09 August 2020
The South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) honours the theoretical and practical leadership of all working class women and gender activists in their struggle to overthrow existing capitalist relations. Women’s (African in particular) resistance to gendered relations must be located in the history of colonialism. By so doing, we come to appreciate that the 1956 moment, was one of many historical events that challenged western supremacy, its imposed political economy and antagonistic social relations to production.
The imposed modern, colonial gender system relied on a dichotomous hierarchy to distinguish humans from non-humans and men from women. These distinctions became the hallmark of civilisation and a tool to damn the colonised. The male chauvinist coloniser was declared as the mind of reason and agent fit to rule. His ownership of means of production further extended to non-economic institutions of society such as the family structure (Lugones 2010. “Towards a Decolonial Feminism”).
The bourgeois woman was subsequently reduced to a means of production essential for capitalist reproduction. Subjected to similar conditions as the colonised, the bourgeois woman lost control over her sexual reproduction. Unlike the bourgeois woman, colonisation’s civilising mission brutally accessed the bodies of colonised women by subjecting them to unimaginable sexual violation, abuse and violence.
The women of 1956, assumed that the liberation of South Africa will restore human dignity by ending all forms of abuse and human rights violation. This vision was diluted by bourgeois democracy which continues to advance the interests of the oppressor through the suppression of the oppressed. Social ills such as corruption, poverty, unemployment, inequality and gender based violence are a reproduction of colonial conditions within a democratic order. Not all is lost, as these are preconditions of a social order gradually emerging from the womb of capitalism.
Our recollection of historical events is the first step for enhancing our tools of analysis, sharpening our strategies and tactics in order to wage an open fight against “…new conditions of oppression, new forms of struggle in place of the old ones”. Our democracy has exposed the importance of economic liberation from a working class point of view. Economic liberation, not in the sense of market and/or neoliberal orthodoxy. Our liberation is in the context of socialised means of production in a “non-racist, non-sexist, free and prosperous South Africa” and the global community in its entity.
We pay tribute to all women and gender activists that continue to fight for human rights of all social beings. In remembering the brave acts of the women of 1956, our generation is able to pick up the spear and take the gendered struggle to greater heights. We dare not fail with our emancipatory project. This project demands that heterosexual chauvinism entrenched at a base and super-structural level of society must be obliterated completely. It is for this reason that we cannot exclude LGBTQI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex) persons from the discourse and activities of emancipation.
It is important that women in general and LGBTQI persons in particular swell leadership ranks in predominantly male dominated organisations including trade unions. The current socio-economic relations demand that trade unions transform their traditional characters and modes of operation for adaptation and struggle purposes. SATAWU through the assistance and wisdom of its 2nd Deputy President, National Treasurer, Gender Coordinator, shop-stewards, staff and its formal structures commits to challenge and resist capitalism and all its antagonistic variables such as gender inequality.
The introduction of alternative modes of production founded on collectivism, shared responsibilities and emancipatory world outlooks is essential for transforming communities and steering social and geopolitical relations towards a qualitatively different path. SATAWU maintains that the emancipation of women and LGBTQI persons demands for all chauvinistic heterosexuals to be liberated from their consumption of oppression. Similarly, the bourgeoisie must be liberated from their political ideology and structure of their economy in order for them to also realise a post-capitalist order.
Finally, we take this opportunity to salute the courage of frontline healthcare workers, contract cleaners, security officers, transport workers and the general working class stratum in its struggle to save South Africa and its citizens from the devastating effects of an ecological, health and economic crisis.
Happy Women’s Month. “Wa Thinta Abafazi, Wa Thinta Imbokodo”
Issued by SATAWU General Secretary (Comrade Jack Mazibuko) on behalf of:
SATAWU 2nd Deputy President: Comrade Ayanda Cele
SATAWU National Treasurer: Comrade Irene Dlamini
SATAWU Gender Coordinator: Comrade Nokuthla Sifundza