Originally published as the editorial of Inqaba ya Basebenzi No. 2 (April 1981).

The murderous enemy strike in the night on the ANC in Maputo is an attack on all those who struggle for liberation in Southern Africa. This aggression goes hand in hand with the stepping up of SADF raids on Angola and the reinforced military occupation of Namibia.

Yet behind the firepower of the armoured trucks and helicopters which spew out their uniformed thugs, stands a ruling class with its back to the wall.

Threatened by the masses on all sides, seeing the storm clouds of revolution gathering on the horizon, the South African capitalists grow more divided and desperate. Faced with the task of defending Southern Africa for capitalism, the weakened apartheid regime launches out in barbaric adventures abroad.

For generations the capitalist class in South Africa, sheltering under the umbrella of imperialism, has taken all Southern Africa as its God-given backyard.

In the merciless search for plunder and profits, the SA monopolies (bound up with the Western monopolies) have spread their tentacles as far afield as Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania and Zaire. The obscene wealth of the Oppenheimers has been sucked from the cheap labour of millions of workers across the sub-continent. How many villages do not know Joburg?

The workers’ labour has made the Witwatersrand a powerhouse of industry. But, in the process, the capitalist system has inflicted poverty and hardship on the masses not only in South Africa but in a dozen surrounding countries.

This was the case even during the worldwide capitalist boom. Today, with world capitalism in crisis, the profit system can only survive in Southern Africa by threatening mass famine and epidemics. A Zambian MP declared recently that his district was reduced to the “conditions of the Stone Age”.

In the decades since the Second World War, the struggles of the workers and peasants have overthrown colonial rule in country after country of Southern Africa. But, except in Mozambique and Angola, these victories have not broken the rule of the profit system.

Yet also in Mozambique and Angola the inheritance of very low levels of production, the economic dominance of South African capitalism, and the attacks of the South African regime, remain huge obstacles to progress.

Only the destruction of the power of capitalism in South Africa itself can break these chains which bind the sub-continent, opening the way to real control by the peoples of Southern Africa over their lives.

Amassing wealth through the development of industry, the South African capitalist class could not help but bring into being that force which will destroy it – the working class of Southern Africa.

The mines, farms, factories and docks have been schools of struggle in which anger against the exploiters has been welded into steel determination, and spread along a thousand channels to the townships and villages of the whole region.

In every country of Southern Africa the struggle for a better life boils down to the struggle for workers’ rule. In the victory of this struggle alone lies the solution to every struggle of the masses – against racism and national oppression; against poverty wages and rising prices; for land, jobs, homes, education and health; for an end to the pillage, rape and murder by the hired thugs of the SA ruling class.

Against the ‘total strategy’ of the South African bosses, the working people of Southern Africa need mass unity in action to realise their common aims. We must break through the divisive colonial borders upheld by imperialism.

The foundation for building this unity is in the network of migrant labour—the very system the enemy has created to draw workers together in common exploitation across the national borders.

To mobilise now for unity is the responsibility of the leaders of the trade unions and political organisations of the masses throughout Southern Africa. To bring it into being is the direct task of every activist.

In South Africa, the leaders and the rank-and-file cadres of the ANC and Sactu must put themselves in the forefront of this work. At every opportunity we must raise with our fellow-strugglers the need to strengthen the practical bonds with militants in other countries.

Here lies the road to defeating the South African capitalist class.

Against military, economic and political domination by the SA ruling class, we fight for the right of the peoples of Southern Africa to genuine self-determination. Against the imperialist schemes for a constellation of states’ under the heel of South Africa, we can set as our aim a federation of Southern African workers’ states, expressing the real community of interest of our peoples.

This would raise a beacon’ for the working masses of all Africa.  In unity with the whole international working class, it would open the way to the building of socialism.

© Transcribed from the original by the Marxist Workers Party (2021).


OBITUARY | William Fano Khanyile

Originally published in Inqaba ya Basebenzi No. 2 (April 1981).

Before dawn on 30 January, William Fano Khanyile was murdered along with eleven other ANC members by the SA terror force in Maputo. Thus a life filled with experience as a working class fighter was brutally smashed before it could fully flower.

