SocialismToday           Socialist Party magazine

Issue 171 September 2013

South Africa: workers’ party breaks new ground

The mineworkers of the Xstrata Steelport mine were the first to arrive at the Sefateng Stadium in Atok for the launch of WASP (Workers and Socialist Party) in Limpopo. They have been on strike against racism for months and are fighting for re-instatement after the company sacked them. They toyi-toyied through the town carrying WASP banners and posters with their demands.

Over 700 people took part in the launch. Mineworkers from Bokoni and Steelport, community activists from different towns and youth sang: ‘Limpopo when we are united, we can do miracles’.

The Xstrata company is the first to set an example by retrenching the 2,000 workers who went on strike. They want to crush workers’ resistance. This is why WASP puts their case at the top of its agenda. WASP calls for a day of action and a Limpopo-wide general strike for their reinstatement, and for the creation of 100,000 jobs in the Sekhukuni platinum belt.

This was endorsed by the chairperson of the AMCU shop stewards’ committee at Xstrata, comrade Mohlala. He warned of the planned retrenchments of 250,000 workers in the next five years. The working class has to unite against this attack.

Justice Malatji from the Bokoni Labour Forum spoke for the mineworkers of the region. He explained why they had no choice but to join new trade unions after they were sold out by the corrupt NUM leadership. The mining industry was not the only sector represented at the meeting. Liver Mngomezulu, deputy president of the National Transport Movement, a new militant union that split from the Cosatu affiliate, the SA Transport and Allied Workers Union, spoke for his union. He explained the need of all workers to unite under a mass workers’ party, and was warmly welcomed by the audience. Trevor Shaku from the Socialist Youth Movement explained how the creation of more jobs in the mines would help to solve the creeping problem of youth unemployment in the region.

Speakers saluted mineworkers from both unions present, GIWUSA and AMCU, calling for cross-union solidarity. It was emphasised that workers’ unity has to be established within and across the boundaries of each of the main battle grounds: service delivery protests, student struggles against financial exclusion and unaffordable tuition fees, and workplace action for better wages and working conditions, and against retrenchments.

Weizmann Hamilton, Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) general secretary and member of the WASP interim committee, was the first to speak: "WASP was established to unify the struggles of the working class". His ferocious attacks on the ANC government’s pro-capitalist policies and his outline of WASP’s socialist principles and programme were frequently interrupted with applause from the workers.

Weizmann warned that the mine bosses are preparing an onslaught on the working class. They want to restore the balance of forces after the upheavals in the mining industry following the Marikana massacre. There is already a low intensity civil war going on in the mines. "WASP is the answer to these attacks", Weizmann told the audience.

The launch conference was closed by DSM spokesperson Liv Shange. She pointed out how much the capitalists are afraid of the power of the working class at the moment. They are afraid of the battles ahead but also of the outcome of the elections. But the establishment of WASP is not only for the elections but to unite the working class for the struggles to come and fight for a socialist society. The voices of singing workers echoed around the stadium: "The capitalists are shaking…"

The launch was undoubtedly a great success particularly since it represented a breakthrough into new ground. Until the Limpopo launch WASP’s presence in this province was limited to the Bokoni mine where it has been established by the workers’ committee. The strong presence of Xstrata workers was convincing evidence of the development of WASP. We have since been contacted by workers from all mines and other industries from all over the region who want WASP to help them form new, fighting, militant unions.

Meschak Komani

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