Feature: 20 Years of Democracy

by Aug 1, 2014Amandla Issue 34, Magazine

As South Africa passes the anniversary of 20 years of democracy it is important to reflect on both the failures and successes of democratic South Africa. South Africa in 2014 is a markedly different country. it enjoys a pluralistic political system; freedom of speech and association and in many respects is a better society than it was under apartheid. But in many other respects, the process of transforming South Africa into a egalitarian and progressive state that takes up the issues of the working class and racial redress has been hamstrung by our continuing commitment to a narrow, market based vision of society. The contradictions of contemporary South African include the juxtaposition of the sleek modern skyscrapers of Johannesburg to the continued impoverishment of the former homelands and of townships from Lwandle to Marikana. In this edition Amandla! asked several leading South Africans for their assessment of the last 20 years of democracy, from academics to artists and activists and religious leaders. The opinions reflected in this feature reflect the diversity of contemporary South Africa, in all its contradictions.


Amandla! (A!): 20 years into our democracy what is the significance of the Marikana massacre?

Soeke (S):The marikana massacre reminded us of the apartheid era, when the government would just mow people down instead of engaging with them. It was a sad blight on our democracy. Our nation was let down by our government. This whole situation could have been avoided. This is becoming clearer as more evidence is heard at the Farlam Commission and the police have contradicted each other’s testimony. We now know that many of the miners were killed in cold blood.

Marikana would not have happened if we had listened to the people, if the government saw it as their first priority to serve the people and ensure the conditions for a decent life. What is exposed by the Marikana slaughter is the collaboration between big capital and the state. The state intervened to defend the interests of mining capital. Worse, it defends the political elite. Look how after Marikana, Ramaphosa, a major bee shareholder in Lonmin, is made deputy chairman of the ruling party.

What we see happening here is
the clash between capital and labour, with capital supported by the state.
The captains of industry influence how government conducts itself when It comes to issues of labour. That’s why there is the current strike of the platinum mineworkers, which is into its third month. There is a standoff between capital and labour and the government is not helpful in resolving the mineworkers’ struggle for a living wage.

There is a challenge to us as voters and that is to be in solidarity with the workers. We need to keep them and their demands alive and help them to continue to struggle for a living wage. It is not
true that they are demanding what is
not affordable. The problem is that their demand requires sacrificing some of the profits of the mine owners. Why should workers have to sacrifice so there is profit maximization? If people do not take the Marikana massacre seriously it is very likely to repeat itself In another form. We need to work against that.

A!: What needs to be done?

S: the most CritiCal issUe is job establishment. We need to provide decent work for our people. Decent education, which is critically significant, is not useful if people holding qualifications cannot find proper work. We need to fix the schooling system. We need to make the government accountable. We need to make them responsible for their actions. We have to make them into the hand of the people working towards the common good rather than self-enrichment. That is what we are seeing now. People are just looting this country. Nkandla is a drop in the ocean. In other countries, people in high office are forced to resign for the smallest of indiscretions. We need our leaders to be committed to our nation rather than to their own interests..

Saleem Badat

Amandla! (A!): Clearly there should be no basis for decrying
the end of apartheid. Its demise
was a massive victory for poor
and working people as well as for freedom-loving people around the world, but when we mark the end
of apartheid what will the mass of people in SA actually be celebrating?

Saleem Badat (SB): the 20th anniversary of our democracy is a good time to reflect on the progress that we have made with respect to citizenship
in post-1994 South Africa. 1994 was a revolutionary breakthrough. From being a racially exclusive authoritarian society in which millions were downtrodden subjects, we became a democracy in which for the first time almost all inhabitants became citizens. Critical here was a commendable Constitution, including a Bill of Rights, which held out the promise of an extensive range of human, social and economic rights that did not exist for all or at
all prior to 1994. During the past 20 years there have been significant economic and social gains and achievements. At the same time, there continue to be many challenges and key institutions of our democracy have come under strain as a result of too many in power seeking to use the state as their private piggy bank. Still, a relatively independent judiciary, free media, autonomous universities and the like remain intact.

A!: How do we evaluate 20 years of democracy or 20 years of the post-apartheid state, given the current state of service delivery, corruption and cronyism?

SB: a NUmber oF CoNtemporary realities compromise the ideal of full and substantive citizenship rights for all that the Constitution promises. First, we have the dubious honour of being the most unequal society on earth. During the past 20 years income inequality has increased. The poorest 20% receive a measly 2.7% of national income and obtain 55% of their income through social grants. The top 10% take home 52% of national income. The consequences of the inherited and new divides of ‘race’, class, gender and geography are all too evident. Hunger, poverty and unemployment blight our democracy. Millions of citizens are mired in desperate daily routines of survival while, alongside, thievery, unbridled accumulation and crass materialism run rampant.

A!: What does citizenship mean for those who are poor, unemployed and struggle to eke out a living in South Africa?

