Narrative Report for the South Africa Development Fund
Friday 14 December 2007
6th Floor, Vogas House
123 Pritchard Street, Johannesburg, 2000
(Tel: 27 11 333 - 8334; Fax: 27 11 333-8335)
(Compiled by APF Organiser - Silumko Radebe & APF Treasurer - Dale McKinley)
The APF continues its struggle for universal access to basic services. A major and ongoing obstacle to this as identified by the APF is the generalised privatisation (which includes all different forms such as corporatisation, outsourcing, public-private partnerships etc.) of these services by the South African government. This leads to increased prices, insistence on payment, and replacement of service with the profit motive, cut-offs, installation of pre-paid meters and, generally, to restrictions on poor people’s access to basic services such as water, electricity, housing, education and health care. The South African government has not shown any indication of moving away from these neo-liberal policies which allow the private sector to dictate what is the basic provision of basic services for the poor in comparison to their thirst for profits. There has been an increase in the struggles by communities and social groups in South Africa are standing up and taking action on these issues. Some of these communities contact the APF seeking support and solidarity. It is also true that because of its track record in fighting around what are now burning issues in South Africa, the APF needs to provide some policy solutions which might improve the situation. When the APF approached SADF for further funding, it has these aims & objectives:
Aims • To strengthen existing affiliate community organisations at a regional level; • To provide increased support and regular interaction to local communities in their struggles for basic services; • To capacitate APF regional and affiliate structures to work with other communities fighting around the struggle for universal access to basic services.
Objectives • To improve understanding in poor communities of privatisation processes and their impact on poverty. • To strengthen the capacity of poor communities to effectively organise and conduct their own advocacy. • To support the coordination of activities between community organisations at a local, regional and national level. • To connect with a wider range of organisations and communities fighting around the issue of delivery of basic services including communities living outside Gauteng Province. • To promote changes in policy and practise in order to address the historical needs of the urban poor in South Africa.
The important contextual (political, economic, social) changes that have /could have an impact on the project.
POLITICAL • South Africa has being gearing itself towards hosting the Soccer World Cup 2010 and this has given rise to the consolidation of Black Economic Empowerment deals. Politicians have now made sure that they have consortiums or private companies that can take advantage of construction contracts and the building of so-called ‘world-class’ stadiums. This has consolidated the rule of a deracialised capitalist class and has raised the expectation of the majority of our people that they will benefit (through employment or business opportunities) from the Soccer World Cup 2010.
• There was the Public Sector Strike called by Congress of South Africa Trade Unions (COSATU) to demand better working conditions and better remuneration for workers in the public sector. The strike was viewed as a battle between the ruling class situated in the state and organised/employed public sector workers in COSATU tied to internecine political and personal battles within the Tri-partite Alliance and in advance of an ANC Policy Conference and several Congresses’ of these Alliance partners. Even though the strike lasted for a month, the government came out victorious in that it didn’t give workers the 12% they were demanding and the government managed to flex its muscle in giving the workers an ultimatum of accepting its offer of around 9% or nothing. This also highlighted an important issue - namely, that the power of organised workers lies has been severely tempered given the arrogance and obstinence of the state/government in refusing to engage in democratic processes of negotiations and playing the Alliance ‘card’ against COSATU in particular. Hence, it was able to enforce an agreement with the main public sector unions. While two teachers unions publicly stated that they didn’t accept the settlement by the government, due to the fact that the deal meant nothing for the educators as the increase is below the inflation, they too were eventually forced to accept the wage deal. One positive outcome of the strike was that it gave many public sector workers an opportunity to identify their class enemy and also an opportunity to broaden their understanding of the impacts of the ANC government’s neo-liberal policies.
• The ANC government has portrayed itself as a government that is still going to deliver on its promises to the people, but that the poor must be patient. However, an increasing number of poor people in our country are beginning to see through these claims and to more fully understand that the ANC-led government has become the driver of neo-liberal policies. The ANC wants to create an impression that it is democratic and there is consistent and meaningful participatory consultation with the majority of people in the country. Many of their structures were recently requested to make inputs in the ANC Policy Conference but it was soon became clear that the conference was not going to implement any resolutions taken until the ANC’s National Conference scheduled for December. The reality remains that the ANC government/state continues to be hostile to the demands of the poor and has retained its repressive responses to the struggles of poor communities. Whatever its slick propaganda and attempts to portray the struggles of the poor as minor events instigated by a few malcontents, the ANC government/state continues to be a vehicle for the entrenchment of capitalism, privatisation, militarism and has shown itself to be a poor practitioner of democracy by its unilateral decision-making and lack of confidence and trust in those who elected it to power.
• As a result of saturation media coverage, large numbers of poor South Africans (alongside other classes) have become ‘taken’ by the leadership race between the two ‘camps’ in the ANC and its alliance partners (i.e. the Mbeki and Zuma ‘camps’). This has, in recent times, proved a distraction from the core issues of the ANC government’s failure to deliver to the poor, working class majority in the country. Government officials who visit poor communities only create further confusion by using their platforms to engage in public spats around ANC-Alliance leadership battles (e.g., President Thabo Mbeki vs. Jacob Zuma vs. Tokyo Sexwale vs. Cyril Ramaphosa vs. Terror Lekota vs. Dr Nkosana Zuma vs. Smuts Ngonyama, as well as Minister of Health Manto Msimango vs. former Deputy Minister of Health Nozizwe Madlala- Routledge). ANC business moguls are drawn back into active politics to try and convince the wealthy and middle-classes that things will not be a disaster under a future ANC-led government. Additionally, the recent divisions in the South African Communist Party, as evidenced by a call by some SACP structures for the Party to break away from the Alliance and stand-alone in the up-coming national elections in 2009, have only added fuel to the ‘fire’ of uncertainty, division and conflict within South Africa’s poor communities as many align themselves accordingly.
• The state of social movements and community organisations is a mixed bag. Overall, they are still relatively weak in organisational and political terms and the struggles that have taken place remain episodic as are the ‘pressure points’ in direct relation to government policy direction. However, there has been an increase in protests and service delivery uprisings on a national scale and there have been several constitutional court cases (on demarcation, housing & basic services) aimed at over-turning or changing government policy and action. So, different tactics are being pursued by the poor and working class in an ongoing, but difficult, struggle against the neo-liberal agenda of the ANC government. One very positive shift that has occurred over the past year though, has been the need for senior government politicians and officials to publicly respond to these struggles and to try and re-assure the South African people that things are ‘under control’ and that service delivery is on track - even though there remains the constant refrain that some of the struggles are the work of a sinister ‘third force’ of agitators and counter-revolutionaries whose sole aim is to ‘mislead’ the poor and working class.
SOCIO-ECONOMIC • In general , the past year has seen the disintegration and weakening of many social movements/community organisations due to a combination of decreasing resources and internal bickering/in-fighting. Nonetheless, there has been an increase in the number of protests and uprisings over lack of delivery of basic services. From the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, the Free State and beyond communities have risen up against the ANC-controlled local government structures and politicians. In this, the APF has played an important role in being the glue of many organised struggles and linking up with other communities outside Gauteng.
• This has given the APF an opportunity to share its resources and organising experience with ‘new’ communities that have shown a desire to fight for their access to basic services and meaningful democracy at the local level. Communities are continuing to challenge the legitimacy of local ward structures and their continuous failure to act as conduits for the delivery of basic services to the community. Despite all the efforts by the ANC government to implement a large-scale infrastructural programme through the private sector, this has resulted in more problems rather than achievements. The private companies continue to deliver half- baked services and community members ‘employed’ continue to suffer from extreme corruption and wage exploitation. This has resulted in an increasing friction between private developers (of government programmes) and community residents who are disgruntled at the character and content of what passes for service delivery. As a result, national government often has to intervene and make attempts to set up mechanisms that will evaluate and improve these projects - which they have done with limited success.
• Ongoing community protests have tested the effectiveness of the recently established South Africa Local Government Association (SALGA). SALGA recently held a 3 day conference to assess progress registered since the last meeting held in August 2006 and to reflect on the challenges facing the local government sector - with particular emphasis on the spate of community protest in many of its member municipalities. They deliberated on the unfolding provincial and local government policy review process and they examined the five year strategic plan that is aligned to the Five year Local Government Strategic Agenda (LGSA). Not surprisingly, SALGA revealed that it was gravely concerned about the spate of protests in some of the municipalities and vowed to intensify its efforts to provide hands-on support to make municipalities work better. SALGA also claimed that a more effective communications approach (with communities) has been developed and is being implemented and that it was implementing a plan to strengthen public participation capabilities of municipality as well as the training of elected public representatives in structures like ward committees and with community development workers so as to ensure effectiveness and sustainability. What this shows, is that the struggles are having an effect on government and forcing it to shift its programmes and propaganda in an attempt to head-off further community dissatisfaction and possible protest.
Capacity Building • Monthly meetings for APF regional structures where networking, planning and mobilisation in each region can be discussed and co-ordinated. • Organising workshops for the regions to train comrades in the art of reaching out and sustaining relationships with new communities and groups • Thematic workshops for regions covering any or several of the APF’s campaign focus areas, namely, water, electricity, housing, education, health care and environment. • Organising visits to, and workshops for, new communities in other provinces besides Gauteng, namely, Free State, Eastern Cape, Western Cape and North West to identify the issues and lay a foundation for joint work in each province.
Capacity Building Workshops • The APF held numerous community workshops in order to build the overall organisational and mobilisational capacity of community affiliates and activists as well as to build another layer of militant cadres who will be able to make positive interventions in community struggles. Some of the workshops have taken place in communities where there are leaders who were trained on the battle fields with the agents of neo-liberalism - such as the APF workshop that was held in the Free State town of Bethlehem on 2nd March 2007. The workshop focused on the role of leaders and how they can get their communities organised in the struggle against neo-liberalism. Most of the participants were clear about the general opposition to privatisation of basic services in their own communities but some were not so familiar with the struggle of privatisation in other communities. However, all showed keen interest in knowing about similar struggles, both locally and internationally, because a victory for any community means a victory for the broader working class. Similarly, participants were interested in knowing more about the roles of the IMF, WB and other multi-national finance institutions.
• A visit to Queenstown from 12-18th March 2007 gave comrades in the Eastern Cape an opportunity to be capacitated. There were three workshops that focused on the role of leadership, finances and the youth. The APF structure in the Eastern Cape is new and the leaders are also new. So the workshop gave them an opportunity to become more familiar with respective leadership role in structured organisations (e.g. the role of the chairperson, secretary and the treasurer) as well as how can they share tasks with the other comrades and why it is important to have organized structures as opposed to relying mostly on spontaneity. The workshop was an important move by the APF in building broad fronts for working class struggles across the country. One of the results of the workshop was a march for basic services on the 28th May 2007 to demand service delivery improvements and development in the Chris Hani Municipality. Further, the Freedom of Expression Institute and Open Society Initiative of South Africa (OSISA) facilitated a Media & ICT workshop on the 17th May 2007. The workshop focused on people’s access to media but also their access to information through many mediums like telecommunications. It managed to give APF comrades an opportunity to be capacitated on the role of media in advancing the struggle and helped the APF to build relations with OSISA and the FXI in taking forward the media struggle. There are few human resources in the Eastern Cape Province, with only a scattering of NGO’s able to provide capacity building workshops and/or training for community activists. So the role that the APF continues to play in a place like Queenstown is vital since the province is a rural area and the majority of people are poor. This is also a province where the majority of people have consistently voted for the ANC in large numbers. What is of crucial importance though, is that the APF has managed to further its orientation to struggles outside Gauteng and thus to strengthen its role in building a nation-wide mass movement.
