[STATEMENT]: APF – 17 August 2000 – APF Statement Supporting COSATU, Union Protests against Labour Law Amendments

The text of another statement I wrote when I was a Media Officer for the Anti-Privatisation Forum (APF).


17 August 2000

The Johannesburg Anti-Privatisation Forum expresses its full solidarity with today’s protest action by COSATU.

We support COSATU’s resolute stand in opposition to the proposed labour law changes. The proposed changes include

  • No special pay for Sundays- no double time or time-and-a-half
  • Empowering the Minister of Labour to allow variation in core Basic Conditions of Employment, including working hours, leave time, overtime pay etc.
  • A provision allowing new workers to be kept on probation for six months instead of three before being appointed, as well as making it easier to dismiss workers on probation
  • Empowering the Minister of Labour to refuse to extend collective bargaining agreements if any one employer claims not to have been consulted.

The overall effect of these changes – which are even more drastic than Botha’s attempted LRA amendments in 1987- is to undermine hard-won worker rights.

Further, these changes directly and deliberately promote the expansion of flexible labour practices i.e. they drive workers into ever more precarious, insecure, and casualised jobs.

This meshes perfectly with the agenda of employers (both private business and government itself) to drive down labour costs: to impose on the working class starvation wages and to remove workers’ access to benefits such as medical aid and pension schemes.

Given that “flexible” casual labour is typically supplied to employers by nefarious institutions such as union-bashing sub-contractors and labour-brokers, and given that workers’ jobs will become ever more insecure, the effect of these measures will also be to force workers out of the unions.

The changes in the labour laws are, sadly, not a sudden break with government policy. Government made it perfectly clear in the controversial Growth, Employment and Redistribution strategy, GEAR, that it favoured “flexibility in the collective bargaining system.”

GEAR spells this out clearly. It calls for the “regulation of the labour market in a manner that allows for flexible collective bargaining structures, variable application of employment standards, and voice regulation”. GEAR specifically calls for lower wage rates for “trainees,” increased variation in wage levels, more “employment flexibility” and “variations on norms set in collective bargaining.”

Thus, the labour law changes reflect the ongoing neo-liberal agenda that is savaging the working class. Other elements of this neo-liberal agenda we know well:

  • The privatisation of government assets, exemplified by iGoli 2002 and the recent announcement of the imminent sell-off of Denel, Eskom, Telkom and Transnet
  • Slashing the pubic sector, leading to a huge job shedding in the civil service and the unilateral wage freeze on public sector employees in 1999
  • Cuts in social spending, for example, on hospitals, teachers, old age pensions and on higher education. The effects of this include pension cut-offs in the Eastern Cape and university restructuring, such as the Wits 2001 plan at Wits University which led to 630 jobs being lost in June this year
  • Deregulation of imports and investments, leading to the destruction of the clothing industry and the migration of Anglo to the London Stock Exchange

That this neo-liberal agenda can never benefit the working class is shown most clearly by the massive wave of retrenchments in the last few years. This has taken place in companies faced by international competition from cheap goods, companies closing down because they cannot compete, workers being laid off in government –owned companies such as Telkom as these are restructured, and teachers being fired despite the crying need for education in our communities.

Therefore we again salute COSATU.

The struggle against the proposed labour law amendments is part of the struggle against privatisation.

It is the fight of every brave worker, the fight of every one who refuses to stand by as the working class is plunged into destitution, who refuses to see the rich continue to benefit for another hundred years from our sweat and blood. This is the fight to which the Anti-Privatisation Forum – a broad coalition of labour, student and working class community  unity structures – is committed …  to the very end.

Issued by the Johannesburg Anti-Privatisation Forum.


[STATEMENT]: APF – 11 October 2000 – “Release all S26 Prisoners”

The text of another statement I wrote when I was a Media Officer for the Anti-Privatisation Forum (APF).


During and after the S26 demonstration in Prague the Czech police arrested up to 950 people. Those arrested were denied their legal rights, were beaten in custody and denied access to legal aid, food, medicine, clean water and toilets.  Many of those arrested report of being prevented sleeping for up to 36 hours by the police.  The fact that only 25 of those arrested were actually charged demonstrates not only the random nature of the arrests but also the reality of the police riot that took place on S26 and S27.  Photographs show that many of the police had removed or obscured their identification numbers.

In addition photographs that have been published in newspapers and on the internet reveal the presence of police agents-provocateurs dressed as rioters.

According to the Czech newspaper Lidove Noviny, Sept. 29 Page 2

  • “observers have filmed a man smashing a McDonald’s window and then walking away through a police cordon without any hassle”
  • “reporters met policemen dressed up as demonstrators in black sweatshirts with  black scarves or hoods over their faces. At Tylovo Namesti, reporters saw one of  the masked policemen hit metal bars on a showcase window with a pole torn off a  railing; later, he arrested activists”

Obscenely Interior Minister Stanislav Gross reacted to the evidence of undercover agents by calling for the people presenting this evidence to also be arrested (Prague Post of Wednesday, October 4, 2000).  There is international outrage at the police abuses and the massive cover up of them the Czech state is now involved in. Demonstrations have happened outside Czech embassies all over the world and tens of thousands of protest letters and emails have poured in from organisations and individuals.