SB: second, patriarchy aNd sexism continue to stifle girls and women
from realising their potential and the contribution they can make to society and development. Gender violence is a pervasive, morbid ill that that destroys innumerable lives through the rape and abuse of women and the so-called ‘corrective’ rape of gay and lesbian people. Third, we must keep a vigilant eye on those in our country who make ‘recourse to rousing affirmations of identity and entitlement’ and promote populist discourses of ‘authenticity’ – who claim to know ‘who is a real South African, who is a real African, who is black, what is a man, (and) what is the role of women in society. Those who, for self-serving reasons, stridently give ever more ‘narrow and exacting’ answers to these questions and spread parochial and dubious views on culture and tradition could unleash dangerous developments and reduce millions to subjecthood.

A!: What are the most important things we need to do to ensure that we achieve the aspirations and goals of our liberation struggle?

SB: We must of course energetically undo the huge social inequalities that were bequeathed to
us by apartheid. But we must also be acutely aware that using solely ‘race’ to advance redress and social equity could dangerously ossify racial categorisations and continue to construct identities primarily along the lines of ‘race’. Our strategies must erode and dissolve racial thinking and categories and permit rich, multiple, fluid and dynamic identities to emerge. We should never lose sight that the fundamental goals are a non- racial and non-sexist society in which all can flower. Finally, there is a tendency to silence critics of government and the state by questioning their credentials to speak publicly and their record of anti-apartheid ‘struggle’. The view that we must satisfy certain conditions before we can express our views as citizens is wrong and dangerous. It effectively turns millions of citizens, including all those born after 1994, into subjects. It is our obligation to ‘speak truth to power’, when those who wield economic and political power have to be reminded of their responsibilities and be rebuked for their looting of public resources and unethical and immoral conduct.

Salim Vally

Amandla! (A!): Clearly there should be no basis for decrying
the end of apartheid. Its demise
was a massive victory for poor
and working people as well as for freedom-loving people around the world, but when we mark the end
of apartheid what will the mass of people in SA actually be celebrating?

Salim Vally (SV): There’s really No doubt that developments in education
in the past 20 years have favoured the middle class and this is the middle class of all colours including the formerly oppressed black groups. But for the working class and the poor it’s been dismal. Some emblematic instances include the Limpopo textbook saga affecting hundreds of thousands of learners and this appalling incident where a six-year-old pupil fell into a latrine and drowned. Other egregious incidences include the lack of transport for hundreds of thousands of Eastern Cape learners; and this is not a rare occurrence, it happens fairly often. So very clearly the system itself is failing school and it’s failing learners.

A!: Following this what is the status of our education system 20 years into our democracy?

SV: There are a NUmber oF myths that need to be exploded. One is that relative to other countries South Africa has almost 100% access to schools and linked to that is the parity between girls’ enrolment and that of boys. Normally that is raised as the progress we’ve made. But I think it really is deceptive because if you look at the statistics, roughly 50% of learners who enrol in Grade 1 don’t make it to Grade 12 or matric. I can provide
the figures later, but a significant number drop out or some of us prefer the phrase are ‘pushed out’ of schooling. So although there might be very good enrolment in the early years, this is not true when we come to the last year of schooling. Then of those who make it to the final year of schooling, those who pass, that reduces the number of pupils. And then those who are able to make it to university and receive an initial degree, reduces the number even further, so of the cohort that starts school, those who end up at university and are able to complete a degree – we’re talking about a national average of about 15%. And those who come from a working class background basically it’s hardly 1% of those who enrolled in schools. So it’s just by showing that how the schooling system itself reproduces the fundamental class and associated racial gender and other inequalities that characterises all capitalist systems, and South Africa is no different.

The second myth is that that while our policies are sound but it’s the problem with implementation. We’ve shown in
the past 20 years why that argument is flawed; and I can take any number of education policies to show how it works against the working class and the poor. So if you look at the school fees system, the user fee system that was initiated despite massive opposition right at the beginning of this policy or even prior to it being implemented, there were a number of white papers and there was the Schools Bill before the South African Schools Act was promulgated. Huge debates, huge arguments, and clearly for the majority of people the whole promise of free education at least at the primary and the secondary levels was violated: promises made in the struggle against apartheid and even in the few years prior to 1976 when the policy was promulgated. And this was despite the evidence we brought to bear; many of us involved in education. We were overruled by the government of the day and international consultants were brought including one person from the World Bank and they insisted on the user fees policy.

Thirdly, I’m just going to give you one more example, there are many others, the whole question of teacher redeployment. This was like many policies disguised
as righting the wrongs of the past. Of course under apartheid we had differential allocation of resources, including teachers, so there was a concentration
of teachers in certain schools and in the urban areas relative to the rural areas. And in 1996 interestingly at the same
time the macroeconomic policy gear
was unveiled, we had a situation where the state called for teachers from areas of what they called over-supply to areas of under-supply

The third myth is around the question of education expenditure. Constantly
we are told, not just by state officials
but by the media as well as by some educationists that relative to other countries we spend a lot on education. And superficially this might seem to
be the case in terms of expenditure we have relative to other budget items.
But it’s once again quite a disingenuous argument. The oeCd certainly not any kind of radical organisation issued a very interesting analysis recently that was
sent to the South African Treasury and which argues that actually about 2.5%
of the gdp in South Africa – whatever one’s problems with the gdp but this
how they are, were spent on primary education, 2% on secondary education, 0.64% on tertiary education and 0.06% on pre-primary education.

