The South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) has critically observed the country’s current state of affairs from a vantage point of concern, intrigue and curiosity. Without applying a narrow blanket approach to condemn the choreography of collective and countervailing action in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, we can unearth a range of factors that have shaped and influenced the wave of violent protest action located in the mentioned provinces. The unrests can be summarised firstly, as an inter-bourgeois (capitalist) struggle confronting the country’s ruling elite; secondly, as a genuine re-enactment of politics of discontent by the historically downtrodden and lastly, a nonlinear coexistence of organised and unorganised criminal elements carried out by both sections of the dominant and marginalised class respectively.
In a statement published late last year (2020), the union warned against the mainstream journalistic approach of reducing acts of violence in the road freight industry to xenophobia and criminality. This reporting methodology not only dilutes but generalises an array of events manifesting at varied time intervals. Relying on both mainstream and credible social media reports, the union feels exonerated for its suspicion and position on the burning and hijacking of trucks in the aforementioned sector for the following reasons:
When placing the highlighted issues together one gets a melting pot of political crisis, social despair and desperation. Under such conditions of social and economic degradation, it becomes increasingly difficult to condemn the actions of the poor. Though their actions are labelled as criminal, poverty and hunger are also crimes against humanity. As reactionary as this may sound, in the absence of a well-defined socialist agenda, the union commends the collaboration between community leaders, members and police in defusing the crisis at hand.
With the looting out of the picture but not the politics of discontent, we will be in a better position to focus our attention on the real elephant in the room. It is an open secret that the mammal in question has its roots entrenched in the inter-political tensions within the ANC and its constellation of power relations. On the other end, the symptoms of political and social crisis cannot be separated from the mammoth in the room being the capitalist mode of production, its inherent contradictions and crisis.
Apart from the insecurities affecting the broader working-class stratum, it cannot be denied that both domestic and global economies were and are still rattled by successive forms of crisis. The current Coronavirus pandemic has generally strained the conditions of capitalism. The owners of production are crying over the uninterrupted loss of profits whilst their political institutions are not launching at both internal and external forms crisis that threatens their existence.
The immediate task before us is to untangle the character of capitalism in its contemporary setting. This critique needs to be extended to the weaknesses of left/working-class organisations and mobilisation. The diagnosis should determine the path and process for social and economic change. Lastly, the objective prognosis must unite and address the challenges confronting workers in general and the labour movement in particular. Material reality continues to demonstrate that the spontaneous actions of the downtrodden are a cry for an urgent reorganisation of the left/working-class movement so to advance a clear struggle that will aid a social and economic agenda with lasting solutions.
Issued by: South African Transport & Allied Workers Union
For more information, contact
SATAWU General Secretary: Jack Mazibuko: 082 660 4793
SATAWU Deputy General Secretary: Anele Kiet: 071 021 1903