South Africa:Interview -Floyd Shivambu, suspended from ANC YL
South Africa revolution continues
South Africa: Interview with Floyd Shivambu, suspended ANC YL
spokesperson: "This is an anti-capitalist struggle for economic
Written by In Defence of Marxism Thursday, 20 September 2012
*Floyd Shivambu was a leading member of the South African Students Congress
(SASCO) as well as a leading member of the Young Communist League (from
which he was suspended in 2010). As a leading member of the ANC YL he
played a key part in developing this organisation's stance on the **need to
nationalise the mines*< http://www.marxist.com/anc-yl-nationalisation-mines.htm>
* which has now become a central issue of the political debate in the
revolutionary movement in South Africa.*
Togetherwith expelled ANC YL president Malema, he has intervened actively in the
strike by Lonmim platinum miners at Marikana. Their support for the miners
at Lonmin, and in other companies who have walked out in the last weeks,
has earned them the hatred of the capitalist media and of the state.
According to union representatives at the South African Broadcasting
Corporation there is a veto on any mention of Julius Malema in the
There have also been threats on their lives. On Saturday, Julius Malema was
prevented by the police from speaking at a rally of striking mineworkers
who had invited him. Armed with automatic rifles, they threatened to arrest
him, bundled him and his supporters (amongst them Shivambu) into a car and
then followed them with police cars and a helicopter to make sure they were
on the highway on their way out of Rustenburg.
These are all violations of basic rights which any consistent democrat
should oppose. Whatever the views Malema and Shivambu might have about the
miners' strike, nationalisation, the leadership of ANC and the National
Union of Mineworkers, the workers and public opinion in general should be
free to listen to them if they so wish and make up their own minds about
their ideas. If other leading figures of the ANC, the unions and the SACP
have different views on these questions, they should also address the
workers and the communities and engage in a serious debate.
Instead, what we are witnessing is a heavy handed orchestrated attempt to
suppress their views using the full force of the state apparatus. If this
is done with the expelled and suspended leaders of the ANC YL, who are
known public figures, we can only imagine the extent to which the state and
the mine owners are going in order to suppress the views of the strike
For all of these reasons we thought it would be of interest to our readers
to know Floyd Shivambu's views directly. We asked him a number of questions
and we are grateful that he was willing to answer them. This does not mean
that we agree with or endorse all of his opinions, but we think that they
are a legitimate part of the debate. Our own views have been made clear in
There is one particular point we would like to clarify. We think that both
the NUM and the SACP are working class organisations, made up of hundreds
of thousands of workers who joined them in order to struggle for better
conditions and for fundamental transformation of society. Certainly, we
think that their current leadership is not representing the interests of
their members and does not stand for socialism. This can be seen clearly in
the position they have taken *against *the nationalisation of the mines,
and the way in which their leaders have been co-opted into the very
capitalist state they are supposed to be fighting against. However, we
think it would be wrong not to distinguish between the organisation as a
whole, with its mass membership, and its leadership. Our position is to
appeal to the working class to reclaim these organisations, taking them
back to their best traditions so they can become tools of revolutionary
We fully agree with the central idea expressed in the interview: "The
attainment of political freedom in South Africa was never accompanied by
economic liberation and transformation. The racist apartheid capitalist
Masters are still in control of the economy and have only co-opted a few
previously oppressed individuals into the higher echelons of capitalist
This is something we have repeatedly explained in our articles about South
Africa for the last 18 years. The Freedom Charter states as one of its aims
that "the mineral wealth beneath the soil, the Banks and monopoly industry
shall be transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole." We fully
agree. In our opinion the only way forward is the nationalisation of the
banks and monopolies, of all key sectors of the South African economy (and
mining is the most important one of all, representing about 18% of the
country's GDP). This nationalisation (with compensation only on the basis
of proven need) should be under workers' control to allow for the
democratic planning of the economy to the benefit of the majority of the
population. This is what we understand for economic freedom, and it is the
only way in which the promise of the Freedom Charter, that the "national
wealth of the country... shall be restored to the people", can be achieved.
First of all, let us deal with what happened at Marikana on August 16 when
34 striking miners were killed. The official version of the police states
that they acted in "self-defence", but there is now a growing body of
evidence that this is not true. What can you tell us based on new
information which has emerged and your own contact with the survivors?
From the information we received from so many eye witnesses, it appears
that the South African police had intended to arrest more than 5000 workers
for what they call an "illegal gathering" and "possession of dangerous
weapons". Part of the arrest strategy was to place barbed wire around
workers and then arrest all of them. When workers tried to escape from the
barbed wire, the only way out was through the open space where armed police
were waiting with guns and live ammunition and then the massacre took
place. In three minutes, 16 people died and the remaining 18 were killed at
close range by the police when they were trying to arrest all of them and
some as a result of being hit and injured by the police vehicles that drove
over their heads. That is the information workers gave to the police and
told everyone who cared to listen, but thus far no action has been taken.
Workers never confronted the police; they were running away from them; and
that explains why forensic evidence indicates that most were shot on the
Interview (our emphasis throughout)
*In Defence of Marxism (IDOM):* Why did you and other expelled leaders of
the ANC Youth League go to Marikana?
*Floyd Shivambu (FS):* We went to Marikana because for a considerable
amount of time we have been at the forefront of the oppressed and exploited
masses of South Africa in the mines, informal settlements and townships and
it then became our revolutionary obligation and responsibility to join in
the demands of workers like we have done on many occasions before.
*IDOM*: There have been allegations that arrested miners were then subject
to torture. What can you tell us about that?
