18 May 2007

Lunatic Express

“It is our understanding as the SACP that public sector workers are the core cadres of our national democratic revolution. There is no developmental state without a motivated, skilled and professional cadre of public sector workers. The public sector is not some temporary, basket case charity enterprise. The public sector is the seed of a different kind of economy – an economy in which we place meeting social needs (and not maximizing private profit) in the driving seat.”

The above words were part of a solidarity statement by the South African Communist Party on what they call the current "public service deadlock", issued yesterday. The Party is right. It is not yet a strike and does not have to be. It is ridiculous for the Minister, Geraldine Fraser-Moloketi, to be trying to score debating points as to how less than 6% is really more than 12%, as she was trying to do on TV yesterday. This is a person who can’t open her mouth without sneering, condescending and patronising. She is an enforcer and a bully, and not rational at all.

The trouble is that nobody wants that kind of enforcement any more, not even the capitalist class, and not even Fraser-Molokoti’s senior, Finance Minister Trevor Manuel. It would be very unfortunate if we go into a strike that nobody wants, only because somebody forgot to properly re-programme the robotic minister’s operating system.

The SACP’s words above catch the real mood of the times, even among the bourgeoisie, which has had enough of terrible service and is prepared to pay because there is no other way, and they know it.

The articles linked below are today selected from the daily bourgeois press (Business Report and Business Day) to illustrate this mood. Where is the usual union-bashing and demonisation? It is not there. From the bourgeois point of view the state is supposed to organise service, and clearly the running down of salaries and the neglect of filling posts are not helping.

Who needs this dispute? Surely South Africa is not going to be sacrificed for the sake of Geraldine Fraser-Moloketi’s bad temper? Are the lunatics running the asylum?

Well, but irrational things do happen. For example, the march of South African white elephants is so far unstoppable. Each one promises to be the last but each is followed by another, naturally, like an invasion of pests.

Yesterday another “project” was announced, this time for a monorail to Soweto from Johannesburg. It looks like an April Fool’s joke, but it isn’t April. The route looks like a piece of twisted string. The price is said to be R12 billion. We remember that the original “Gautrain” price tag was R7 billion and is now, what, R50 billion? What will the monorail cost in the end? Where in the world does monorail work, anyway?

Why don’t they upgrade the existing Metrorail, as the people have consistently demanded, on lines that are already there? Why don’t they lay on a properly organised bus rapid transit system, which is known to work, on roads that exist? The answer is that there is much more money for the Bombelas and the other “consortia” this way. In US slang, this is a “boondoggle”. It is “pork”. And it is property-value speculation.

Let’s hope we win the public service dispute quickly and then go on the offensive against such white elephants and their promoters such as Paul Mashatile and Jack van der Merwe.

These things are not disconnected. Let’s hope SACP DGS Jeremy Cronin will fight strongly in the parliamentary portfolio committee on Transport of which he is the chair.

Click on these links:

Unions, state draw battle lines, Terry Bell, Business Report (806 words)

Wage talks delay bigger debate, Hilary Joffe, B Day (918 words)

Manuel’s 9% remark spices up pay talks, Musgrave, Business Day (626 words)

Military unions, strike weapon, government, Terry Bell, Business Report (780 words)


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