Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Socialism - One World - One People

In terms of wealth distribution, South Africa is the second most unequal society in the world. The gap between those who have, and those who don’t is staggering, and it stands in the way of a widespread sense of unity. The small green identity document that signals South African citizenship is no guarantor of belonging when one out of four citizens are jobless.

With every outbreak of xenophobic violence in South Africa, the refrain is the same: ‘The kwerekwere are stealing our jobs’ The xenophobic populism was reflected in statements by the ruling party, the ANC. Nomvula Mokonyane, the Minister of Water and Sanitation, commented on Facebook that in Kagiso, Gauteng province “almost every second outlet (spaza) or even former general dealer shops are run by people of Somali or Pakistan origin… I am not xenophobic fellow comrades and friends but this is a recipe for disaster”.

Small Business Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu has also said that “foreigners need to understand that they are here as a courtesy and our priority is to the people of this country first and foremost… They cannot barricade themselves in and not share their practices with local business owners”.

“The idea that people are here ‘stealing’ jobs and that they don’t have a right to be here needs to be corrected,” says Dr Zaheera Jinnah, an anthropologist and researcher at the African Centre for Migration and Society (ACMS) at Wits University. Jinnah said that there were misconceptions about the size of the international migrant community in South Africa: “There is a disconnect between perception and reality largely because there hasn’t been data available until now. A lot of what has been said and reproduced is based on hearsay and anecdotal evidence or myths.”

The Migrating for Work Research Consortium (MiWORC), an organisation that examines migration and its impact on the South African labour market, released two studies last year. They found that 82% of the working population aged between 15 and 64 were “non-migrants”, 14% were “domestic migrants” who had moved between provinces in the past five years and just 4% could be classed as “international migrants”. With an official working population of 33,017,579 people, this means that around 1.2 million of them were international migrants. A racial breakdown of the statistics reveals that 79% of international migrants were African, 17% were white and around three percent were Indian or Asian.

The research consortium also found that Gauteng province, which contains Johannesburg, had the highest proportion of foreign-born workers, with around 8% of the working population having been born in another country. Limpopo and Mpumalanga had the next highest proportion of international migrants at 4%, followed by North West (3%), the Western Cape (3%), Free State (2%), Northern Cape (1%), Eastern Cape (1%) and KwaZulu-Natal (1%).

According to the MiWORC data , international migrants in South Africa have much lower unemployment rates than others. This is unusual. In most other countries, international migrants tend to have higher unemployment rates than locals.

South Africa’s unemployment data shows that 26.16% of “non-migrants” are unemployed and 32.51% of “domestic migrants” are unemployed. By comparison, only 14.68% of international migrants are unemployed. But while international migrants are less likely to be unemployed, most find themselves in positions of unstable, “precarious employment”, unable to access benefits or formal work contracts. International migrants in South Africa are more likely to take jobs that locals are not willing to do, or find work in the informal sector. According to the MiWORC research, 32.65% of international migrants are employed in the informal sector in South Africa compared to 16.57% of “non-migrants” and 17.97% of “domestic migrants”. The studies suggest this is because the informal sector offers the lowest entry cost into the labour market. The majority of international migrants also come from African countries which have large informal sectors. According to the research, international migrants are far more likely to run their own businesses. Eleven percent are “employers” and 21% are classed as “self-employed”. By comparison, only 5% of non-migrants and domestic migrants were employers, and only 9% of non-migrants and 7% of domestic migrants were self-employed.

Late last year, the Gauteng City-Region Observatory – a collaborative project between Wits University, the University of Johannesburg and the provincial government – conducted a limited survey of the informal sector in Johannesburg. Dr Sally Peberdy, a senior researcher at the Observatory – says that the belief that international migrants dominate the informal sector is false. “We found that less than two out of 10 people who owned a business in the informal sector in Johannesburg were cross-border migrants.” Peberdy argues that international migrants play a positive role in South Africa. “The evidence shows that they contribute to South Africa and South Africans by providing jobs, paying rent, paying VAT and providing affordable and convenient goods.” The Observatory’s study found that 31% of the 618 international migrant traders interviewed rented properties from South Africans. Collectively they also employed 1,223 people, of which 503 were South Africans.

Life in townships like Soweto is blighted by severe under-development. A World Bank survey last year found that about half of South Africa’s urban population live in townships and informal settlements, accounting for 38% of working-age citizens, but nearly 60% of its unemployed. Themba, a South African, said that people weren’t spending money the way they used to. “In one day I sell stuff worth 120, 150 rand [roughly 10-12 dollars],” he said, pointing to a table laden with cheap cosmetics and accessories. “Foreigners take business away from us,” he said. “I still have to eat from there. My profit is not big,” he said. “I have to walk to my house every day. I think the government could help us to make stalls here on the pavement and give us running water, and toilets.

Africans living in other countries which are not their countries of origin are grimly accustomed to invectives like "fucking foreigner"; "parasite"; "alien"; "refugee" making nonsense of the phrase "Africa for the Africans". In the past when Africa did not have artificial boundaries such as there are today, wars and hatred were not as rife. Therefore it appears that dismantling the boundaries, drawn up by non-Africans, would minimise violence. But will that abolish xenophobia? No. As it is the problem of "the haves and have-nots" which is central to war, violence and hatred. Thus the real solution will be to eliminate the present situation of a minority owning the means of production and distribution of wealth whilst the majority owning nothing, have to work for the few.

The reasons for the internecine violence are almost always the same. "Patriotic" citizens are quick to assert, nationalistically, that the "aliens" have come to take over their country, their resources, their jobs, their culture, and what have you. Though the grievances of the masses may be related to economic factors, it is unreasonable to blame it on their fellow poor. Xenophobia cannot be divorced from the economic life of the masses. But how the one influences the other is what most people fail to understand. This can be explained from a two-dimensional plane: official policy and mass reaction. A party in power is in reality the executive committee of the rich people behind it. Such a party therefore rules in the interests of the owners. All its policies are consequently aimed at the welfare of the rich. Now, since there will arise a conflict of interest between the rich owners and their poor followers, the ruling party or government will have to spend huge chunks of the country's money on arms, maintenance of the army, the police, prisons, etc to hold down the masses so that the rich can make their profits without hindrance. In the process basic necessities such as food, shelter, healthcare, education are underfunded. The little that is provided can only be afforded by the rich. The result, undoubtedly, is discontent, alienation and disobedience among the masses. In order to ward off unrest various tactics are employed by governments. One of them is creating divisions among the suffering masses by, for instance, blaming foreigners and whipping up nationalistic feelings. This diverts attention from misrule and mismanagement. The masses who are hungry, sick and illiterate are taken in by the government's ploy. Now, since a hungry man is an angry man and since anger is emotional and overpowers reason, the least provocation can result in violence-often misdirected.

We are all members of the world working class and have a common interest in working together to establish a world without frontiers in which the resources of the globe will have become the common heritage of all the people of the world and used for the benefit of all. In other words money, buying and selling, commodities and the like must be done away with. Humanity must commonly own the means of production and must have free and equal access to the produce. Under such circumstances there will be no want and consequently no war and hatred. But this type of system can only be possible when people make efforts to understand it. When they understand and want it, they can organise to usher it in.


No comments: