From the BRICS countries to the townships: Racial and social segregation continues


Over 25 years ago now the people of South Africa won the struggle to end the Apartheid regime. [1] Nevertheless, even though it is now against the law, de facto racial segregation is still apparent. Moreover the capitalist assault on the majority of the population is blatant. The class struggle is all the more clearly perceptible as the main social progress has been the rise to capitalist status of a small minority of Blacks. While there are white and black capitalists, the majority of the black population are still living in serious to extreme hardship. The South African population has reached about 58 million, about whom, to use the old Apartheid categories, 80% are « black », 9% are « white », 9% are « coloured » (mixed race) and 2.6% are « Asian » (descendants of Indian, Ceylonese, Indonesian, Malay and other groups from Asia). [2] South Africa is one of the places in the world where inequality is the most flagrant. The unemployment rate is around 27%. After playing a fundamental role in the struggle against Apartheid, the ANC (African National Congress) has been in power, in coalition with the South African Communist Party, for 25 years. The ANC-SAPC government has implemented neo-liberal policies with a dash of social policy. The harsh reality of such politics was tragically illustrated in Marikana in 2012, when the authorities sent in the security forces to break up a miners’ strike, killing 34 workers. Several present-day leaders of the ANC, including the capitalist Cyril Ramaphosa, [3] who has been president since 2018, were involved in the repression and had a vested interest in the private company that owns the mine in Marikana. All this is a far cry from the ANC’s glorious past. In a very difficult context, many resistance struggles are waged in the poor neighbourhoods in both town and country. Many working-class households are highly indebted because salaries and other forms of income are too low to survive on. Of the 34 miners killed in Marikana in 2012, 22 had considerable amounts deducted from their wages to repay debts incurred precisely because their wages were totally inadequate. Then of course, there is also the rising public debt and the social spending cuts that come with debt repayment.

Report on CADTM International’s mission to South Africa from 31 March to 12 April 2019

On the occasion of a BRICS summit (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), several organisations, including CADTM International, got together to organize an alternative meeting that they called ‘BRICS from below’. BRICS organized the annual meeting of its newly established Development Bank. The counter-summit, which began on Sunday 31 March, was organized by various organizations such as the AIDC (the Centre for Alternative Information and Development) with which the CADTM has collaborated for over 20 years. [4]

Attending the conference were delegates from Brazil (Dialogo dos Povos, Telesur), from China (China Labour movement), from India, South Africa and Russia as well as grassroots movements of South Africa. 
Sushovan Dhar (from the CADTM in India) and myself represented CADTM International. I presented the doctrine of odious debt, showing how it could be used to deal with debt generated by megaprojects supported with loans from the BRICS Bank. Most of the projects that were granted these loans have a negative impact on the environment and living conditions of the populations of the territories concerned.

See the invitation leaflet for this international meeting which the CADTM was party to :

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