South African Grassroots Movements Rebel Against NGO Authoritarianism
Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign
09 Dec 2007 14:01 GMT
This is a disturbing example of grassroots peoples’ groups having to declare independence from NGO-controlled coalitions because they feel the NGO’s, with their overseas funding here Rosa Luxembourg Foundation)and staff available, pre-empt the leadership of movements, and water down the demands of the people. There was a similar statement last week from Abahlali base Mjondolo in Natal to disavow others who were organizing peoples’ groups with major support from the Gates foundation. See John Saul review of Shivji’s book on the role of Ngo’s: www.africafiles.org/article.asp?ID=16470 . Shivji emphasizes the authenticity of the peoples movements over the NGOs’, and notes their `silence’(except for Lawyers Environmental Action Team-LEAT) when it came to support for the artisinal miners at Bulyanhulu. The acronym CBO or even CSO (civil society organisation) may come to be preferred by peoples’ groups to NGO.
An open letter to participants in the Social Movements Indaba
The Western Cape Anti Eviction Campaign wishes to make clear to all social movements and participants in the Social Movements Indaba that its representatives will not be attending the SMI to be held in Cape Town from 2-5 December 2007. We have seen the "Planned Agenda" and want to make absolutely clear that we did not give the SMI leadership permission to cite our name as participants. We reject the dishonesty of the SMI leadership in this regard with the utmost contempt. Our inclusion as participants will mislead other social movements throughout South Africa, Africa and internationally. It also will mislead funders such as the Rosa Luxembourg Foundation who have partly financed this gathering of the SMI
One of our constituencies has indicated the very same sentiment: the Joe Slovo Residents Association, also cited in the agenda as participants, will not be attending the SMI.
The Western Cape Anti Eviction Campaign was a founder member of the Social Movement Indaba in its original intention to be a platform for social movements. In its ranks it concentrates the experience of most of the mass struggles in the Western Cape since that time: in Mandela Park, Tafelsig, Silvertown, QQ section, Gugulethu, Hanover Park, Gympie Street and so on.
But since its inception the SMI has degenerated into a vehicle controlled by NGOs. Now it merely poses as a forum for bringing together social movements. In reality the SMI has become an obstacle to the linking up of real social movements around the country and is a source of division.
The Western Cape Anti Eviction Campaign will not allow some NGO's and academics to further their careers with the blood, sweat and tears of communities. We despise the way they act as Trojan horses and the way they co‑opt activists because of the resources they enjoy. Major social movements such as Abahlali base Mjondolo in Natal and the WCAEC withdrew from the SMI a year ago because it no longer fulfilled its original function. The SMI needs to be reclaimed and driven by people on the ground and not by its self-appointed 'leaders'.
Let us compare the record of the SMI in the Western Cape in 2007 with that of the AEC. With far less resources than the Western Cape SMI, the AEC has done the following:
(1) As a result of years of campaigning under the leadership of the AEC, by ten villages with defective housing managed by the Cape Town Community Housing Company, the government allocated R46 million to repair the defects.
(2) As a result of the AEC's 'scrap the arrears' campaign (directed against the pink letters issued by the Cape Town Council), the Council agreed to scrap arrears up to September 2003. This was a partial victory.
(3) The AEC has been involved in helping organise marches of thousands of people on parliament by N2 Gateway residents and by Joe Slovo settlement residents, worked with Joe Slovo on the occupation of the N2, and has also cooperated with the Joe Slovo task team in working out a strategy to fight the forced removal being attempted by Sisulu, Dyantyi and Thubelisha. This has thus far won a reprieve until the High Court hearing on 12 December.
All this is in addition to regular assistance by the AEC of individuals and small groups with struggles against evictions.
What has the Western Cape SMI done in 2007? So far as we know, it has only organized one small demonstration at parliament of some 50-80 people! There has not even been an SMI presence at the court appearances in Bishop Lavis of 8 Joe Slovo militants on charges of public violence. This shows the extent to which the bureaucracy of the SMI has lost touch with community-based organizations.
We invite all representatives of genuine social movements – provincial, national and international — attending the SMI conference to join residents of Joe Slovo and members of the Anti-Eviction campaign in showing our solidarity with the 8 Joe Slovo militants at their next court appearance in Bishop Lavis at 9am on December 5.
Issued by the Western Cape Anti Eviction Campaign
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Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign