South African’s National Liberation Movement

Close this search box.


1 October 1997


  • Editorial
  • The problem is not too little but too much opposition
  • The new man at the helm of the NP
  • Charting a new path for the SA Economy
  • Time to shift the terrain of debate
  • Labour opposed to the basic thrust of GEAR
  • What are your views?
  • Alliance must lead
  • The role and centrality of ANC constitutional structures in local government transformation
  • The Debate rages on
  • The legacy of Biko Continues
  • We should preserve the memories of our heroes and heroines

Building a healthy economy

When the ANC came into power after April 1994, it inherited an economic system that favoured the white minority. The wealth and resources were, and continue to be, controlled by a few big monopolies. The ANC-led government has to strike a balance between the rich and the poor, the have and the have-nots. It has to address the needs of all sections of our society.

The challenge we had as a government was to look at the problems facing the country and come up with a coherent plan to solve them. The problems in the economy that we face relate to: development and growth; the debt and the deficit; the size of the civil service; growth; the currency; foreign and domestic investment; job creation; exports, imports and the balance of payments; research and development; productivity; lack of skills, etc. In deciding which economic route we had to take, many factors had to be considered.

We inherited an economic system that did not allow growth to occur, did not create jobs and did not allow the redistribution of resources around the country. AN ANC-led government could have maintained the old economic system allowing for limited growth, rising unemployment, with limited scope social spending, or suggest a strategy that allowed for rapid economic growth and the creation of around 400 000 jobs per year. The “Growth, Employment and Redistribution” (GEAR) strategy seeks to get the SA economy on a new path that will ensure a competitive and growing economy, redistribution of income and opportunities in favour of the poor, equitable access to social services for all and create an environment in which houses are secure and places of work are productive.

Three years after we assumed power, a foundation for a better life has been laid. The opinions raised by the alliance provides a healthy contribution towards the process of transformation. The recently held Alliance Summit highlighted the need for more effective liaison and consultation in the field of policy. At the Summit it was agreed that the macro-economic strategy must be measured against the objective needs of transformation and the real constraints the country faces.

Van Schalkwyk

The National Party has a new leader. So what? That the new leader of the NP, Marthinus Van Schalkwyk has a few skeletons in his cupboard is common knowledge. He is reported to have been a paid hireling of the apartheid regime’s notorious Military Intelligence (MI).

It will be recalled that this was the body that gave birth to the more scurrilous dis-information campaigns; that engineered the ‘removal from society” of opponents of racism; that was responsible for many a vile deed in defence of apartheid including a host of unsolved murders.

Over the past four years it has become quite evident that the security apparatus of the apartheid regime created a vast network of agents, informers and other helpers who sought to infect every pore of society.

Like other totalitarian regimes, the apartheid system was never content to rely on the loyalty of its supporters to survive. It therefore employed devices such as deceit, infiltration, manipulation, corruption and blackmail to coerce others into doing its bidding.

The country and its people will judge Van Schalkwyk’s quality as a leader on the strength of his choices to co-operate with the TRC regarding his past activities and true extent of his personal involvement in the gross human rights violations that Military Intelligence was engaged in.

Failure to rise to the occasion will confirm in many minds that Martinus van Schalkwyk remains fatally committed to his paymasters of the past, their policies and other practices

The problem is not too little but too much opposition

In the wake of calls for a realignment of forces by opposition parties to oppose, what they call, a defacto one party state, Dumisani Makhaye argues that the problem in South Africa is, that we have too much opposition.

Never in the history of decolonisation has a national liberation movement that has assumed political power and office been so opposed and constrained by the internal opposition as is the case with the ANC.

Political parties who have nothing in common between them, except their opposition to the ANC, are joining hands to fight the ANC.

There are cynics who believe that if the ANC is really interested in multi-party democracy, it should assist its opposition to grow. The ANC is supposed to sleep awake thinking of how best to strengthen its opposition. But sustainable opposition must grow inspite of the ANC and not because of the ANC. The new SA constitution guarantees multi-party democracy.

Besides, SA needs a loyal opposition within the frame-work of a united, non-racial, non-sexist and a democratic country. Unfortunately, most opposition parties seem to want to operate outside this concept and actually want to turn back the clock of history.

Opposition parties wants to undermine democracy

It is true that parliamentary opposition parties are cracking in the face of popular democracy. They are cracking not because they are simply honest opposition parties but because they want to undermine genuine democracy. The NP is about to accomplish its historical mission — that of disintegrating. As it tries to pull out of a crisis, the NP finds itself in a deeper crisis. This is an inherent law governing all disintegrating reactionary parties.

The DP remains a tiny party of white affluence. It has no prospect of growing. Whatever democratic semblance there were in the DP, it vanished with the mass exodus of stalwarts like Pierre Cronje, Roy Ainslie, Ina Cronje, Dave Dalling, Jan van Eck, Janie Momberg, Wynand Malan, Rob Haswell and Van Zyl Slabbert. What is left in the DP are neo Thatcherites that have nothing to do with democracy. Indeed, in classical politics, the DP would be seen as being on the right of centre.

The Freedom Front is an ethnic Afrikaner party that has reached its ceiling.

The IFP is an ethnic bantustan party confined to rural Zululand. Even in this rural hitherland, it is seriously being challenged by the ANC.

The PAC and AZAPO have no raison de’tre for separate existence.

They cannot articulate the interests of the African majority better than the ANC.

Weak parliamentary opposition

But political parties do not exist for themselves. They represent sectarian class interests. Unfortunately, in SA class and colour are always intertwined and interwoven.

In terms of classical parliamentary opposition, indeed parliamentary opposition to the ANC is weak. But power does not reside only in parliament. Real power resides in the economy, civil service, army, police, intelligence community, media, courts etc. These residences of power are still in the hands of those forces who benefited from the apartheid past. Some of these forces may be contributing to counter-revolution not consciously but by force of habit. It can only happen in South Africa that 98% of the English media would support a 2% Democratic Party.

These are the centres of real power and any government that has no control of or very little sympathy from these centres is highly constrained in implementing its policies. Some of these constraints are even codified in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The national liberation movement had to agree to guarantee certain rights to the civil servants whose majority are still loyal to the values of white supremacy. Our constitution is among the most democratic constitutions of the world. It may actually be too advanced to the concrete conditions prevailing in SA.

The compromises made by the ANC were as a result of the balance of forces during the time of negotiations and the deep conviction of the ANC that because for so long our people have suffered under white autocracy, it became necessary that we did not create conditions for new autocracy. Of course, counter-revolution may take advantage of this.

In reality our own recent history teaches us the power of extra-parliamentary politics. It was not parliamentary opposition that broke the spinal cord of apartheid, but the extra-parliamentary opposition.

Indeed, the parliamentary opposition helped to legitimise the illegal system of apartheid.

Never in the history of decolonisation has a national liberation movement that has assumed political power and office been so opposed and constrained by the internal opposition as is the case with the ANC.

At least in Angola, Mozambique, Vietnam, Cuba and Chile under Salvador Allende, the counter-revolution was exported from outside. The historical task in South Africa is not to further constrain the forces of national liberation, peace and social progress but to unshackle them. The problem is not too little but too much opposition.

* Dumisani Makhaye is a Member of the ANC KwaZulu Natal Provincial Executive Committee (PEC).

The new man at the helm of the NP

Whether Van Schalkwyk has the substance to better a Mandela or a De Klerk is the uneviable test he has set for himself, writes a correspondent.

Last month, National Party leader Frederick Willem De Klerk bowed to pressure from branches for reform and resigned. In his place, Marthinus Van Schalkwyk, a 37 year-old former head of Jeugkrag (which received covert funding from Military Intelligence at the time) received two-thirds of the votes, and reportedly all of those from black Nats, to become the new Nat leader.

Himself a very controversial figure, there is little doubt of Van Schalkwyk’s ambition. At the first press conference after his election he noted that while De Klerk and President Nelson Mandela were great leaders, “take away their magic and one is left with the slow realisation that the substance is not there”. Whether Van Schalkwyk has the substance to better a Mandela or a De Klerk is the uneviable test he has set for himself.

Although he has been a Nat MP since 1990, and was NP media director in the 1994 election campaign, he is not a wellknown media figure. He hasn’t attracted the popular lore or anecdotes of some better liked politicians. But clearly the Nats believe he has what it takes to transform their image, stop defections to Roelf Meyer’s new political party or the Democratic Party and create the space for the Nats to become a viable opposition.

He believes that in 1999 they will increase their majority in the Western Cape, that they will win Northern Cape and that if Gauteng is sufficiently undecided politically, there is a real chance of a coalition gaining control of that province, “particularly if ANC internal politics are not secure and if the new premier is not well-liked.”

Van Schalkwyk remains adamant that the Nationalist Party is “definitely not dying”. It has remarkable resilience, he says.

“Our research through Markinor, shows big drops in support for the two main political parties, which is normal. The ANC support is down to the mid to low 50’s, we are down to 12% from 20%. I am taking over the Nats at the lowest point in its support over the three or four years. Four months before the 1994 elections we were at the same point. We have not lost our core support, we are a good electioneering party, we know how to fight elections.”

Van Schalkwyk is very boastful about his party’s ability to shrug off suggestions that Meyer’s departure was the beginning of the end of the NP. He says the NP is not worried about challenges being posed by former leaders such as Roelf Meyer and his New Movement Process.

“The Roelf Meyer thing is blown totally out of proportion. He has sidelined himself. He may get one to three percent of any vote. The attention being given to him is the same as that Andries Treurniecht received when he broke away in the early 1980’s. Meyer was a senior negotiator. History shows negotiators never succeed in being elected as party leaders, they are seen as having given away too much, by people within their own parties.”

Certainly none get spared by the Van Schalkwyk tongue. He foresees a huge stay away vote in the 1999 elections led by disillusioned voters of all parties who believe elected politicians are not accountable and that the election outcome is a foregone conclusion.

“I think the red light are flashing for opposition parties and for government. Coalition government is the way of the future in SA at regional and national level. I believe a coalition government will remove power from the ANC in 2004.”

For now Van Schalkwyk is travelling to all Nationalist Party regions and as many branches as he can until November to explain De Klerk’s resignation and implications it has for the party. He is also meeting with leaders of other political parties to try and get the coalition train rolling.

The challenge for Van Schalkwyk and those remaining within the National Party is to truly shed the baggage of apartheid they continue to carry.

With the legacy of his past and that of the party he was chosen to lead, hanging like an albatross around his neck, it remains to be seen whether he can lead his party into the 21st century.


Charting a new path for the SA Economy

What is the government’s Growth, Employment and Redistribution (GEAR) strategy? In this article, we look at key aspects of the strategy and how it relates to the Reconstruction and Development Programme. Also read accompanying views by COSATU and the SACP.

Towards the end of 1995, it became apparent that if the economy continued to grow at around 3%, as it was likely to do if no changes were made to the way it was working, government would not be able to deliver what it said it would in the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP).

Two alternatives for South Africa have been described as the “Low Road” and the ” High Road”. The “Low Road” suggests that if the new government maintained the old economic system, with a continuing trend of about 3% growth rate per year, the long term outcome would be rising unemployment, limited scope for social spending and at the end of the day, increasing social discontent. The “High Road” suggests a strategy for economic growth and development which targets 6% economic growth and the creation of 400 000 new jobs per year. For the government to deliver on its promises to the people, it needed to implement a strategy that would take South Africa along the “High Road” of economic growth and development.

It is within this context that the Minister of Finance, comrade Trevor Manuel, presented a macro-economic framework, “Growth Employment and Redistribution” (GEAR) to Parliament on 14 June 1996. The strategy seeks to get the South African economy onto a new path, one that will ensure:

  • a competitive and fast-growing economy which creates enough jobs for all work-seekers
  • a redistribution of income and opportunities in favour of the poor
  • a society in which sound health, education and other services are available to all
  • an environment in which homes are secure and places of work are productive

These are the same goals which underlie the RDP. What GEAR does, is to set out clearly the key economic plans for achieving these goals.

The Macro-Economic Strategy

At the heart of GEAR are two core strategies. Firstly, the framework looks at promoting growth through exports and investments. Secondly, it intends to promote redistribution by creating jobs and reallocating resources through the budget.

Growth through exports and investments

This core strategy strives to create the desired growth by changing the economy to increase the amount of goods and services that are exported, particularly in the non-gold sector. This involves the creation of a good and stable domestic environment to encourage domestic and foreign investments in South Africa.

Redistribution through jobs and the budget

This core strategy strives to redistribute the wealth of South Africa by ensuring that more and more people have access to jobs and are able to participate in economic activity. This strategy also places an important responsibility on government to redistribute wealth by reforming the budget thereby making adequate provision for essential services like water, housing, education, social services and health.

These two core strategies are dependent on one another. The country needs economic growth to increase the amount of resources available for the development of its human potential. The core strategies are also interrelated, because investment in South Africa will promote jobs, and jobs will mean that people have more money to spend on goods and services, which will in turn promote further investment.

Some Features of the two core strategies:

Fiscal Policy

Fiscal policy refers to the tools, instruments or methods that government can use to influence economic activity. It relates to how government collects its revenue and how it spends this money. GEAR looks at three factors of fiscal policy:

Sharpened focus on budget reform

The budget is the main tool that is available to government to focus the spending of departments, and for government to redistribute wealth. In the past the whole budget was focused towards satisfying the interests of a small minority of people in the country. To correct the inequalities of the past, the new government has refocused the budget to spread the resources in a more equitable way.

A faster reduction in the fiscal deficit

A fiscal deficit means that the government spends more money than it receives. This then means that it has to borrow money to pay for the extra spending. It borrows either locally, or from international sources. This is bad for the country because the government will have to repay the loan amount as well as the interest on that loan. This means that less money is available to government for housing, social services and education. At present, government borrows money at an interest rate of 16%.

Government borrowing in the domestic market is bad because it means that less money is available for private individuals or companies for investments which will be able to create jobs.

Another negative aspect of government borrowing too much is that the demand for credit increases, meaning that the interest rate increases.