*FS*: The arrested workers were subjected to torture because elements of
the State wanted these workers to wrongly "confess" that our involvement in
Marikana had led to the violence and catastrophe, but they never found
anything of that nature.
*IDOM*: What is your opinion of the reaction of the NUM leaders to the
*FS:* The NUM is a useless Union, led by Career Unionists who are now
co-opted by big business. The NUM has lost ground and does not represent
workers; hence they become petty and only shout from offices when we go to
the ground to speak to workers.
*IDOM*: Most of the capitalist media try to present the conflict as one
between NUM and AMCU. What are the real demands and conditions of the
striking miners and how are they organised? What are the arguments in
favour of their claim of a wage increase to R12,500?
*FS:* There was never any conflict between NUM and AMCU in Marikana.
Workers resolved to confront the bosses without any Union representation
and both AMCU and NUM joined the workers after they had taken action to
demand the wage increases. *The conflict was between the mineworkers and
the mine bosses, and the State joined in on the side of mine bosses to
kill, arrest and threaten mineworkers.*
*IDOM*: More generally, what does the Marikana incident tell us about the
situation for the majority of workers and poor in South Africa 18 years
after the end of apartheid?
*FS: **The attainment of political freedom in South Africa was never
accompanied by economic liberation and transformation. The racist apartheid
capitalist Masters are still in control of the economy and have only
co-opted a few previously oppressed individuals into the higher echelons of
*IDOM*: As a leader of the ANC Youth League you campaigned around the issue
of the nationalisation of the mines. How do you see that in the light of
what happened at Marikana?
*FS:* Marikana strengthens our call for the Nationalisation of the Mines,
and no proper thinking individuals, apart from those with class prejudices
and interests, can now oppose the Nationalisation of the Mines and other
strategic sectors of the economy.
*IDOM*: Julius Malema, you and other expelled leaders of the YL have been
visiting striking miners in different locations. What is your experience of
the conditions facing mineworkers in South Africa today?
*FS:* Conditions of workers in the Mines are inhuman, with no electricity,
no running water, no sanitation. Workers are forced to live like animals
and the surrounding municipalities do not provide any services to these
*IDOM*: The issue of the nationalisation of the mines has become an
important question dividing the left and the right within the broad mass
democratic movement. The SACP leaders and the NUM leaders are surprisingly
opposed to such a demand. How do you explain that?
*FS:* The SACP and NUM are not Left formations. They used to be on the
Left, but have now been hijacked by Careerists who think and believe that
their individual promotion into senior government posts means workers and
the oppressed people are free. It is actually useless to discuss the SACP
because we would just be giving it the dignity it does not deserve.
*IDOM*: Nationalisation of the mines would go contrary to the sunset
clauses in the Constitution and would immediately bring forth the wrath of
the capitalists, both national and multinational. How would you respond to
*FS:* The sunset clauses period has long passed and as we have said in our
perspectives before, now is the time for radical and decisive policy shifts
which will restore wealth and natural resources to the ownership of the
people as a whole.
*IDOM*: A recent statement by the NUMSA CC has clearly come out in favour
of nationalisation of the mines, but also of all major industries. Would
you agree with that?
*FS: **Our view on Nationalisation has never been limited to the Mines
only*and we have said in our congress resolutions and in the ANC, that
*there is a need to discontinue private ownership of other strategic
sectors of the economy like Petroleum, Iron Ore and Steel corporations and
*IDOM*: In the light of the worldwide crisis of the capitalist system, do
you think socialism is the answer? In your recent visit to London you
visited Marx's grave, do you think his ideas are relevant?
*FS: **Our tools of analysis and guide to action and our ideological
telescope is deeply rooted in Marxism-Leninism and we have never made any
secret about that. We are leading an anti-capitalist struggle in South
Africa,* and we aim to achieve a society inspired by the Freedom Charter
objectives and whether the Freedom Charter is socialist is a question we
should discuss in great detail
*IDOM*: Coming back to the Marikana strike, the workers are still standing
firm for their full claim of R12,500 - what is the situation on the ground?
Are they confident they can win?
*FS:* There is progress and workers have been given between R11.000 and
R13.700 as a result of the protest action. We are happy that workers
accepted this victory and what needs to be done is to consolidate it into a
national minimum wage in all Mines of not less than R12.500 and we are on
*IDOM*: You have been expelled from the ANC YL - do you still consider
yourselves as part of the Congress movement?
*FS:* We are still part of the Congress movement, and we have defined
ourselves as Economic Freedom Fighters whose mandate is to lead and
influence a political and ideological battle that will result in
discontinuation of private ownership of the key means of production. We
were isolated from the ANC by a Jacob Zuma led faction because of these
views but we will win this battle.
*IDOM*: In the run up to the Manguang Conference there is a lot of talk
about personalities, but what are the real political differences at stake?
*FS:* Our view which we express everywhere is that *the 53rd National
Conference of the ANC should never be about personalities, but about policy
and perspectives which should lead to what we say is the attainment of
Economic Freedom.* Unfortunately as revolutionaries you cannot afford to
ignore the subjective elements that can undermine the success, pace and
direction of a revolution. With good resolutions, some subjective
weaknesses of leadership can undermine the revolution. So we are vigilant
on all fronts.
*IDOM*: * Is there any message you want to convey to In Defence of Marxism
*FS: Let's all continue in the struggles against capitalism and let's
inspire each other to fight on because victory is certain. We have learned
a lot from In Defence of Marxism and have, at times, considered your
analysis of South Africa, because such analysis is not full of the racial
prejudices that characterize our society.*
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