a reflection of deep-rooted capitalist economic system and consequent post-colonial problems in the rest of the continent.
To mention but a few examples, the Zimbabwean economy has experienced a landslide collapse. In addition, the problem of repressive state action against democratic expression has not been abandoned. This is epitomised by the killing of protestors by the military following the past elections.
There are serious problems facing democratisation in Swaziland. The country is ruled by an absolute monarch and ravaged by systemic social problems.
Mozambique is facing long standing problems.
Morocco is continuing its occupation of Western Sahara.
The long standing crisis in Sudan has heightened.
South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo are facing serious problems.
There is still Boko Haram in Nigeria and Al Shabaab in East Africa. A complex of other social problems in both situations remains unresolved.
In Cameroon the people of the south are facing a systemic extermination campaign driven from the north.
Egypt is under military rule. This has its own inherent problems.
It is in this context that South Africa is increasingly hosting ever rising numbers of economic, war, political and crisis refugees both from Southern Africa and the continent as a whole. In addition, the country is also increasingly hosting the different categories of refugees from other parts of the world, for example, Asia.
The 1994 democratic breakthrough, subsequent development of human rights culture and relatively strong economy are among the pull factors. However, the South African economy is itself not strong enough to meet the material and cultural needs of South Africans.
For example, according to the latest Statistics South Africa’s Labour Force Survey, unemployment in the second quarter of this year rose to approximately 10.3 million people, in terms of the expanded definition of unemployment. Inequality and poverty remain stubborn. The problem of uneven development remains persistent.
It is clear that our struggle to develop and diversify national production and solve our economic and broader social problems must be rooted in the imperative of advancing the African Revolution. This must include solidarity to achieve democracy, peace and development in Southern Africa and the continent as a whole.
Finally, in order to succeed, the African Revolution must be intensified to uproot imperialist control in the entire continent.
The need for critical education – People’s Education for People’s Power
Your Congress theme also raises the need for the decolonisation of education. This is an important contribution to the battle of ideas, especially in the battle between societies that are still battling control by imperialists, often their former colonisers and imperialist allies. Indeed, the call for the decolonisation of education has been one of the dominant ones in recent years, although most often it is not well articulated or unpacked, especially its meaning.
Whatever the meaning that dominates the notion of decolonisation, it would be a tragedy, however, if it referred to decolonisation without uprooting the prevailing mode of capitalist production that was colonially, bloodily, violently imposed! The mode of production is the foundation on which all social structure is erected. In the like manner, the content of learning and teaching in schools, colleges and universities is not independent from the social relations emanating from the prevailing mode of production. The struggle to achieve decolonisation in education, if it is to become successful, must go hand in hand with the struggle to overcome the system of capitalist exploitation and replace it with a non-exploitative social formation.
It would also be a tragedy if by decolonisation it is meant defending the corrupt African leaders and officials who have been complicit in looting in their respective countries. It is exactly such tendencies which have impoverished Africans while being told by their leaders that at least they were supporting a black leader and not a white one. Some of the black leaders who have become parasites, the blood suckers of Africans’ blood, were colluding with the former European colonisers and imperialists in fattening their pockets!
Therefore, decolonisation must necessarily involve anti-capitalism and anti-imperialism, and building the elements of, momentum towards and capacity for socialism in the here and now. In this instance, it is important to look back in order for us to go forward. In the 1980s the popular phrase “People’s education for people’s power” actively expressed a rejection of the backward education poured down upon learners by the apartheid regime in order to further its racist ends. We can learn a lot from this movement towards the decolonisation of education.
In building People’s education for people’s power, critical education must be introduced at a very young age, that is, at basic education level. Critical education is not meant to groom “disrespectful” children, but to strengthen the relationship between learners and educators. We must remember what Paulo Freire states in his book Pedagogy of the Oppressed. In instances where education is of a fundamentally narrative character, the teacher-student relationship “involves a narrating Subject (the teacher) and patient, listening objects (the students)”. In his fight against what he calls the “banking” concept of education, he points out that in such cases, often education becomes an act of depositing, in which the students are the depositories and the teacher is the depositor. “Instead of communicating,” points out Freire, “the teacher issues communiqués and makes deposits which the students patiently receive, memorize, and repeat.” In such cases, the scope of action allowed to the students extends only as far as receiving, filing, and storing the deposits.
