Human Rights Commission defends right to know

Dear Amandla!

AMANDLA! READERS WILL BE PLEASED TO know that in a recent landmark decision the Human Rights Commission (HRC)found that owners of private space used commercially for public purposes have no right of censorship or discrimination.

The case arose out of a dispute between the Palestine SolidarityCampaign (PSC) and The Labia, the long-established cinema art-house in Cape Town. The PSC does not see Israel-Palestine as a religious conflict but rather a colonial one also involving human rights. In February 2012, The Labia agreed, as part of its normal practice, to rent one of its cinemas to the PSC for the showing of the award-winning documentary film on Israel, ‘The Road Map to Apartheid’. The Labia then cancelled this contract. Subsequent press reports made clear that alleged ‘Israel bashing’ and that The Labia’s owner ‘did not get involved in politics’ lay behind the cancellation.

Negotiations between The Labia, the Right2Know Campaign and the PSC subsequently reached an agreement: the film would be shown and defenders of Israel would be invited to be part of the panel discussion that would follow the film. The Labia cancelled this second agreement when Israel’s supporters declined the invitation.

The PSC appealed the HRC’s original decision, which was that the dispute was only a private contractual one and, as such, did not involve matters arising from the Constitution’s Bill of Rights.

The HRC has now overturned this decision. It found that The Labia’s action, which was based on the content of the film, ‘constituted discrimination on prohibited ground, namely, belief or conscience’. It further found that the discrimination ‘amounted to an unjustifiable infringement of the right to receive or impart information or ideas in accordance with Section 16(1)(b) of the Constitution.’ The Labia now has three months in which to show a film it banned without having even seen it.

Welcoming the HRC decision, Martin Jansen, the PSC’s Chairperson said he hoped it would serve as a salutary encouragement for people not to be intimidated by Zionist intolerance of any criticism of Israel. ‘The right to information is sacrosanct,’ he said. He noted that, ‘Israel’s ever increasing crimes against the Palestinian people make the free flow of information all the more urgent’.

Mike Makin, PSC Secretary
Numsa Should Pursue New Federation

Dear Amandla!

THE EXPULSION OF NUMSA IS something working class activists should lose sleep over. For a long time now, COSATU has been a poor shadow of its glory days, when it led mass struggles against apartheid and the bosses. In its present state, the federation is politically bankrupt and corrupt from top to bottom.

The office bearers of COSATU are only interested in jumping onto the gravy train. A cushy, well-paid job, protected by a cosy relationship with the ruling party-and through it, the state – is the prize for loyalty to the ANC and to Number 1. When you are desperate to partake in the good life that many of your comrades in the SACP and ANC enjoy, why put at risk the possibilities of sending your kids to a private school, moving out of the crime-ridden townships and getting a decent house in the leafy suburbs — just to be honest to a cause? What cause are we talking about here? Socialism, of course. Yet any COSATU official who is prepared to be honest can see that socialism is not the direction of the alliance. To the extent that COSATU still has an ideology, it is all about the National Democratic Revolution (NDR) – a meaningless phrase that no leader in COSATU or in the alliance can explain.
How can it have any meaning when, in the name of the NDR, we are told to support a capitalist development programme called the National Development Plan?NUMSA should call a workers’ summit that brings workers together from all sectors and all parts of the country, and reconstitute a new federation based on socialism and working-class principles. Thousands of workers in the very unions that led the charge to boot them out of COSATU will follow. The growth of AMCU is a clear example of this. In fact, NUMSA and AMCU could form the core of a new powerful federation, which will once again shake this country. This is what the bosses fear.

Comrade Jim, don’t waste the union’s money and time by fighting the expulsion. Dlamini and Co. have done you and the working class in this country a favour. Forward ever, backward never.

Lonwabo Mbele

Open Letter to Zwelinzima Vavi, General Secretary of COSATU

Dear Comrade Zweli,

Now is not the time to hesitate or to vacillate. The expulsion of NUMSA is a direct attack on you and the way you have steered COSATU.

Your critique of the predatory state and the predatory elite has unleashed the attacks coming from the ANC and its choir, the SACP. Your critique of the absence of the SACP in the 2010 public sector strike has struck a raw nerve. When you rhetorically asked where comrade Blade and Jeremy were – knowing very well that they had taken positions in the Zuma cabinet, defying the SACP’s constitution that they should be full-time leaders of the party – the vitriolic attacks were just an email away.

It is not you who is on defensive, weak ground. It is the current leadership of the alliance, which is in big trouble. The formation of the EFF, a split to the left of the ANC, has really unsettled Zuma –and not just in parliament.

Rebuilding the ANC Youth League is proving more difficult than Mantashe could have imagined. I know – as a former NUM official you are not ecstatic about the formation of AMCU, but I am sure you will acknowledge that the haemorrhaging of NUM is a haemorrhaging of the ANC. When we consider the state of the ANC branches – one has to wonder what happened to
the remaining roots of the old liberation movement that you and many of your comrades believed in. Answer: they are dead.

As you said in your speech at the 40th anniversary of the South African Labour Bulletin, we cannot have unity for unity’s sake. No more space should be afforded to the representatives of the predatory elite to do more damage to COSATU. The ANC must be kept away from COSATU, they have already done enough damage. Do not give them more space to destroy what you and your comrades have rebuilt over the last ten years. Recall the shape COSATU was in when you took over from Shilowa.

It is correct to fight to free the two million workers from those corrupt gate keepers known as general secretaries, treasurers and so-called presidents who are leading most – not all – of COSATU’s affiliates into yellow business unions.

Agreed, this fight will be as much about strategies as it will be about tactics. And tactics are always something up for debate. But there is one thing we should be clear on: an independent, militant and worker-controlled trade union movement

Credit: COSATU-Today Facebook page must be kept out of the clutches of a dying liberation movement, whose base is rapidly crumbling.

Comradely, Brian Ashley

Zwelinzima Vavi, General Secretary of COSATU.

The revolution should be televised!

Dear Amandla!

The migration from analogue to digital television will determine the communication landscape for years to come. It has the potential to ensure everyone receives a vastly increased number of TV channels, transform ownership patterns and free up valuable spectrum that can ensure greater access to high-speed internet. However there is a great risk that digital migration will entrench the current communication inequalities – or fail completely.

In the coming months, every household will require a new Set-Top-Box (STB) to receive digital TV. The cost of an STB – estimated at between R700 and R1300 – is being shifted to end users.
People without STBs will be cut-off from television entirely.

TV is the primary source of information for the working class and poor. No one should be cut off from television. The Right2Know Campaign is demanding free Set-Top-Boxes for all.

Government is proposing a limited STB subsidy for households that can prove their poverty. Apart from the unnecessary expense and bureaucracy involved in administering this proposed subsidy, no one should have to suffer the indignity of proving their poverty.

Naspers/Multichoice is using their satellite TV monopoly to offer low-cost DSTV decoders and draw people away from public free-to-air television. Newchannels could be made available to the
private sector. Right2Know demands that at least 50• of all channels be public and community-oriented to ensure greater diversity of content.

If we do not act, it is likely that in the future South African television will be divided along apartheid lines. Like our education and health services already, there will be an expensive private servicefor those who can afford it, but the majority will have to make do with a poor quality public service. The people who are most marginalised could be cut off from receiving television.

Now is the time to defend TV access and advance the fight for a noncommercial media that serves the information and expression needs of all.

The revolution should be televised!

Mark Weinberg, Right2Know Campaign

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