But the other point is, you can use the analogy of two countries – one which has an abundance of fresh water supply and another is largely desert – and in South Africa there’s been a skewed allocation over decades if not centuries. And clearly you’re going to spend more money on fresh water supply in the country that is largely desert. So this is a similar case. And if you look at the reality, the current infrastructure and facilities: about 90%
of our schools don’t have functioning libraries. A similar number, slightly
less, don’t have proper laboratories, and I’m not even talking about basic things like sanitation, etcetera. So that’s the third myth.

Simphiwe Dana

Amandla! (A!): Should musicians engage critically with what’s going on in society?

Simphiwe Dana (SD): We perform for large audiences and people listen to us. We can channel opinions one way
or another; we have that privilege. And

I believe that criticism is necessary as long as it’s constructive. People often
do not take enough time to research controversial issues thoroughly, though, and many hold poorly informed opinions as a result. This is unfortunate.

A!: Have South African musicians played enough of an active role in public discourse over the last 20 years?

SD: You get FoUr kiNds oF musicians in South Africa. First, you
get those who are completely ignorant of social issues. They are self-obsessed, egotistical and only interested in glamour and fame. Then second, there are musicians who resemble the first group, but who think and hold opinions in private. They discuss things with their friends; they care about what is going on. But they are afraid of risking their position and so they play along with the game. They are not prepared to raise their voices.

Third, you get musicians that speak out and musicians that speak out of turn. There’s a big difference. A lot people who make a noise these days are simply trying to attract attention. It’s another way to
get famous. They claim to speak for the people but they haven’t done enough research. They don’t actually know what the people want. And finally, there are those of us who have taken time to understand things. We use our platform for constructive purposes, we are aware of our power and of our responsibility, and we speak to try and make things better.

A!: How well, in your opinion, does government respond to criticism?

SD: oUr goverNmeNt Comes From a struggle background. They appreciate
how important protest is and they are not as sensitive to criticism as people think. When you approach them aggressively they tend to respond in kind, but when it’s done constructively, or in a spirit of nation building, they listen.Whether or not they do anything about it is another story.

A!: What is your assessment of democracy in South Africa 20 years after 1994?

SD: I’m optimistiC; i thiNk we’ve handled ourselves pretty well in the past 20 years. There are still huge challenges to be dealt with, though – particularly the education system and poverty. It’s time to look at economic freedom now. We still have endemic poverty in sa and it’s not right having a First World and a Third World country coexisting in the same space. For me that’s the next step. Economic freedom is a must.

A!: What are other big issues facing us today? Where should musicians be investing their energy?

SD: Race is still a very big issUe iN South Africa. We need to keep raising awareness about that. Racism didn’t end in 1999; it still persists but people feel uncomfortable talking about it. If we’re honest about nation building, about being proudly South African, then we can’t sweep these things under the carpet any longer. We need to be open.

Apartheid is over but its effects will still be felt for generations. We need to build towards something new. We need to work together now, to be constructive and not destroy. 

Ari Sitas

Amandla! (A!): Clearly there should be no basis for decrying
the end of apartheid. Its demise
was a massive victory for poor
and working people as well as for freedom-loving people around the world, but when we mark the end
of apartheid what will the mass of people in SA actually be celebrating?

Ari Sitas (AS): it is a serioUs quandary. We can commend the fact that social grants have ameliorated absolute poverty but we cannot celebrate the fact that the majority remain poor under any definition of poverty. We cannot celebrate the fact that inequalities have increased.
It is pleasing that women are enjoying more freedoms and voice but we have
to hang our heads in shame because we men have responded to such freedoms with uncanny levels of violence. As a sociologist I am trained never to look at people as a ‘mass’ – from Delft to Musina and from uPhongolo to Springbok, there is a complex picture of different furies
and joys. We can celebrate a few things but with some humility – comprehensive health cover is on the table, post-school education and training is beginning to
be addressed, public expenditure has increased, market fundamentalism has been modified, however hard and corrupt, democratic institutions have been quite resilient.

A!: As an academic known
for his activism, how would you describe the relationship between academia and popular movements/unions etc in 2014?