We, the Anti-Privatisation Forum, Gauteng, South Africa, comprising the organisations listed below, demand the immediate release of all prisoners still in Czech jails from the S26 demonstrations against the IMF and World Bank.

We demand that all the charges against people arrested on that day be immediately  dropped.



http://www.aidc.org.za/apf/APFmain.htm [dead]

APF, c/o AIDC, 3rd floor Cosatu House, cnr Leyds and Biccard Streets, Braamfontein, Johannesburg, South Africa

Postal address: APF, 60 Isipingo Street, Bellevue East 2198, South Africa

Tel: 27-11 339- 4121

Fax: 27-11 339-4123

Member organisations of the Anti-Privatisation Forum include the National Education Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) at Wits University), the South African Students Congress (Sasco), the SA Communist Party (Central JHB branch), the South African National Civic Organisation (Sanco), Democratic Socialist Movement, Workers Organisation for Socialist Action, African Peoples Democratic Union of South Africa (Apdusa), Keep Left, Wits University Post-Graduate Association, Campaign Against Neo-Liberalism in South Africa (Cansa), SA NGO Coalition, Jubilee 2000, SA Graduates’ Development Association, Wits University SRC, Soweto Electricity Crisis Committee, Ecumenical Services on Socio-Economic Transformation, Gauteng Hawkers Association, Evaton Reconstruction Forum, Keep Left, the S26 Collective, Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union (Imatu), the Alternative Information and Development Centre, the South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) and Bikisha Media Collective.

[STATEMENT] APF – 24 August 2000 – “No Business as Usual as Anti-Privatisation Forum protests Khetso Gordhaan and iGoli 2002”

The text of another statement I wrote when I was a Media Officer for the Anti-Privatisation Forum (APF).

Subject: No business as usual as Anti-Privatisation Forum protests Khetso Gordhaan and iGoli 2002
Date: Thu, 24 Aug 2000 19:33:31 GMT + 2:00

The Anti-Privatisation Forum organised protest at the Gordon Institute of Business Science on Thursday 24 August was a big success.
The band of comrades entered the buildings, and held a nosiy protest in the foyer. Whilst the rich sipped coffee and pretended (and wished!) to be somewhere else, the stalwart comrades chanted, blew whistles and told it like it was.

There was no way it going to business as usual.

The APF took protest to one of the hubs of power, one of the “network” sessions behind closed doors where the bosses and the politicians make the deals that privatise the basic needs of the working class – water, electricity, jobs,
social services- the very right to life itself.
The slogans reflected the mood: “Khetso would sell his own mother, “No to Capitalist Solutions – Forward to Peoples’ Power,” “Reject GEAR,” “Privatisation is the Acceleration of Poverty,” and, of course, “Reject iGoli 2002,
Reject Wits 2001.”

And the speakers told the bosses clearly: “Your privatisation has no mandate! The working class rejects neo-liberalism!”

As for the man who has somehow been projected as the patron saint of South Africa, mining magnate and bourgeois-in-chief, Harry Oppenheimer,  “his soul burns in hell … we hope he suffers like the workers he jailed in the
compounds .. and we hope you rich all join him.” Because sooner or later, “Revolution is coming.”

Afraid of more militant action, the session organisers agreed to let one of the comrades speak on the stage before Khetso. Of course, the bourgeoisie clapped politely. But they haven’t seen anything yet.

The Anti-Privatisation Forum calls on all working and poor people to join its ranks.

And to the workers of SAMWU, and the SAMWU congress,  we say KEEP UP THE FIGHT AGAINST IGOLI 2002!

A working class united will never be defeated.


Please find below the APF’s press release on the government’s plans to
sell of
Denel, Eskom, Telkom, and Transnet.

The Anti-Privatisation Forum is a coalition formed in July this year from
the merger
of the Anti-iGoli 2002Forum and the Wits University Crisis Committee.
Affiliates of
the Forum include Nehawu (Wits University), South African Students
SACP (Central JHB), SANCO, Democratic Socialist Movement, Workers
Organisation for Socialist Action, Keep Left, Wits University
Association, Campaign Against Neo-Liberalism in South Africa, SA NGO
Coalition, Jubilee 2000, SA Graduates’ Development Association, Wits
SRC, Soweto Electricity Crisis Committee, Ecumenical Services on Socio-
Economic Transformation, Gauteng Hawkers Association, Evaton
Forum, Keep Left, the S26 Collective, Independent Municipal and Allied
Union, and the Alternative Information and Development Centre.

[STATEMENT]: 7 August 2000 – APF Communiqué number 2: “Bundy’s iron fist versus democracy and freedom of expression|

The text of another statement I wrote when I was a Media Officer for the Anti-Privatisation Forum (APF). Issued for the anti-privatisation/ anti-outsourcing struggle at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) ongoing the time. It was labelled a “communiqué” as a play on Wits’ practice at the time of calling its official statements “communiqués.

Anti-privatisation Forum: Communiqué number 2

August 2000

To all academics, students and workers

Bundy’s iron fist versus democracy and freedom of expression

Rather than seek to resolve the ongoing controversy over the Wits 2001 privatisation plan through rational dialogue and genuine democratic decision-making, it seems that Colin Bundy, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of the Witwatersrand, clearly prefers the iron fist.

