South Africa


Civil Society Watch: 24 February-2 March 2020

Civil Society Watch: 24 February-2 March 2020
Capetonian, marathon swimmer, musician and mother-of-three Carina Bruwer is planning to attempt a 21km crossing of Nelson Mandela Bay in Port Elizabeth, in support of Muzukidz, an organisation that offers underprivileged children the opportunity to learn the violin. Photo supplied.

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

As social justice activism gathers pace in 2020, it’s becoming harder and harder to capture all of the events being organised by civil society every seven days. It is a BIG week and many of the events and activities that we report on below relate to the Budget due to be delivered by Finance Minister Tito Mboweni in Parliament at 2pm on Wednesday 26 February.

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni. (Photo: Leila Dougan)

That’s not surprising because the Budget is where the “tekkies” hit the tar. In the words of the late Austrian sociologist Rudolf Goldscheid, the Budget is “the skeleton of the state stripped of all misleading ideologies.” In other words, the president and the ANC can huff and puff all they want about social justice but the Budget is where pro-poor rhetoric runs out of hiding places in the spotlight of austerity.  

On an international level it’s also an important week. In Rome, governments will be meeting to begin negotiations on the “Zero draft” of the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, a new treaty that aims “to stop the mass extinction of wildlife and the destruction of life-supporting ecosystems”. You are not likely to hear much about it in the mainstream media, but it’s pretty important for your children and all those we will bequeath our world to.

Sunset near to Risco Caido and the Sacred Mountains of Gran Canaria Island, in Canary Islands, Spain. This mountain system has been recognised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, something that the Canarian parliament has said must contribute to preserve and respect the Island environment and biodiversity. EPA-EFE/Angel Medina G.

But let’s start with the Budget.

As mentioned last week, a caravan organised by the Cry of the Xcluded is now winding its way from Emalahleni in Mpumalanga to Cape Town.  When it gets there today (Monday 24 February) it will become part of the Real Job Summit, which will start at 9am outside Parliament and then continue at St George’s Cathedral. On Budget day itself the Cry of the Xcluded coalition is organising a  #WorkForUs Budget Day March to Parliament.

For those unable to get to Cape Town, on Monday 24 February in Johannesburg the Budget Justice Coalition (BJC) is organising a pre-Budget training for civil society organisations at SECTION27. The training has great teachers from a range of civil society organisations giving you the evidence that “a human rights Budget is possible.” And on 25 February, the BJC is holding its annual general meeting, also at SECTION27. For more information about either event contact Daniel at 

At the end of a week in which we all talk money, on Thursday 27 February the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) is holding a workshop on the November 2018 Concluding Observations of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on SA’s implementation of the International Covenant of the same name. It might sound like a mouthful but it’s really important because the committee found SA wanting and Deputy Justice Minister John Jeffery will be there to explain what the government is doing in response. Unfortunately, it’s by invite only.

So, that’s some of what’s happening around the 2020 Budget. But it’s a no less busy week for activists on other fronts.

Abahlali baseMjondolo at a gathering in 2018.

On the morning of Monday 24 February, Abahlali baseMjondolo is marching to the Durban City hall to submit its proposals on the Amendment of section 25 of the Constitution Bill. Abahlali is a social movement of landless and homeless people with 75,000 members in five provinces, so its view could not be more important.

On Tuesday 25 February at 5.30pm at the Senate Room of Solomon Mahlangu House at Wits, Michelle Williams is giving her inaugural professorial lecture on “Contesting the Degeneration of Democracy”. Williams is a quiet behind-the-scenes academic activist who has written extensively and authoritatively on social justice. If you want to make sense of what’s going wrong with democracy and why, and more importantly, how to fix it, get there.   

On the same day, at 3.30pm in Cape Town, the Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance is holding a public seminar on “Financing Health Promotion to Reduce Alcohol-Attributable Harm” at the Dumo Baqwa Room at UCT.  

On Thursday 27 February a new think tank on Government and Public Policy (GAPP) will be starting a two-day workshop on the Future of Government. GAPP says, “The aim is to reflect on the models, ideas and practices that inform the design of contemporary public service with a view to developing a realistic agenda for reform.”  

Kenyan activists from a civil rights group who call themselves the Red Vest Movement, shout slogans as they hold a banner with a collaged image of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto that they say represents the corruption in the country, during a march to protest against corruption, in central Nairobi, Kenya, 30 April 2019. Kenyan police fired tear gas at anti-corruption protesters who were demanding President Kenyatta to act on corruption or resign. EPA-EFE/Daniel Irungu

Also on Thursday: the African Union Advisory Board on Anti-Corruption will be visiting South Africa to assess SA’s implementation of the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption. As part of this they are holding a workshop with civil society organisations in Pretoria. Contact Kavisha at Corruption Watch for more information.

And back in Cape Town, as Parliament continues with public hearings on NHI, the People’s Health Movement is holding a Public Forum on “The State of Health care in SA: Is NHI the Answer?with the respected surgeon and activist Dr Lydia Cairncross as the main speaker. 

Residents addressed the NHI Hearings in Khayelitsha on Wednesday, 5 February 2020. Photo: Nasief Manie/Spotlight

On Friday 28 February National Climate Change Dialogue (which was meant to happen last week) takes place in Gauteng. At lunchtime the Wits Farmers’ Market is open outside the Sanctuary Building, hosted by the Wits Food Sovereignty Campaign. The WFM takes place on the last Friday of every month and according to the organisers, it’s “an opportunity to meet your growers directly, speak to them about their growing methods and rest assured that you are eating clean and healthy vegetables”. 

Capetonian marathon swimmer, musician and mother-of-three Carina Bruwer is planning to attempt a 21km crossing of Nelson Mandela Bay in Port Elizabeth, in support of Muzukidz, an organisation that offers underprivileged children the opportunity to learn the violin. Photo supplied

Activism takes many shapes! On Friday in Port Elizabeth Carina Bruwer a marathon swimmer, musician and mother of three is planning a gruelling ultra-distance swim across Nelson Mandela Bay to raise money for Muzukidz, an NGO that offers underprivileged children the chance to learn the violin. Also on the PE shorefront young climate activists will be hosting their Friday for Future strike at 2pm. Meet them at Shark Rock Pier armed with a poster and your schoolmates. Their past posters make the mission clear: “Stop Fossil Fools” and “If you don’t act like adults we will.”

And then to the weekend. 

On Saturday 29 February the Cape Town Pride Parade will leave the Reddam Field at the Green Point Urban Park at 11am. There is no word yet of a planned Alternative and Inclusive Pride March taking place after previous marches were accused of being too white and elitist.

Participants at the Johannesburg Pride and Festival 2019 showed love and support throughout the march and all its’ festivities. Photo by Chanel Retief

And finally, for the 17th year, South Africans can shave or spray their hair to show their solidarity with cancer survivors. CANSA Shavathon stations will be at malls across the country from 11am-3pm on Saturday, 29 February. Donations can be made in the form of R50 or hair, which will be used to make wigs for cancer survivors.

Now, to close the week, let’s celebrate a South African award winner. 

Last week, veteran human rights activist Sizani Ngubane was one of the three women laureates to win a Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders. At a ceremony in Geneva she was a runner-up in the annual award to “human rights activists at risk” made by 10 of the world’s leading international human rights organisations. Ngubane’s feminist activism has spanned decades. She is one of the founders of the Rural Women’s Movement. 

Activists live in every city, town and village in South Africa and we want to report on all of them! So, wherever you live, if you have events or meetings which you think other activists ought to know about, write to us at: [email protected]

Also please sign up for our weekly newsletter here. MC


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