AZAPO Voice Volume 4 Issue No 27

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The public spat between Pretoria and Washington over the alleged sale by South Africa of military hardware to Russia has exposed what AZAPO has always maintained, that despite the fanfare of celebrating April 27 as South Africa’s Freedom Day, the country is not free.

United States of America ambassador to South Africa, Reuben Brigety created a diplomatic volcano when he claimed that he has evidence that South Africa supplied weapons to a Russian ship that had docked at Simons Town Naval base in Cape Town last year.

The response of the country’s President Cyril Ramaphosa to the claims made by Brigety spoke volumes about South Africa’s independence and sovereignty.

Ramaphosa told the country that his administration would institute a high-powered inquiry, to be chaired by a retired judge, into the matter. Pathetic!

If South Africa was a free country as we are often made to believe, the response by the president should have been clear and straight forward. If Brigety was spreading falsehood and South Africa did not supply weapons to Russia, the president should not have minced his words. He should have simply dismissed the allegation made by the US ambassador as balderdash. On the other hand, if indeed South Africa had sold weapons to Russia, the president could have stated the following:

“South Africa has an advanced defence industry that supplies weapons to different countries. Lately, Denel, our State-owned entity, has been struggling to get new contracts to supply weapons. However, Denel has secured a deal to supply Russia with weapons, a move that will improve the balance sheet of the parastatal.”

“The decision by our government to sell arms to Russia should not be seen as a compromise on our position to remain neutral in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Just as we sold weapons to Russia, we will be ready to sell weapons to Ukraine, or any other country for that matter, should the order be made.”

“We would have preferred a world where there are no wars, but we are alive to the reality that there are armed conflicts in different parts of the world. While we continue to plead with the warring parties to negotiate and find peaceful solutions to their conflicts, we accept the reality that conflicts do exist and that some of those involved in conflict will require arms.”

“We did not violate any law by selling weapons to Russia. I hope this puts an end to this storm in the teacup.”

But Ramaphosa chose to tread carefully on the matter. He clearly did not want to antagonise the Americans. His position, while it makes him look weak and meek, is understandable. He knows where his bread is buttered. The US is a big trading partner to South Africa. Russia, through the Soviet Union that collapsed with the Berlin Wall in 1989, may have historical ties to the ruling party but the economic benefits flowing into South Africa from Moscow pales into nothing compared to those coming from America and its allies in the European Union and United Kingdom.

The late Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe tried to exert his independence and he paid a heavy price. His country suffered the worst economic sanctions from America and its western allies. The effect of those sanctions was the collapse of the Zimbabwean economy. The Zimbabwean currency collapsed. Hyper-inflation was expressed in millions. Millions of people were forced to flee from the country and became economic migrants in neighbouring countries, mainly South Africa. Others fled to Britain and the US.

It is clear that the US is forcing South Africa to choose. It is the dogma of former US president George Bush. “You are either with us or against us.” There is no middle ground.

The diplomatic exchange between Pretoria and Washington over the alleged sale of weapons is symptomatic of the tensions that have been bumbling under the surface. The US does not approve that South Africa is part of BRICS. If BRICS could succeed to drop the US dollar as a trading currency, that will mark the end of the US as a dominant global economic player. The US status as a super-power will be history. Obviously, this has to be avoided from the US point of view.

When we waged the struggle for liberation, one of the key objectives of the national democratic revolution was self-determination. In theory, the national democratic revolution would remove the colonial regime which would be replaced by a nationalist democratic government. But in reality, the attainment of democracy in April of 1994 in South Africa did not liquidate the colonial architecture of the political and economic system. That is why AZAPO, at its last Congress, has set as its main objective to complete the struggle for liberation by dismantling the colonial architecture in Azania.

In essence, our struggle for liberation was a struggle to repossess the land, to free the economy from the clutches of settler-colonial capitalists and their imperialist backers and establish an independent and sovereign socialist democracy based on the will of the Azanian people.

That struggle for the real freedom and the repossession of the land was aborted in 1994. Settler-colonialism gave way to neo-colonialism. This means the white government was replaced by a government with black administrators which enjoyed the confidence of the people because it was dominated by members of a component of a former liberation movement. But the colonial power system recreated itself in the image of black people. The white power structure and the systems that kept it in control of the people were not destroyed. That is why despite the fact that black people have the vote, they remain in poverty and without land. That is why the country’s wealth in the form of minerals is still owned by those who owned it before the fall of apartheid. That is why more than 90 percent of the economy is still in white hands. That is why the democratic South Africa has become the most unequal society in the world. The Constitution has legitimised land theft as it guarantees property rights. That is why the ruling class is committed to protecting the current Constitution. The Constitution guarantees the powers of the ruling class by subverting the will and the aspirations of the people by giving veto powers to the Constitutional Court over decisions of Parliament, a house made up of democratically elected public representatives.

