Maverick Citizen


Civil Society Watch, 3-10 February 2020

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A weekly feature to inform readers of a cross-section of events organised by civil society organisations.

2020 is in full swing. Last week the Maverick Citizen team met in Cape Town to discuss civil society plans and priorities for 2020 in South Africa and internationally and how best to report them. As our popular Civil Society Outlook showed, it’s going to be a pivotal year, and the reports we provided of activists’ plans were only the tip of the iceberg.

The diversity of civil society events next week is evidence of this year’s gathering momentum. 

In 1884 the great colonial powers of Europe met to divide up Africa at the infamous Berlin conference. Today there is a new, albeit undeclared, “scramble for Africa”; this time it’s for our diamonds, gold, oil, natural gas, uranium, platinum, copper, cobalt, iron, bauxite, silver, and more. The website Mining in Africa salivates that our resources “are largely untapped… but gaining in importance in a world fuelled by commodity consumption.”

Yet, in their rush to feed economically and environmentally unsustainable patterns of consumption, most mining companies are riding rough-shod over communities and the environment. Many of these new colonists (companies now rather than states) will be meeting at the annual African Mining Indaba, billed as “the world’s largest mining investment event”, in Cape Town this week.

Miners who were trapped underground are transported to a safe holding area after being trapped underground at the Sibanye Stillwater’s Beatrix mine, Welkom, South Africa, 02 February 2018. Around 900 miners were trapped when a storm damaged the power supply to the mine with no injuries or fatalities reported. The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa said on the same day that it wanted Sibanye Stillwater’s Beatrix mine in the Free State to remain shut until workers safety could be guaranteed. EPA-EFE/STR

However, at the same time, starting on Monday 3 February, civil society and human rights defenders from 30 countries will be meeting a few kilometres down the road at the Alternative Mining Indaba (AMI). The AMI is in its eleventh year and is hosted by the Economic Justice Network of the Fellowship of Christian Councils in Southern Africa (EJN of FOCCISA). Its theme is “environmental and economically sustainable mineral economies in an era of climate change catastrophe”.

Also today, Monday 3 February, watch out for the judgment of the Constitutional Court in Malawi on the fairness and legality of last year’s presidential elections in that country. Since the elections, Malawian civil society organisations have been at the forefront of protests. NGOs such as the Malawi Human Rights Defenders Coalition and Freedom House are calling on the Malawian government to respect the rule of law and the decision of the court.

An election observer in Malawi, 14 March 2019. The Malawi Electoral Integrity Program (MEIP) unded by USAID and DfID, NDI is providing technical assistance to the Malawi Electoral Support Network (MESN) to conduct a non-partisan citizen pre-election observation program and an election day parallel vote tabulation of the presidential results for the May 2019 tripartite elections. Photo: Monika Emch/Flickr

The coming week is also significant for a number of anniversaries and for the launch of a number of reports that continue to throw new light on the scale of inequality, particularly in South Africa.

Wednesday February 5th is the 38th anniversary of the murder of Neil Aggett by the brutal apartheid security police. Next week will mark the third week of the inquest into his death. On that day there will also be a memorial at West Park cemetery organised by the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation at 8.30am; and later, at 10am, a march organised by the Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU) to South Gauteng High Court to demand the prosecution of his murderers.

On February 6th, the day after, comes what would have been the 75th birthday of Robert Nesta Marley, the master of reggae, a singer who armed generations of activists with songs and words capturing our anger and determination to overcome injustice.

Had they lived, Aggett (who would have turned 67 this year) and Marley would have been astounded at the extreme levels of inequality that have developed in the neo-liberal era. Last week the Southern Centre for Inequality Studies (SCIS) released a special issue of Development Southern Africa vol. 36(6) focusing on inequality in South Africa. The full special issue can be accessed HERE.

This week it’s the turn of Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection (MISTRA) which on Monday at 5pm at the University of Pretoria will launch its latest publication, Africa and the World: Navigating Shifting Geopolitics. According to MISTRA “The edited volume analyses the shifting global landscape from the point of view of challenges and opportunities facing the African continent.”

