News / Africa

WASP Wants to Sting South Africa into Action

The Workers and Socialist Party demands the ANC government raise the minimum wage in South Africa to at least 12,500 rand. (Courtesy WASP)
The Workers and Socialist Party demands the ANC government raise the minimum wage in South Africa to at least 12,500 rand. (Courtesy WASP)
Darren Taylor
“The WASP was born from blood,” said Liv Shange, the feisty, outspoken 33-year-old Swedish socialist who’s the “white face” of a political movement fiercely opposed to South Africa’s ruling African National Congress [ANC].
 
Shange, who’s married to a South African labor rights campaigner, is referring to the birth in late 2012 of the country’s Workers and Socialist Party [WASP], following the deadliest police assault in democratic South Africa.   
 
On August 16, 2012 the police opened fire on striking miners at the Lonmin platinum mine at Marikana, about 60 miles northwest of Johannesburg, killing 34 people and wounding 78.
 
The security forces claimed workers were attacking them but evidence presented at a commission of inquiry has shown that most of the strikers were shot in the back.
 
Days before the incident miners had murdered two police officers with clubs and machetes.
 
  • Striking workers surround Liv Shange, a leader of South Africa's Workers and Socialist Party at a protest near Johannesburg. (Courtesy WASP)
  • The Workers and Socialist Party formed after the 2012 shooting of 34 striking miners at the so-called ‘Marikana Massacre’ at the Lonmin mine north of Johannesburg. (Courtesy WASP)
  • The political mission of WASP is human rights and a bigger slice of the economy for workers in South Africa. (Courtesy WASP)
  • One of WASP’s key demands is that the minimum wage in South Africa be raised to at least 12,500 rand. (Courtesy WASP)
  • The May 7 election is a test for fledgling WASP's organizers as they try to challenge the African National Congress for worker votes. (Courtesy WASP)
  • Shange supports another WASP leader addressing a protest near Johannesburg. (Courtesy WASP)
  • Supporters greeted Shange at the Johannesburg International Airport when the government finally re-admiitted the political activist following a holiday in Sweden last year. (Courtesy WASP)
  • "There’s a need for the working class, for workers, the unemployed, students ... to raise their own political voice," says Shange. (Courtesy WASP)

After this, ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa, who’s also one of South Africa’s wealthiest businessmen and a Lonmin director, called on the police and mine security officials to take “concomitant action” against the strikers.
 
Has the ruling party lost its grip?
 
Shange described the “Marikana massacre” as a turning point in South Africa’s history and believes the violence is the beginning of the end of the ANC, which has ruled Africa’s economic powerhouse since 1994.  
 
“It obviously highlighted for millions what we have been quite alone in saying for all these years – that the ANC is not a party of the working class… It showed that the ANC has lost so much of its grip, its credibility, in the eyes of workers and poor people,” she maintained.  
 
Shange said ANC leaders who purport to be socialists and communists are now “some of the country’s richest capitalists.”  
 
WASP leader Liv Shange argues for change in South Africa
WASP leader Liv Shange argues for change in South Africai
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

“The ANC is there to defend the interests of big business, as their police did at Marikana,” she stated. “After the massacre, we felt the time was right for a new party. There’s a need for the working class, for workers, the unemployed, students and so on, to raise their own political voice, to form a mass party of the working class, on a socialist program.”
 
Shange sees humor in intimidation
 
WASP’s rise is deeply disturbing to the ANC’s secretary general, Gwede Mantashe, who said Shange, a petite blonde, is the “center of anarchy.” After a holiday with her children in Sweden last year, immigration officials refused to allow her back into South Africa and returned her to Scandinavia.  
 
Following weeks of protest the authorities allowed Shange to reenter the country on a tourist visa.
 
She said the “intimidation” is “funny.”
 
“They obviously don’t like the Workers and Socialist Party’s politics – a socialist program that sets out to overthrow not only their government but also the [capitalist] system that feeds them. So it’s very understandable that they don’t like us. And that they don’t like me in particular – I don’t think that I should be too flattered by that. I was just selected as the most convenient scapegoat.”
 