At the start of August, Bundy’s administration served notice that it will be applying for interdicts against the main workers union on campus, the National Union of Health Education and Allied Workers Union, NEHAWU, as well as the main organisations representing students. Curiously this was not mentioned in one of Bundy’s public “communiqués” but undertaken quietly and stealthily.

These include two elected and duly constituted university structures representing student interests – the Student Representative Council (SRC) for undergraduate students and the Postgraduate Association for postgraduate students- as well as the popular South African Students’ Congress, SASCO. A further fourteen individuals active in these different organisations will also be interdicted.

The interdicts – if secured through the courts- will ban a range of actions. The main ones affected are “noisy” protests, occupations, and any form of disruption of “normal” University activities.

The effect of this drastic and uncalled-for action will be to declare a State of Emergency on campus.  Normal protest activities, protected by the Constitution, will be shut down with the use of riot police.

Legitimate representative structures such as unions and student councils will operate in a climate of intimidation and fear. Protest action against legitimate concerns such as Wits’ retrenchment of 620 workers in June, rising student fees, worsening food in the residences, job cuts amongst academics will be muzzled.

Innocent protestors will be jailed with rapists and murderers for “contempt of court” if they dare to exercise their right to freedom of expression and engage in activities that do not have Bundy’s approval.

Is this Bundy’s idea of free speech and academic freedom? To create a situation in which people fear to speak out and in which anyone who goes to far is attacked by police and jailed? Does Bundy want to take the campus back to the days of 1993 and 1994 when the campus almost tore itself apart as riot fired teargas on campus and police arrested hundreds of students, where union and student activists faced jail sentences for occupying an administration office?

All that NEHAWU, SRC, PGA and SASCO wanted was open dialogue over the Wits 2001 restructuring process, and a real say over what decisions were made. These organisations- the Wits Crisis Committee, part of the Anti-Privatisation Forum  – wanted to defend workers’ jobs, wanted to defend students’ conditions, wanted to prevent departments from being closed down, wanted to stop privatisation, wanted be heard.

The Wits Crisis Committee was ignored again and again.

And now history repeats itself.

Bundy’s response to people’s legitimate concerns has not been to reopen negotiations and discussions. He has chosen instead to o empower himself to call in riot police – to use the State- to enforce the University’s internal Code of Conduct against the majority of the University community, viz., academics, workers and students.

Rather than seek to understand what underlay the series of peaceful protest actions that has take place throughout this year, in other words, Bundy has grossly overreacted in a manner can only serve to polarise and radically destabilise normal campus life.

The firing of tear gas rounds may serve to drown out legitimate concerns, may serve to silence academic freedom for a while, but it can never solve the problem.

The winds of democracy, it seems, are blowing everywhere in Africa- from Swaziland to Zimbabwe to Nigeria. But not at the University of the Witwatersrand.

[STATEMENT] APF Press Release – “APF: Kathorus to March against Privatisation 10 May 2001”

The text of another statement I wrote when I was a Media Officer for the Anti-Privatisation Forum (APF). I was guided by comrades of KCR and others to paint the picture of what was happening on the East Rand, and how the working class was fighting back.


C/o AIDC offices, 3rd floor, COSATU House, Braamfontein, Johannesburg, 2017





The Kathorus Concerned Residents Committee (KCR), which is affiliated to the Anti-Privatisation Forum (APF), will be holding a mass march on the office of Mayor Bavumile Vilakazi of the East Rand (Ekurhuleni) Metropolitan Council on Thursday 10 May 2001. The KCR is an independent civic organisation, and ran candidates in the December 2000 local government elections.

The anti-privatisation march, which will begin at the Hunters Field Stadium, Katlehong, at 8:30 in the morning, has been called to demand an end to privatisation, housing evictions and retrenchments on the East Rand.

The Kathorus area – comprising Katlehong, Thokoza and Vosloorus- is the second only to Soweto in size. A heavily working class area, centred on the heavy industry of the East Rand, and partly built over unsafe dolomite land, Kathorus has been reeling under the blows of privatisation for years.

Housing evictions are a major problem for residents. In the 1980s, the apartheid regime decided to stop building and maintaining black working class houses and hostels.

Instead, the government decided to follow World Bank thinking on urban policy, and implement “site-and-service” schemes. According to this approach, government would make one-off grants of plots of land equipped with basic services to poor people, sometimes with a one-room “starter” house. These allocations were and are referred to as “housing subsidies.” Private sector loans would then be used to “top up” this allocation.

In Kathorus in 1987, the Family Housing Association, linked to the big business think tank on housing, the Urban Foundation, was at the forefront of the new housing policy. It offered low interest loans to township families: families that bought a site of land would be provided with loans for building materials as part of a “build-your-own-house” scheme.

However, the scheme was soon taken over by Thubelisha Homes, which handed over the loans to the banks and in this way mortgaged the houses, unilaterally transforming the housing scheme into a bond system subject to high interest rates. The effect has been that loans of approximately R8, 000 have escalated into debts of over R40, 000, and in some cases, over R60, 000.