A week later, for those of you in the Western Cape on Monday 11 February the African Center of Excellence for Inequality Research will hold an important stakeholder engagement at the Solutions Centre in Philippi to unpack the findings of its groundbreaking 2019 report on inequality trends in South Africa.

The Portfolio Committee on Health listens to comments from the public during the KwaZulu-Natal leg of its public hearings on the National Health Insurance Bill (Photo: Zwelethemba Kostile/ParliamentRSA)

One more thing on the issue of reports… this is a BIG year for NHI. If you want to understand the state of the SA Health system, you could not do better than study the Health Systems Trust 2019 South African Health Review which is now available online here

Important public hearings are underway on the controversial and highly contested Traditional Courts Bill. However, Parliament, through omission or commission, seems to want to keep them as unpublic as possible. Last week, hearings took place in the Northern Cape. However, the Land and Accountability Research Centre (LARC), one of the bill’s most informed and vocal critics, only received a notification on Tuesday 28 January. The Gauteng hearings are scheduled to take place in February but dates are not yet confirmed. Watch this space.

The NHI hearings also continue and now it is the turn of the Western Cape to discuss the bill. The National Portfolio Committee on Health will be conducting four public hearings. They kick off in the West Coast and move to the Central Karoo, Garden Route and the Cape Metro. The details are as follows:

4 February: West Coast district, Allan Boesak Hall Piketberg, 4,30pm-8.30pm

5 February: Cape Metro district, Khayelitsha CBD Hall, 4.30pm-8.30pm

7 February: Garden Route district, George Civic Centre, 4.30pm-8.30pm

8 February: Central Karoo district, Beaufort West Solly Essop Hall, 10am to 3pm. 

On Thursday 6 February the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (Casac)  is holding a briefing session on political party funding. Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) Commissioner Mosotho Moepya, George Mahlangu, the chief executive for party funding at the IEC; and Lawson Naidoo, Casac’s executive secretary, conducted a study visit to the UK in November 2019 to examine how their electoral commission regulates and manages the disclosure of private funding to political parties. They met with representatives from the main political parties, as well as the Electoral Reform Society, Unlock Democracy and Corruption Watch.

They will report back on the UK Electoral Commission’s systems and mechanisms to receive, record and disseminate information, challenges and successes in implementation, and best practices regarding the regulation of party funding. The deputy chair of the IEC, Commissioner Janet Love, and IEC CEO Sy Mamabolo will also provide an update on preparations for the implementation of the Political Party Funding Act (PPFA).

The PPFA was signed into law in January 2019 but is yet to come into force. The IEC says it is in the process of finalising regulations for the implementation of the legislation, following a consultation process last year.

The briefing is from 9am at the Park Inn by Radisson in Cape Town.

Friday 7 February is World Wetlands day and Fresh (Fountains and Rivers Environmental Sanctuary – Hennops) is holding a community river clean up, restoration and exploration in Centurion. For more information write to [email protected]  

12 December 2019: The community of Mushroomville was completely destroyed by the recent floods after the nearby Hennops River burst its banks. Picture: Ihsaan Haffejee

Finally, an issue that should occupy us all every day. The Climate Justice Coalition is asking for your input on the draft Climate Justice Charter which it intends to present to Parliament later this year.

Phew, January is over! Now for the big-little month of February – this year with one extra day – SONA, the budget and the civil society campaigns that attempt to arc society towards social justice. 

Are you a regular reader of Maverick Citizen yet? Did you know that every day we publish new stories and views from the heart of activist civil society? This week Maverick Citizen will be bringing you a special video feature about how former drug and alcohol addicts in Thembalethu in the Western Cape have started a community-based campaign, known as the Smoking and Alcohol Harms Alleviation and Rehabilitation Association (Sahara). It’s modelled on the TAC and aims to mobilise communities to tackle the causes of alcoholism and substance abuse and to campaign for access to registered medicines that can treat people who want to overcome their substance addictions. Look out for our first weekly newsletter on Tuesday and if you like it subscribe. On Friday we will continue with our weekly profile of women activists who lead civil society. And in the days in between,  if you snooze you will lose civil society news you can use!   

If you have events or meetings which you think other activists ought to know about, write to us at: [email protected] MC



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