South Africa


Civil Society Watch: 2-9 March 2020

Civil Society Watch: 2-9 March 2020
Photo: Cape Town Cycle Tour Facebook page.

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

In a letter to its clients last week, FNB Private Wealth declared that the 2020 Budget Speech was “unexpectedly positive for high net-worth individuals and, indeed, all South Africans”.

Social justice organisations, on the other hand, cried that there had been a “foul” on the Constitution and will start this week in a state of shock. The “progressive realisation” of  constitutional human rights that civil society campaigns to advance are under threat by budget cuts to health, education, transport and to public servants whose work is vital to the delivery of socio-economic rights. In a country with huge inequality, a world-beating quadruple burden of disease, widespread hunger and drought, these rights are more important than ever. 

Left: Members and supporters of the Treatment Action Campaign march to the Constitutional Court on 10 December 2018. Centre: Michael Komape. Right: Retired chief justice Dikgang Moseneke releases the Life Esidimeni arbitration findings on 19 March 2018 in Johannesburg. (Photos: Gallo Images / Netwerk24 / Felix Dlangamandla | Image: SECTION27) | Gallo Images / Netwerk24 / Felix Dlangamandla)

It’s therefore perfect planning that the first thing up this week on Monday 2 March 2020 is a seminar being hosted by SECTION27 on the issue of “Socio-economic rights litigation in the time of austerity and state capture”. The seminar starts at 10am and will bring together many organisations fighting to advance rights and will hopefully be a council of war (on anti-poor budgeting).

On the same day, the annual Rastafari protest march will take place in Cape Town. Although Minister of Finance Tito Mboweni made no mention of it in his Budget, the ganja economy is not unrelated to job creation, new markets, and protecting and promoting indigenous economies. This year, the march’s focus is on ending police brutality and the drafting of a “Rastafari Cannabis Bill”. It will start at 8am at Keizergracht on Hanover street and move to Parliament.

Rojava Conflict illustration. Source: Wikipedia

On a more sober note, in the evening, two meetings focus on international issues: ILRIG and SWOP are co-hosting a seminar on “An Alternative for a World in Crisis: the Rojava Revolution, Kurdish Freedom Movement and Prospect’s for South Africa’s Incomplete Revolution”. It starts at 5.30pm on the Wits East Campus. And, at the Saaberie Chishty Hall in Lenasia, an India Solidarity Meeting (“Say No to BJP/RSS Fascism”), is being held by a range of organisations, including the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation. 

On Tuesday March 3, the Constitutional Court will consider the constitutionality of those parts of the Correctional Services Act, which do not provide South Africa with a completely independent Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services (JCIS). 

(Photo: Adobestock)

The Constitutional Court will have to decide whether the state has an obligation to establish an independent inspectorate of prisons and if the current JCIS meets these criteria. The issue emerged from litigation brought by Sonke Gender Justice‘s Prison Reform programme to address severe overcrowding in the Western Cape’s Pollsmoor Prison. The Cape High Court had declared parts of the act to be unconstitutional. The application is not opposed by the Department of Justice and Correctional Services. The inspecting judge of prisons, Judge Edwin Cameron, has indicated in an affidavit that they will abide by the decision of the court.

Throughout next week, Corruption Watch will be conducting engagements with mining-affected communities in Dannhauser, Newcastle, from 3-5 March 2020. These meetings will look into the challenges faced by these communities relating to the administration of mining royalties. The engagements stem from frustrated mining communities reaching out to Corruption Watch to empower them with necessary information to collectively hold tribal and government leaders accountable. 

Community members from Mtendeka, Umzinyathi, Klipspruit and Uitkomst will attend these meetings. The engagements will be from 10am to 1pm at the Mtendeka Community Sports Ground (3 March); Umzinyathi Community Sports Ground (4 March); and Uitkomst Community Sports Ground (5 March).