This has been particularly severe in the context of large-scale retrenchments and deindustralisation that have taken place on the East Rand. An estimated 50, 000 manufacturing jobs have been lost over the last few years, plunging many families into destitution and making it impossible for them to keep up ever-escalating repayments and bank charges. Whole factories have been closed, and the new jobs that have been created have largely been casual, non-union, employment.

The effect has been increased poverty and rising crime. As a result, thousands of families have had their goods attached to pay off debts.

Furthermore, Servcon, a joint venture set up by government and commercial banks in 1994 to deal with bond defaulters, has embarked on a campaign of “rightsizing” people to properties that they can more easily afford.

What this means in practice is that whole families are moved from 5-room houses to 1-room houses. This creates enormous problems for families as children and parents are forced into the same rooms, and it destroys working class communities as people are forced into new, unfamiliar neighbourhoods and schools.

When it is recognised that the problem of bond repayment is linked directly to escalating bank costs, and when it is noted that the banks are, in effect, punishing poor people burdened with low incomes and high unemployment – people that the banks would not ordinarily consider lending money- the hideous social injustice of the situation becomes starkly evident.

The evictions, retrenchments, and low wages that ravage the area must also be situated within the context of declining local government spending on social services. Allocations from central government to the municipalities have fallen by 85% in real terms since 1991, with the effect that less, not more, is available for basic amenities such as streetlights, power points, and taps.

This is part and parcel of the neo-liberal macro-economic strategy of government, the so-called Growth, Employment and Redistribution strategy (GEAR) of the African National Congress (ANC) government. GEAR advocates massive cuts in social services, labour market flexibility, the opening of the economy to foreign competition, slashing corporate tax, and the wholesale sell-off of public assets.

The financial squeeze on local government has unleashed further attacks on the black working class. The Metro Council is under great pressure to enforce the payment of arrears and levies for electricity and water, without taking any account of the financial circumstances and social needs of affected households.

Many questions also remain about how municipal electricity and water bills are calculated in the first place, as many residents have complained of erratic and unexplained billing.

It is not uncommon to see the dreaded “red overalls” security guards accompanying teams cutting off and removing electricity cables. As in Soweto, whole blocks face what are, in effect, collective punishments are visited on whole streets for non-payment through the physical removal of electricity cables. People are then charged to have the cables reinstalled!

The total number of people affected by evictions and cut-offs so far may well exceed 38, 000 at this date.

Finally, GEAR has also led to a general neglect of social service spending. The education budget was cut by 4% in real terms in 1997-1998, by a similar amount the following year, and then by 1% for 2000-2001.

Many Kathorus schools are in a pitiful state, with inadequate supplies of textbooks, science equipment, and overcrowded classrooms. Under GEAR, the apartheid legacy of run-down township schools has not been addressed: it has been worsened.

Hence, the march includes the following demands

  • Increased spending on local government services and delivery of efficient and effective social services
  • Safe and humane payouts of pension and disability grants, and proper support and care for elderly people
  • Reconnection of all electricity cables that were cut or removed at no cost
  • An “indigency policy” that will make basic services available to the poor, and the general implementation of affordable municipal tariffs
  • All residents who bought before 1994, or who built their houses, should be declared paid-up and be issued with their title deeds
  • The return and indemnification of goods attached by the sheriff
  • The abolition of the apartheid debt, and the redirection of debt monies to social development
  • The upgrading and development of schools and roads in the area
  • Free education for children from grade 0 to grade 12
  • No exclusion of repeat matriculation students and over-aged students from public schools
  • Libraries, schools and parks for communities which do not have them
  • The immediate removal of the ESKOM/ “red overall” electricity cut-off squads from the area
  • A moratorium on retrenchments and the institution of mass public works programmes to employ the unemployed
  • Democratically controlled police and professionally trained rape counsellors at every police station and the reinstatement of satellite police stations
  • An end to all forms of privatisation

If you are having problems with cut-offs or evictions, contact Samuel Myane at 082-7337-488 or Colin Dube 903-3990.

Issued by

(Mr) Lucien van der Walt

Media Committee

Anti-Privatisation Forum


029walt@mail.com  [dead]

083-572-8436   [dead]



[STATEMENT]: APF statement – 15 August 2000 – APF rejects the Ministry of Public Enterprises’ “Accelerated Agenda Towards the Restructuring of State-owned Enterprises”

The text of another APF statement from when I was a Media Officer for the Anti-Privatisation Forum (APF). I worked on it with Nicolas Dieltiens, also an APF Media Officer at the time.


C/o AIDC offices, 3rd floor, COSATU House, Braamfontein, Johannesburg, 2017


The Johannesburg Anti-Privatisation Forum (APF) notes with concerns government’s recently released policy document, Policy Framework: An Accelerated Agenda Towards the Restructuring of State-owned Enterprises, released on the 10 August 2000 by the Ministry of Public Enterprises.