For these reasons government has decided to reduce the fiscal deficit to 4% of the GDP in the 1997/98 budget and to 3% by the year 2000. Government will have to be more disciplined and spend less. However, government has stated that it will not cut down on spending for essential services, but it will cut down on wasteful expenditure.

Public Service Restructuring

The previous government needed a huge bureaucracy to maintain apartheid. This led to huge wastage and inefficiency. The new government has therefore decided to restructure the public service. This means not only reducing the size of the public service, but changing it so that it meets the needs of all the people. By reducing the size of the bureaucracy, less money will be spent by government on salaries, which will help reduce the budget deficit and make more money available for housing, education, social services and health.

In this regard it is important to look at a recent report of the Attorney-General which stated that in KwaZulu/Natal alone, R1.36 billion per year has been spent in paying “ghost” employees. It is instances of waste such as this that government is committed to removing.

Monetary Policy

Monetary policy relates to the instruments, tools or methods that government uses to influence the value of the currency and prices. The government does this so as to ensure stability in the financial markets. The two main objectives of monetary policy are to reduce the rate at which prices increase (inflation), and to maintain a stable exchange rate. The objective of maintaining a stable exchange rate wants to ensure that the value of the rand in relation to other currencies (for example the American dollar) is kept at a fairly constant rate.


Inflation is the rate at which prices increase. GEAR strives to keep the inflation rate low. A low and stable inflation rate is important because it provides stability in the financial markets, which will encourage investments and will promote the creation of more employment opportunities.

Stable competitive exchange rate

The exchange rate, managed by the South African Reserve Bank, is the value of the rand in relation to other currencies. For example, if a South African citizen wants one American dollar, s/he must pay more than four and a half South African rands (R4,50). GEAR strives to maintain a stable and competitive exchange rate which is important for South African importers and exporters because it provides stability when dealing with foreign consumers.

The gradual relaxation of exchange controls

Exchange controls are measures that prevent people from taking their money out of the country. Since the 1970s there has been a general relaxation of exchange controls in most countries. Presently there are only about 10 countries with exchange control measures. In South Africa, exchange controls were introduced in the previous regime. However, these controls are expensive to administer and have not been effective in preventing money from leaving the country. Exchange controls also prevent currencies from getting their true value in relation to other currencies. A country’s inability to maintain a stable and competitive exchange rate has negative implications for export-led growth. GEAR therefore sets as its target the gradual relaxation of exchange controls.

Trade and Industrial Policy

Trade policies are measures that are available to government to either help or limit trade between countries. For example, a government may impose a tariff (a tax) on foreign imports which then favours domestic producers over their foreign competitors. This means that foreign goods will become more expensive and will inhibit trade. In the past, the apartheid regime added tariffs to increase the costs of imported goods that were the same as goods produced in South Africa. Industrial policies are measures that government uses to promote the development of factories, new production methods and technological improvements.

Trade Policies

GEAR strives to provide a healthy environment for trade by gradually removing the barriers that inhibit trade between South Africa and other countries. Removing these barriers encourages efficiency of domestic producers because they will compete to produce cheaper goods, which ultimately benefits us, the consumers.

Industrial Support Measures

GEAR provides for measures that will support the development of industries, for example, the introduction of a tax holiday scheme which will encourage new investments in manufacturing. Moreover, GEAR seeks to encourage the production of non-gold exports, so that these might represent over 10% of GDP by the year 2000.

Small and Medium-size enterprise development

The government sees the small and medium-size sector as an important sector that will promote the creation of jobs. GEAR strives to provide incentives to encourage the development of this sector. For example, government wants to develop institutions to provide financial and other assistance (advice, training etc.) for small and micro-enterprises.

Public Investment and Asset Restructuring

Public investment deals with government investments in land, buildings and infrastructure. Asset restructuring is about the way government companies or corporations (parastatals) are managed, controlled, regulated and owned. In the South African case, GEAR proposes a growth in public investment.

Public investment in infrastructure

An important component of GEAR is to accelerate investment in infrastructure. Investment in infrastructure will involve the construction of roads, grid electricity, sanitary facilities, hospitals, schools, water, pipelines, railways and harbours. Public investments in infrastructure improves the quality of life of people and also contributes towards economic growth.

The current backlog in infrastructure is estimated at R170 billion. The government recognises that it will have to co-operate closely with the private sector in meeting these demands.

Asset restructuring

GEAR recognises that asset restructuring will have to take place within the context of the National Framework Agreement that government entered into with labour. Asset restructuring may involve the total sale of the assets, a partial sale of the assets or sale of the asset while government still holds a small but strategic share.

Asset restructuring also deals with the way assets are managed, controlled and regulated. For example, the proposed sale of a part of Telkom to an equity partner has been made conditional on a proportion of these shares going to the disadvantaged. Money raised from the sale could also be used to get rid of state debt, to invest back into the asset itself, or to finance other infrastructure. The restructuring of state assets should not be interpreted as an issue of the state withdrawing from participation in the economy.

Labour Market Reform

Labour market reform is concerned with such issues as relations between employers and employees, wages and training.

Structured flexibility in the labour market

GEAR states the need for structured flexibility within the labour market. In a recent report the International Labour Organisation stated that there was already a large measure of flexibility in the South African labour market. In this context a labour market policy supporting a growth path that will create jobs for the unemployed is under discussion. These matters still have to be discussed with the government, labour and business with the final discretion laying with the Minister of Labour.


Training, the development of skills and improving productivity, is an important component of GEAR. The government is currently investigating the possibility of introducing a levy system that will make it compulsory for businesses to provide training to workers.

National Social Agreement

The activities of government, business and labour impact heavily on economic development. For example, if government spends more money than it receives, the deficit will increase, more money will be paid towards interest repayments and less money will be available to government for social spending. If business, for example, pays workers too low wages, then families will have less money to provide for their children with adequate schooling, clothing and food.

If labour demands excessive wage increases, then this could cause higher inflation and the average person will be able to buy less with his or her money.

The activities of government, labour and business are thus very important, and it is within this context that GEAR strives to encourage closer co-operation between these sectors. Closer co-operation between government, labour and business is not easy because this requires sacrifices from all sectors. However, closer co-operation is an absolute necessity for long term economic growth and development.


GEAR is a broad macro-economic policy framework which sets targets for government, for example, a 6% sustainable growth rate and the creation of 400 000 jobs per year by the year 2000. Its main objective is to create a new economic system that will ensure the rapid economic growth and development of the people of South Africa. The government is sure that GEAR will change the path that the South African economy is on from a slow growing and non job-creating economy, to a dynamic, fast growing, job-creating and development-orientated economy.


Time to shift the terrain of debate

Over the past months there has been much debate around government’s macro-economic strategy, Growth, Equity and Redistribution (GEAR). Big business circles, and their apologists in the media, have welcomed GEAR with enthusiasm, portraying it as a “complete re-orientation in ANC policy perspectives”. These forces have also been trying to goad the SACP and COSATU, and to provoke splits within the alliance.

As progressive forces in this country we have to find our feet in this debate. On the one hand we must not play into the hands of our opponents. On the other hand we cannot allow their schemes to block an effective debate on GEAR within our ranks. Above all, we have to get beyond rhetoric and confront the real problems of our country with a progressive agenda.

