Monday, July 04, 2016

Cde Solly Mapaila, SACP 2nd Deputy General Secretary‎: Input at the Communications Workers Union National Executive Committee, 1 July 2016, Johannesburg
2 July 2016

Let`s advance the second radical phase of our national democratic revolution!

Let`s campaign for the victory of our people by ensuring an ANC electoral victory!

But let`s not be in denial about the challenges we are facing!

Dear comrades, thank you for this opportunity for us to engage. Let us go straight to the point, focusing more on the media and communications industry in general.

South Africa`s analogue to digital terrestrial television migration has been delayed by many years. The reason is none other than private capital accumulation interests and corporate capture of the process.

The policy outcome of the process, which favoured the pay-TV monopoly MultiChoice/M-Net, a subsidiary of Naspers, the only media house that refused to appear before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for its complicity in the crime against humanity, apartheid, has been set aside by the Supreme Court of Appeal.

The Supreme Court of Appeal characterised the policy process, in particular leading to the amendment that produced that direction, as "an edict". It found that this was done "ultra vires", meaning that it was done beyond constitutional authority or legal powers. The Supreme Court of Apeal further found that the amendment, which prohibited the inclusion of encryption and conditional access functionality in state-subsidised Set-Top Boxes without following a democratic process of consultation, did not achieve its purpose, was "irrational" and it set it aside.

As the SACP we are cautious about judicial interventions in Executive processes. However there is a reason why as a nation we adopted our current constitution establishing the judiciary and providing for judicial functions. In particular when there is no other option remaining, it does not make sense to say people must not approach the judiciary when there are reasonable grounds compelling them to do so. This is at least why in our continuing struggle to develop democratic law we recognise the necessity and validity of judicial decisions to compel the Executive to comply with the constitution and the law.

It is for the same reason that we called on the Executive to assess the manner in which it handled the broadcast digital migration process and other processes resulting in judicial rulings finding that the Executive acted inconsistent with the constitution or unlawfully. We strongly believe that should the trend be allowed to continue, the legitimacy of Executive actions will be rendered in a difficult situation with serious implications in the confidence of our people in government.

The appeal process on the broadcast digital migration policy amendment to the Constitutional Court, as you would know, is underway both from MultiChoice/M-Net and the Minister of Communications who are acting in concert from a point of view of their strategic choices and actions. MultiChoice, which has its Set-Top Boxes or decoders heavily guarded through encryption and individualised user addressability, is fighting to ensure that state subsidised Set-Top Boxes in the new digital terrestrial broadcasting are not encrypted.

A lot of money to ensure this outcome, at least in the form of sponsorships and funding for meetings, workshops and conferences, was paid out to various organisations and individuals. The main question is in whose interest was all of this done?

Surely it cannot be in the interest of our people as a whole. It can only be in the interest of maintaining the monopoly position of Naspers through its subsidiary MultiChoice/M-Net. The wealth that is acquired through the monopoly position established by this apartheid era ideological vanguard and mouthpiece does not belong to our people as a whole. It is the private property of its owners.

The question is why must public policy be tilted in favour of this monopoly instead of our alliance`s shared perspective to de-monopolise the economy and empower the historically disadvantaged?

Why must public policy go against the ANC`s own policy positions and public declarations?

Why should a contradiction be allowed between the ANC`s policy positions and public declarations as a mandating authority and the policy direction being pushed in media and communications in government?

There is an unintelligible argument that the policy direction being pursued of late in the broadcast digital migration is not in contradiction to the ANC`s policy outlook, development and transformation vision. This is rubbish!

Let us quote from what the ANC said in its January 8th Statement of 2015:

"Monopoly capital still has an unhealthy effect on our economy. We must break the stranglehold of monopoly capital on our economic development."

What does this mean?

Surely this principle is not limited narrowly on the necessity of strengthening the mandate of the Competition Commission, its regulatory capacity and enforcement functions to deal with collusive and so-called anti-competitive behaviour. To "break the stranglehold of monopoly capital on our economic development" as declared by the ANC requires, in our view, a conscious effort to, as stated in our shared vision enshrined in the Freedom Charter, assert democratic public ownership and control as well as develop policy in a way that is deliberately targeted at economically empowering the historically disadvantaged.

