September, 2014

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Fetakgomo ANC leadership taught lesson by community sick of corruption

The community of Ga-Nchabeleng has won an important victory against the corrupt ANC leadership in Fetakgomo municipality, Limpopo. For two weeks in September the community protested daily. This included a 3,000 strong march to the Fetakgomo municipality offices.

The protest was sparked when work was halted on a new Home Affairs office in the centre of Ga-Nchabeleng on land given by the community to the municipality for development. Fetakgomo ANC pulled the plug on this site when they realised that the tender had not been awarded to one of their ‘inner circle’ and an opportunity to loot the tender process for self-enrichment had been missed.

The final straw for the community however was when the building work that had begun was demolished and a pre-existing unused municipal building – a previous white elephant project  – was designated the Home Affairs office. However, this building is kilometres away from the municipal business and administrative centre and in fact kilometres from anywhere! In a community suffering severe unemployment, where huge swathes of the people are reliant on social grants, the ability to easily access the services of Home Affairs was an important developmental achievement. To have that snatched away and the suffering of the community prolonged just so a corrupt few could enrich themselves caused outrage.

But maybe more than the specific issue of the location of the office, the eruption of protest was the culmination of years of building anger at the corruption of the ANC leadership who hold the community to ransom through the tender process. The ANC leadership in Fetakgomo is little more than a mafia! Rank-and-file ANC members were part of the campaign, sick of their own so-called ‘leadership’.  A huge gulf has opened between the ANC leadership and rank-and-file showing the collapse of the ANC as a community-rooted campaigning organisation as members step back in demoralisation.

Struggle works

Members of the Workers and Socialist Party have played a key role in assisting the community to coordinate the protests and represent them in negotiations with the authorities through the election of a community forum. The community raised further issues that they demanded action on from the municipality – the re-opening of Sekhukhune College, the completion of the local hospital, the development of long-promised agricultural schemes, improved water provision and job creation.

In the face of the protests the Provincial government was forced to intervene sending the MEC for local government to Nchabeleng to discuss with the community. Whilst this was welcomed, this carrot was matched with a stick, and for several days a heavy police presence was deployed including a militarised Special Task Force which led to wide-scale arrests of community members, including WASP members.

In the face of the unflinching determination of the community however, these strong-arm tactics only strengthened the resolve of the people to struggle. The authorities conceded on the immediate demand: the original tender to build a Home Affairs office in the centre of Ga-Nchabeleng will be honoured and construction will resume immediately.

But this victory is not the end of the struggle but the beginning. It has been proved that mass struggle wins results. Work is beginning to spread the establishment of community forums beyond Ga-Nchabeleng and across the entire Fetakgomo municipality to organise the communities and begin addressing all the service delivery and development issues faced across the region. Such forums can be the base from which to coordinate protests and continue to build the pressure to meet the other demands of the community. Ultimately a nationwide socialist civic will be necessary to play this role at the national level, but its building blocks will come from campaigns such as those in Fetakgomo.

But also this struggle has shown the importance of leadership steeled in the ideas of struggle and socialism. We can all on the people of Fetakgomo to continue joining WASP and establishing branches as a crucial part of their struggle. The 2016 local elections are fast approaching and offer an opportunity to elect the real voice of the working class, the poor and the youth. WASP wants to organise communities under the WASP umbrella to do this. Such socialist representatives would act as an important platform to give voice to the struggles which must continue before and after 2016.

WASP leads major community strike

The Workers and Socialist Party has been leading the community of Ga-Nchabeleng, (in the Fetakgomo municipality of Limpopo) in a major service delivery protest that has broadened into a full scale community strike. Hundreds and hundreds of community members, with the youth and school students of the Socialist Youth Movement in the vanguard, have protested daily.

The protest was sparked over ten days ago by the lack of transparency and almost certain corruption surrounding the allocation of former community land handed to the municipality for the development of new Home Affairs offices. The land allocated for the new offices is in the centre of Ga-Nchabeleng, yet offices have sprung-up many kilometres away. The community wants to know who in the municipality authorised this spending; who was awarded the tender; and how the community is meant to access a facility so far away.

Under the leadership of WASP, the community has written a memorandum to the authorities, demanding this situation be addressed but also demanding action of the mass unemployment afflicting the area, the lack of adequate roads, water and sanitation in the community.

The scale of the protests forced not just the municipal authorities but representatives of the Provincial government to meet with the community to discuss their demands. The community rejected proposals for the establishment of a ‘community forum’ given that the community has already established its own democratic structures to coordinate the struggle and represent their interests. This was clearly a delaying tactic and intended to disarm the community with the inclusion of ANC representatives.

In response to this legitimate snub, the authorities deployed a heavily armed and militarised police Special Task Force to the area. These forces must have been mobilised in advance of the meeting with the Provincial government representatives, given the speed of their arrival, showing the dishonest and cynical approach of the ANC. When co-option failed, force was resorted to. Helicopters, water cannon, tear gas and rubber bullets were used against protestors. Dozens were arrested, including leading WASP organisers.

But the protests are continuing. The community will not be cowed. The people are sick of unemployment and under-development. In response to the assault, a community strike has been called, with schools closed, roads blocks and businesses closed.

We will publish further updates as the situation develops.