The centrepiece of the document centres on the need to privatise the “big four” remaining state-owned enterprises (SOEs): Denel, Eskom, Telkom, and Transnet. This step, the document claims, will have several advantages for the public at large, namely

  • Improved efficiency in service provision due to increased competition in these sectors as a result of privatisation. In other words, it is argued that the opening up of these sectors to market forces will lead to improved products and lower prices as corporate actors compete to attract customers. This is in contrast to the inefficiency that supposedly characterises SOEs at the moment as a result of their dominant market position or monopoly nature, and reliance on unconditional government subsidies for a great part of their income.
  • Job creation in the long-term as the newly privatised companies expand and thrive under the impact of competition, as well as increased investment in human resource development as increased competitive efficiency requires the development of “social capital” i.e. the use of education and training as a competitive advantage
  • A government windfall of over R50 billion as a result of sell-offs of the SOEs, which would be available for investment in government services and economic infrastructure. This is in contrast with the supposed drain on government resources that arises from the currently non-profitable operation of the SOEs.
  • Steps will be taken to ensure that the sell-offs of the SOEs “empower” ordinary people, rather than simply benefiting a few, by ensuring access to shares and to ownership for workers and communities.

Government further promises that labour will be fully consulted on this restructuring in terms of the National Framework Agreement on State-Owned Enterprise (NFA) agreed to by COSATU. As such, the process will be democratic and consultative, bringing all stakeholders on board. This has been welcomed by labour, which has often felt marginalized by the process of restructuring.

Whilst the APF welcomes government’s decision to consult labour about restructuring, however, it cannot in any sense give support to the planned sell-offs of the SOEs.

Even if the process is consultative, the overall project of privatisation is one that is fundamentally at odds with the interests of the broad working class and poor in South Africa. Although accelerated privatisation is doubtless a form of “transformation,” it is not a form of that will benefit ordinary people. On the contrary, its effects will be overwhelmingly negative and entrench inequalities in our country. Such a result cannot be viewed without grave foreboding.

The matter is not simply one of differing ideological perspectives on the future of the country. At stake is the structure and nature of South African society in the twentieth-century.

This becomes clear when we examine government’s arguments in favour of privatisation, none of which are convincing:

  • It is simply not true that government provided services and goods are inherently inefficiently produced or of poor quality. On the contrary, international experience shows that government is the most effective provider of the basic services and infrastructure necessary to economic and social development. Goods such as electricity and telephone landlines and railway transport simply cannot be produced effectively by a free market, for the simple reason that such goods are technical monopolies that do not lend themselves to competitive operations. Crudely, consumers do not have a choice of service provider in this sector, as the technology used means that a monopoly supplier is a precondition for the effective operation of such services. The only effect of privatisation is to replace state-owned monopoly with a private monopoly.
  • This can only have a negative effect on ordinary people: whereas an SOE providing key services can be cross-subsidised by revenue generated in other government operations – thereby keeping prices low- a private company can think only of the bottom line and therefore will always be forced to raise prices of these goods above that at which they are available from government. Government’s own figures indicate a 50% increase in electricity costs will result from privatisation of this sector. In other words, the argument that privatisation will lead to more efficiency and lower prices due to increasing competition is nonsensical as these sectors do not lend themselves to competition in the first place.
  • Further, implicit in the notion of privatising such services, is the principle that goods will become provided as commodities to consumers, rather than social rights to citizens. The State abdicates its responsibility to provide goods to its entire people, regardless of their income, in favour of private companies that always operate on the basis of payment for goods and services and on the basis of profit making. The massive levels of poverty in our country mean that vast sectors of the employed and the unemployed are excluded from actually purchasing such goods or services, and, hence will not be in any way benefit from increased efficiency in service provision. On the contrary, the “free market” will eradicate the poverty and inequality inherited from apartheid capitalism.
  • The only SOE mentioned that could benefit from increased competition is Denel, the arms manufacturer. Given that Denel is a producer of fearsome weaponry designed to kill and injure people, we fail to see how ordinary people can possibly benefit from its privatisation. Such equipment costs far more than the ordinary person can afford, and, in any case, is produced at the cost of increased development. A single bullet costs in the region of R800. Given that government will continue to purchase arms Denel will continue to be an item in the Budget. Hence there are no savings in government spending in this regard. Further, given that – notwithstanding government’s commitment to shrinking the overall Budget- defence expenditures show consistent growth, spending on guns and bullets will continue to crowd out social spending on pensions hospitals etc.
  • Privatisation is invariably associated with job losses. Indeed, the restructuring of SOEs in South Africa has been an ongoing process for much of this decade and has been a major contributor to the job loss crisis in our country. This includes more than 25,000 jobs lost in Eskom and Telkom. And government’s new Policy Framework is accepts that further job losses are inevitable. Given that unemployment has assumed the proportions of a social crisis in South Africa, it is thoroughly irresponsible for government itself to instigate further job losses. Further, in accepting that job losses are inevitable in the restructuring process, government has shown bad faith with COSATU, which on May 10 2000 launched a major campaign against job loss in South Africa.
  • The claim that deregulation could actually create new, and, note this well, “quality” jobs in the privatised sectors is a leap of faith with no empirical backing. Whilst such a result may spring readily from the supply-demand curves of mainstream neo-liberal economists, it will not take place in reality. Corporate growth in South Africa and elsewhere over the last decade has been correctly characterised as “job loss growth,” in that industrial restructuring has been premised largely on increased capital intensity and on the intensification of work, leading, in the later case, to employees doing more work. In the context of static demand for goods, this leads to workers either working themselves out of a job or suffering from the enormous burden and suffering of an ever-growing workload. Where jobs have been created, these have invariably been “flexible labour” i.e. casual jobs provided through sub-contracting or labour-broking or short-term employment, typically without job security, benefits or real union rights. Such jobs trap a layer of the working class in working poverty and undermine the conditions of organised workers. To see such developments as empowerment or as evidence of consultation is simply ludicrous.
  • “Empowerment” schemes that centre on incorporating popular constituencies into co-ownership of the privatised SOEs cannot “empower” any but a small elite. Ordinary working and poor people will be excluded from such ownership, and, further, such ownership will not any way ameliorate the overall negative effects of privatisation. What it will do is fiddle with the composition of the rich who will make profit from such restructured entities at the cost of social development, jobs and working conditions.