Shange added, “I was the soft target to which they could apply dirty, racist and xenophobic tactics by singling me out as the [foreign] white manipulator of the poor workers.”
 
Threatening the status quo
 
WASP’s political manifesto provides ample evidence of why the party and its members are a direct threat to the status quo.
 
‘Kick out the fat-cats,’ it proclaims. ‘Nationalize the mines, the farms, the banks and big business. Nationalized industry to be under the democratic control of workers and working class communities.’
 
Shange explained, “Why should international mining companies and big business get rich off the fat of this land while the poor masses starve and fight constantly for a living wage? The working class must be given a fair share of the wealth of their land.”  
 
She said big companies must be forced to treat workers “respectfully.”  
 
“The ANC allows big companies to undertake massive retrenchments in order to maintain their profit margins. WASP will make sure these companies keep people in employment and actually increase employment. And if they reduce working hours, this must be without loss of pay. And if they’re not prepared to work with government on those terms, then the government should take over those companies.”
 
WASP is also fighting for the minimum wage in South Africa to be 12,500 rand [US $1,250] a month.
 
Critic says ANC health and education policies failed
 
Wasp credited the ANC with helping to build democracy in South Africa. But it emphasized that the government’s achievements are “tainted” by its failures, especially in the health and education sectors which are characterized by “fundamental inequality.”  
 
“Public health facilities are generally poor, and all South Africans who can afford it turn to private healthcare,” Shange explained. “The problem then is that there are good services for the rich and far different services for the black majority. You have the poor and black being reduced to beggars at the mercy of [hospital] staff that see them as that, as poor people that they can treat anyhow.”
 
It’s ANC policy to provide free primary and high school education to all South Africans.
 
“But this isn’t working,” said Shange. “Because the state schools are so bad, wealthier people must pay a fortune for a better standard of private learning for their kids. Of course, poor people cannot afford this and so their children receive poor education with no hope of escaping poverty.”
 
She described the state education system as a “number one evil” in present-day South Africa.
 
“It’s not actually meant to educate people that are going to be meaningful adults, that are going to be working, that are going to go to university, that are going to run the country. You are [just] storing people waiting to join the reserve army of about 40 percent unemployed. So it’s okay to have 60 to 70 kids in a class; it’s okay if there are no textbooks.”
 
Shange said that WASP, if it ever rose to power, would not “steal” money. “We won’t waste money on luxury houses and cars and exorbitant salaries for officials. We will channel a lot of funds to providing universal free, quality education to South Africans.”
 
Winning at least one seat
 
She referred to the upcoming polls as a “test run” for her party.
 
“One of our main tasks is to use the more politicized environment during the elections to establish WASP in the minds of working class people in every corner of the country. If we win one seat or five in parliament, that would be a bonus,” said Shange.
 
However, she’s convinced that it’s possible for WASP to win at least one seat in the national legislature.
 
Shange said the party would use this to “spy” on the “big-business-friendly boys and girls club that parliament is.” 
 
Predicting the ANC's swan song
 
She maintained that people across South Africa have given WASP leaders an “amazing reception.”
 
“Wherever we go to visit poor workers, like farmworkers, the response is the same: ‘This is what I’ve been waiting for. I don’t know where this party [has] been my whole life.’”
 
Like most analysts, though, Shange predicts the ANC will win the election… But that the victory will herald the ruling party’s swansong.
 
“I think it’ll be another five years of increasing tensions within the party. It might even tear up. I think it will be the last time that they are able to win. Things are happening very fast; the impatience [with the ANC] is growing incredibly.”
 
Shange added, “The ANC has run out of all its excuses about why South Africa remains the most unequal society in the world.”

You May Like

Video Miami Cubans Divided on New US Policy

While older, more conservative Cuban Americans have promoted anti-Castro political movement for years, younger generations say economically, it is time for change More

2014 Sees Dramatic Uptick in Boko Haram Abductions

Militants suspected in latest mass kidnapping of over 100 people in Gumsuri, Nigeria on Sunday More

Video Cuba Deal Is Major Victory for Pope

Role of Francis hailed throughout US, Latin America - though some Cuban-American Catholics have mixed feelings More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid