CityPress - - Voices and Careers -

’ve known Trevor Manuel since the early 1980s. Although we’ve long since dis­agreed on many things, I still re­gard him as a friend. It was with un­sur­prised in­ter­est, there­fore, that I read his anti-SA Com­mu­nist Party (SACP) tirade, “Blur­ring of the blur” (City Press, July 12 2015). How to re­spond? Let me make an as­sump­tion with which many of my SACP com­rades will dis­agree. I as­sume Manuel’s in­ter­ven­tion was out of con­cern for the well­be­ing of the SACP rather than an at­tempt to rub­bish us.

If I’m right, then Trevor (if not Manuel) will be re­lieved to learn that the spe­cific con­cerns he raises are ground­less.

He writes that the SACP failed to ap­plaud the pre­vi­ous week’s judg­ment in the Western Cape High Court rul­ing that emol­u­ment at­tach­ment or­ders against farm work­ers were illegal. In fact, the SACP im­me­di­ately is­sued an ex­ten­sive state­ment salut­ing the rul­ing.

Since 2000, the SACP has been ac­tively cam­paign­ing against at­tach­ment-or­der ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties, loan sharks and cor­rupt clerks of the court.

How­ever, Manuel uses this mis­in­formed al­le­ga­tion as a plat­form for a broader point. The SACP’s sup­posed fail­ure to ap­plaud Judge Si­raj De­sai’s rul­ing is, he writes sar­cas­ti­cally, “per­haps be­cause it was a court de­ci­sion (aren’t all judges ‘class en­e­mies’?)”.

Con­cern about ju­di­cial over­reach cer­tainly shouldn’t be­come a cover for an anti-ju­di­ciary stance that has lit­tle to do with de­fend­ing the Con­sti­tu­tion and ev­ery­thing to do with seek­ing to sub­vert the rule of law.

This is why the SACP has warmly saluted sev­eral re­cent judg­ments from, for in­stance, the Con­sti­tu­tional Court, among them the im­por­tant judg­ment in the Mark Shut­tle­worth case that gov­ern­ment was legally en­ti­tled to deduct R240 mil­lion from Shut­tle­worth’s ex­pa­tri­a­tion of bil­lions to an over­seas tax haven, and the more re­cent judg­ment that liquor re­tail li­cences are not cor­po­rate “pri­vate prop­erty”.

Both judg­ments were de­liv­ered, as it hap­pens, by Deputy Chief Jus­tice Dik­gang Moseneke.

Pseudo-left nar­ra­tive

I cite these spe­cific and im­por­tant judg­ments be­cause the SACP and its al­liance part­ners have also ex­pressed con­cern that some of what Moseneke has ad­vo­cated in aca­demic lec­tures rep­re­sents, in our view, a prob­lem­atic blur­ring of the sep­a­ra­tion-of-pow­ers doc­trine. We should, and do, com­mend ex­cel­lent judg­ments and cri­tique poor ones when­ever they oc­cur, re­gard­less of who makes them.

A sec­ond spe­cific al­le­ga­tion made against the SACP by Manuel is that we’ve failed to say any­thing about the Marikana Com­mis­sion of In­quiry’s re­port. Again, he is mis­in­formed. Af­ter the public re­lease of the re­port, the SACP is­sued a brief wel­com­ing state­ment. Con­trary to Manuel’s claim that we’ve “be­come an or­gan­i­sa­tion that just protests on any is­sue that comes along”, we chose to re­serve fuller com­ment pend­ing a study of the re­port.

We waited for the SACP na­tional congress to pro­vide a rel­a­tively ex­ten­sive per­spec­tive on the com­mis­sion’s find­ings. De­liv­er­ing the cen­tral com­mit­tee re­port to congress, SACP gen­eral sec­re­tary Blade Nz­i­mande noted that the Far­lam com­mis­sion sin­gled out for harsh crit­i­cism the con­duct of se­nior po­lice both for the trag­i­cally in­com­pe­tent tac­ti­cal han­dling of the sit­u­a­tion on the ground, and the sub­se­quent cover-up.