In short, we reject unequivocally the planned sell-off of State assets as against the interests of the broad working class. It will lead to massive job losses, deteriorating working conditions, and fail to deliver the goods to the broad mass of the South African population. At issue here is not the process of restructuring SOEs, but the very principle of doing so.

We reaffirm instead that it is government’s duty to provide infrastructure and basic services to the broad working class and poor in order to promote social equality and empowerment. Further, noting that privatisation follows directly from government’s neo-liberal macro-economic plan, the Growth, Employment and Redistribution Strategy, or GEAR, we call for an immediate reversal of this programme, whose effects include the deregulation of trade and capital barriers that has led to deindustrialisation and capital flight, cuts in social spending, and the rise of unemployment and flexible labour.

Privatisation can never benefit ordinary people. That is why the APF will fight to the last to halt this process. We call on all unions and community structures affected by privatisation to join us in the struggle against privatisation. Only popular struggles by the broad working class can stop privatisation. Only an equitable social order – one that is not dominated by the logic of profit-making – can satisfy the needs and desires of ordinary people.

Issued by the Johannesburg Anti-Privatisation Forum.

Affiliates of the Forum include Nehawu (Wits University), South African Students Congress, SACP (Central JHB), SANCO, Democratic Socialist Movement, Workers Organisation for Socialist Action, Keep Left, Wits University Post-Graduate Association, Campaign Against Neo-Liberalism in South Africa, SA NGO Coalition, Jubilee 2000, SA Graduates’ Development Association, Wits University SRC, Soweto Electricity Crisis Committee, Ecumenical Services on Socio-Economic Transformation, Gauteng Hawkers Association, Evaton Reconstruction Forum, Keep Left, the S26 Collective, Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union, the Alternative Information and Development Centre, and Bikisha Media Collective.

[STATEMENT]: 18 July 2000 – APF Communiqué number 1: “Disrupting Whose Urban Futures?”

The text of a statement I wrote when I was a Media Officer for the Anti-Privatisation Forum (APF). This followed a protest at the “Urban Futures” conference at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), 14 July 2000, organised by the APF. The conference was largely organised by  the Greater Johannesburg Metropolitan Council (GJMC) and Wits university, then in dispute with workers over neo-liberal restructuring plans. It was labelled a “communiqué” as a play on Wits’ practice at the time of calling its official statements “communiqués.”

Anti-Privatisation Forum (APF) Communiqué Number 1: “Disrupting Whose Urban Futures?”

July 2000

To all academics, workers and students

Disrupting whose urban futures?

The Anti-Privatisation Forum notes with regret that Vice-Chancellor Colin Bundy has used the University of the Witwatersrand’s (Wits) scarce financial resources to misinform the public about events at the institution on Friday 14 July 2000.

It is also with regret that we note the Vice-Chancellor’s use of disrespectful language in describing protestors from major trade unions, student and civic structures (which represent hundred of thousands of people across the country) as “uncouth” and “shameful.”

We stress that the protest at the last session of the Urban Futures conference organised by the Anti-Privatisation Forum – a coalition representing church, trade union, student and community structures- must be understood in its context.

The two main organisers of the conference – the Greater Johannesburg Metropolitan Council (GJMC) and the University- are both major employers presently involved in disputes with organised labour over their restructuring plans, both of which are in line with the government’s controversial neo-liberal GEAR programme.

The GJMC has been involved in a two-year battle with SAMWU and IMATU over its controversial iGoli 2002 plan to privatise and commercialise council functions and dismiss thousands of council workers. SAMWU and IMATU charge that iGoli 2002 will lead to massive retrenchments, poor services and increasing electricity cut-offs as services are commercialised, and worsen conditions in the townships.

Wits has just fired 620 workers as part of its controversial Wits 2001 to create a “market university” despite the well-reasoned and rock-solid objections of NEHAWU, and replaced them with cheap contract labour at half the wages (and below the minimum wage). Wits 2001 has also been opposed by SASCO, the SRC, the PGA and other structures because it undermines conditions in the residences and canteens, raises student fees, and excludes disadvantaged students from higher education. Academics have opposed Wits 2001 for privatising research and science.

The Urban Futures conference was a major showcase for iGoli2002 and Wits 2001, tied into events such as the “Rocketing You into iGoli” exhibition and the Wits’ “Strategic Plan,” opened by Trevor Fowler and closed by the GJMC’s Kenny Fihla and Wits’ own Colin Bundy.