AS: look, the times are different. We have to be specific about this – back then, it was different if you were at Wits or at Zululand University – the ferment was different. The latter was a hub of black consciousness and proto-Congress thinking and activism, the former was something else. We need a rich oral history of the recent past because there are very discomforting myths about it. But yes, there was a dangerous and exciting mix of intellectual work and activism. Remember, though, that most
of the substantive ideas of class, nation and power came from networks outside of, and despite, the university system. The majority of thinkers and doers moved on to populate government, to animate policy and to do well as consultants and business people. They are all past the 60-year-old mark. There is in a sense a generational transition: most of the leadership of the existing trade union and social movements are in their 30s and 40s and are filled with new ideas and priorities.

A!: What has happened to left intellectuals/academics in the last 20 years?

AS: academia has ChaNged. the corporatisation of the university and neo-liberal thinking have gone hand in hand with the persistent attack on (to use the jargon) the ‘metanarratives’ of emancipation. The post-modern turn coincided with a powerful shift to the right. The main current has academics researching movements in order to publish in refereed journals. Another current is fighting for their jobs and fighting against casualisation. At the same time, the print and electronic media at a time of cuts have opened up space for op-ed pieces and expert talking heads. They are often paraded and parade themselves as the new public intellectuals. There is a new class of airheads who, on dodgy research and half- baked reading, opine about everything. There is, though, a counter-movement of socialist thinkers, artists and practitioners who are all about remarkable alternatives.

A!: How would you describe the current status of the ruling party?

AS: It is losing its grip oN the ‘big idea’ and, although it has substantive support, there is a serious dent to its moral authority. It is not only about leadership. It has been caught by grassroots reactions to the nakedness of the market. The re-assertion of community over socio-economic pressures need not be of the left.
Such a move to the right reinforces authoritarianism and rides on a wave of patriarchal and ethno-centric control. It has also translated into a micro-politics of ‘withdrawal’ as redemptive movements have gained ground: evangelical, fundamentalist or African Christianities. It has been caught by youth impatience, and the allure of the Economic Freedom Fighter movement. Also, the pillars of the compromise that allowed for the transition to occur and that constituted the aNC’s pragmatic realism are also unraveling. The land question, customary authorities, class compromise and the social compact between leaders and the led over development priorities are under severe strain. The vast mobilisation by
the saCp and Cosatu to defeat what was described as the ‘1996 class project’ led by Thabo Mbeki and his support base, has unleashed the ‘2010 class project’ of a new layer of a black petty bourgeoisie on its road to class power.

Ronnie Kasrils

Amandla! (A!): Clearly, there should be no basis for decrying
the end of Apartheid. Its demise
was a massive victory for poor
and working people as well as for freedom-loving people around the world, but when we mark the end
of apartheid what will the mass of people in SA actually be celebrating?

Ronnie Kasrils (RK): jUst that. The end of an infamous system of
white racial domination over the disenfranchised black majority and the start of a process of transformation holding out the prospects of fundamental socio-economic advance along the lines of the Freedom Charter.

A!: How do we evaluate 20 years of democracy or 20 years of the post-apartheid state given the current state of service delivery, corruption and cronyism?

RK: When Chris Hani became Secretary General of the SACP in December 1991 he famously declared that a new South Africa would be meaningless if it failed to deliver; if the problems of the millions of poor people were not tackled. There have been notable achievements with respect to water, electricity, housing delivery to the poor, increased pensions and social grants, but this has floundered. And as much as we celebrate the right to vote and such improvements, the roll out of services, and therefore erosion of poverty for millions, has been constrained by the neo-liberal economic arrangements our government has bought into. Within this context of capitalist hegemony, corruption, patronage, cronyism, secrecy and police brutality have become rampant and threaten our democratic gains. This is why the 20-year milestone must be one of confronting these ills, challenging the crass denialism of government and ruling party, and dedicating ourselves to reasserting our revolutionary commitment to achieving meaningful change.

A!: What are the most important things we need to do to ensure that we achieve the aspirations and goals of our liberation struggle?

RK: we mUst have the CoUrage to reassert our revolutionary principles, morality and objectives. This requires nothing short of a revolution within the revolution. I am not mouthing romantic, leftist rhetoric here. The protest and dissent at grass roots level and among revolutionary intellectuals and in the labour movement above all demands the renewal of which many speak. We must rediscover the mass creativity and energy of the UdF movement of the 1980s, with organised labour to the fore. This revolutionary force with correct theory and an action programme will become the driving force, the motor force, of
the radical change required if we are to achieve the aspiration and goals of our liberation struggle.

A!: How would you characterise the current status of the
African National Congress?

RK: Lenin said that the soCialist character of the outcome of the national liberation struggle of the colonies will depend on the extent of the organised working class strength within such a movement. Given South Africa’s industrial base, organised working class and trade union movement, the existence of a communist party of days gone by which had earned great respect within that struggle, our expectations of radical advance were high in 1994. Unfortunately by disbanding the UdF, demoting the
role of organised labour, the inevitable turn to the right by the aNC took place. Following the collapse of the Ussr the option of trading with the former socialist camp disappeared (whatever
one might think of the Soviet role) and
to the aNC’s leadership under Mandela the idea of depending on foreign capital investment, and compromising with big business at home and abroad, took hold. In this new state of affairs and with the encouragement of capital the bourgeoius nationalists within the aNC’s ‘broad church’ began to rise and I would say
that this new elite began to assert its influence and ascendancy. Corruption and patronage has become the order of the day and the aNC leadership have forgotten that their duty is to serve the masses and not feather their own nests (Nkandla being the most obscene example).

