ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Chris Matlhako. " Les communistes jouent un rôle de Pivot dans les luttes "
by Interview by Rosa Moussaoui
Translated Sunday 6 March 2011, by Harvettaand reviewed by
International Secretary of the South African Communist Party, Chris Matlhako analyzes the economic and social challenges for the rainbow nation in a crisis context which is changing the world order
Interview, in South Africa
Huma: How do you explain the violent explosions of anger that regularly rock South African townships?
Chris Matlhako: The recent renewed outbreak of violent protests in certain parts of the country reflects deep unrest due to deteriorating public services and the willful negligence of some local representatives who use their positions as elected officials as a way to personal gain. In addition, the local State still carries the stigmas of the spatial planning models of apartheid. It is trying to move beyond the huge gap separating rich and poor areas, a reality still deeply entrenched after seventeen years of democracy. The neoliberal policies introduced after 1996 were applied by privatizations and externalization processes that took away local collectives’ weak capacity to deliver basic services to the population. Now, the population is forced to turn to private providers, which sell these basic services for high prices. But the main challenge is still massive unemployment, a basic characteristic of post-apartheid South Africa. Officially, the unemployment rate totals 24.6%. But this statistic is based on a narrow definition of unemployment.
Huma: Is the Zuma government meeting this urgent social demand?
Chris Matlhako: In a few years, the democratic State has done a great deal for the poorest people. More than 15 million people receive State assistance in various forms. Since we intend to build a State in the service of development, and not a welfare State, President Zuma has indicated that this assistance must be tied to economic activity and community development. It is a matter of enabling beneficiaries of this assistance to become financially independent over the long term. The democratic South African State has made significant progress in meeting the objectives of the reconstruction and development program adopted in the first five years of democracy before the Mbeki administration introduced a so-called stabilization program. In the areas of housing, health, and basic services, with agrarian reform, the lives of millions of people have been improved. But, there is still a great deal of work to be done. Since 2007, the Zuma administration has adopted five key priorities: to create decent jobs, health, education, fighting crime and corruption, and rural development. Jacob Zuma made a commitment to focus on job creation in 2011, initiating significant economic changes for growth that leaves no one behind. This objective was totally absent from the policy plans supported by the previous administration.
Huma: What is the role of the South African Communist Party today?
Chris Matlhako: The South African Communist Party continues to play a pivotal role in struggles by supporting the aspirations of the people, of the working class, the poorest people. This party, by its mobilizing and organizational capacities, as a member of the alliance lead by the ANC, is fully assuming its responsibilities in the government. But, it is also affirming its own independent role outside of the State. For us, the State is a field for struggle and opposition in the same way as the workplace, the community, the economy, the ideological field, or international challenges. We support the plan to change the direction of the South African economy with the Cosatu central trade union.
Huma: At the Africa-France Summit in Nice, President Zuma saw the legacy of colonization in the conflicts that are ripping apart the African continent. Is that your view?
Chris Matlhako: Yes, it is true that fifty years after the decolonization process began, colonialism and neocolonialism continue to appear in various forms on the continent. The economies of most third world countries are still linked to the former capitals. Due to this unequal relationship, the former capitals continue to dictate the way the leading elites and bourgeois classes in the countries act with respect to the former colonizer. Nicolas Sarkozy, for example, does not hesitate to draw inferences from linkages with the former colonies to encourage them to defend so-called mutual interests in the economic war between the imperialists. But those interests are in fact the interests of French monopolistic capital and its governing classes.
Huma: Can the emerging countries, the Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa), promote a more just new world order?
Chris Matlhako: The Brics represent a unique opportunity for the countries in the South to use their potential to create a new multipolar world. In the next ten years, Brazil, Russia, China, India and South Africa together could pass the triad of the United States, Japan and the European Union in terms of GDP. This major change could open the way to new relations, to trade rules based on solidarity and mutual interest, to breaking away from the current system based on the hegemony of imperialist interests guided only by their own self-interests.
Huma: What are the responsibilities of the Left to face the global crisis?
Chris Matlhako: The crisis offers the Left the opportunity to rethink old assumptions about world economic reality. For example, by paying more attention to issues affecting the environment. This means taking the ecological dimension into account in fighting for economic development based on industrialization strategies. As devastating as the impact of this crisis on the lives of ordinary people may be, this crisis demonstrates in clear terms that the capitalist system is unsustainable and must be overthrown.
Chris Matlhako contributed to the collective work Groupons nous et demain ! International Crisis And Alternatives from the Left, published by Le Temps des Cerises.