• Another important aspect in the APF struggle during this period has being the formation of the Women’s Forum. The forum has had several meetings in order to determine the role of the forum and to come-up with a funding proposal for activities specially designed for women activists. A successful workshop and march was held on Woman’s Day (9th August 2007). Importantly, the forum has begun to include women activists from formations/organisations outside the APF - as a means to build a broad front that can provide a space for women activists within community struggles and forge a capacitation and training programme.
• The research committee together with the APF affiliate - the OWCC - hosted an HIV/AIDS seminar at Orange Farm on 13th June 2007 together with other stakeholders in the community. NGO workers, health practitioners and many concerned community residents attended this seminar. The main focus of the workshop was to share the results of APF research work on the impact of non-access to basic services by people/families living with HIV/AIDS. Even though the research was done in the Phiri and Sol Plaatjie (Durban Roodeport Deep) communities and specifically dealt with the linkages of the installation of pre-paid water meters and HIV-AIDs, it was also relevant to the community of Orange Farm because it has the same socio-economic background and pre-paid meters have been installed in the community. The meeting was well attended by the community and many people spoke about their problems of not accessing health care facilities in Orange Farm and how they rely on the support of home-based practitioners who are not getting paid for their services. The community then took a resolution that the issue of HIV/AIDS needs the community to embark on a collective effort to ensure that there is no discrimination in the provision of basic services against sufferers of HIV-AIDs and their families.
• A follow up workshop in Orange Farm was held on 27th July 2007, with the main focus being on income-generating and community-solidarity projects and campaigns, several of which are being run by the OWCC (e.g.., childcare, recycling and gardening). The workshop gave the community as well as many other activists in attendance from various APF affiliates, the opportunity to assess these projects and their potential applicability to other communities/APF affiliate organisations. The community was able to have a discussion on the role that these projects play in providing services to the community and how significant they are in helping the poor and the unemployed. This workshop assisted many residents and other activists to forge better ideas around alternative forms of employment and how the projects can be used in the struggle to access basic services. For example, in the gardening project, it was highlighted how the OWCC fought for land and water so that they could have their project running. Similarly, the childcare project ensued from the community’s struggle for early childhood development and rights to access assistance from the Department of Social Development or Welfare.
• The APF, through its education committee, held an important workshop on 9th May 2007, with the NGO, Earthlife Africa, facilitating the workshop. The focus was mainly on the issue of tariffs and in particular, those associated with electricity. The workshop took place in a period where ESKOM has proposed an 18% increase in tariffs. One of the outcomes of the workshop was that Earthlife Africa agreed to do a joint submission with the APF to the National Electricity Regulator in terms of highlighting the negative impact of the proposed tariff increases on the poor. Many poor working class people can’t afford electricity and the increase in prices will mean that many more people will be disconnected from accessing electricity. The workshop also helped in focusing attention of how the APF can rebuild its electricity campaign. A study group was elected to continue working with Earthlife Africa for six months on energy and climate change and has opened up space for the APF to start a discussion on the issue of alternative energy and how the APF can take forward the environmental struggle. The workshop was followed a similar workshop that was held by the Johannesburg Region in Wynberg on 21st April 2007.
• A new affiliate of the APF, Boiketlong, in the Vaal Triangle held a leadership workshop on 12th August 2007, with the main foci being on the state of the community’s access to water, the need for a more formalised community structure, and issues of community leadership. It was well attended by residents and gave the community the confidence to take action and demand answers in relation to the development of their community. As a result, a series of mobilisations and protests have since been occurring in Boiketlong which have forced the local government to focus attention on the community.
• During the period, there were also other workshops held by the APF involving all of its affiliates. For example. in July 2007, a finance and fund-raising workshop was convened by the APF Treasurer, which was attended by many affiliate Treasurer’s and activists. The workshop provided basic overviews of a range of finance-related activities/ tasks expected to be carried out in any organisation managing resources. These included: how to put together a funding proposal; how to draw up a cashbook; keeping a basic finance ledger’; and mechanisms for internal organisational financial accountability. Also, in mid-2007, a workshop on the internet and website maintenance-design was organised by the APF media committee.
Selected Implemented Activities in the past year
Social Movements Indaba (SMI) Human Rights Day March On 21st March 2007, the APF, along with other social movements put more than 2000 people on the streets of Johannesburg to march to the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) and the Constitutional Court to deliver a memorandum. This was the first action taken by the SMI-Gauteng after the SMI national meeting in December 2006 at Durban and which was part of a nation-wide series of actions involving SMI constituent organisations. What was significant about the event is that it involved diverse groups and organisations marching together to highlight gross violations of Human Rights that have taken place under the ANC government’s 13-year rule. There were environmental, debt, ecological and basic service organisations in the march from all parts of Gauteng. The march was mostly resourced by the APF, with the few resources that the SMI managed to going towards marches in other provinces and cities. This once again proves that the APF has been consistently able to coordinate other social movement struggles in the country through solidarity in action. There was huge media coverage for the event and it once again raised issues that our government wants to shy away from, such as freedom of association & expression, the right to access information, the right to gather, repression by police forces, violations of human rights in communities trying to struggle for access to basic services, the status and treatment of refugees and asylum seekers and the right to human dignity. The event managed to unite the people of Soweto, Alexandra, Pretoria, Bekkersdal, Kathorus, Sebokeng, Evaton, Bophelong and Khutsong and others.
APF Annual General Meeting
This important meeting in April 2007 provided the APF with the opportunity to evaluate its yearly programme of action, strengthen solidarity amongst its various community affiliates and deal with problems and challenges in the organisation. This was the APF’s third successful AGM and took place at a time when many other social movements and community organisations were going through an extended period of internal turmoil and, in some cases, organisational disintegration. The AGM afforded the APF a space for self-assessment, re-strategising and restructuring in terms of its role in the promotion of an agenda based on basic human and constitutional rights.