Prior to the April 1994 elections, we did not have the facts at hand to appreciate the seriousness of government indebtedness. In the last decade of its existence, the apartheid regime cynically used the budget in an attempt to buy its way out of crisis. We are now having to deal with the consequences of this.

Almost one quarter of our current budget disappears straight out of public hands and goes to the private financial institutions as interest payment on the government debt. You don’t have to be Ronald Reagan or Margaret Thatcher to realise that this is an untenable situation.

Through 1996, the financial markets were fairly volatile, and our foreign currency reserves were, at points, very low. The value of the rand fell dramatically in the first months of last year. Big business blamed all of these problems on “government’s failure to produce a macro-economic plan”. There was continuous pressure.

As has happened in many other countries, the bourgeoisie exploited these vulnerabilities to put pressure on a progressive government. The objective is to undermine government policies, and in particular they hope to sink the Reconstruction and Development Programme.

It was against this background that GEAR was developed and in July 1996 unveiled. Leading comrades in government have defended GEAR as the only feasible macro-economic framework in our situation, and they have argued that without GEAR, the RDP will not be implemented.

COSATU and some leading comrades in the SACP have been less sure. There have been some robust criticisms of the strategy. These attacks have focused, amongst other things, on the process of drawing up the plan; on the failure to explore a wider range of alternatives; and on the budget deficit reduction process which is seen as punitive and likely to kill growth rather than nurture it.

As far as the SACP is concerned, the macro-economic debate is, and must remain, wide open. GEAR’s appropriateness must be constantly assessed, and where errors have been made, rapid adjustments must take place. We must not allow the constant chorus from the capitalists “to stick firm”, for “government to show who is the boss” to distract us from our responsibilities to the country.

But, above all, we must not allow the debate to be stuck at the macro-economic level. We say this for several reasons:

In the first place, if the cutting edge of the debate is macro-economic strategy, it is clear that popular forces will tend to remain at a permanent disadvantage. Should our budget deficit reduction target for the year be a more generous 5.4%, let us say, rather than 5,1%? That is an important question. But it is a debate that is very abstract and disempowering for our mass constituency. If we constantly steer the debate to this level exclusively, we will repeat the original error of GEAR – the fact that, regardless of content, it was a technocratic exercise that was insufficiently guided at the political level.

In the second place, and more importantly, the actual outcome of economic transformation is not going to be won or lost in macro-economic debate. Such debate is crucial. But it is the balance of class forces that is going to be the key factor. If we allow the bourgeoisie to pick the terrain, then we will be caught up in their agenda.

So how, then, should we broaden the debate around GEAR?

We need to realise that the problems surrounding GEAR within our movement are not unique to the macro-economic strategy. GEAR is just one symptom of a broader problem. Over the past three years, policy formation and implementation became extremely technicist in character. This was, perhaps, a predictable development, following the redeployment of tens of thousands of cadres into government. It was a redeployment that saw the severe depletion of our key mass organisations, not least the ANC itself. The transformation of the people-driven philosophy of the RDP into a “Masakhane” campaign that, until recently, meant little more than a message that government would deliver, while people (especially poor black communities) would pay, was a clear consequence of this. We were trying to deal with everything bureaucratically, while we left our mass base demobilised and confused.

The debate around GEAR must be broadened into the wider debate about rebuilding our formations around a clear, mobilising programme of action.

More specifically, we need also to unpack GEAR. There is a tendency to treat it as a monolithic block of granite and to pronounce that it is either “good” (or at least “necessary”) or alternatively a “complete disaster”.

We need to break matters down into more manageable points of focus. In doing this we will also demystify GEAR. We will realise, for instance, that although we have been told more than once that GEAR is “non-negotiable”, key pillars of the programme are in fact very much under negotiation – the best example being the ongoing government-trade union negotiations on the restructuring of state assets.

When it comes to the budget, the most important debate is probably less about percentages and much more about priorities and the effective, transformational use of the budget. We could let the budget deficit grow and still not implement real transformation.

Another key pillar of GEAR is the proposal of a social accord. (This is also hardly an area that could be non-negotiable ­ the very idea of an accord implies negotiations.) COSATU has already, and correctly, indicated that it is not interested in some big block-buster accord, like a national, across the board wage restraint agreement in exchange for some vague promises about job creation. Rather, COSATU says that it is prepared to explore the possibility of numerous sectoral and other specific accords.

Rather than waiting passively for issues to be placed on the table, the left needs to advance imaginative and progressive accord proposals. The crisis in the funding of tertiary education might be partly resolved, for instance, through the Youth Commission proposal of community service for young people. Universities might be partly subsidised from the budget for the community service that students render by way of literacy training, for instance. There could be a government-student-tertiary institutions accord to this effect.

Likewise, we need to propose social accords in which richer suburbs and industry agree to cross-subsidise water and electricity for poorer areas.

These are just some examples of how the left needs to engage with elements of GEAR in ways which enable us to actively mobilise our core constituency. The debate around macro-economic policy must continue, but we must ensure that it is pursued in ways that strengthen our own forces. To be either uncritical or narrowly rejectionist will not get us anywhere.


Labour opposed to the basic thrust of GEAR

In a recent speech by COSATU President John Gomomo, at the second NEDLAC Summit, he refered to the government’s GEAR Strategy as the reverse gear of society. This input presents a healthy debate on the GEAR strategy. In this edition of Mayibuye, we publish extracts from Gomomo’s speech.

“In spite of the resolution of the last summit, as well as the position that was outlined by Deputy President Thabo Mbeki, to place government proposals on the table, which position we fully supported, what happened? We learnt of the existence of this strategy (GEAR — Growth, Employment and Redistribution) not through it being placed on the negotiating table, but when it was announced and declared to be non-negotiable in parliament, by the Minister of Finance.

Business for its part, realising that this was the Growth For All dressed in struggle language, welcomed this approach and called on the government to implement it without delay. Their battle cry became: Government must govern. The same defenders of the right of government to govern would not support that right if government was to implement those policies set out in the RDP around housing, anti-trust policies, labour rights, a national public works programme, and a massive investment in the human potential of our people. It is at such moments that sections of business discover the virtues of consultation and negotiation.

As Labour we remain opposed to the basic thrust of the GEAR strategy. We reject its approach to fiscal and monetary policies which continue to see major cuts in government spending on social security and basic infrastructure as well as continued rising interest rates. The effect of these policies are to choke the much needed economic growth and employment creation. It will also perpetuate the gap in wealth and incomes between the rich and the poor.

After almost a year of unveiling of the famous GEAR, the reverse gear of our society, the promised jobs have not materialised. Only last week, a senior bureaucrat in Trevor Manuel’s department acknowledged what we have been saying all along: that the projections of GEAR on jobs will not see the light of day. Were it not for the seriousness which we place on job creation, we would be saying to the government: We told you so!

There is a vast difference between programming a computer to project on jobs and the real thing. Predicting that business will invest in jobs is a far cry from getting them to invest. All they will do is to ask for more. We hope that this will make the government realise that business pay lip service to transformation.

The irony is that those who told us that this programme was cast in stone as well as those who have been calling for its immediate implementation are now asking us to help implement it.