A!: What has happened to the SACP?

RK: The oNCe proUd saCp has
simply become a tame shadow of its former self, opportunistically throwing
its lot behind their darling Jacob Zuma,
of whom Blade Nzimandi once said to
me at a heated exchange in the Party’s Polit Bureau in 2005 that jZ offered the best opportunity and space for the left
to advance. To which I replied that amounted to opportunism and that jZ was no working-class hero. Blade Nzimande’s party, which has seen more expulsions of promising cadres in the Party’s entire history, has sunk to an all time low in its defence of the state’s role in the Marikana massacre; its abject failure to condemn the police; its sycophantic support for jZ’s Nkandla Palace; its attack on the Public Protector, and Nzimande’s slur that the criticism of the President amounts to ‘white lies.’ Where on earth is this man’s class analysis? This is the saCp that Chris Hani led, who stated after becoming Secretary General, 16 months before his assassination: ‘I will work to have the aNC elected into power. But if that aNC government doesn’t deliver, I wont hesitate to march against them, just as I marched against the apartheid regime.’ Then he would add with his characteristic chuckle: ‘Look, it’s going to be our government, the people’s government, they wont teargas us or shoot us like the present [apartheid] bunch.’ I have no doubt, 21 years after his assassination, how different the saCp would be today had he lived.

Breyten Breytenbach

Amandla! (A!): You lived and were incarcerated under one totalitarian South African regime. Today some commentators insist that we are heading for another. What are your thoughts on this?

Breytenbach (B): i thiNk we should be careful not to get confused. The apartheid regime was a minority dispensation of codified racism; the
aNC came to power mandated by a default majority vote. But the aNC then proceeded to install a one-party crony capitalist system along Stalinist lines
in order to better plunder the state.
Will it turn out to be as totalitarian as
the previous regime? At heart the two systems have a number of characteristics in common: the indifference to human life (except in the abstract, or as rhetoric), the predominance of race-based thinking, greed, the abuse of state security organs, attempts to control the flow of information and opinion, kowtowing to the liberal free market economy. But there are also important differences, other than the obvious ones between minority and majority rule. It may be that the previous regime was more sensitive and vulnerable to intellectual dissidence. We’ll have to see. We also have a Constitution now that can – so far – still be used by opponents who disagree with the state.

A!: How has South African democracy evolved over the last 20 years? How well have local writers tracked its progress?

B: we set oUt to be a NatioN aNd then forgot about it. Democracy in
the South African context can have little meaning in the crude capitalist environment. It would only have made sense if we understood the importance of movement, of the progressive dialectic between our shared values and our
rich diversity.

By and large, writers have subscribed to the same values – consumerism, the politically correct claptrap that passes itself off as ‘tolerance’ and ‘understanding’ – that are held by people in power. I
think journalists did a better job of exposing the venality of the criminals that run this country and the slide towards manipulated opinions and repressive laws.

A!: Elections are looming and the political atmosphere is tense. What role can writers play moving SA forwards?

B: writiNg CaN aNd oUght to be a defence against the relentless pressure of dumbing down public discourse. It can and should be the ethical spinal cord that allows for a diversity of narratives and for an invigorating imagination. Writers can help give expression to the need we all have for those in power, whether elected or deployed by their parties, to
be held to account and obliged to accept accountability. Politics is far too important to be left to opportunist crooks vying for votes.


Amandla! (A!): Over the last 20 years your cartoons have tracked the evolution of South Africa’s democracy on a week-by-week basis. Looking back, what are major trends that stand out?

Zapiro (Z): oNe thiNg that Clearly stands out is the euphoria of the 1994 elections. If I look back at my drawings from that time I see the joy of having Nelson Mandela installed as president, and of feeling like there was a kind of National Project on the go. When I think about a term like
that now – the ‘National Project’ – I immediately see how it was later going to be co-opted by people with agendas: to constrict the arts, to constrict protest, to squash any kind of dissidence from what they saw as the right thing to do. But in the beginning it didn’t feel like
an imaginary term. It felt real and it felt exciting.

Shortly before that, in the early ’90s, I’d felt like I was in a bit of a political vacuum. I was very unhappy with the aNC’s dissolution of the UdF immediately after being unbanned, which is where I’d been involved during apartheid. I thought it was a big mistake and I still do: the seeds of what was going to spoil things later on were being sown. Certain people who had been in prison and in exile – some of whom I’m sure felt threatened by such a flowering, vibrant, democratically structured group
as the UdF – felt it was the aNC’s right to dictate what happened and I saw this as an ominous sign. Anyway, I got my political mojo back in 1993, when I got very involved in the elections and in creating election material. I designed the official election poster; 300 000 copies were printed around the country. By the time the elections came around I was very excited again.