Crucially, the AGM took place in the middle of a coordinated and sustained effort on the part of the various levels of government and the ANC to denigrate, attack and repress the APF and attempt to nullify its role and struggles in promoting basic human rights. Fortunately, the APF and most of its affiliates have managed to survive. More than one hundred and fifty comrades from all the APF affiliates attended the three day event. It was important for the organisation to evaluate its progress after a contentious 2006 AGM and a year which saw a new APF organiser come on board and a new leadership taking the helm of the organisation. It also gave the organisation an opportunity to review some organisational matters like the adoption of the constitution, code of conduct and finalise the issue of requests from several community organisations for affiliation to the APF. Overall it was a successful AGM for the organisation as comrades were united in spirit and looking forward to intensifying our common struggles and strengthening the organisation.
Advocacy (national, regional and local levels)
• Regionally co-ordinated community outreach and mobilisation activities in each region • Public meetings in regions to unite all communities and organisations inside and outside the APF in discussion of common issues • Pamphlets and information for distribution within existing and new communities focusing on the struggle for universal access to basic services • Coordination of community-led campaigns and actions against privatisation and for access to basic services locally, regionally and nationally
The struggle for basic services During this period, the APF has managed to overcome most of the internal problems that had beset the organisation in 2005-2006 and orientate towards communities and their accompanying struggles. The recent public sector strike was important for the APF, with the organisation and most of its affiliates showing sustained strength in its solidarity with the strike. Many community struggles have been lead by the APF and as a direct result of the ensuing direct actions, other communities began to mobilise and embarked on protests and community actions after being influenced by our affiliates in their struggle for basic services. These direct actions have caught the attention of the ANC and the various levels of government, receiving comment and condemnation from the President, cabinet ministers and many other government officials.
The APF has in the past marched on many occasions to different government offices and officials to deliver memorandums on the slowness or non-delivery of basic services for different communities. So it was vital for different communities to re-strategise and look at other tactics that could be used to push for the delivery of basic services. The APF then mobilized different communities through a series of door-to-door campaigns. This resulted in the re-launching of some of the affiliates in their communities and succeeded in making the APF more visible to the people. In various community mass meetings, residents decided on what action needed to be taken to advance their struggles. A series of planned road blockages were implemented by different communities, with the first blockade being in Marlboro on 20th April 2007.
• In Marlboro, the community was protesting against evictions that were taking place in the area even after they had won a High Court judgment (supported by the APF) ruling that there should be no evictions in the area until the residents have given alternative accommodation. But the court order has been violated on numerous occasions and episodic evictions continued. Residents become extremely angry when more than thirty families were evicted into the streets and they then decided that they would block the roads. Provincial housing officials together with officials from the Alexandra Renewal Project came to have a series of meetings with the residents in order to sort out the delay in getting alternative land. When it became clear that there would be no immediate answers to the residents demands (and the implementation of the High Court ruling) the community took action. As a result, no further evictions have taken place since these actions. However, the Marlboro community continues to struggle for decent housing.
• The community of Tembalihle also took to the streets after a mass meeting that was held on 8th July 2007. They marched to the offices of Johannesburg City Power the following day to demand electricity infrastructure for the area. The officials promised to come to their meeting the very same day but failed to do so. This angered the community and they embarked on a day of action on 10th July 2007, where they barricaded the main roads leading to the area. More than twenty people were injured and seventeen comrades were arrested for public violence. They then decided that they wanted the Johannesburg Mayor to come and address the people but also to take a lead in resolving their problems. The Johannesburg Mayor, Amos Masondo, visited Tembalihle the next day and addressed the community, telling them that they will be relocated to an area some distance away - Lehae. Instead of listening to what the people wanted, he called the community to elect fifteen people to meet with him to discuss the issue of development in Tembalihle. A series of meetings continues to take place in which the community delegation is meeting with the Mayor. While no agreement has been reached it is important to note that this development has strengthened the community’s resolve and also effectively undermined the role of the local ANC ward councillor in Tembalihle who is hugely unpopular and unwelcome throughout the community.
• Door to door mobilisation in July took place in the communities of Phiri and Sol-Platjie (Mandelaville), which were followed by community mass meetings. In Sol-Platjie, the community has being evaluating promised housing development taking place in the area and they are not pleased with what the sub-contractors are doing to renovate the old mining compound houses. These sub-contractors are building extremely small houses for the people rather than the family homes which were promised and the community thus decided to embark on a march to the Gauteng Housing Department. In Phiri, the community continues to focus their efforts on the struggle against pre-paid water meters and to mobilise for the upcoming constitutional rights case against these meters and for sustainable and adequate provision of free water. In their ongoing campaign, the community continues to remove the pre-paid meters and contest the propaganda and strong-arm tactics of Johannesburg Water.
• The APF affiliates in the East Rand region held a march on 20th April 2007 in Germiston to highlight the grievances of various communities around the non- delivery and accessibility of a range of basic services, with particular focus on housing and evictions. In the march, new communities from several informal settlements in the region were present - the result of a new outreach and mobilization programme of the region focused on issues of housing. Dedicated door-door campaigning was conducted from 23rd-24th August 2007 in the informal settlement community of Tsakane (Extension 10). One of the positive results of these activities has been that five new community organisations in the region have requested affiliation to the APF (these requests will be discussed/ considered and collectively decided-upon over the next few months).
• The Joburg Region did a door-to-door mobilization in Kliptown on the 18th-20th July 2007 and a mass meeting was held on the 21st July 2007. The community struggle was focusing on the issue of the development in Kliptown and how far is the progress for the community gets houses. As the issue was a burning one in the community, a decision was taken that they will invade the elegant houses that are built on the old Pimville Golf Course and another mass meeting was called on the 22nd July 2007. In that meeting, the residents went on a mobilization march around all the informal settlement in Kliptown. More than 2000 people were part of that march and the community decided that they will blockade the streets on the 23rd July 2007. More than 50 residents were shot and fourteen comrades were arrested for public violence.