Our response is a simple one: “Se kgagang se nthula morwalo. A sisoze si nincede. Qhubekani ngo kwenu. Uma ni funa uku sebenzisana nathi, vumani ukuba iGEAR mayiphume ku buye iRDP“.

The main pillars of the RDP is:

  • basic needs of our people
  • rebuilding the economy
  • promoting the rights of workers
  • the eradication of poverty
  • job creation for our people

If we really want to succeed as a nation, we have to respond to the verdict of the electorate. Unlike business who were cynical of the RDP, dismissing it as a wish list, the masses voted for a better life as contained in the RDP and not GEAR. The same goes for business’s Growth For All. It could never have seen the light of day in an election.

The past few months have seen speculations about a presidential job summit. We have now heard that the Minister of Labour is looking at October this year as a possible date. We wish him success in his new endeavours.

We are aware that both the Labour Market Commission and GEAR calls for a Presidential Job Summit. We have no principle problem with a forum which will look at the problems around unemployment and job creation.

We however wish to place on record that in our view, what drives Business and government’s approach to the Job Summit is to get us to help with the implementation of GEAR. This is where their proposals for job creation are to be found. We refuse to be co-opted towards the implementation of GEAR.

What is needed — if we are going to have a successful summit of any kind — is for the parties to agree on a broad framework for the summit, its aims and objectives, terms of reference, etc. By the time a summit is convened, we will have forged consensus on most of the issues underpinning a strategy for employment creation. Rushing into a summit with the parties holding positions which are diametrically opposed to one another is a sure formula for deadlock. This we should avoid.”

What are your views?

We would like to hear your views on GEAR

The ANC-led government’s Growth, Employment and Redistribution (GEAR) strategy generated a lot of debate within, and outside of the Alliance.

Some of the comments about GEAR are:

  1. “The document relies on a trickle down approach to the economy. Trickle down means that in a capitalist system the accumulation of resources will eventually reach most people in the country, or will slowly trickle down to most people who will benefit from increased production and growth.”
  2. “The document seeks to reduce taxes rather than setting a framework for taxation that will increase the amount of money that government makes.”
  3. “GEAR proposes a social accord. Central to this social accord is wage restraint by the working class while middle and upper income earners continue to increase their income. The result will be a bigger gap between what the working class earns (the majority of people in this country) and what the professionals, managers and bosses earn. This contradicts the RDP objectives.”

In the next edition of Mayibuye we will publish some of the views expressed by our readers.


Alliance must lead

At Cosatu’s 6th National Congress held in September, President Mandela reminded delegates that they should not forget that the alliance has a mission to lead, not only its own constituencies, but the whole of society in the building of a new nation on a partnership of all social sectors.

“Comrade Chairperson; Comrade President, John Gomomo;
Comrade Secretary-General, Sam Shilowa;
Members of the Central Executive Committee;
Distinguished Delegates;
Ladies and gentlemen,

It would be difficult to exaggerate the importance of this, COSATU’s Sixth National Congress. May I therefore start by thanking you most sincerely for inviting me to be a part of it.

It was my privilege also to take part in the Fifth National Congress, in September 1994.

Then, we were fresh from the election of a democratic government led by the ANC, a historic victory made possible by organised workers acting in unison with other democratic forces.

Then, we were witnessing the launch of elements of the government’s programme of action, with the RDP’s Presidential Lead Projects that shone like beacons in our nation’s quest for a better life for all. These projects ­ for school feeding; free health care; access to clean water; land reform and urban renewal ­ were also markers of our determination to focus especially on improving the lives of the poor.

Then, our Alliance was yet to take the measure of its responsibility as the leading force for transformation in the current phase.

Today, we have behind us three years’ experience of striving to implement our vision; three years in which together we have made great strides; three years in which the scale of the challenge on which we have embarked has become clearer; three years in which the opportunities and constraints of our work within and outside of government have been tested.

We can rejoice in the fact that, on average, every single day since the democratic movement took office, thousands of people have gained access to clean water; that each week has on average brought another two clinics with access to health-care for some 20 000 people; that currently thousands of electricity connections are being made each day and thousands of houses are being brought into construction or completed under the government’s capital subsidy programme every two and-a-half days.

It is puzzling therefore that a perception persists that government is not addressing basic needs. It is perhaps natural that those who were privileged under apartheid are less appreciative of the changes. It is only to be expected that our opponents, especially those who have lost power and who have no altemative policies of their own, will pretend that our work lacks substance and, with scowls on their arrogant faces, scoff at us when we celebrate our achievements.

In this situation it must surely be amongst the tasks of Alliance leaders to help communicate the reality that the cumulative impact of such programmes is changing millions of lives which were blighted by apartheid’s inhuman policies. The foundation for a better life has been laid. Our task is to speed up implementation.

We could add much to the list of gains made between COSATU’s last congress and this one, in particular for the workers of South Africa.

Our new constitution and other laws secure and entrench new rights of workers, most of them unheard of in the history of our country; many of them among the most advanced in the world. In NEDLAC we have an institution which formalises and promotes the participation of civil society in the determination of policy. We could point to the intense consultations between unions in particular sectors and corresponding government departments in the formulation of policy and legislation.

We cite such gains not because they are the sum of what has been achieved, nor because we can be satisfied with them. Rather they form the backdrop to an acknowledgment that we need still more effective liaison and consultation in the field of policy. They provide a context for broaching issues which remain unresolved or are being debated, not only between Government and organised labour, not only between the ANC and COSATU, but also within the ANC as much as within COSATU itself.

These matters are lightened by the successful recent Alliance Summit, and its agreements on processes for continuing discussion where differences remain.

It is common cause that restructuring of the public sector; macro-economic policy; the labour market and industrial development strategy are fundamental to the process of transformation. These are precisely the areas in which, as partners, we most need to focus on strengthening our consensus on the policies and measures that will promote our shared goals.

It is in the nature of an alliance that its partners will not agree on all matters that fall within the broad vision that binds them. What is important is the readiness to discuss disagreements when they do arise and the shared commitment to find solutions. It is therefore not in keeping with the character of our Alliance when COSATU declares that positions it holds that differ from those of the ANC or government are non-negotiable. By the same token it is wrong for the ANC to present its own positions as non-negotiable, even while exercising its broader responsibilities in government.

Our starting point must be the need to ensure that we produce the resources to achieve the goals of reconstruction and development; to use them to the greatest effect to improve the lives of our people, especially the poor; and to adopt the policies which promote the achievement of those goals.

As we agreed at the recent Summit, macro-economic strategy must be measured against the objective needs of transformation and the real constraints the country faces.

Like any policy, it is not cast in stone. Its usefulness must be measured against its goals. Its appropriateness must be judged in the light of prevailing conditions. For the same reason, any proposed elaboration or modification must find justification in changes in objective conditions and not merely in a desire for agreement, or in a sectoral drive to satisfy narrow self-interest.

And while our measuring-rod must always be improvement in the lives of the poor, democracy dictates that any such decisions must be with the involvement of all major sectors of our society, including labour and business.

What we do know is that we cannot continue to give up one-fifth of our national budget to servicing debt; that jobs performing no useful function in government should not consume resources that could be used to provide services and productive investment; that it defeats our purposes to produce goods that our own people cannot afford and others will not buy; and that we should restructure and streamline public corporations in line with the challenges of transformation.

There are also dilemmas that arise from the competing nature of some of our goals, from the multiplicity of interests not only among the former victims of apartheid in general, but also within the ranks of the poor, including the organised and the unorganised; the employed and the unemployed; as well as rural and urban communities.

For example, allocating fishing quotas away from big corporations to allow a share of this sector to poor fishermen excluded by apartheid, is seen by the workers in the big corporations as a threat to their own employment.

And though they differ in scale, such dilemmas and hard choices are, in the end, of a kind with those which have delayed the Basic Conditions of Employment Bill. The problems that have attended this Bill not only testify to the importance of the issues involved. They also bring out in bolder relief the debate about our reading of the current situation and the route we should adopt towards the common objectives of a democratic, caring and prosperous society.

I am confident that, as we have done before, we will find a solution in the form of a compromise acceptable to all sectors. More important still, when we do this, we will be opening the way for a major improvement in the working conditions of the overwhelming majority of South Africa’s workers. That the Bill is a strategic advance, there is no question. But the issue is how we resolve outstanding matters in a manner that is consistent with our broader objectives of reconstruction and development.

Such an achievement will stand us all in good stead as we face still greater challenges, not least that of job-creation. There are important questions about the precise nature and scale of unemployment in our country. But there can be no doubt that the level is unacceptable. There can be no doubt that we have been more successful in turning the economy around and generating growth than we have been in creating jobs.

We have all accepted the proposal of the Labour Market Commission to convene a national jobs summit, so that all social sectors can join together in taking responsibility for the development of programmes for employmentcreation. Certainly, this matter will create challenges and dilemmas for all of us ­ government, employers and employed workers ­ as acute as any that we have faced.

We are confident about our economic future, because the fundamentals are in order. The long-term trends include growing strength in manufacturing; improving export performance; and falling inflation. Major investment in megaprojects and Spatial Development Initiatives are helping fuel what is akin to an industrial revolution. As was agreed at the Summit, we need together to elaborate our industrial strategy to take us into the new millennium on a high road of sustainable growth. We need to work together to mobilise the investments to achieve this, public and private, local and international.


I have dwelt on the challenges that face us as allies, because we bear so large a responsibility for dealing with them.

But we should also remind ourselves of the broader Alliance vision from which these issues derive their meaning; the deepening of democracy; the entrenchment of human rights; freedom of speech and other rights that we gained in struggle ­ all of them underpinned by the Reconstruction and Development Programme. It is our joint responsibility to defend and advance these gains and guard them like the apple of our eye.

Nor should we forget that the Alliance has a mission to lead not only its own constituencies but the whole of society in the building of a new nation founded on a partnership of all social sectors. Reconstruction and development depend on, and in turn promote, reconciliation and nation-building, and these too form part of our mission.

Such are the reasons that make this Congress, and the forthcoming conferences of the ANC and the Communist Party, to have such critical importance.

That is why the structures of the Alliance must not fail us. The processes set in motion at the recent Alliance Summit should ensure that all of us make a decisive contribution in charting the way forward into the twenty-first century.

In the three years since we achieved democracy, we have laid the foundation for a better life.

Today the call is to build on those foundations. Forward ever! Njalo Nje!”

The role and centrality of ANC constitutional structures in local government transformation

Constitutional structures of the ANC (including ANC provincial and local government caucuses) are not playing any meaningful (if any), role in the local government transformation processes, argues Dr Mathole Motshekga.

Our demand for a democratically elected Constitutional Assembly (CA) as the most legitimate constitution-making body was met. The CA has produced a final Constitution for the country. This constitution structures government on a national, provincial and local level. However, it does not fully address the local sphere of government.

The centrality of ANC Constitutional structures in local government transformation

Local Government (including the question of traditional leadership) lie at the heart of the local sphere of government. Thus the constitution-making process cannot and will not be complete unless and until the restructuring or transformation of local government is complete. To address this questions, the Department of Provincial Affairs and Constitutional Development has published a Discussion Document on new local government policy for the country. This document launches a debate around the interim and final restructuring or transformation of local government.

The National White Paper Process (NWPP) does not exempt the ANC from its responsibility to translate its vision of a post-apartheid South Africa (PASA) municipal governance system into a constitutional reality. In the same way the ANC guided the Constitutional Assembly in the constitution-making processes, the ANC has a historic responsibility to guide the white paper process on local government to ensure that the final local government dispensation is built on our vision.

Fortunately, we do not have to re-invent the wheel. Our basic policy documents such as the Freedom Charter, the RDP, Strategy and Tactics and Ready to Govern, embody our vision for the final municipal governance system. This vision, however, cannot and will not translate itself into a constitutional reality. Moreover, there are other contending visions which are struggling to find their way into the National and Provincial local government legislation at the conclusion of the white paper process.

At the moment, Constitutional structures of the ANC (including ANC provincial and local government caucuses) are not playing any meaningful (if any), role in the local government transformation processes, which are just as important as the constitution-making process itself. The involvement of our Constitutional structures and, in particular, branches and regions, could play a major role in building organisation and creating a broad social base for the ANC and popularising its policies in the run-up for the 1999 elections. For these purposes, the ANC’s basic policy documents should be simplified to branches for use in policy discussions involving councillors and civil society.

Some of the policy gaps and structural problems facing local government are highlighted in this article. It is hoped that the issues raised will spark off a policy debate within our branches and caucuses and inform our participation in the white paper process and preparations for the Provincial and National Policy Conference.

The transition to local government

a. The pre-interim phase

The Local Government Transition Act (the “LGTA”) provided for three phase transition from apartheid to a truly democratic local government system. These phases are the pre-interim, interim and final phases. The pre-interim councils denied the democratic movement the capacity to begin with the transformation of local government as they were constituted on a 50-50 basis. However, they played an important role in preparing and levelling the playing field for the first non-racial municipal elections which took place in 1995 and 1996. The pre-interim phase ended with the 1995/6 municipal elections.

b. The interim phase

We are currently in the interim phase of our transition to local democracy. The LGTA which determined the interim municipal councils did not effect any radical transformation of local government. In fact, it merely enabled local communities to establish locally negotiated municipal councils which included a variety of metropolitan councils and transitional local councils (TLCs). However, in many areas the amalgamation (or integration) of the administration of the former white local authorities (WLAs) and the former Black Local Authorities (BLAs) is still far from complete. Where the amalgamation (or integration) has taken place, the spirit and ethos of the new constitution has not yet been fused into the internal workings of the councils. Also, the internal structures and procedures of these interim councils have not been, by and large, re-orientated to a developmental municipal system embodied in the new constitution.