A!: So what you end up with is an amazingly detailed record to look back on. What other themes do you see emerging from your work?

Z: If I look baCk to drawiNgs i did in 1994, even though Mandela was
head of government, I was already
laying into things like the arms trade. I tried to keep the same politics I’d had during my UdF days. And there were people like Desmond Tutu, who had remained outside of government, who kept a consistent critique running. He never wavered. When he criticized the government for paying high salaries and for the arms trade I was totally with him.

A!: When did things sour for you?

Z: The economic shift that took place in 1996 was also a big kick in the teeth for many lefties. I thought that
it was a mistake: I felt that we had an opportunity to really roll out social projects during that period and I think that would have translated into more on- the-ground momentum in the arts, too. To me, 1996 also marked the beginning of a heightened intolerance
to criticism by government. Mandela was still president; he was halfway into his term, but he was already ceding a
lot of power to Mbeki. There was a big economic shift and somewhere along the line the securocrats got going. The arms trade started taking off. Then Mbeki became president in 1999, and suddenly you could see nasty little bits of Stalinism popping among aNC cadres: in their rhetoric, in their criticism of other people, in their criticism of the left. And you could see them clamping down in response to artwork in particular. By then artists were starting to pick up on things the aNC was not doing properly, or on problems that were still rife in society. And that’s exactly what artists should be doing. The tendency for government to attack the media viciously also began early on in Mbeki’s presidency.

A!: What are your views on this year’s elections?

Z: i’m lookiNg at this eleCtioN as treading water. I really have no massive hopes. But I do hope that the process that’s happening around the elections– the potential breakaway with Numsa and part of Cosatu – will flower into something interesting. If Numsa pulls
a good enough section of Cosatu away, and they have Vavi, and maybe some of the social movements – all the spinoffs of the taC: Equal Education, the Social Justice Coalition, My Vote Counts, the Right2Know campaign – you’ll suddenly have a strong activist core and a broad grassroots structure, which could shake things up quite a bit.

A!: There’s a tension in SA between exposing flaws in society, on one hand, and uniting behind some
kind of common goal on the other. What do you say to those who would mute criticism by appealing to nation building and unity?

Z: the most powerFUl example oF that tension right now concerns the Public Protector and Nkandla: namely, exposing corruption versus doing what is seen to be right for the political elite. And the machinations that the state and aNC have gone through to try and justify the unjustifiable are simply amazing. It’s Kafka-esque. The way that they have tried to deal with a Chapter 9 institution – set in place by Mandela’s generation of leadership, and by his high regard for healthy democracy. The Chapter 9 institutions are supposed to function as guardians of the Constitution. Well, you see this incredibly obvious, blatant perversion of organs of state to try and nullify the threat. So now they’ve appointed a thumb-suck ministerial committee that has no grounding in reality – and happens to comprise ministers who are under scrutiny for
the very issues at hand – and they have tried to create equivalence between it and the body that is actually supposed
to investigate these things. It couldn’t be clearer. There’s a gradual erosion of the checks and balances that are essential for protecting our democracy.

Andrew Chirwa

Amandla! (A!): Clearly, there should be no basis for decrying
the end of apartheid. Its demise was a massive victory for the working class and for freedom- loving people around the world but when we mark the end of partheid what will the mass of people in SA be actually celebrating?

Andrew Chirwa (AC): obvioUsly the mass of South Africans will be celebrating the end of formal apartheid! And there have been some marginal improvements in the provision of basic services such as water, electricity, low-cost housing, education and so on. More importantly, winning liberal democratic rights was important, especially for the working class – this period affords us great opportunities to organize across all races, and to represent workers on the shop floor. However, the struggle for liberation was not about reforming racist apartheid capitalism. It was about destroying national, gender and class oppression and exploitation, and perhaps also putting
an end to the rapping and looting of
our earth. We see therefore, that because the economic basis of racial capitalism has not been destroyed, racism continues and the colonial status of black people remains intact, notwithstanding the marginal improvements in their lives. In some dangerous ways, inequality, unemployment and poverty have worsened, in the midst of the marginal improvements, hence the permanent state of civil unrest in the whole country. Twenty years after 1994, therefore, the struggle for a new civilization, based on full human socio-economic equality and respect for our earth, continues.

A!: How do we evaluate 20 years of democracy or 20 years of the post-apartheid state given that for the majority of workers, wages have remained stagnant since 1994, the wage share has declined against profits in the national income and there has been a massive process of informalisation of the work force in a situation of mass unemployment?

