We welcome the reaction of Mr Irvin Jim of NUMSA to F W de Klerk’s response to the ANC’s “Second Transition” – despite its overtly racist tone.
Mr Jim was particularly agitated by Mr De Klerk’s statement that he had surrendered power, not to another political party, but to a sovereign Constitution. Yet the founding principles in the Constitution confirm the supremacy of the Constitution and the rule of law. Any law or conduct that is inconsistent with the Constitution is invalid, even if it is adopted by a parliament representing the majority of the people. The President, the Cabinet and all the members of parliament – including Jim’s comrades in the SACP – have sworn to uphold the Constitution which includes this provision. Surely, they have not committed perjury?
At the same time, the Constitution bestows ample powers on Parliament and the executive to formulate policies, pass laws and rule the country in accordance with the mandate that they receive from the majority in regular elections. However, they must do so within the parameters set by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. These provisions are particularly important in multicultural societies because they prevent the majority from trampling on the rights of minorities, however constituted. Equally importantly, they prevent the majority from breaching the rights of individual citizens.
Jim characterises the 1996 Constitution as a “compromise” and says that “only a fool would think that a compromise is a permanent solution”. Evidently, President Mandela thought so. On 8 May 1996, after the adoption of the new Constitution, he said that its founding principles were “immutable”. He described the Constitution as “our national soul, our compact with one another as citizens, underpinned by our highest aspirations and our deepest apprehensions”. He also pledged that “Never and never again shall the laws of our land rend our people apart or legalise their oppression and repression.”
Yet, the “second transition” is clearly intended to unravel important pieces of what President Mandela called “our national soul, our compact with one another as citizens”.
Once one has sifted through the Marxist-Leninist gobbledygook, the crux of Jim’s claim is that “white monopoly capital has “ensured that mass poverty, dangerous levels of unemployment and extreme inequalities are largely black and predominantly African female and African youth.”
Jim is using the dangerous ploy of stereotyping and dehumanising people in terms of their race. There is no uniformity in the white community: some are rich; about 10% are poor; many are blue collar workers; most are hard-working middle class people. There is no such thing as “white monopoly capital”. The great majority of businesses are owned by shareholders representing all our communities (and increasingly black South Africans) through their pension funds, insurance policies and investments. Many shareholders are foreigners. These businesses, some large but most of them small, are not monopolies. Far from causing poverty and unemployment, they produce virtually all the wealth upon which the country depends. They – and their employees – pay nearly all the taxes that government needs to finance its social and other programmes. They also provide well-paid jobs to NUMSA’s members and to Mr Jim’s comrades in COSATU.
Most people earning more than R 100 000 per annum are now black. Nevertheless, it is true that poverty, unemployment and inequality are concentrated overwhelmingly in the black community.
These problems have, however, been perpetuated or aggravated by Mr Jim’s colleagues in the trade unions and by inappropriate government policies. Rigid labour laws have locked millions of black South Africans from the labour market. Undisguised hostility to employers, low productivity and confrontational strikes have created an environment that actively discourages foreign and domestic investment, accelerated economic growth and job creation. Why should anyone want to invest in an economy in which trade unions do not accept the employers’ right to exist – or disguise their intention of seizing the employers’ assets at the earliest opportunity?
Mr Jim’s colleagues in SADTU have also played a major role in consigning a whole generation of young black people to unemployment by effectively denying them a proper education. 20% of (SADTU) teachers are absent on Mondays and Fridays – and deliver only 3.5 hours of teaching a day – compared with 6.5 hours per day in the former Model C schools.
Ultimately the problem is that NUMSA’s political goals are irreconcilable with the Constitution. As a “socialist revolutionary trade union” allied to the SACP, NUMSA is dedicated to the establishment of a communist dictatorship in South Africa. At its 9th Congress in September 2006, COSATU specifically asserted that “the dictatorship of the proletariat is the only guarantee that there will be a transition from National Democratic Revolution to socialism.”
It is not just the so-called “sunset” clauses that NUMSA and the SACP want to eliminate – but, ultimately, the entire foundation for freedom and constitutional democracy. The SACP does not want to do this through free and fair elections. Instead, as it confirmed at its 12th Congress in 2007, it wishes to hegemonise state power for the working class, by ‘developing systematically the leadership of the workers and the Communist Party in this organization (the ANC).”
Mr Jim appears to have learned nothing from the human and economic catastrophes that communism has caused wherever it has been tried. He revels in the current economic woes of the West – without understanding that the bottom ten per cent in the least successful western economy still fare much better than the top ten per cent in the remaining communist states, North Korea and Cuba. In fact, welfare recipients in South Africa have higher incomes than workers in Cuba. The crises of free markets are cyclical: those of communism are inevitably terminal.
The reason why all South Africans should stand up to those who now want to tamper with the Constitution and with our independent courts is that they provide us all with the best prospect of retaining the freedom we have enjoyed since 1994. They also provide a sound foundation on which we can continue to build our multicultural nation. Most importantly, it will be virtually impossible to deal successfully with poverty, unemployment and inequality if we drive away foreign and local investment and the entrepreneurs who have built our economy and created jobs.