The models of metropolitan government that have been implemented are also out of keeping with the philosophy of co-operative governance which requires three spheres (not tiers) of government. The present two-tier system of local government has resulted in two parallel tiers of government within the local sphere of government. Each of these tiers has its own original powers which often leads to conflict of interests and litigation. The provision in the LGTA’s Second Amendment Act, which allows the Metropolitan Councils to negotiate the allocation of powers between themselves does not satisfactorily settle the matter.

c. The final phase

The new constitution has not satisfactorily addressed this matter, except to offer options. This constitution provides for three categories o municipalities, namely categories A, B and C. A close analysis of these categories show that a category A municipality is nothing more or less than a single-tier municipality such a TLC. Categories B and C municipalities are a two-tier kind of municipalities such as the present metropolitan council (Category C) and metropolitan local councils (Category B). The existing District or regional councils could also be brought within categories B and C. It follows from this analysis that the new constitution has not introduced anything new on local government, though the details are left to National and Provincial legislation.

In fact, the three categories of municipalities are transplants from Toronto, Canada. In their country of origin these categories are facing a legitimacy crisis. A transformation process is underway to abolish these categories and replace them with a megacity, that is, a big single-tier city structured like our present TLCs. The dilemma facing us is that many ANC regions in metropolitan areas, like the Canadians, are calling for the creation of megacities even before the establishment of the new municipalities envisaged by the new constitution. These calls are apparently inspired by the transformation processes in Canada. Thus the two-tier local government in South Africa and Canada face the same legitimacy crisis.

The categories of local government transplanted from Canada, therefore, are likely to be still born. Thus we need to take a step backward as the ANC and reflect on our own material conditions with a view to developing indigenous models of municipalities. Borrowing foreign experiences is perfectly legitimate, but wholesale transplant without due regard to local conditions could spell doom to our emerging local democracy.

The transition to local democracy in rural areas

The new constitution requires a wall to wall municipal government system. To meet this requirement for the purposes of the 1995/96 municipal elections, the LGTA was amended to provide for the establishment of Transitional Representative Councils (TRCs) and Remaining Areas. These interim structures and many other rural councils lack access to the required administrative, financial and technical function efficiently and effectively. Thus rural councillors are struggling to effectively govern their communities or to provide the kind of basic services that are expected of municipalities.

Strictly speaking, therefore, many rural councils (known as TLCs, for want of a better term) are not municipalities properly so-called. To address the crisis situation, of these rural councils, District (or services) Councils have been established as primary local authorities for rural local councils within their areas of jurisdiction. This constitutional arrangements reduce rural councils (especially Transitional Representative Councils) to advisory bodies in relation to District (Services) Councils.

Many rural councils cover commercial farming areas, villages, nature reserves and small centres. As these rural councils do not have any infrastructure, income base, nor management and technical capacity, they are not able to take and implement decisions. The District Councils, which act as the primary local authority of these rural councils, are:

  • removed from local communities
  • often ruled by bureaucrats who are either not familiar with, or responsive to the basic needs of local communities; and
  • sometimes in conflict with or undermines councillors

These District Councils do not necessarily have the capacity to deliver basic services. Many of them contract or source out these services. This out-sourcing deprives not only the District Councils but also the rural councils themselves, opportunities to develop their own capacity. Thus the municipal system of governance in rural areas do not address these fundamental problems.

Dr Mathole Motshekga is the Chairperson of the ANC in the Gauteng Province.


The Debate rages on

” Why is the proposed Basic Conditions of Employment Bill being associated with such controversy?” asks Minister of Labour, Tito Mboweni.

“This is a Bill which will bring a better life to workers, especially those facing low wages and bad working conditions. We think that it bring social justice to the work place and that these reforms should be welcomed,” he says.

This article lists the areas where the Bill improves on the basic conditions of employment presently in place and where new rights have been introduced. While workers may always want to demand more than the Bill offers, accepting the Bill as it is, is a giant step forward for workers’ rights.

“We urge workers to judge for themselves. Does it offer them a better deal or not?” says Tito Mboweni.

What improvements does the Bill offer?

The current Basic Condition of Employment Act does not cover all workers. This Bill proposes to cover all workers and most significantly farm, domestic, part time and contract workers, including workers of sub-contractors. Workers in the public service and parastatals will also be covered.

South African workers work long hours and often work over-time to make ends meet. Because many of them live far from their homes, they spend far too much away from their families. The draft Bill tries to address this by reducing the number of hours worked and increasing the over time premium from “time and a third” to “time and a half”.

The maximum number of hours that any worker can be compelled by law to work will be 45 per week. This means that security, farm, mine and employers as well as employers of shift workers will not be allowed by law to expect their workers to work longer than 45 hours a week.

This does not mean that workers who are now working a 40-hour week will have to work a 45-hour week. The law only sets the minimum floor — it says nobody can work more than 45 hours in a week without overtime.

The union movement is demanding a 40-hour week. The Department of Labour is committed to a goal of a 40-hour week but does not think that it is appropriate to simply pass a law reducing working hours to 40. Although it is something that all workers strive for, unless such a move is negotiated with employers, it may occur with loss of pay and could lead to industrial conflict.

The Bill also improves the overtime premium from “time and a third” to “time and a half”. Workers will get paid more for doing over time. It is hoped that this will lead to the amount of over time hours that workers work being reduced.

Compulsory rest periods

The Bill allows for compulsory rest periods. This did not exist in the past and workers could work for months without a day-off. Workers must have every Sunday as a rest day, unless they agree otherwise. Workers who work regularly on a Sunday, must be paid a premium of “time and a half” and if they work occasionally on a Sunday, they must be paid “double time”. This must be good news for shop workers who, unless they have bargained for it, do not get any money for giving up their Sundays.

It has been well established that workers who work at night for long periods can fall sick. They are also often at great danger if no transport is provided for them. Yet the law has never protected these workers. Now these workers must be paid a premium or get additional time off and the Bill includes provisions which protect their health and safety.

The Bill makes a number of improvements to the leave provisions for workers. Annual leave has been increased from two to three weeks. Sick leave remains at three weeks in a three-year cycle but workers will be entitled to their full sick leave quota after six months of employment instead of one year.

Maternity leave has been improved from 12 weeks to four months and extended to include women who have a still-born child. Women can also take leave when they want around the birth of their child — they are no longer obliged by law to take one month before their baby is born.

Many women say it is no use to have maternity leave if it is unpaid. The Department of Labour is committed to ensuring payment for maternity leave. It has set up a Ministerial Task Team, who will be reporting soon on how this can be achieved.

The Bill introduces a new form of leave called family responsibility leave. Workers are entitled to three days paid leave per year to attend to the birth or illness of their children or death of an immediate family member.

Bill prohibits child labour

The Bill prohibits children under 15 from working while children between 15 and 18 will be better prohibited and also be prohibited from working in certain jobs, especially in the mining and manufacturing sectors.

There have been demands that the age of employment should be 16. However the school leaving age is 15 and it would be problematic for a child to leave school at 15 and not be able to work until they are 16. The ANC NEC has agreed that the age of employment should be 15.

In addition, the Bill sets a floor of rights for all workers, it includes provisions for establishing minimum wages and conditions for groups of vulnerable workers like farm and domestic workers. For the first time will the government be able to set a minimum wage for domestic and farm workers. With workers in these sectors earning as little as R100 and R200 per month, such a measure is urgently needed.

