South Africa

All-out metals strike in South Africa

Metal and engineering workers in South Africa, members of the left-wing National Union of Metal Workers (NUMSA), have been on indefinite strike over pay and conditions since 5 October. NUMSA is calling for an 8% wage rise for everyone in the first year of a deal, and inflation plus 2% in the following two years. Employers have offered 4.4%, then inflation plus 0.5% and inflation plus 1%. NUMSA is South Africa's biggest union, with over 300,000 members. The strike has already faced violence, including rubber bullets from the police and a striker killed by a car ploughing into a group of workers...

Robert Fine and the critique of antisemitism

Robert Fine, who died on 9 June 2018, was a socialist writer unafraid to stand up to much of the left’s received wisdom on the questions of Israel, Palestine, and antisemitism. He opposed the “absolute anti-Zionist” standpoint that one should unreservedly object to (a) Israel’s very existence, rather than the oppressive practices of the Israeli state, and (b) any feelings of Jewish communal or national identification with Israel, even when such feelings are accompanied with harsh condemnation of the Israeli government or genuine horror at the Palestinians’ suffering. Fine opposed the blanket...

Semenya: a cruel decision

An abridged version of this appeared in Solidarity505. I started in athletics as a 15 year old middle distance runner in 2009, meaning Caster Semenya was incredibly formative to me, serving as a huge inspiration and becoming one of my heroes. I watched the Berlin World Championships, so famous for Usain Bolt’s world record display, but while I greatly admired the best sprinter of all time, it was Caster Semenya that made me fall in love with athletics. It was recently announced that the IAAF have found evidence that highly elevated levels of testosterone in women is correlated with greater...

Review: "Beyond Apartheid" by Robert Fine with Dennis Davis

One of the numerous commendable causes to which the late Robert Fine committed many years of his life was anti-apartheid activism. Accordingly, our series of book reviews to commemorate Fine continues with Beyond Apartheid: Labour and Liberation in South Africa (Pluto Press 1990). Fine embarked on this project in collaboration with Dennis Davis during the final years of apartheid. Although both are credited as authors, Fine wrote the text itself, whilst Davis helped shape the main contours and ideas of the project, and commented on the drafts. Fine long sought to counteract the tendency to...

Hugh Masekela 1939-2018

South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela died aged 79 on 23 January following a recurrence of prostate cancer. He was famous internationally for his playing and singing; for blending South African musical styles with jazz and pop; and as a prominent anti-apartheid activist. Born in Witbank, a mining town near Johannesburg, Masekela started his musical career in a school run by the British anti-apartheid priest Trevor Huddleston. After seeing a biopic about jazz trumpeter Bix Beiderbecke, he agreed to stop getting into trouble at school in exchange for learning the trumpet. He then became part of...

South Africa needs a workers’ party

As Solidarity goes to press on 13 February, the ANC, the ruling party, has officially asked Jacob Zuma to step down as President of South Africa. Zuma has been under increasing pressure to resign since December, when deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa was narrowly elected leader of the ANC at its conference. The ANC has been the ruling party in South Africa since the end of apartheid in 1994. Yet in the same period deep disillusion has set in. The country has one of the most unequal income distributions in the world. About 60% of the population earn less than R42,000 per annum (about US$7,000)...

After South Africa, our turn: scrap student fees!

After Germany in 2014, South Africa looks like becoming the next country to scrap university tuition fees. And more and more people are determined to add England and Wales to the list. In a video released to support a student demonstration in London for free education on 15 November, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has said: “Everybody should have access to high quality from the cradle to the grave, without being forced into debt and anxiety. No one should be shut out. That’s why I support the demonstration for free education organised by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts [NCAFC]...

The ANC and the South African left

The African National Congress (ANC), the party that has been in power since 1994 when majority rule was established in South Africa, is coming apart at the seams. This is in a context of radical student struggles, protests against austerity, and a growing rank-and-file movement in the unions and the ANC itself. The ANC was the main party of protest against apartheid, but when it came to power, and despite its official stance of being a socialist party, it quickly dashed the hopes of millions of black and other non-white workers that it would attack poverty and inequality as well as the...

Fees must fall … wages must rise

South Africa has seen some of its largest protests in two decades in the last month as tens of thousands of students, many activists affiliated with the "Fees Must Fall" movement, faced off with police and university authorities to demand a cheaper university system. Battles have been raging at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, where officials used tear gas to subdue protestors, at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein and the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban and at the University of Cape Town. "Fees Must Fall" began in 2015, after the government proposed...

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