• It became evident that there was a need for the APF to have a network with lawyers who will be available to represent comrades when they get arrested and there was a meeting with Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) on 30th July 2007. The organisation managed to secure the services of a lawyer for the Kliptown and Tembalihle cases. LHR also agreed to use their networks to get lawyers who will run capacity building workshops for APF comrades to get paralegal training. In both the Kliptown and Tembalihle cases, the charges against those arrested were eventually withdrawn in court. The Kliptown community is still engaged in a series of mass meetings to chart a way forward in advancing their struggles - especially around the issues of housing. There was a march on 14th August 2007 by the Kliptown residents to the Eldorado Municipal Office to deliver a memorandum to the housing officials. The march was well attended by more than 300 residents from all the squatter camps in Kliptown.
• Similar actions happened in the Vaal Triangle where the residents of the Dunusa and Boiketlong communities blockaded the Moshoeshoe Road in protest against the non-delivery of basic services on 13th August 2007. There were more than sixty community members that were injured and thirty-five comrades were arrested in the incident. What was evident in all these protests was the police brutality in handling the protestors and how they used excessive force in dispersing the people. The protests sent a strong and clear message to the community that they will face police repression as they take up the struggles - through direct action - against the failure of the government to deliver services. All of these protests were directly related to a mass meeting convened by the APF, of representatives of a number of informal settlements, which was held in Kliptown on 10th August 2007. It was at this meeting that different communities decided that they would use the symbolic day of 3rd September 2007 (it was 3rd Spetember 1984 that saw the start of the Vaal uprising against the apartheid state) as a day of action where different communities would embark on mass actions. Before, and after the series of protests the APF regional structures in Johannesburg and the Vaal organised an ongoing door to door campaigning from 1st-24th August 2007.
• As a result of the police brutality and the consistent manipulation and violation of the Gatherings Act by various local and police officials, the Freedom of Expression Institute organised a march to the Provincial Department of Safety and Security on 30th August 2007. Most of the people who attended this march came from APF community affiliates. A memorandum was handed over outlining a series of complaints and grievances in relation to police conduct and raising serious concerns around the constant violation of basic constitutional rights when it comes to protest by poor communities (the memo was addressed to both the Provincial and National Ministers for Safety & Security). Despite the march, ensuing conflicts between police forces and community protesters on 3rd September 2007 in Protea South, Kliptown, Dunusa, Boiketlong, New Village, Tshepong, Freedom Park and Sebokeng, clearly showed that the government authorities have no intention of desisting from their repressive conduct.
• The APF held a rally in Sebokeng Zone 3 on 1st May 2007, which was coordinated by the Samancor Retrenched Workers Crisis Committee. These former factory workers were retrenched by the multi-national corporation BHP Billiton, at their SAMANCOR plant in Meyerton (Vaal) when the management realised that most of them had been poisoned with manganese as a result of their work in the factory. The APF decided that it was important to take the event to where the workers are organising in their communities as this would provide more workers and others in the community an opportunity to be part of the event - this event made it possible for the APF to focus more specifically on worker-related issues and make the connections to government polices towards those who have suffered the cold winds of corporate greed and neo-liberal restructuring. A strong message coming out of the event was that the ANC government has betrayed the poor and the workers in the country and rather, it policies serve the interests of the capitalists/big business. Participants spoke of the visible manifestations of this in their community - i.e., the living conditions of the majority of people in Sebokeng and the ongoing environmental degradation and resulting health problems suffered. Several hundred people attended the event, with the majority being retrenched workers.
• The Samancor Retrenched Workers Crisis Committee also held several pickets at the offices of NBC (pension financial auditors) in plush Sandton in order to push for access to their pension surplus funds. The funds have been withheld by the Financial Services Board ever since workers at Samancor were retrenched in 2001. As a result of the pickets, the auditors have been forced to release some of their pension surplus funds and has energised the retrenched workers to further pursue their struggle for their rights and for basic dignity.
Solidarity Actions • The APF managed to support many struggles of communities outside Gauteng as well as those of several community organisations in Gauteng who are not officially part of the APF. There was a march in the community of Khutsong (which has been experiencing a long-running battle with the government over issues of provincial demarcation) on 18th May 2007 and our Johannesburg regional affiliates supported the march in great numbers. Despite the struggle in Khutsong being about demarcation, it also links to the struggle for basic services with the people of Merafong (the accompanying municipality). The Merafong Dermacation Forum has received regular support from the APF in their ongoing struggles, which include a case in front of the Constitutional Court against the government.
• The General Industrial Workers Union of South Africa (GIWUSA) - with which the APF has had a close relationship to since its formation several years ago - held a picket at the offices of SA’s largest daily newspaper - The Star - on 22nd June 2007 to protest against the outsourcing of work through an outfit called, Capacity Labour Brokers. The Johannesburg affiliates of the APF attended the picket as many workers couldn’t support the picket because they were at work. This solidarity action, alongside the APF’s support for the public sector strike earlier in 2007, is part of the APF’s ongoing support for workers struggles and the forging of a campaign to link these struggles with those of poor communities.
• Another important struggle that the APF supported was the Soweto Community Radio Station struggle (Jozi FM). There has been a great amount of turmoil at the station, and disquiet in the larger Soweto community, as it no longer serves the interest of the community, has become increasingly run along commercial lines and has effectively been ‘bought’ by government/public agencies such as Johannesburg Water. This has meant that the voices of community residents have being silenced and organisations like the APF and its affiliates are not given a chance to air their views and engage in meaningful debates. So many of the Soweto comrades were made it a point that they support the pickets at Jozi FM studios on the 06th -07th July 2007 and protested for a week. The pickets were conducted both in the morning and in the evening so as to make sure that the struggle for democratic control of the station involves all community residents. The pickets pressured the station and the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) to hold discussions with all community ‘stakeholders’ in Soweto. Through the APF affiliate - the Soweto Concerned Residents - a march was organised from Orlando to Dube and was well attended by over 200 people. The march raised awareness amongst the wider Soweto community and helped keep pressure on the relevant authorities as well as the station management This added pressure made it possible for a meeting between ICASA, the station management and community representatives. The meeting proved to be successful as ICASA gave the station 45 days to hold an AGM or face having their license revoked. This was followed by a public meeting on Jozi FM that was held at Orlando communal hall on 5th August 2007 to discuss on how best a community radio station should be run and controlled by the community of Soweto.