Khanyile came to Sactu and the ANC as a worker. Born in New Hanover in 1935, his father a driver, he was only able to study at school up to Standard 4. Moving to Pietermaritzburg, his first job was as a “tea-boy” at Edendale hospital, while he continued studying at night-school.

It was a strike at Edendale which brought him into active trade unionism. He became an organiser of the Sactu General Workers’ Union and, in 1958, secretary of the local branch of the Railway Workers’ Union.

Earlier, Khanyile had been deeply impressed by the struggle of the trade unionists in the Natal ANC to get rid of the right-wing anti-Indian leadership personified by A.W.G. Champion. In 1958, through Sactu, he joined the ANC as an active participant in the Youth League.

It was the organised workers, within the Sactu unions, who made the ANC for the first time a mass force in Natal. The real strength of the ANC, Khanyile often said, was completely dependent on its base in the unions.

As Secretary of the Railway Union, he battled for higher wages and medical services for the workers. He was also actively involved in Sactu’s intervention in support of leather workers’ striking against a sell-out by their union leadership, and in the 1961 strike by Hammersdale workers against border-area starvation wages.

These local struggles, and the active support of the Sactu national £1-a-day campaign, built the ANC as a mass force in Natal. So did the campaigns in which he assisted against the forced labour of women running the dipping tanks, and against prison labour on the potato farms.

Maritzburg became a leading centre of the stay-at-home called on 28 March 1960 in protest at the Sharpeville massacre. When workers at Weston bakery were sacked during the stay-at-home – and the bosses carried on production with the help of white students – Khanyile helped organise a boycott of its bread. This secured the reinstatement of the workers, a rare event in the history of our struggle.

With the ANC banned, Khanyile threw himself into the task of organising the trade unions as the main defence of the working class. For this work he was constantly arrested and re-arrested. He was charged with making street collections, for ‘obstructing’ workers at a shoe factory and later at a dairy. In addition he spent four months in detention during the State of Emergency.

Despite the growing repression, the pace of activity of the workers was still quickening, and the need for organisation in the factories and townships undiminished.

Soon after, however, Khanyile obeyed the call of the ANC leadership for cadres to leave the country for military training, in the expectation that he would soon return to his place among the workers in struggle. Tragically, he was arrested in Zambia (then Northern Rhodesia) when leaving the country and deported back to SA.

The next nine years of his life were spent in court appearances and on Robben Island. No sooner had he served his sentence under one charge and been released, before another charge was laid. After being finally released he was then banned to New Hanover tor two years.

By the time Khanyile’s banning order expired in 1974, the climate of struggle had been transformed by the workers and the youth. The Natal strikes were a year past, and the seeds which were to erupt in 1976 were already being sown.

Khanyile was impressed with the rapid growth of the trade unions after the 1973 strikes. Many of the people he had known previously discussed the need to revive the fighting traditions of Sactu in the labour movement. As to the way of doing this, activists on the ground like Khanyile had to find the answers for themselves.

Many questions, including the link between workers’ organisation and armed struggle against the state, remained unresolved. Khanyile, along with eleven other comrades, was arrested, tortured, and placed on trial in July 1976. His comrades sentenced to life or long prison terms, Khanyile alone was fortunate in being acquitted.

Persisting in the struggle at every opportunity, Khanyile faced bleak job prospects, and had no secure place to live. To break out of the cycle of harassment, imprisonment, and bannings, he left the country.

But Khanyile could not be kept away from the struggle. He welcomed his move to Maputo, 100 km from the border, in the hope that he could keep closely in touch with the workers at home. Khanyile escaped the oppressors’ prison in the Pietermaritzburg trial only to die at the hands of the same brutes.

Comrade Khanyile was a class fighter who committed his life to the struggle against national oppression and capitalism in South Africa. He was dedicated to building Sactu and the ANC as the instruments for carrying out these tasks. His memory will be preserved by those who take up these tasks and carry them to their conclusion.

Hambani Kahle, ma-Comrades!

© Transcribed from the original by the Marxist Workers Party (2021).