Class Struggle, ‘Xenophobia’ and the Local Elite
The xenophobic violence and looting following King Zwelithini’s statement that foreigners “pack their bags and leave” spread to cities and townships across the country. However, the recent attacks are not an isolated incident; nor is Zwelithini solely responsible for fomenting it. Local elites – particularly those linked to the ruling party – also encourage anti-immigrant attitudes and actions. This article, based on discussions with Abahlali baseFreedom Park activists, looks at how local elites in townships stimulate ‘xenophobia’ to protect their class interests, as well as how progressive working class activists have responded.
Xenophobia and local elites
Freedom Park is among few townships where development is underway; RDP houses are being built etc. However, residents complain about corruption around tenders and contracts. The development agencies have been accused of playing local and foreign workers against each other to secure cheap labour. These agencies, linked to the local ANC elite, felt South African workers wouldn’t accept the low wages they were offering and so approached immigrant workers, often more desperate because of their precarious situation, and offered them jobs below the wages locals were trying to negotiate. This is one way local elites play immigrant and local people against each other, creating fertile ground for the spread of xenophobic sentiments.
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Eskom’s class agenda
First published online here http://sacsis.org.za/site/article/2420
Eskom has been plagued by inefficiencies and scandals. There has been load-shedding, exorbitantly large managerial salaries, and scandals around tenders and coal-supply costs. In 2014, Eskom recorded a R 7 billion profit, but now claims that it faces a funding short-fall and is demanding significant tariff increases to overcome this.
The troubles of Eskom have also been used as a pretext by some to once again call for its full privatisation and the ANC is considering selling equity in Eskom to pension funds.
The conduct of Eskom towards the working class has also been scandalous. The working class has been facing cut-offs, pre-paid metres, and tariffs up to 400% higher than those paid by some corporations.
To understand why some of this is happening you have to look at Eskom’s history – including who has controlled it, for what purposes, and in whose interests. Entwined with this is the role the State plays in society. Analysing this history too reveals why privatisation is not the solution, but neither is State control – the only solution being direct working class control.
Read more: Eskom’s class agenda