• The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions and COSATU invited the APF to be part of a march on 3rd April 2007 to highlight the plight and suffering of the Zimbabwean people under the Mugabe regime. As it turned out, those in attendance at the march consisted mostly of members of APF affiliates, with very few people from COSATU present. Even though this was a solidarity event with the APF formally invited and making up the majority of those present, the COSATU leaders at the march had to be persuaded to give an APF speaker the platform to address the gathering. The APF speaker highlighted the silent role of the ANC government in the continued oppression of the Zimbabwean people and how South African capitalists have exploited Zimbabwean refugees for cheap labour and used the various crises across Sub-Saharan Africa to institute a mad scramble for mineral and other ‘spoils’ in various African countries, including Zimbabwe. The strong message was that we have to unite to fight oppression both here at home and internationally.
• The APF has, throughout the period, provided solidarity in the form of legal assistance, media work and occasional financial resources for transport requirements to a range of community organisations in other provinces. These have included: the community of Maandagshoek in the Limpopo province where there is an ongoing struggle against Anglo-American Platinum mines and corrupt government officials; the informal settlement of Crossmoor in Durban which has faced constant evictions and police violence as well as lack of any decent basic services; and, the community of Rammolutsi in the Northern Free State where issues of housing and water have been taken up against the local municipality.
• As a result of its successful and fairly large scale involvement/participation in both the Southern African Social Forum in Zimbabwe in late 2006 as well as the World Social Forum in Nairobi (January 2007), the APF has been able to create new linkages with many different social movements and progressive NGOs both in Africa as well as in other parts of the world. APF activists were instrumental is co-founding the African Water Network and in placing the struggle against pre-paid meters onto the international progressive agenda more forcefully. The APF participated in the Southern Africa Social Forum Regional Organizing Committee meeting held on 14th-15th June 2007 in preparation for the Southern Africa Social Forum to be held in Mozambique in October. The meeting discussed and assessed the WSF and how the regional event can be used to ensure continuity in terms of content, methodology, theme and logistics for the Forum.
• The APF has continued, as in the past, to be the main driving force behind the continuation of the Social Movements Indaba (SMI) - which brings together and forges solidarity amongst various social movements and community organisations from across South Africa. Our organisation greatly assisted - both in human resource and financial terms - to ensure the success of the SMI’s 2006 National Meeting in Durban (December), despite the divisive actions taken at the meeting by a small collection of individuals from Cape Town and Durban. The APF has provided the core of the SMI’s organising and financial ‘task teams’ as well as ensuring that the SMI-Gauteng continues to meet on occasion and carry out actions and workshops that bring community organisations and progressive NGOs together in struggle.
Other organisational activities that have been implemented
The Co-ordinating Committee, Executive Committee & Office Bearers Committee
The APF has managed to hold its regular structural meetings as planned. Meetings have taken place without failure and a Special Co-ordinating Committee meeting took place on 23rd -24th June 2007 which focused on the issues that were not discussed in the AGM (namely, the APF constitution, code of conduct and issues of request for affiliation to the APF). As a result, the APF adopted a re-worked Constitution, a new code of conduct as well as accepting four new affiliates (located in all of the three APF regions). The Executive Committee has managed to meet once every month and for the most part, was well attended by the chairpersons of the affiliates. Office Bearer meetings (which now take place every fortnight) have faced some challenges around finding meeting days where all of the extended office bearers (i.e. sub-committee co-ordinators and regional co-ordinators) could attend. Despite these problems (which predominately stem from several comrades work situations), Office Bearer meetings have taken place as planned.
Unfortunately, the APF Secretary (Noxolo Dlamini) resigned due to extended family commitments and after being on maternity leave for six months. In the last Coordinating Committee in August 2007, comrade Jabulile Mogane was elected as the new APF secretary - to serve until the 2008 AGM elects a new set of Office Bearers.
Regions are, in the main, centres of co-ordination for solidarity and organisational building and mobilisation. The APF has maintained its three distinct regions - East Rand, Johannesburg and Vaal. The Johannesburg region has been very active in building affiliates of the region and have meet every month in different community affiliates. The region has being active in door-to-door campaigns and have facilitated and led a series of community mass meetings. As a result, several APF affiliates in the region have made good progress in taking forward the various communities struggle and becoming more self-sufficient/capacitated in planning, organising and leading campaigns and mobilisation in their respective communities.
The Vaal region has in the past period experienced problems centred around internal leadership and accountability issues. However, this period has seen a drastic improvement in the functioning of the region as a new regional co-ordinator - Mish Tladi - was elected after the previous coordinator Oupa Dlangalala was suspended by the APF for failing to account for financial resources provided to him, for use by the region. While this suspension (which remains in effect until such time as the comrade account for the financial resources taken) disturbed the work of the region for a short while , the new co-ordinator, along with a newly elected regional committee, have managed to push ahead and make a significant amount of headway in organising and mobilising the various, and intensifying, struggles of the region’s affiliates. The region recently embarked on a door-to-door campaign (followed by community mass meetings) designed to bolster certain affiliates and recruit new members and sympathisers. This campaign has helped to heighten the profile of the APF in the Vaal and to place struggles around basic services - especially housing - back onto the agenda of local municipalities and community residents.
The East Rand region has remained active even though there are only three formal community affiliates in the region. Like the APF’s other regions, the East Rand has, over the last few months, begun its own campaign of door-to-door mobilisation and community mass meetings. As a result of this, as well as intensifying struggles around issues of housing-evictions and water issues, the region has managed to recruit more organisations in the area, some of whom have now applied for formal affiliation to the APF.