To call on the historically disadvantaged, that is Africans in particular and Black people in general, in class terms the workers and poor, to invest individually or on their own in order to gain access to the economic opportunities of broadcast digital migration is completely nonsensical.

Such uncaring attitude does not deserve to come out from any of our public representatives as the ANC-led alliance but the representatives of those who want to conserve the privileges acquired under colonial oppression and its last regime - apartheid!

Let us also deal with another unintelligible gibberish.

It is claimed that there is a control system in place in terms of the broadcast digital migration policy that was declared irrational by the Supreme Court of Appeal and that the alleged control system will prevent the sale of state subsidised Set-Top Boxes outside of the borders of South Africa. This is entirely inaccurate.

The system said to have been put in place has repeatedly been publicly demonstrated to be easily overridden by generation of a simple computer procedure which will enable Set-Top Boxes manufactured for the South African market to be both sold and used outside of this country`s borders. Also, state subsidies are strictly speaking not transferable!

A subsidy that is meant for a particular family because it is eligible for it is NOT meant for a different family. No evidence has been presented that the system that is allegedly in place is capable of preventing the use of state subsidised Set-Top Boxes within the borders of South Africa by none other than the intended recipients of the subsidy, including individual addressibility.

What is to be done?

Last year we convened a media transformation summit as the SACP where we invited you and were honoured with your presence and participation.

The summit declared that the policy that, now as a matter of a Supreme Court of Appeal`s order was found to be "an edict" and "ultra vires", to have failed to achieve its stated objectives, to be "irrational" and then set aside by the order, "significantly deprived our country of harnessing huge economic and developmental opportunities presented by digital migration".

In line with the perspective of the need to advance the second radical phase of our democratic transformation, "the summit declared that all Set-Top Boxes procured by the state through the Universal Services Access Agency of South Africa must be manufactured locally"!The summit concluded that what South Africa needs is the adoption of a multi-platform capable Set-Top Boxes ("multi-crypt") as the way forward.

We declared that "In order for our country to break from the yoke of private monopoly, the monopoly of Naspers and its subsidiaries MultiChoice/M-Net and their Set-Top Boxes must come to an end!

We called "for an alternative open source broadcasting standard and, in addition, for standard localisation, to lower the cost of access both for the state as the subsidiser, the workers and the poor".

It is important to appreciate all of these proposals that we put forward are aimed at reducing inequality, creating jobs, reducing unemployment and poverty!

Brazil is one of the countries that have managed to make use of the digital migration process to industrialise in the electronics manufacturing and content production sector. In South Africa, a fellow BRICS member state, at present access to Digital and Satellite Television or DSTV is almost exclusively through Naspers` MultiChoice/M-Net Set-Top Boxes. It is in this context that the delay suffered by digital migration best serves the capital accumulation interests of Naspers!

Associated with all of the above it is important we interrogate the relationship between the SABC and Naspers` MultiChoice/M-Net.

The SABC was awarded for example Premier Soccer League TV rights only to convey these rights to Naspers` MultiChoice/M-Net, to the extent that the workers and the poor who do not have the monopoly`s Set-Top Boxes are denied access to many live matches - almost all games that play during the week. This enriches Naspers, which has now become the largest company in Africa.

As the SACP, we would like to make use of this opportunity, comrades, to reiterate our position that the MultiChoice/SABC deal must be rolled back in the best interest of public broadcasting and maximum benefits for the workers and the public at large.Dear comrades,

Let us together advance workers` struggles against exploitation, unfair labour relations and all other forms of abuses in the communications and media industries!

In this regard let us take this opportunity as the SACP to reiterate the findings and commitments we made following our media transformation summit last year. Because of its continuing relevance, let us quote directly and extensively from what we said in the declaration of the summit motivated by your participation and input at the summit:

"The class, racial and gender character of dominant media ownership, control and the newsroom is untransformed. Many media workers remain underpaid and are subject to despotic management control that stifles content, especially news reporting, thereby violating the very same freedom of expression that it purports to champion.