Those in power know that South Africa may have access to a system of democracy, but they are also aware that the country has not attained economic freedom. Because they know that real freedom is economic, they have chosen to tread carefully to avoid biting the hand that is feeding them. That is why those in authorities are incoherent on a simple matter such as the alleged sale of weapons to Russia. They know South Africa remains a colony of imperialist forces led by America.       


The ruling by the North Gauteng High Court declaring that all hospitals, clinics, schools and police stations should be spared from load shedding is further proof that the State is failing to discharge its responsibilities to the population.

However, the populist verdict may serve to undermine the respect of the courts by the people as it appears to be impossible to implement.

In a shock judgement, Judge Norman Davis ordered Pravin Gordhan, the Minister of Public Enterprises, to take all reasonable steps within 60 days to ensure that public health facilities, state schools and police stations are not affected by load shedding.

Political parties including the United Democratic Movement (UDM), Inkatha Freedom Party and Action SA and trade union, NUMSA had approached the court and launched a legal challenge to force the government to spare all hospitals and clinics, more than 23 000 public schools and police stations from load shedding.

Given the negative impact that load shedding has on these services and the South African economy in general, the court action was seen by many as a necessary step to provide relief to the nation. As progressive as the judgment may sound, sadly it is not enforceable. When a court makes a judgment that is not enforceable, it risks the credibility of the judicial system.

For instance, the Constitution guarantees the right to life. Taken to its logical conclusion, it can be argued that in order for this right to be realised, all people living in South Africa should have adequate food provided by the State. Although the State also has social grants and other programs designed to cushion the suffering of the poor, it may not be practical to ensure that all South Africans are provided with adequate food by the State.

Of course, the courts do not make laws and they simply interpret the law. However, the court should be alive to the effects of its rulings. Ordering the minister to take reasonable steps to ensure that all facilities identified as providing essential services should have no uninterrupted supply of power may receive applause from the majority of the people but if the judge were to be asked what he meant by reasonable steps, he may be found wanting.

In order to protect the integrity of the courts and make the judicial system to enjoy the confidence of the people, the court should desist from making populist rulings that cannot be enforced. To be blunt, the effect of the North Gauteng High Court judgement is that the State should stop load shedding throughout the country while it isolates the identified facilities. This is because the manner in which electricity is distributed to health facilities, schools and police stations is completely linked to the distribution of power to ordinary households. The country does not have an electricity system that can readily isolate the essential schools, health facilities and police stations to remain with power while the rest of the country is switched off. It would require for the State to provide alternative means to supply these facilities so that they are not impacted by load shedding.

But what is the cause of power outages? Experts agree that there is no single cause of the problem. They agree that the origin of the current load-shedding can be traced to the refusal of the Thabo Mbeki administration to upgrade power stations and build new ones in the early 2000s. There was talk that Mbeki had been reluctant to spend billions of rands on upgrading Eskom infrastructure because of the planned privatisation program which would have included Eskom.

Eskom also lost key personnel and this affected the power utility’s ability to conduct proper maintenance of the power stations. Corruption and the State Capture under the Jacob Zuma administration made a bad situation worse.

Then there are also deliberate acts of sabotage as some internal Eskom employees conspire with outside contractors to vandalise equipment to get tenders to fix the damage.

Sadly, there is no real political will and clear vision of ending load shedding. But even if there was, it would take much more than the 60 days prescribed by Judge Davis.

But if the State was ensuring proper delivery of services including the supply of electricity, the courts would not be forced to venture into making decisions that compel the State to function properly.      

Of course, ordinary people are completely frustrated by the obvious lack of a coherent strategy to end load-shedding. In fact, load shedding is increasingly becoming the problem of the poor and working class as more and more wealthy members of the ruling class are getting off the grid as they can afford alternative power supply such as generators and top-of the range solar panels and invertors.

Independent experts on the power crisis in the country all agree that there is no immediate solution to load shedding. Just like most of problems faced by South Africans, the ultimate solution to load shedding would be to remove an incompetent government from power and replace them with a caring AZAPO government that will work with people to find solutions to the country’s problems.