(Photo by Gallo Images/Ziyaad Douglas)

There will be a March 4 Justice in Cape Town on Thursday, 5 March to say “Enough is Enough” in light of femicide and killing of children. The organisers, Butterfly JH Foundation, encourage marchers to bring photographs of loved ones lost to rape and murder. The march will leave the Parade at 10am and make its way to Parliament where they will present their demands.

On Thursday, 5 March, the Tricontinental Institute for Social Research is holding a Frantz Fanon Colloquium at The Forge, 87 De Korte St, from 10am-4.30pm. For more information, contact [email protected]. Just up the road that evening, at Constitution Hill, is the launch of Resistance in their Blood, an exhibition of photographs of the Naidoo-Pillay family: Pacificists, Professionals, Protestors, Patriots. As state capturers and one political party try to whip up anti-Indian racism, it’s a timely reminder of the sacrifices many people of Indian descent made in the struggle against apartheid.

And – over the Karoo and far away – in Cape Town, TEDx Cape Town is allowing anyone with a big idea to get up on stage for two minutes and pitch it before an audience and the TEDx Speaker team at their first ever TEDx Cape Town Open Mic night. The speakers will receive feedback and may be selected to give their full presentation at this year’s main event. It works on a first come first serve basis (RSVP here) and will take place at the American Corner in the Cape Town Central Library between 5.30pm and 7pm.

Audience members at Daily Maverick’s The Gathering in Cape Town, 15 August 2018. Photo: Leila Dougan

Then, to end the workday week on Friday, 6 March, there will be a bonanza edition of the Daily Maverick Gathering in Cape Town this year under the theme “Rebuilding South Africa”. As well as leaders from business and government, the Gathering will feature civil society speakers and sessions on crucial issues such as National Health Insurance, the economy and autocracy versus democracy. Unfortunately, it’s fully booked, but no harm trying. (It will be televised on eNCA and livestreamed on their website)

And while in Cape Town and talking about rebuilding South Africa: There’s good ways and bad ways, ways that entrench inequality and ways that advance social justice.  So, activists want you to know that this is the last week to submit objections to the City of Cape Town’s plans to renew the lease of a whopping 45.99 hectares of prime public land (the equivalent of 45 rugby fields) to the Rondebosch Golf Club for a period of 10 years at the massively discounted rate of R1,058 per year – land that could better be used to reverse the city’s apartheid legacy.

The symbolic occupation of Rondebosch Golf Club on human rights day, 2019 when activists from Reclaim the City occupied the golf club to call for the City of Cape Town to redistribute well-located public land. Photo: Zacharia Mashele.

A report released in 2019 by Ndifuna Ukwazi shows that this well-located land could provide a whole suburb of dense affordable housing. And yet, in the face of the worst housing affordability crisis in the country, the city plans to renew the lease, reserving this land for the exclusive use of its wealthy members or those who can afford to access the space. Ndifuna Ukwazi and Reclaim the City encourage everyone to submit their comments or objections to the lease online or by email to Magda Murray at [email protected] before 9 March 2020.

Finally, on Sunday, 8 March, it’s the 109km Cape Cycle tour again, hopefully this year not to be cancelled because of either wind or COVID-19. Sport and social justice can be intimately connected – they are both about dignity and self-development – and although the cost of a bike still excludes many people from cycling, there are people who find ways to tackle inequality with a good ride. So, this year, veteran health activist Prof Leslie London is riding to raise money for an NPO that works to advance the rights of the deaf to South African Sign Language interpretation, =Equal Health.

=Equal Health was founded in 2019 and aims to work to progressively realise the right of equal and accessible healthcare and health-related information for all deaf people, throughout their lives. The serious consequences of deafness and the language barriers limiting access to public domains, such as health, justice and employment are not well known and are regularly underestimated. Contact Leslie if you want to make a donation. 

And that’s it. Another busy week of activism ahead.

Watch out for a new series of articles in Maverick Citizen where we are going to focus on the food crisis in South Africa, but more importantly what can be done with all the food many of us waste. In this case, the proof (that people need not go hungry) literally is in the pudding. MC

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]

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