Letters to the Editor: June 29 to July 5

Socialist: Neville Alexander appreciated Nelson Mandela, although he disagreed with him politically. (Edrea Cloete/Gallo Images/Foto24)

Socialist: Neville Alexander appreciated Nelson Mandela, although he disagreed with him politically. (Edrea Cloete/Gallo Images/Foto24)

Alexander held a different vision

Over the years I have keenly followed the perceptive writings of Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela on trauma, and also fully support that colleague’s commitment to nation-building.

In the spirit of democratic dialogue, however, I would like to present a different interpretation of the relationship between Nelson Mandela and Neville Alexander, compared with that provided in her recent article “Mandela left us the fabric for a new SA”.

Alexander undoubtedly viewed Mandela as a remarkable individual and appreciated what he had taught him about African history on Robben Island. He frequently remarked that the ANC leaders did not sell out by negotiating with the apartheid regime, as they were merely doing what they had always said they would. Alexander understood the seriousness of Mandela’s role as a political leader in maintaining the unity of the national liberation movement, and in preventing a civil war at the time. However, to assert that he shared Mandela’s strategic vision is a misconception.

Alexander immediately linked up with the Black Consciousness Movement on his release from prison, as that movement was at the forefront of the struggle at that historical moment. The days of guerrilla warfare were over and the peasant movements were defeated all over the world. Third Worldism had failed and mass action was the way forward — that is, there was a shift from a Maoist strategy to that of mass movements, as earlier proposed by organic intellectuals such as Rosa Luxemburg and Antonio Gramsci.

Alexander often commented that the South African Defence Force was not defeated, and comprehended that the ANC was therefore negotiating from a position of weakness. Within the Workers’ Organisation for Socialist Action, he opposed the (minority) political tendency that proclaimed a critical vote for the ANC in the 1994 elections, and rather supported participation on the basis of propagating the formation of a (nonsectarian) mass workers’ party that would fight for socialism in the post-apartheid era.

So there were major differences between the strategic visions of Alexander and Mandela. Indeed, as is clear at this juncture, the Mandela mission has exhausted its function for the status quo, and that is why the ANC ideological bloc is disintegrating. Mandela’s multiracialism, and the consequent constricted delineation of “Africans”, could not be the long-term fabric for a new society. Not to mention that the personality cult was a smokescreen for the neoliberal capitalist project.

So Alexander’s insistence on antiracism and anticapitalism represent the way forward. In his introduction to the isiZulu version of The Communist Manifesto, translated by Brain Ramadiro (2002), Alexander averred that: “We are committed to the position that it is only through the socialist renaissance that the peoples of the African continent will rise up out of the trench of despair in which imperialism and neocolonialism have kept them stagnating and decomposing.” The “stagnating and decomposing” of working people in South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Mauritius, and so forth, continue to be evident today.

So, one of the best ways to remember Alexander would be to enhance the ongoing struggle by translating all the important left-wing literature into the main African languages on the continent. — Shaun Whittaker, Windhoek


SA doesn’t ‘lock up migrants’

It seems easy to say in your editorial that “South Africa, like the US, also locks up migrants”  but providing evidence is not.

There are 88 694 refugees and 191 333 asylum-seekers in the country; they are not in camps. Since 2009, South Africa has regularised about 200 000 Zimbabweans, allowing them to work, study and do business. A new Zimbabwean exemption permit is being rolled out and special permits are also granted to citizens of Lesotho and to those from Angola who opted to remain here.

On World Refugee Day, South Africa was thanked for its generosity for hosting more than 126 000 refugees since 2009 and many more asylum-seekers. Resources were invested in Lindela, a repatriation office, not a refugee camp.

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s Economic Development in Africa Report 2018: Migration for Structural Transformation says South Africa, Côte d’Ivoire and Nigeria are the major destinations for irregular migrants in Africa. It records the observation that in South Africa there have been growing concerns that economic migrants apply for asylum, creating delays for refugees and burdening public resources.

Sweeping statements can neither promote refugee protection nor advance development, democracy, peace-building and conflict resolution. Perhaps interrogating Achille Mbembe’s conceptualisation of “borderisation” (“The great riddance”) may have assisted. Mbembe defines it as “the process by which world powers permanently transform certain spaces into places impassable for certain classes of populations”. He says it is “a way of waging war against enemies whose means of existence and survival we have previously destroyed”.

I’m certain he’s not talking about South Africa, which historically has been in the same situation as those who have been marginalised and “othered” by aggressive world powers. Refugees here enjoy visibility; they work, study and run enterprises among the people, including spaza shops and hair salons. — David Hlabane, head of media, department of home affairs


No need to talk about land reform. Just do it

The laws are solidly in place for the government to identify pieces of land for redistribution: expropriate them for amounts between zero and market value (depending on what is right and just in the individual circumstance, taking history into account) and to implement a practical strategy to settle families of those dispossessed of land by apartheid policies.

No talking about it is required. The fact that the ruling party is hell-bent on a huge talk shop about this, instead of just doing it, is deeply troubling and highly suspect.

President Cyril Ramaphosa and the ANC leadership are not into effective action when it comes to land reform. They are into electioneering rubbish and emotive rhetoric. — Michael Watermeyer

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