Employers say that the Bill will raise labour costs and not lead to job creation. The Department of Labour is wary about these arguments. Jobs are not created or lost by single law — job creation is part of a multi-faceted strategy. Further, not all employers will face an increase in costs and in some instances, improving conditions will also lead to improved productivity. There are also the potential consequences for society — social costs — if conditions at the work place are not improved.

Nevertheless the Bill is sensitive to the problems facing the labour market. It is for this reason that it includes ways in which provisions in the Bill can be varied or changed to suit the circumstances of individual workers, as well as enterprises and sectors.

Workers and employers as well as other interested parties are urged to familiarise themselves with the contents of the Bill. Copies are available from the provincial offices of the Department of Labour.

The legacy of Biko Continues

Apartheid wanted us to forget the contributions made by leaders such as Steve Biko. Mathews Phosa pays tribute to this great son of Africa.

It is now 20 years since Steve Biko died at the hands of the security police. The decision of the doctors with the security police to allow Biko to be driven from Port Elizabeth to Pretoria is still fresh in our minds.

The previous apartheid regime tried over the years to let us forget this great son of Africa and martyr – but to no avail. This proves that you cannot hold down a person of heroic proportions for long.

Even his death will continue to haunt his killers. Biko’s international popularity and stature have grown in leaps and bounds.

What made Steve Biko a giant and house-hold name, not only in South Africa, but the world over? More than anything else, his humanity, compassion and love of justice constituted the strength and fortitude with which the struggle for liberation was reinforced.

Biko was a hero who more than deserves to be in the pantheon of our best and most treasured revolutionaries. Undoubtedly he has left an indelible mark on the history of South Africa. Our nation is the richer for having hosted this revolutionary who quested after a true humanity, to use his own words.

In the heat of a titanic struggle against apartheid, when the liberation struggle seemed to have been severely subdued and apartheid riding the crest of the wave, Biko shook the confidence of the previous regime by sharply and irreversibly firing the imaginations and minds of all of us to greater revolutionary heights.

He woke up a sleeping up a sleeping giant and drove us to be proud, to feel we needed to remove the mental chains of slavery. He successfully set in motion a liberatory process the momentum of which was difficult at the time to quantify or predict in full detail.

Biko the nonracist, strategist and tactician

Biko was sometimes misunderstood to be a racist. Nothing can be further from the truth. His association with Donald Woods, whom Biko once accused of being a liberal, testifies to his nonracialism.

The fact that he opposed and fought white supremacy cannot in any way reduce this patriot to a racist. Embodied in his revolution was compassion and reconciliation. Biko strongly believed in negotiation between opposing sides.

He understood too well that the struggle was about the total liberation of both and white. In this context he was a nonracist, strategist and tactician.

His call that blacks organise blacks and whites organise whites was a pragmatic activist approach which was necessary to unleash the revolutionary motive conditions from each community. A true revolutionary is one who starts by clinically analysing and understanding the objective forces at any given time. Biko’s approach surely followed this pattern. Tactics should always be focussed and flexible and should, at all times, be guided by these conditions. It is only when these conditions are understood that we can change them.

So the charge by his detractors that he was racist and anti-white falls flat on its face.

Biko will be remembered as one of the greatest unifiers of the black people of this country. He understood the policies of the African National Congress and the Pan Africanist Congress quite well.

There is no evidence of his nullifying or attacking their policies. Biko, until his death, called for the unconditional release of the people’s leaders from jail.

He considered Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Robert Sobukwe, Zephania Mothopeng and many other leaders who were languishing in jail, to be his leaders.

At all times he was aware of who the enemy was. It is thus not surprising that, from the generation he led, outstanding cadres emerged who later joined the ANC, PAC, Azanian People’s Organisation, the South African Congress of Trade Unions, South African Communist Party and other organisations.

Looking at the spectrum of South African leadership today, whether in the private sector, public sector, non-governmental organisations churches or trade unions, you will not run short of the massive influence of Steve Biko.

When we commemorate the death of this great son of Africa, we must all remember that he lived and died for the unity of all South Africans.

The democracy that we are enjoying today is in no small part the result of the vision and strategic leadership of this martyr. The best tribute to give to him is for all South Africans to forget about the artificial, imaginary differences between our people and to strive for a united, fundamentally democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous South Africa.

We should preserve the memories of our heroes and heroines

In commemoration of the 20th Anniversary of the death of Steve Biko on 12 September, President Nelson Mandela unveiled Biko’s statue and declared his Ginsberg house a national monument. Here are extracts of the president’s heartrendering speech:

“We are gathered here to pay homage to one of the greatest sons of our nation, Stephen Bantu Biko. His hope in life, and his life of hope, are captured by his resounding words: “In time, we shall be in a position to bestow on South Africa the greatest possible gift ­ a more human face”.

And so we are assembled here to pledge our commitment to that ideal; the hope of a giant bequeathed to our land by a region that has down the centuries spawned men and women of outstanding qualities, leaders who have proved themselves in the most testing conditions. It has nurtured a tradition of uncompromising struggle unbroken from the days of Hintsa; through Enoch Sontonga, Vuyisile Mini, Matthew Goniwe, Ford Calata, Sparrow Mkhonto; to Griffiths and Victoria Mxenge ­ to name but a few. Many of them were butchered with a cold disregard for life by agents of a doomed regime.

The flame of patriotism

Today’s occasion speaks of our resolve to preserve the memories of our heroes and heroines; to keep alive the flame of patriotism which burnt in the hearts and minds of the like of Steve Biko; to redeem the pledge to give a more human face to a society for centuries trampled upon by the jackboot of inhumanity.

In eulogies to the departed, the works of the living sometimes bear little relation to reality.

Yet what has been said about Steve Biko, what passed through the walls of Robben Island and other prisons along our political grapevine, has stood the test of time. That he was indeed a great man who stood head and shoulders above his peers is borne out not only by the testimony of those who knew him and worked with him, but by the fruits of his endeavours.

Biko ­ a proud representative of the re-awakening of a people

History called upon Steve Biko at a time when the political pulse of our people had been rendered faint by banning, imprisonment, exile, murder and banishment. Repression had swept the country clear of all visible organisation of the people. But at each turn of history, apartheid was bound to spawn resistance; it was destined to bring to life the forces that would guarantee its death.

It is the dictate of history to bring to the fore the kind of leaders who seize the moment, who cohere the wishes and aspirations of the oppressed. Such was Steve Biko, a fitting product of his time; a proud representative of the re-awakening of a people.

It was a time when the tide of Africa’s valiant struggle and her liberation, lapping at our own borders, was consolidating black pride across the world and firing the determination of all those who were oppressed to take their destiny into their own hands.

It is also the fate of leadership to be misunderstood; for historians, academics, writers and journalists to reflect great lives according to their own subjective canon. This is all the more evident in a country where the interpreters have a much greater pool of resources to publish views regarding the quest for dignity and nationhood

The attitude of mind and way of life that Biko and his comrades called for are needed today in abundance. They are relevant as we define our being as an African nation on the African continent. They are pertinent in our drive to ward off the temptation to become clones of other people

We hope that by unveiling this statue, renaming the bridge and declaring his Ginsberg house a national monument, we are making our own humble contribution to immortalising his life.