The APF 2007 AGM took a resolution that the Organiser’s Forum should be revived, the main reason being that this would allow for better co-ordination and orientation towards practical work/actions/campaigns of the APF sub-committees as well as help further build organising and mobilisational capacity within both sub-committees and affiliates. The Organiser’s Forum began soon after the AGM and has succeeded in providing political direction and a more co-ordinated approach to the activities of the APF sub-committees, affiliates and regions (all of whom have representatives attending the forum meetings). This success has been most visible in the door-to-door and mass meeting campaigns in the affiliate communities/regions and the shift in focus of APF sub-committee towards task-oriented work (rather than simply many meetings taking place). The Forum meets regularly once a month and the meetings have been well attended by all APF affiliates as well as those who are not part of the organisation but who can bring added individual skills and organising experience. The forum continues to focus on the various APF campaigns and how best the organisation can implement different tactics in relation to community struggles so as to become more effective both in relation to community mobilisation and impact on local government officials/structures and policy processes.
The APF Media Committee has taken up new projects and has been fairly busy with different organisational mandates provided by the APF structures despite the resignation of the former co-ordinator due to personal/family issues. A music project was launched which resulted in the production of an APF musical CD at the AGM (‘Songs of Struggle’). Comrade Patrick Sindane together with comrade Shimi “Gaddafi” worked on the project and recorded/produced the songs in a make shift studio in a shack in Sebokeng. Almost 1000 copies have been produced, with many being provided to the APF’s community affiliates to distribute and others being sold at minimal cost to the general public (also - some of have been sent overseas to the UK). The CD was covered in the press and has been well received amongst APF communities and activists. The sub-committee has been busy with putting together another edition of the APF newsletter and is also working on putting together a collection of video clips of various APF actions/activities. The APF has been very fortunate to have the assistance of a media intern from the University of the Witswaterand - Natalie Reffo - over the past two months. The comrades has been able to produce an updated list of South African media contacts and to re-build and improve the APF website which had been off-line for many months due to spamming problems and a lack of technical expertise. The media committee held an internet/website workshop earlier in 2007, facilitated by comrades from the Indymedia South Africa collective.
After the long-time coordinator of the legal committee - Siphiwe Segodi - resigned due to getting employment, the APF Treasurer took up most of the legal work for the organisation. Because this was not a sustainable situation, the APF elected comrade Jabulile Mogane as the new legal coordinator about two months ago, with comrade Bafana Makhanya as her deputy. However, given that Jabulile was soon thereafter elected as the new APF Secretary (until the next AGM), the bulk of the day-to-day legal work has now been given over to comrade Ahmed Veriava who was a previous co-ordinator in years past. The nature of most of the legal work is not particularly suited to regular, formalised meetings, so much of the work continues to be conducted on an ad-hoc basis - but with the addition of comrade Veriava, it is envisioned that the legal work of the APF will become more structured and strategically planned. Despite the often-times frenzied character of the APF’s legal work, the comrades involved have managed to effectively organise for defensive legal actions (such as bail, arrests, court appearances etc.) as well as proactive usages of the law (constitutional challenges, anti eviction matters etc). Over the past 3 months, there has been a huge demand for legal assiatance and financial resource allocation to deal with police repression etc. The legal comrades in the APF have succeeded in answering these demands and thus assisting numerous APF activists/affiliates in securing bail and legal representation. The main challenge for the APF on the legal front, remains the paucity of progressive lawyers willing to take up cases involving ‘criminal’ charges (as opposed to civil cases). Although a budding relationship has been established with the LHR, this challenge loom large given the increased repression of community struggle and the APF’s limited financial resources for legal work/assistance.
The Education committee, like the legal, suffered substantially due to the departure of the previous co-ordinator in late 2006 (due to personal/work issues). Even though a new co-ordinator was elected in early 2007, the committee has struggled with issues of capacity, especially in relation to organising and running APF-wide educational workshops. Nonetheless, some activities have taken place during 2007. The main activity was the June 16th rally in the community of Katlehong (East Rand) - June 16th remains an important symbolic day and provides the opportunity to mobilise youth. This year’s event came at a time when there was the big public sector strike in the country and so the APF decided to make use of the event to mobilise and recruit more educators around APF politics and organisation. The event was well supported by learners, as the majority of the participants were school-going youth, together with the unemployed. There were some educators in attendance, particularly from Orange Farm where the APF affiliate has managed to bring on-board a group of disgruntled teachers and assist them in their ongoing struggles around conditions of employment and links to the wider community within which they operate. Many of the youth at the event gave accounts of what has/ has not been achieved in the education struggles over the last few years and the general decline in activity from the few critical, independent youth political organisations that continue to exist. Overall, the event was a success, coming up with a way forward on how to build strong and vibrant militant youth organisations. There were more than one of these organisations that have now requested affiliation to the APF. The education comrades in the APF have also embarked on a series of meetings and door-to-door campaigns (especially in the Vaal) to attract more youth to the APF and the organisation has begun a process of debate and discussion as to how to better mobilise youth and to improve APF campaigns/programmes that are more organically linked to ongoing struggles at schools and with the broader field of education.
