Maverick Citizen

EDITORIAL

Welcome to Maverick Citizen – it’s springtime for social justice journalism

Welcome to Maverick Citizen – it’s springtime for social justice journalism

Today Daily Maverick launches Maverick Citizen – an activist news and views platform, where the voices of citizens in civil society fighting for social justice and human rights will find a home.

The platform will join other news outlets dedicated to issues of social justice, including GroundUp, Health-e, Spotlight and New Frame, which have pioneered a path to telling the extraordinary stories of ordinary people. Maverick Citizen will focus on the ongoing efforts of civil society. We will present news from the perspective of those Maverick Citizens who lead the charge against inequality and deprivation.

But why bother? It is a fact that the climate is in crisis and so is our world. It is a fact that our health system is buckling and so are many others in the world. It is a fact that our education system is burying generations of dreams and excellence. It is a fact that many people were removed from their homes and the land needs to be restored to its rightful owners. It is a fact that the world cannot rely on business and politicians to right these wrongs.

The most powerful antidote to injustice is active citizenship.

This spring morning, September 2, 2019, tens of thousands of people working or volunteering in thousands of organisations are on their way to work. They have one thing in mind – to campaign and fight tirelessly for other people’s equality and dignity, to try to build hope and opportunity.

Put another way, they work to advance the vision of our Constitution with its aim to “improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of everyone”.

They are what we call Maverick Citizens. They are Mavericks (Dictionary.com definition, n a person pursuing rebellious even potentially disruptive, policies or ideas) because they swim against the stream of inequality and deprivation. They are Citizens, not by virtue of where they were born, but in the best meaning of the word: because they take their duties as humans seriously.

In the words of Martin Luther King, which we urge you to listen to, they are “maladjusted” – but proudly so because they refuse to be adjusted to inequality and poverty. They refuse to be adjusted to the cynicism and “rules” of the dog-eat-dog world. Their work tries to keep hope alive.

The Maverick Citizen hopes to inform you about the work and ideas of these human rights activists.

Maverick Citizens are everywhere. Maverick Citizens were born everywhere. They work in the groaning wards of our broken health system and the crumbling classrooms of our education systems. They fight for land and food rights. They try to keep water and airsheds clean. They debate with other citizens to protect and advance rights. They do research to engage on issues of policy and legislation. They gather evidence of injustice and force us all to see, to not look away.

But they always act, giving us a glimpse of what a wonderful world this could be. They are the change we want to see in the world.

Think what our country would be like if the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (SAFCEI) had not gone to court to overturn the nuclear deal. Or if Right2Know had not been formed to successfully fight the Secrecy Bill. Think about the efforts of the Legal Resources Centre in its mammoth battle to get compensation for mineworkers with silicosis and TB, or the work of Lawyers for Human Rights campaigning to protect migrants and refugees. Think about the Treatment Action Campaign’s campaign to challenge the price of anti-retroviral medicines and its fight against state-sanctioned AIDS denialism. Think about SECTION27 and its work on the Life Esidimeni disaster and Michael Komape, the #TotalShutdown movement, the Black Sash, My Vote Counts, the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution, Reclaim the City and the Social Justice Coalition’s relentless battle for dignity for those living in Cape Town’s informal settlements.

Think about Abahlali baseMjondolo risking their lives for housing rights. Think about the Amadiba Crisis Committee successfully using the courts to prevent new land grabs by multinational companies. Remember SaveSouthAfrica’s mobilisation against State Capture. Recall that just two weeks ago it was R2K and Corruption Watch that were responsible for the successful High Court review of the “findings” of the Seriti Commission.

All this is just the tip of the iceberg. These are the names of organisations you may have heard of. However, besides them is a much bigger universe of Maverick Citizens and organisations whose work you probably don’t (yet) know about: Moms Move for Justice, Women on Farms, the Cancer Alliance, the Dreamfields Project and thousands more. According to the Department of Social Development, there are 271,000 registered Not for Profit (NPO) organisations in SA.

Truly, the unsung s/heroes.

It is the news made by these Maverick Citizens that we will bring you. We will report on individual efforts to make democracy work, advance accountability, for rights realisation and good governance.

Maverick Citizen will strive to provide you with a window into the struggles for human rights, good governance and social justice. We will open that window on the people and organisations who fight for them. And – in the spirit of transparency that we all demand – on their donors.

So, this week we go live with articles, videos and images that we hope will elevate the voices of those that need to be heard:

  • It is sad that we go live with the tragic story of Michael Komape, but it is also fitting that we continue to ensure that his horrific death was not in vain or forgotten and that his family are heard. Today’s Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) hearing in the Michael Komape case will have to decide whether constitutional damages should be paid for the pit-toilet death of little Michael in 2014.
  • The first in a series of articles are part of a countdown towards the global #ClimateStrike which young people have called on the world to organise on Friday 20 September 2019.
  • The first of our profiles of womxn leaders in civil society, starts tomorrow with the formidable Equal Education general secretary, Noncedo Madubedube.

  • Project Citizen is a collection of short videos that will at times be accompanied by written profiles of some of the people who make our Constitution, our world and our community tick.

We hope you will find Maverick Citizen informative and motivating. The era of active citizens needs a dedicated activist news and views service. That’s what we aspire to be.

Mark Heywood, Editor

If you have ideas, stories or suggestions contact us at [email protected] MC

  • Note: The majority of photographs included in the short film were not created for Maverick Citizen but are taken from projects by Thom Pierce that illustrate a range of work being done by organisations within South Africa as well as a range of personal projects by the photographer. These organisations include The Black Sash, The South African Council of Catholic Bishops, Sonke Gender Justice, SECTION27, the Treatment Action Campaign, the Centre for Disease Control, African Centre for Cities, The Development Action Group, Africa !gnite, Spotlight and Global Witness. Thom Pierce, has been working with Maverick Citizen to launch this section of the Daily Maverick and has supplied the images as a representation of some of the issue Maverick Citizen aims to report on.
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Otsile Nkadimeng - photo by Thom Pierce

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