Songs of Struggle
Tuesday 18 September 2007
The Songs of the Anti-Privatisation Forum (APF)
Placed within the post-apartheid context of a steady decline in the organisational strength and political mobilisation of trade union and mass movements built during struggles against apartheid, the rebuilding of a social and economic justice movement in the post-apartheid era remains a mammoth task. Formed in 2000, the Anti-Privatisation Forum (APF) has grown and become one of the most combative social movements in South Africa and has also been at the centre of rebuilding radical resistance to neo-liberal capitalism in the post-apartheid period. The “Songs of the APF” are a celebration of the achievements of the APF as well as an appreciation of the main challenge that still confronts the APF, namely the rebuilding of a mass movement of the poor and workers that can generalise resistance against neoliberalism in South Africa.
The history of the APF dates back to struggles against privatisation at the beginning of this century. In 2000 the South African Municipal Workers’ Union (SAMWU), sections of the South African Communist Party (SACP) and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), in opposition to privatisation plans in Johannesburg, formed the Anti-Igoli 2002 Forum. At the University of Witwatersrand, students, academics and unions were opposing privatization and outsourcing of services. This privatisation programme of the university management was called Wits 2001. In the same year, a number of activists and academics protested at the Urban Futures Conference, which was convened jointly by the university and the city of Johannesburg. The demands of the students and workers included an end to privatisation and outsourcing at the university and the city. The convergence of these union, intellectual and student struggles led to the formation of the APF.
Since then the APF has managed to recruit and mobilise many poor communities struggling for access to, and full enjoyment of, basic services (which include water, electricity, housing, education and health). These community struggles have shaped the APF and given it a radical dynamism that has often led to it being identified as one of the key voices of the working class and the poor in South Africa.
Most of the members and affiliates of the APF are based in Gauteng Province. Members of the APF also work closely with community organisations/social movements in the Free State, North West and Khutsong. The APF is also an affiliate of the Social Movements Indaba, a network of social movements in South Africa and is a leading member of the Coalition Against Water Privatisation (CAWP). It has taken an active role in the activities of the Southern Africa Social Forum and the World Social Forum.
Members of the APF have participated in a number of battles that seek push back the frontiers of neo-liberalism and social injustice in South Africa, which have included; protests and educational initiatives against the installation of prepaid meters as well as electricity and water cut-offs and housing evictions and the people’s marches and activities at the United Nation’s World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) and the World Conference Against Racism Conference. Songs and the chanting of slogans have been a source of energy in these struggles. The songs that are presented in this CD have given communities and members of the APF a true sense of solidarity and determination in the struggles.
Writing about black slaves’ culture and songs, Levine Lawrence, a progressive American historian, once argued:
Upon hard rock of racial, social and economic exploitation and injustice Black Americans forged and nurtured a culture: they formed and maintained kinship networks, made love, raised and socialised children, built a religion and created a rich and expensive culture in which they articulated their feelings, hopes and dreams.
In a different context from the one described by Levine, APF members and the poor communities within which it is located, are forging and nurturing various artistic forms of expression which reflect on their present condition of struggles as well as their hopes, desires and dreams.
The song entitled, “Amanzi Ngawethu” (“Water is Ours”) is sung during struggles against water privatisation, water cut-offs, and the installation of water pre-paid meters in the townships. The song tells the ANC government, local authorities and private water companies that access to water is a basic human right and therefore should not be privatised.
The song “Luyabuza Ulusha” (“The Youth Wants Answers”) locates the APF within a struggle for the scrapping of social service arrears and the Third World Debt. According to the song, young people are demanding definite answers from the IMF as to exactly when the Third World Debt will be scrapped. The song also tells the ANC government that the APF rejects neoliberal polices such the Growth, Employment and Redistribution (GEAR) strategy, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and the Accelerated and Shared Growth Imitative (ASGISA).
During struggles for basic service and housing the APF has been faced with state repression in the form of illegal arrests of its members, police brutality, unlawful refusal to allow the APF to march and demonstrate as well as a number of attempts at infiltrating the organisation. All these strategies and tactics have been aimed at weakening the APF and undermining the voices of the poor and working class in South Africa. The song “Lala Veje” is giving the state and its agents a clear message - those who undermine the APF will face the anger of the poor majority.
Other songs on the CD reflect that ‘story’ of how the APF has been handed over a baton of struggle and resistance by the movement that struggled and defeated apartheid in a formal sense. The cultural heritage that comes from the anti-apartheid struggle and the mass struggles of the 1980s continue to inspire members of the APF and working class communities. The older generation of APF members were part of the liberation movement and songs in the CD reflect this. The song called “We Nyamazane Yiyo Ehlala Ehlathini” (A buck (I need an exact word for a family of animals like springboks, rabbits, antelopes - ‘herd’?) Lives in the Forest” is about liberation fighters who lived in exile in the forest. It has also been adapted to suit new conditions. One of the lines in the song shows the link between the liberation fighters of that time and the APF today. It also calls upon the working class and the poor to join the APF and become self-liberators under the new conditions of capitalist neo-liberalism.
The song, “That’s Why I am a socialist” is an attempt at defining a vision of, and for, the APF. Socialism here means an egalitarian society governed and controlled by producers of wealth. It is about a society free from wars, occupation, xenophobia, oppression of women and imperialism.
The APF thanks its member, comrade Patrick “Patra” Sindane, who initiated the entire project. Comrade Patra is a lead singer in most of the songs in the CD. Comrade Virginia Setshedi-Magwaza, a founding member of the APF and the Coalition Against Water Privatisation, is featured in two songs, “Luyabuza Ulusha” (“The Youth is Wants Answers”) and “Thula Mama” (Be at Peace My Mother”).
All the songs were produced by comrade Shimi “Gaddafi” Mohohlo. The CD was produced in comrade’s Gaddafi’s backyard shack studio in Sebokeng, a working class township in the Vaal area. The songs in the CD are an authentic cultural expression of APF members, many of who are living in shacks in the working class townships.
To order a CD and/or for more information on the CD, please contact the APF at 27 11 333 8334 or email Patra at [email protected]