The Housing Committee has been functioning consistently and the task-team meets regularly. It organised a small workshop for APF affiliates on the state of housing in informal settlements, produced pamphlets and also done work in creating better solidarity amongst/between APF affiliates around common housing struggles. One of the new organisations that has requested affiliation to the APF, the Golden Triangle Community Forum (GOLCOM) was assisted by the housing committee to hold its own housing workshop on 3rd June 2007, an event that was also supported by other APF affiliates. The workshop discussed and adopted new tactics in the housing struggles - something that resulted in direct action taking place (through the blocking of main roads) and more focused attention from local government authorities over the housing crisis in the communities belonging to GOLCOM. The workshop also enabled discussion around what might constitute a new social housing policy and the kind of demands that need to be made to facilitate and encourage a wider APF and South African discussion/debate about housing alternatives
As previously mentioned earlier in this report, the labour activists in the APF gave direct support and solidarity to workers struggles during the period under review. Most importantly, thelabour committee facilitated and organised APF affiliates/activists to join the mass actions of COSATU’s public sector strike around job security, salary increases as well as become involved in meetings with workers around the effects of privatisation and COSATU’s campaign against job losses. The APF’s relationship with the independent trade union GIWUSA, was also strengthened as a result of consistent support for direct actions by GIWUSA workers and helping with media work. Similarly, the struggles of the Samancor Retrenched Workers Crisis Committee have expanded and have met with several successes (around access to surplus pension funds and recognition of the health problems of retrenched workers), as well as new linkages, and solidarity, with Samancor workers in the city of Witbank in Mpumalanga province.
In the 2007 AGM, the APF took a resolution that there was the need for a Treasurer’s Committee to be started so that APF affiliate treasurers (or relevant leadership) could be trained/capacitated on a range of basic financial skills/tasks/ responsibilities. The committee has now met several times (monthly) - organized by the APF Treasure - and has run a small workshop. Not all affiliates have participated in the committee and it remains a huge challenge to impart basic finance skills to affiliate activists as well as inculcate a ‘culture’ of financial accountability (linked to political/mobilisational programmes) in every organisation belonging to the APF. In this regard, some progress has definitely been made from the state of things in previous years, but there remains a long way to go.
This has being a very active organising period in the APF as our affiliates were involved in many community activities (besides those already covered above).
• The Samancor Retrenched Workers Crisis Committee holding a well-attended mass meeting on 30th March 2007 in order to further mobilise community support for their ongoing struggles around the living conditions and state-abandonment of retrenched workers; comrades from Freedom Park (in Johannesburg region) held a community mass meeting on 7th April 2007 to prepare for their march to the local municipal authorities in nearby Eldorado Park, which succeeded in placing the community’s concerns and grievances around issues of housing and basic services onto the municipality’s political agenda through an agreement to kick-start the development of formal housing in the community/area. • One organisation not affiliated to the APF - the Norkem Park Concerned Residents - held a community mass meeting on 18th April 2007 with the active support and leadership of the APF East Rand region addiliates. The struggle in Norkem Park revolves around the privatisation of electricity and the installation of pre-paid electricity meters. Importantly, the community has gone through endless and fruitless meetings and legal battles with/against the municipality without positive results (people’s electricity continues to be disconnected for failure to pay). The relationship with the APF has now convinced the community of the need to also engage in mass action and mobilisation - and thus the community took a decision to join the APF East Rand region’s march to the Ekhurleni Mayor’s office to highlight their grievances and place pressure on senior politicians and local government authorities to listen to the community. • The Soweto Concerned Residents held their first Annual General Meeting on 26th -27th April 2007 and the main focus of the event was to elect new leadership for the organisation but also get an opportunity to strategise on a plan of action for the year. The event was well attended by all the affiliates of the SCR as well as numerous observers from other APF community organisations. Most importantly, the AGM succeeded in forging strategic unity within the organisation and electing more female comrades into leadership positions. As a result, the SCR has become a more effective and active organisation capable of organising larger sections of the broader Soweto community around burning bread-and-butter issues
Policy interventions/Overall Struggle
The main project aims that the APF have in promoting an alternative development agenda based on human and constitutional rights and principles of social justice remain on course, given the government’s continuous failure to deliver meaningful and sustained basic services that are accessible and affordable for poor communities and its arrogant refusal to fundamentally shift its neo-liberal policies so that there can be a redistribution of wealth and income in favour of the majority poor. All of the key socio-economic indicators and statistics available, continue to confirm that there is an ever-widening wealth/income and ownership gap between the rich and the poor and that the greatest disparities in wealth are now to be seen within/amongst black South Africa. While race remains a very real factor in South African society, it is clear that it is class differentiation that has become the main dividing line. As a result, the ruling ANC government policy agenda has increasingly become a source of division and debate, not only amongst the traditional ‘left’ in South Africa but ever more so amongst the ranks of the unemployed, organised workers and the desperately poor. This has meant that over the last year in particular, the struggles of organisations like the APF have increasingly moved into the public spotlight and have caught the attention of government authorities who have come under intensified pressure to ‘deliver’ to the very constituency that they claim to represent and champion - i.e. the poor.
While the APF has, and will continue to use the route of institutionalised ‘redress’, ‘consultation’ and debate to promote its alternative developmental agenda (i.e. through written submissions on legislation; participation in government structures at the local and provincial levels; use of the court system to try and enforce practical application of constitutional rights; public engagement and debate with political and economic elites through the media and through NGO processes; use of the electoral system to contest political party dominance of development issues and programmes etc.), what we have learnt (and which has only been further confirmed by our experiences) is that mass action and mobilisation, combined with popular education initiatives and organisation building remains the best and surest path to an effective promotion of our alternative development agenda. It is through such a strategic approach to struggle that the possibilities for fundamentally contesting and thus practically shifting the present developmental path are best situated. Indeed, it is this approach which has proven to be the greatest strength of the APF and which has allowed our organisation to sustain itself - and indeed to grow -through very difficult times. Slogans can, at times, fall short of communicating the intended message, but in the case of the APF, our main slogan remains both relevant and a source of groundedness - ‘Working Class Struggle in Action’.
As long as the APF continues to be true to its purpose and intent, so too will the struggle for human dignity, socio-economic justice and meaningful participatory democracy remain alive. The APF has no illusions in what can be achieved in the present era in this regard - radical changes require radical measures and struggle and in South Africa, that situation has not yet arrived. And yet, the kinds of struggles that the APF has managed to sustain, bodes well for building an ever-stronger foundation upon which smaller victories and advances can be (and have been) won. The struggle continues!