"Organising workers in the industry is difficult - due to the anti-union, intransigent management, but also due to neoliberal dominance that fosters the sub-culture of individualism and self-centredness, the celebrity persona that surrounds some media workers and consequent inadequate solidarity.

"The professional grievances of media workers need to be attended to as a matter of urgency and their right to freedom of association must be protected.

"The summit agreed on the necessity for a strategy to reorganise workers in the industry, professionally, strengthen unionisation, support unemployed media workers, and advance a skills revolution."

Dear comrades, the conditions of workers at e.TV/e.NCA, at ANN7 and at the SABC call on us to intensify our work in taking forward this declaration!

We can say many things, but as Karl Marx said in his eleventh and last thesis in the 'Theses on Feuerbach`, "Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it".

Succinctly put in terms of the immediate tasks we together must advance, we must intensify action to:

End the oppression of workers at e.TV/e.NCA. They say, in their own words, they "are not free at e."
Deal with the suspensions and victimisation of workers and bring to an end the ongoing administrative and governance decay at the SABC including the recent draconian editorial policy.
Achieve the reinstatement of the workers who have been dismissed and bring to an end the abuse of workers by the Guptas-owned ANN7 and The New Age.
Dear Comrades,

We must fight to bring to an end the malady of corporate capture within our movement and the state.

We have touched on the problem of corporate capture by Naspers.

Another immediate threat of corporate capture stems from the Guptas through the brazen smash-and-grab wealth accumulation among others using state owned corporations and decisions made in the state and the political movement.

Some individuals want us to believe that the Guptas are the national democratic revolution`s answer to the Ruperts, the Koos Bekkers, the Oppenheimers, monopoly capital both domestic and foreign. The fact is that neither the Ruperts, the Koos Bekkers nor the Guptas are the national democratic revolution`s answer.

By the way the Guptas, in addition to their brazen smash-and-grab wealth accumulation have revealed their true colours to the workers in the way they are maltreating them!

Let us not forget that the workers are always the first to suffer an onslaught in the hands of capitalist exploiters like the Guptas such as it is happening at the ANN7 and The New Age, the Ruperts (such as it is happening at e.TV/e.NCA), the Koos Bekkers` Naspers that served as the ideologue and mouthpiece of the apartheid regime, and so on.

The SACP reiterates its message and says:

"Our country, the same goes for our movement, is not for sale!"

Dear comrades,

Let us go all out to campaign for the victory of our people through the victory of the ANC on the ballot!

The record of the ANC-led government speaks for itself.

In fact no other government can match the ANC-led government in terms of the massive social delivery and the very foundations for the development of the culture of human rights and democracy in our country since 1994.

Today, because of the work of the ANC in government, millions of our people have access to housing, clean drinking water, electricity, social grants, improved healthcare, tarred roads and streets, education, and so on!

Let us go all out to defend this record and ensure, through the ballot, that the ANC continues to build on it.

But let us not be in denial about the problems and challenges facing us as a nation!
Let us also use the campaign to mobilise against corporate capture, corruption, rent-seeking, patronage, factionalism and all other harmful tendencies that can only destroy our movement both from without and within.

Let us continue pushing within our alliance to ensure that our shared commitment to achieve a review of the National Development Plan in line with the genuine reservations expressed by both the SACP and Cosatu, particularly about the NDP`s economic and labour policy content, is implemented successfully.

It is now the third year since the alliance declared on the need for the review of the NDP. It is unacceptable and inexcusable that there is virtually not concrete progress made.

Unless we succeed to ensure that the agreed review of the NDP takes place, the problems we seek to address - inequality, unemployment and poverty - will continue at stubbornly high or crisis levels and exploitation of workers by capital will continue to deepen in the context of the NDP`s economic and labour policy content in its current form.

The alliance declaration that the NDP is not cast in stone must be seen in action through the review we have all agreed was, and still remains, necessary!

The alliance must walk the talk and the ANC as the leading component of the alliance needs to play its role in this regard!

Let us truly advance the second radical phase of the national democratic revolution!

Thank you once more, comrades.

Issued by the SACP

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