In this context – where workers are terrorised by job insecurity, paid poverty wages, thrown out of stable unionised public sector jobs into the prison of unemployment or into union-bashing outsourcing companies, where communities face electricity cut-offs, where poor students are excluded from higher education, where labour and community concerns and objections have been systematically ignored by the rich and powerful – it is indeed rich for the Vice-Chancellor to cry violation of “free speech.”

The Vice-Chancellor, who did not see fit to cry foul when crying workers begged for their jobs, who refused to listen to objections by local and international unions, who ignored academic critiques of Wits 2001, who refused to defend labour rights, now finds it a problem that a small group of protestors made a noise for an hour-and-a-half.

As for his administration’s own violation of the Wits’ Code of Conduct (which calls for the ethical treatment of people, the promotion of social responsibility, fairness, courtesy, respect for persons, and accountability) the Vice Chancellor is silent. He does not see any violation of free speech in retrenching workers and throwing their families into poverty, or in ignoring academic, labour and student objections to Wits 2001 for over a year.

There is a clear danger here of losing sight of what really counts! The low-key disruption of a small part of an enormous and lavishly funded Urban Futures conference clearly counts more for the Vice-Chancellor than his own disruption of the urban futures of real working class people.

The Vice-Chancellor’s threat to take “steps” against protestors is simply a continuation of the practice of silencing opponents in the University.

It is evidence of the increasingly authoritarian, non-collegial and non-consultative management style that is becoming the norm at Wits.

**The Anti-Privatisation Forum is a coalition of church, labour, community and student groups.

[LEAFLET]: (updated) APF/ KRC in 2001: All Kathorus Residents — March On The Council!

The text of another leaflet I wrote when I was a Media Officer for the Anti-Privatisation Forum (APF). This was for a march led by APF affiliate, the Kathorus Concerned Residents Committee (KRC).  KRC was based in the big blue collar townships of the East Rand. The march was from Katlehong township.

Get the PDF here.

[EDITOR]: The “Anti-Privatisation Monitor” of the APF, 2000

Back in the day, I was a founder member of the Anti-Privatisation Forum (APF) in Gauteng in 2000. The APF was born of a merger of the Wits University Crisis Committee (fighting neo-liberal campus restructuring at the University of the Witwatersrand) and the Anti-Igoli Forum (fighting neo-liberal municipal reforms in Greater Johannesburg). It included unions (initially), left groups and (comprising the great bulk of its affiliates), township groups fighting against electricity and water cut-offs, evictions, housing shortages, awful sanitation and infrastructure. I ended up a Media Officer, and one of my responsibilities was the production of statements, analyses … and editing and producing the short-lived APF paper, the Anti-Privatisation Monitor. Below are the two issues that appeared:

Issue 1: The Anti-Privatisation Monitor.  Get the PDF here.

Issue 2: The Anti-Privatisation Monitor.  Get the PDF here.

[ANALYSIS]: Lucien van der Walt, 1996, “No to New Pass Laws: Solidarity with Immigrants”

Lucien van der Walt, 1996, “No to New Pass Laws: Solidarity with Immigrants,” Workers Solidarity, volume 2, number 2, third quarter 1996.

The new South African government adopted a harsh line towards immigrants from an early period. Some blamed this at the time on Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, head of the Zulu national Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) — a party rooted in the old KwaZulu bantustan, and which was part of the new Government of National Unity (GNU). However, the policies lasted well after the end of the GNU, and did not start with the IFP. The bitter harvest of laws and propaganda against immigrants, in a country where nationalism and  poverty are pervasive are obvious: waves of pogroms, widespread hate, and the reinforcement of the system of a divided workers and cheap black labour power upon which South African capitalism rests.

pdflogosmallGet the PDF here.


For centuries bosses and rulers have set out to divide and rule the workers and the poor. We are divided by racism, sexism, homophobia, ethnicity etc. More recently bosses have used xenophobia- the hate of foreigners and immigrants.

The bosses’ newspapers and TV lie to us and tell us that so -called “illegal” immigrants or “aliens” are taking jobs and causing crime. The government passes harsh laws to victimise the immigrants. Last year alone 157,084 people were deported from South Africa. These people lost their homes, their jobs, their belonging. Families were split up.

In mid 1996 parliament passed the new Aliens Control Amendment Act. One of the main forces behind this act was Gatsha Buthelezi, Home Affairs Minister [IFP leader, part of the GNU/ Government of National Unity].

The new Act steps up police harassment and deportation of immigrants. It is a blatant attack on Black working-class people and we should mobilise to fight it.

All immigrants now have to apply to the South African Embassy for permits to enter the country. But the laws have been made to effectively keep working- class and poor people out .

Immigrants are expected to pay R 5 580 for a permit Read More »

[ANALYSIS]: Lucien van der Walt, 1998, “Every Worker Must Condemn Attacks on Foreigners”

Lucien van der Walt, 1998, “Every Worker Must Condemn Attacks on Foreigners,” Workers Solidarity, volume 4, number 2, fourth quarter 1998.

Written for a progressive magazine in South Africa, this was produced after the first violent outbreaks of anti-immigrant violence in South Africa in 1998. This took place in the context of mass unemployment and a concerted campaign by the state and capitalist media to scapegoat the rapidly-growing number of black African immigrants. The immediate trigger was a march by the “Unemployed Masses of South Africa” (UMSA) group, which then had links to the centre-right Democratic Party (now the Democratic Alliance) in Johannesburg. UMSA also campaigned for free trade zones and labour flexibility. While UMSA is long gone, violence against immigrants remains a horror in South African society — and elsewhere across the world.


pdflogosmallGet the PDF here.