People’s education, therefore, must be different from bourgeois education. In this same instance, decolonised education can truly claim its decolonised character only in so far as it becomes people’s education. But not people’s education for its sake, but for people’s power; for socialism! Teachers, and in this instance progressive teachers organised under a progressive union, SADTU, should be different from the reactionary ones. They should, in the process of teaching, also learn from the learners, who should also be empowered to teach as they learn. This will create an active working class for itself, no longer learners who are packaged narrowly for exploitation by the bourgeoisie. That is, a group of soldiers for socialism who view history materially, no longer tied down to ready-made bourgeois education which leaves them to hang dry when the skills they acquire become obsolete with the further development of the process of production.
The implementation of critical education must thus involve a thorough comprehension of the evolution and/or revolution of production – and this should not be left till the final years of basic education. For instance, the world is engaged in the deepening digital era. This is what we call, in one of our discussion documents to the Special National Congress to be held in December, the “deepening and widening digitalisation of production”. To build a highly industrialised country, the historical development of production, in materialist terms, must be studied, and education must move with the times. And so is the struggle for social emancipation.
The National Treasury’s “…economic strategy for South Africa”
Your National Congress gives us an opportunity to reiterate our position on the National Treasury’s paper.
Our Augmented Central Committee Session held earlier this month expressed a deep concern about the National Treasury pushing prescriptions (“recommendations”) from “OECD Economic Surveys: South Africa” and “Economic Policy Reforms 2017: Going for Growth” as a key part of its “…economic strategy for South Africa”. We will deal with this problem extensively in the process agreed upon by the Alliance. In the intervening period, we want to emphasise the following.
The SACP resolutely rejects the OECD prescription for South Africa to weaken its social dialogue mechanisms, especially collective bargaining. The OECD “recommendation” runs counter to the spirit of the Thuma Mina Campaign and the need for the social compacting led by President Cyril Ramaphosa. Accordingly, the SACP has denounced the push for the roll-back of the legally recognised extension of collective bargaining agreements.
The SACP calls upon the working class to intensify its focus on what should be our number one priority – that of driving decent work inclusive of the much needed employment growth through structural transformation of our economy. In so far as a broader consensus is required in order to turn our economy around, the SACP rejects any suggestion that workers’ hard won rights and other achievements must be taken away or rolled back as a precondition for “inclusive” economic growth and development.
The SACP also reiterates its stance that economic growth alone, without structural economic transformation, is unlikely to address the systemic colonial features holding back our economic and broader social progress. It is important to go to the root and resolve the underlying causes of our economic problems instead of merely focusing on the symptoms.
The SACP has also dismissed another anti-worker proposition propagating the idea that wage increases are responsible for entrenching inequality and rising unemployment.
The SACP reiterates the strategic perspective, enshrined in the ANC 2019 election manifesto, of the absolute necessity to move our national democratic transition on to a second radical phase. Accordingly, we are calling on the working class to unite and rally behind its common class interests. In this regard the SACP is putting forward a framework aimed at advancing structural transformation towards a people’s economy. Central to these measures is the national imperative to develop and diversify national production, and radically reduce inequality, poverty and unemployment through decent work – which necessarily includes employment growth.
These measures must be strengthened in the course of advancing towards a people’s economy. They are therefore not the totality of everything but only a summary. In particular, the SACP is calling for a shift towards a people’s economy, which by its nature must involve the development of democratic worker control as a national transformation imperative. What we want to emphasise, above all else, is the importance of unity, the forging of a popular left front, thoroughgoing Alliance consultation, and inclusive public policy making in line with due processes.
We will deal further with this subject of economic policy in our Alliance engagements.
National Health Insurance
Last but not least, we reiterate our support for the introduction of universal quality healthcare through the National Health Insurance. As the SACP, we are strongly opposed to the private sector deciding who lives and who dies. It is a fact that healthcare in the private sector is a commodity – that is, it is meant for sale and private accumulation of capital through profit making and profit maximisation. This is why if you do not have money the private healthcare sector excludes you.
It is for the same reason that the private healthcare sector is looking after the healthcare needs of a few. Meanwhile, the public healthcare sector, which looks after the health needs of the overwhelming majority, is under-funded compared to the flows of our national health spending captured by the private healthcare sector. As if that were not enough, the money captured by the private healthcare sector comprises of a big proportion which goes not to healthcare but profits.
South Africa needs a healthcare centred approach, as opposed to private profit for the enrichment of a few. We are calling upon you, and to the entire working class movement, to come out in support of quality healthcare for all through the introduction of the National Health Insurance. Let us all rise and make our submissions to Parliament in support of the National Health Insurance.
The SACP wishes your 9th National Congress a resounding success.