"PROTESTS everywhere" is the best description of the protest engulfing the country right now.

"PROTESTS everywhere" is the best description of the protest engulfing the country right now.

Some say it's the "winter of discontent", linked to workers' demands for salary increases, some blame President Jacob Zuma's promises to the masses.

These commentators have missed the fact that these protests are qualitatively different from what we know; we are currently facing a general strike from the poor.

The militancy, bold demands, defiance and direct action of these protests are indicative of the fundamental questioning of the post-1994 democratisation project.

The 1994 agreement between the politicians and the people as reflected in the Constitution was long broken by the elites - the poor kept their side of the bargain.

Truth is the past 15 years have seen the reproduction of apartheid development characterised by arrogance of power and enrichment for a few.

The South African Unemployed People's Movement has shocked the nation with its audacity to loot some chain stores to draw attention to the problems of the poor.

The direction of the action poses a question - is it morally acceptable to starve while there is plenty of food around?

By demanding a R1500 social grant, this movement is asking for a living grant from the national Treasury.

The food looters' actions may be illegal, but they are certainly not immoral. They expose laws which criminalised the poor and hungry.

Are our laws unjust? If so, as even former president Nelson Mandela said a long time ago, unjust laws can be broken. Poverty and hunger are not only unjust but immoral too. We are not a poor country, no one should starve.

It's not too late, South Africa must pay the overdue debt it owes the poor, the old white wealth and new black BEE money must be shared by all or we must wait for the coming implosion. This is a mere dress rehearsal of a waiting Armageddon.

The Zuma administration is in a difficult position.

The last electoral victory of the ANC was a poisoned chalice - the poor were serving notice to those who had been eating. Yes, the poor did inscribe messianic powers on Zuma to deliver.

However, if truth be told, Zuma didn't make any outrageous promises not already made by Mandela and Mbeki and which are in the Constitution of the country.

And these promises are even less than what was expected of freedom.

The Zuma conundrum is this - if the Mbeki/Manuel policies could not deliver the poor from hunger how does the Zuma administration hope to achieve different result from the same policies?

The Polokwane resolutions were a major tinkering on the margins, a gloss over the same deeply flawed cracks.

Actually, the Polokwane resolutions must be seen as a ritual of leadership change not policy change.

This means we are sitting with a political process which can't give the poor what is rightfully theirs.

In the last issue of New Frank Talk I made a prediction that in the end the Zuma presidency will be left with two options, either to abandon capital through rejecting Mbeki/Manuel policies or to give bullets to the poor. Already hundreds of injuries and three deaths by Zuma's police's bullets have been registered in this round of protests.

I also wrote that "Cosatu and the SACP will be available to rationalise the pogroms of government against the poor in the name of the revolution".

Indeed, the president has already come out against the food looters, calling their actions illegal and anarchic.

As a protester said, "they can't finish us". No amount of promises, threats, jail or bullets are going to stop the coming floods of the poor. Only a share of the pie would do. We dare not fail.

l Mngxitama is the publisher of New Frank Talk