AC: as explaiNed above, apartheid racial capitalism, the foundation of
South Africa’s national gender and class oppression and exploitation has not been uprooted and destroyed, by both the so-called democratic transition and in the past 20 years. Instead, we have seen both economic and political consolidation, over the past 20 years, of the power of local and international finance capital in South Africa. The stagnating and diminishing share of income of the working class is simply a reflection of the neoliberal economic processes of capitalist and imperialist consolidation in South Africa, post 1994. It is in fact for this reason that Numsa in its 2013 Special National Congress
has called for the formation of a united front of the working class, and the revolutionary advancement of the struggle for socialism, if South Africa is to be freed from the stranglehold of both national and imperialist capital. Numsa has also called for the radical implementation of the Freedom Charter, in order to accelerate the struggle against racial capitalism in South Africa. We are convinced that unless the working class organises itself as a class for itself, both local and foreign capital will continue to worsening the conditions of the working class and the rural poor masses. The working class in South Africa has realised that either it fights or it gets destroyed. The number of strikes and the militancy associated with the action is a good measure of the real state of the working class.

A!: : How far have we come in the transformation of the economy? Has BEE been at the expense of the redistribution of wealth?

AC: Bee was a CorNerstoNe oF the negotiated settlement. We now know that in return for securing the protection of both local and international capital, the aNC and the saCp negotiators secured for the black middle classes bee – and of course in the process they also abandoned the fundamental objectives of the liberation struggle – transferring the wealth of the country to all the people of South Africa! bee substituted in the negotiations for the property clauses of the Freedom Charter – so yes, bee has been at the expense of the fundamental and central demand of the liberation struggle – redistribution. We see therefore that the past 20 years have confirmed only one basic truth: no fundamental socio-economic revolution has taken place in South Africa precisely because the economic and social basis of apartheid and racist capitalism have not been uprooted and destroyed. For the working class it is back to the drawing boards and the revolutionary trenches!

Shane Cooper

Amandla! (A!): What is your assessment of the South African jazz scene over the last 20 years? Has it kept pace with our country’s evolution as a young democracy?

Shane Cooper (SC): i’ve beeN actively involved in the scene for the last 10 years and I certainly think the young generation of performers and composers have kept up with what’s been going on. There is a strong community of artists
in my generation who are pushing the South African jazz sound forwards and I think that the music is starting to evolve at a more rapid rate. The new generation is drawing from a wider array of global influences than before while staying in touch with their South African roots.

A!: Can artists who deal in subtle, nuanced forms of music (like jazz) contribute to public discourse? Or is this a job for people with louder, more obvious platforms, like singers?

SC: Jazz mUsicians can certainly contribute, but we mostly work with instrumental music and our songs can be interpreted in so many different ways. If we want to get clear messages across we have to rely on song titles, liner notes on Cd covers or speaking directly to audiences during our live shows. As artists we try convey to different moods during our performances and that’s what people relate to, but everyone’s experience is entirely their own and the music means different things to different people. My own goal is to move people through instrumental sound. I like to help people escape their daily lives, perhaps even to have otherworldly experiences. I want to help people let go for a few hours.

A!: The history of South African jazz is deeply intertwined with histories of protest and struggle. Is the music you play still a medium for inspiring people and advocating change? If so, on what topics and for whom?

SC: iN the last 20 years jaZZ has become highly niche in South Africa, with a very small audience and support system. Audiences tend to be older today and the music doesn’t spread messages or ideologies to young people like it used to. One would be more effective using house, kwaito or rock to speak to the youth now. Jazz used to be part of young peoples’ daily lives but that’s no longer the case. If artists want to speak to large audiences then jazz is not the best
choice. But I’m drawn to the genre because it allows several voices to
enter a composition and start having a conversation. Musicians can bring their own stories into an ensemble and share them with one another. Listeners interpret what happens in different ways. It’s so rich and multi-dimensional.

A!: Is it necessary in South Africa for art be political or make some kind of comment? Or can artists create purely for art’s sake?

SC: it is absolUtely esseNtial that we have artists making socio-political commentary with their work. We have so many artists who have powerful messages, especially in the visual mediums and theatre. However it’s just as important to have artists who don’t only focus on big issues, but also help us escape the world. Even for just a little bit at a time.

Rashid Omar

Amandla! (A!): Clearly, there should be no basis for decrying
the end of apartheid. Its demise
was a massive victory for poor
and working people as well as for freedom-loving people around the world but when we mark the end
of apartheid what will the mass of people in SA actually be celebrating?

Rashid Omar (RO): On 27th april 2014 we celebrate the 20th anniversary
of our freedom from apartheid bondage. As responsible South African citizens we have many things to celebrate and to be grateful for, not least the fact that with the demise of apartheid in April 1994, and the coming to power of a democratically elected government, we were now equal citizens in the shaping of the destiny of our country. The end of apartheid opened up great space and opportunities for the transformation of South Africa, but much still needed to be done to achieve social justice for all, and right all the wrongs of the past. We enjoy many freedoms that were denied to us in the past. We enjoy freedom of expression and movement that creates the possibility for new opportunities and spaces for social activism and transformation. We need
to use the new spaces and opportunities provided by a democratic South Africa
to transform the apartheid legacy of racism and economic injustices. We have a responsibility to inspire our youth to believe that our country’s democracy opens up so many opportunities for them, which we never had, and they should seize them. On the 27th of April 2014 we celebrate those veteran anti- apartheid activists and new activists from the generation after apartheid who continue to believe and struggle for a more egalitarian and just social order in which the dignity of all of South Africans especially the poor and marginalized are affirmed.