“The SACP sup­ports the rec­om­men­da­tion that steps be taken,” Nz­i­mande said, “to in­quire into the fit­ness of the na­tional com­mis­sioner and the now re­tired North West pro­vin­cial com­mis­sioner to hold of­fice.”

He went on: “We also welcome the rec­om­men­da­tion that the In­de­pen­dent Po­lice In­ves­tiga­tive Di­rec­torate es­tab­lishes whether any of the SA Po­lice Ser­vice shoot­ers ex­ceeded the bounds of self-de­fence and whether crim­i­nal pro­ceed­ings should be in­tro­duced.”

Nz­i­mande com­mended those from the media (not sim­ply by def­i­ni­tion, Trevor, our “class en­e­mies”) who ex­posed ev­i­dence of a sec­ond scene of po­lice shoot­ing at Marikana. In these re­spects, the SACP was agree­ing with what had been well-re­hearsed pub­lic­ity. How­ever, we noted the com­mer­cial media had been ex­ceed­ingly poor in its cov­er­age of other crit­i­cal as­pects of the Far­lam re­port that con­tra­dicted pre­vail­ing nar­ra­tives on the tragedy.

In par­tic­u­lar, we noted a pseudo-left nar­ra­tive that sought to por­tray the strik­ers as vir­tu­ous pro­le­tar­i­ans tak­ing on the com­bined might of the state, Lon­min and the Na­tional Union of Minework­ers (NUM). NUM mem­bers and shop stew­ards be­came joint per­pe­tra­tors of the mas­sacre that was de­signed, we were told, “to pro­tect mine prop­erty”.

Ide­o­log­i­cally co­her­ent

The Far­lam com­mis­sion presents a dif­fer­ent and more ac­cu­rate per­spec­tive in this re­gard. It found that the strike, which com­menced on Au­gust 9 2012, was from the out­set char­ac­terised by high lev­els of in­tim­i­da­tion and quickly de­scended into a com­plete dis­re­gard for the lives of non­strik­ers. It finds most of these at­tacks were per­pe­trated by a core group among the strik­ers, and con­tin­ued re­lent­lessly both dur­ing and af­ter the strike.

The com­mis­sion fur­ther found that, on Au­gust 11 2012, the strik­ers who marched on the NUM of­fice at Western Plat­inum Mine did so with vi­o­lent in­tent, armed with dan­ger­ous weapons. Ac­cord­ingly, NUM mem­bers in that of­fice who acted to pro­tect them­selves were ex­on­er­ated.

This find­ing is ab­so­lutely cen­tral to de­bunk­ing the nar­ra­tive that gun­shot in­juries to two strik­ers among those sur­round­ing the NUM of­fice on that day were the “gamechanger” that in­tro­duced vi­o­lence into an oth­er­wise “nor­mal” labour strike.

Another spe­cific is­sue Manuel raises in his at­tack on the SACP re­lates to the Na­tional De­vel­op­ment Plan (NDP) and to me per­son­ally. I quote: “The SACP’s first deputy gen­eral sec­re­tary, Jeremy Cronin, spoke about a com­mit­ment by the party to im­ple­ment part of the NDP and then to hold out to rad­i­calise the rest. As deputy min­is­ter of public works, he was present when Cab­i­net agreed to im­ple­ment the NDP. My sense is that even if he had a slightly dif­fer­ent view, he is bound by the de­ci­sion of the ex­ec­u­tive.”

Back in 1996 Manuel pre­sented his shock-ther­apy Growth,


COM­RADES AT ARMS SACP first deputy sec­re­tary and deputy min­is­ter of public works Jeremy Cronin (left) and then min­is­ter in the pres­i­dency Trevor Manuel (right) host a press con­fer­ence in Cape Town in this 2011 file photo

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