On September 3, 1998, a march organised by the conservative “Unemployed Masses of South Africa” organisation murdered three immigrants on a train near Pretoria, The marchers were carrying placards with signs such as “We Want Jobs, Not Foreigners”, and threatened to “take steps”. These “steps” included the brutal murders of three Senegalese: one was thrown out of a window, and hit by an oncoming train; the other two were electrocuted on the train roof when they tried to escape.

Every worker must oppose this thuggery. It is the bosses who fire the workers, not the immigrants. The foreigners are workers, like ourselves. They have the same concerns as we do- so why should we murder our fellow-workers? If we spend our time hating the immigrants, we forget the real enemy, the bosses who mercilessly oppress and exploit us. The bosses are mostly South African- but this does not give us anything in common. Instead of fighting immigrants, we must fight the bosses who control the country. And in this fight, we must unite with the immigrants. So long as the immigrants are unorganised, discriminated against, and terrorised by the police, they can be used by the bosses against other workers.

It is the old game of divide and rule. The bosses want Read More »

[ANALYSIS, 2015] Lucien van der Walt, “With the Working Class, Against Imperialism and Terror Attacks”

Published at anarkismo.net on 15 November 2015 here

With The Working Class, Against Imperialism and Terror Attacks.
Lucien van der Walt

Politics should be approached with a simple rule: does an action help or harm the working class and poor’s struggle for complete freedom?

Strategic choices are determined by moral or ethical ones. More precisely: an ethics centred on anti-authoritarianism, anti-domination, anti-capitalism, anti-statism determine what strategy is acceptable. It is not the means that justify the ends, but the ends we want, that shape the means.

How does this apply to issues like Western imperialism, and issues like the recent ISIS attacks in Kobane (Rojava), Beirut (Lebanon) and Paris (France)?

Obviously, to fight for the freedom of the working class must mean to be against imperialism. That is essential to this struggle.

It does not matter if the imperialism is justified as promoting “democracy” or “freedom.” So, we should completely, unconditionally oppose reactionary Western imperialist actions in the “Middle” East. Imperialism is a great evil, whether it is Western, or Eastern, by a great power, or by a small one.

BUT this does not mean every anti-imperialist movement is worthy of support, or justify a knee-jerk “my enemy’s enemy is my friend” reasoning….

ISIS is genuinely anti-imperialist (leaving aside baseless conspiracy theories) , but its actions and programme are completely reactionary, including its attacks in Rojava against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and in Beirut and Paris against civilians. Its main targets are, in fact, other people in the “Middle” East, secular, Muslim, Christian and others.

The hypocrisy of Western media, and the crimes of Western imperialism, and discrimination against immigrants and “foreigners” do not justify Left support of any sort for either the reactionary Western imperialism *or* for the reactionary anti-imperialists, or apologies or sympathies for either group of reactionaries, West or East.

The hell with both sides. Both sides are our enemies.

The world is not two camps, the imperialist and rebellious “third world” elites, because there is a third side, the working class and Left including anarchists, and that is our side.

The working class and left must lead anti-imperialist struggles, and work with progressive movements, including progressive anti-imperialists, to make a better world, pushing those struggles towards anarchist-communism. Movements like PKK show an important way to fight for national liberation *and* a radical, participatory-democratic and progressive programme.

So, let us approach from the side of the working class and poor, and that means against all oppression and exploitation. From that side, be against imperialism, unconditionally, including whatever outrages the French state will now justify.

But also be against reactionary anti-imperialists with reactionary programmes, and for a progressive anti-imperialism, like that of PKK in Rojava. The same PKK that is also getting attacked by ISIS.

In every country, there is a fight between reaction and progress, and our side is with progress. We should not be dragged along with the ebbs and flows of the struggles of our enemies, but chart our own course.


[LEAFLET #2] “Stop Retrenchments! Don’t Privatise Wits,” 2000 (for Lesedi Socialist Study Group)

Lesedi - stop Wits 2001- second leafletThis is the second of the leaflets I put together for the Lesedi Socialist Study Group at the University of the Witwatersrand, in 2000, a part of the battle to stop outsourcing. For the first leaflet and the context, see here.

Click on the image for the PDF, or click here.

[LEAFLET] “Stop Bundy! Stop Retrenchments!,” 2000 (for Lesedi Socialist Study Group)

BLesedi - stop Wits 2001efore the battle for #insourcing was the battle to stop outsourcing … I wrote this leaflet for the Lesedi Socialist Study Group in 2000. The LSSG was a broad left group at the University of the Witwatersrand. We were from various radical traditions, ranging from Marxism-Leninism to Trotskyism to anarchism/ syndicalism, and had a background in the big student battles of the 1990s. In 1999, we were trying to move the organisation into a new mode of direct engagement with conflicts, and the key issue we faced then was the neo-liberal Wits 2001 plan, which included massive outsourcing. Colin Bundy was the then-Vice Chancellor.

Click the image for the PDF or click here.