A!: How do we evaluate 20 years of democracy or 20 years of the post-apartheid state given the current state of service delivery, corruption and cronyism?

RO: Our political leadership has failed in their political and moral mandate to redress the inequalities and injustices of the past and to make South Africa a ‘better place for all’. Farm and migrant workers remain amongst the most exploited and marginalized sectors in
our society. Regrettably, just two years into our new democracy, in 1996, under pressure from global economic forces, the popular Reconstruction and Development Programme (rdp) was unceremoniously and without consultation jettisoned
and replaced by a neo-liberal economic policy called Growth, Employment
and Redistribution (gear). It is my considered view that the imposition of gear bolstered the capitalist environment in which post-apartheid South Africa subsists and has consequently engendered attitudes of entitlement and greed in many sectors of society, which is also the most probable cause for the scourge of corruption that has become pervasive
in our society. Moreover, serious crime and violence, especially against women and children, remains a blot on our society’s collective conscience. This is further exacerbated by high levels of unemployment, poverty, and lack of basic services such as sanitation, housing and health care. The cumulative effect of all
of this negativity has induced despair
and alienation across many sectors of
our society. It has become clear that we cannot rely on state policies or action to achieve the social transformation that is now long overdue. The December 2013 decision by one
of the largest trade union movements
in Cosatu, the National Union of Metal Workers (Numsa) to not support the
aNC in the 2014 national elections, stems from workers’ disillusionment with state economic policies that they believe do not substantively redress the huge economic inequalities that continue to exist in our country. The focus of future national debates will fittingly highlight not only the legacy of apartheid inequalities, but also the rampant economic inequalities that have grown in the past two decades since democratic rule. At this critical juncture in the history of our young democracy we need to keep the spirit of hope alive in our communities. We need to celebrate the triumph of the human spirit against all odds. We can achieve this by channeling our frustrations with the decadent trends in our society in constructive ways that will bring about the positive changes that we all desire.

A!: What are the most important things we need to do to ensure that we achieve the aspirations and goals of our liberation struggle?

RO: Achieving socio-economic justice and dignity for all South Africans, especially the poor and marginalised. We can only do so effectively if we
are organized. I believe that the conditions are
ripe for social transformation and the time is truly upon all of us, as people of conscience, to mobilise ourselves, not only to hold government to account, but to become active agents of social change. It is our collective responsibility to rediscover and revitalize the vibrant social activism that characterised the struggle against apartheid. Our struggle against apartheid was a struggle for social justice, and that struggle is clearly far from over. We are confident that social transformation can be achieved if we mobilise people within our various constituencies to join and support civil society organisations that
are committed to the struggle for socio-economic justice and dignity for all in our country. A vibrant and vocal civil society movement will ensure that the voices of the marginalised are heard, and that social justice becomes the impetus for all actions and policies. However, one the biggest challenges we face in mobilizing civil society is overcoming the apathy and cynicism that has become pervasive within our communities, especially those sectors of our communities as well as individuals that have been seduced by the relative comfort they are afforded by our neo- liberal and capitalist economic policies. We thus have a responsibility to acknowledge and expose the devastating consequences of the neo-liberal and capitalist economic policies being pursued by our post-apartheid government. The capitalist environment in which post- apartheid South Africa subsists has bred attitudes of entitlement and greed in many sectors of society, which is also the most probable cause for the scourge of corruption that has become pervasive in our society. Furthermore, it is the dogged pursuit of these neo-liberal and capitalist goals that has caused the gap between
the rich and the poor to continue to widen in our country. Achieving capital gains has outstripped social justice in the priority list for state action and policies.
I believe that unless the moral values
and behavioural patterns that define our society are transformed from a culture
of greed to that of a culture of altruism and caring, our country’s progressive Constitution and Bill of Rights will remain an unrealized dream.

It is the challenging task now of
civil society to wrest control of our
own destiny, and reclaim the struggle
for systemic transformation and moral regeneration by supporting progressive forces that have called for a reassessment of our country’s economic policies and that put social justice at the top of the agenda for social transformation. We can only do that if in addition to casting our votes wisely on 7 May 2014, we
also re-commit ourselves to working even harder to strengthen our civil society organizations. The vibrant South African social activism that characterised the struggle against apartheid is beginning to rediscover its dynamism. A rich array of civil society groups have emerged and grown significantly during the past few years. These groups and organisations have begun to form coalitions to hold government to account and to give voice to the needs and aspirations of ordinary citizens. This is an encouraging development that needs to be celebrated and supported.

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