South Africa


Civil Society Watch, 9-16 March 2020

Civil Society Watch, 9-16 March 2020

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

Respected British journalist Gary Younge recently wrote:

“The media’s role is to inform and tell the truth. I don’t believe in objectivity. I think it’s a farcical notion. Stories demand choices, so it’s not objectivity it’s fairness, clearly… I think the media has a job to do in terms of insisting on people’s humanity — not restoring their humanity because humanity never went away — but the media stripped people of their humanity.”

We agree with him. “Insisting on people’s humanity” is what our journalism tries to do. We want to say “respect” to the activists and organisations that work to make that happen.

At the start of each week Maverick Citizen tries to scope the civil society environment, scraping information from emails, WhatsApp groups and from those of you who kindly inform us of your activities. We want to show the level of imagination and ideation that goes into working for a better world.

We want to show how, because civil society lives on the front lines of poverty and inequality, it’s forced to innovate and organise, for public good rather than private profit. 

Last week Maverick Citizen began a series of reports on food waste, hunger and organisations working to ensure a fairer, better distribution on good food. By happy coincidence, it turns out that on Monday 9 March the Consumer Goods Council of South Africa (CGCSA) in partnership with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) are holding a workshop in Cape Town on the Voluntary SA Food waste agreement for the agricultural sector. This is the latest in a number of workshops that have been held with the food supply chain to inform the development of the agreement. For further information contact Sibulela Ngeniswa at [email protected]

After the marches and big political events of the last few weeks it seems that next week is dominated by seminars, reflection and learning. Nothing wrong with that! Activism without ideas is just huff and puff…

Karen Hendricks and Toedieda Adams participate in the Reclaim the City memory walk. Members of housing rights NGO Reclaim the City walked through the streets of Woodstock on Heritage Day, 24 September 2018. Many of those who joined in are former residents who were evicted from the community due to rising property prices. (Photo: Leila Dougan)

On Monday 9 March the Heinrich Böll Foundation is hosting a brown bag breakfast in Cape Town with activist Silke Helfrich on Recovering, Reimagining and Co-creating the Commons. It comes hot on the heels of a Festival of the Commons held last weekend at Cissie Gool House in Cape Town that heard from a number of community campaigns to reclaim and revive land and housing. 

The Maila community in Limpopo are unhappy that their land claim doesn’t include prime commercial land like this farm which is located on land they claim was taken away from them before 1913. (Photo: Mukurukuru Media/Lucas Ledwaba)

On Tuesday 10 March @ 1pm, PLAAS is holding a seminar on Is nationalisation and state custodianship of land a solution? Agrarian capital, kleptocracy and rural struggles in Mozambique at the University of the Western Cape. Also @ 1pm, in Johannesburg, Aroop Chatterjee from the Southern Centre for Inequality Studies and Amory Gethin from the World Inequality Lab will present their work on wealth inequality: Estimating the distribution of household wealth in SA. One can only guess which households the wealth isn’t in!

Will’s Café and Deli in Oranjezicht is one of the few smaller businesses that can continue to operate during load shedding, proudly advertising this on a board outside. (Photo: Lia Snijman)

Then, back in Cape Town that same evening, @ 6pm the Tshisimani Centre for Activist Education will be holding a seminar on Labour’s Proposals to End Load Shedding (much needed after the misinformation campaign about Cosatu’s proposals to alleviate the debt crisis at Eskom).

Editor of Maverick Citizen Mark Heywood moderates the panel NHI-How’s it going to work? Is it going to work? with speakers Dr Mark Britnell, Dr Nicholas Crisp and Steven Nathan at Daily Maverick’s The Gathering on Friday, 6 March 2020. (Photo: Leila Dougan)

There are also two important seminars focusing on the right to health and the great NHI debate: on Tuesday 10 March SECTION27 will convene the second civil society meeting on NHI. The meeting brings together activists from organisations such as the Rural Health Advocacy Project (RHAP), the People’s Health Movement (PHMSA) and the Non-Communicable Diseases Alliance (NCD Alliance), with a view to further collaboration on advocacy related to NHI following written submissions made to Parliament in late 2019. It will take place at SECTION27 from 10am to 2pm.

One critical question for 2020 is, how much, if at all, the design of NHI will change during the parliamentary process. (Photo: Foto24/Gallo Images/Getty Images/Bongiwe Gumede)

On Thursday 12 March at 9am the South African Health Review (SAHR) will hold the first SAHR Webinar Series, whose aim is to stimulate debate on some of the key issues contained in the 2019 edition of the SAHR. Respected health economist Professor Di McIntyre will open the series with a presentation on her chapter “How best can we achieve a universal health system: a public conversation”.

One of the NHI issues that isn’t talked about much is protecting users’ privacy. With the advance of artificial intelligence, which relies on the availability of massive amounts of (often personal) data, and the Fourth Industrial Revolution, our society is facing new concerns around the enjoyment of the right to privacy. On Wednesday 11 March Right2Know (R2K) will be on the panel when the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) hosts a roundtable with the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Privacy on the State of Privacy in SA. This roundtable brings together local and global experts to take stock of the state of the right to privacy in South Africa and to consider ways in which our country can promote the equal enjoyment of this right and all other interrelated human rights. 

On Wednesday 11 March at 10am, Earlybird, a social enterprise that is building a network of high-quality early childhood care and education (educare) centres across the socioeconomic spectrum in South Africa, is launching the first Earlybird (Flock) Site at Absa Towers Main, in Johannesburg. 

Early childhood development is the cornerstone of education. (Photo: Leila Dougan)

Earlybird partners with large companies to improve the attraction and retention of talented employees by providing world-class, workplace-based educare services for their children. These sites can be “Earlybird Nest Sites” (limited to employees from a single company) or “Earlybird Flock Sites” (open to employees from multiple companies). A fixed portion of revenue generated from their workplace-based educare sites is used to subsidise the provision of the same high-quality educare model at preschool centres in low-income communities. For further information contact [email protected] 

On Friday 13 March members of the Eastern Cape Health Crisis Action Coalition (ECHCAC) will meet with representatives from the Eastern Cape Department of Health to discuss addressing the ongoing health crisis in the province. Issues on the table include emergency medical services, infrastructure projects for health facilities and ongoing stockouts. ECHCAC has been hearing weak excuses from the health department for half a decade; we hope their patience is wearing thin.

Finally, starting on Thursday 12 March at the Market Theatre, Return of the Ancestors, a new play by Mike van Graan directed by Zimkitha Kumbaca. Van Graan is one of our best contemporary playwrights. His protest is by making us laugh at things we wish didn’t exist. He says of the play:

Return of the Ancestors genuflects to the theatre classic, Woza Albert (in which Jesus visits apartheid South Africa). Twenty years into our democracy, the Council of Ancestors decides to send a delegation back to SA to see if their sacrifices have been worth it. Steve Biko and Neil Aggett comprise the delegation; they traverse the breadth of the country on their way to Nkandla, where the benefits of democracy will be celebrated.”

We kind of know what they will decide: “Did we die for a den of thieves?” But Van Graan finds nuance in our numbness and you can be sure it will be thought-provoking viewing. So go. Support our creatives!

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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