Page for diverse actions at the Global Day of Action against a Corporate UN on August 31


South Africa

From one Apartheid to another:
the Rise of the South African Social Movement
Since the end of apartheid, the ANC have implemented economic programs meant to help the poor. The people-driven reconstruction and development program did not last long. In 1996 it was replaced by GEAR (Growth, Employment and Redistribution Program) which was effectively a World Bank advised package containing the same instructions as under structural adjustment programs already tried and failed. Privatisation of public institutions and cutting government spending on public services lies at the heart of GEAR and resulted in what has already been seen in many other African countries; a rise in poverty and the gap between rich and poor; the disempowerment of people and less access to vital services such as energy, health, transport, water and education. The basic needs essential to the development of the poorest had been either taken away or made unaffordable.

To add to this the South African government privatised many of the services to foreign companies furthering the drain of wealth from the South to the North. One must not forget though that many of the companies investing and making friends with the current government are the same ones that did it under apartheid.

Thabo Mbeki, the second president of the new South Africa, is selling out his country which has now become the African darling of the WTO and the World Bank. Now the second wave of neo-liberal reform has been decided through the New Partnership for Africa's Development. (Nepad) This new package, this time designed for the whole of Africa, has been a complete top down process, without any input from civil society yet endorsed by the World Bank and the G8. To a nation that has suffered as much as South Africa, this is an assault on the pride and strength which held black South Africa together during the white rule from which they emerged with so much hope and dignity. Yet that strength still remains in the hearts of many people and the social movement has grown in recent years.

The struggle against privatisation With the rise in electricity prices due to the privatisation of the state power company, people who could not pay were cut off. As a result the Soweto Electricity Crisis Committee (SECC) was formed and people began re-connecting themselves and demonstrating against the company even while being beaten and jailed. Resistance is on the rise on many fronts, with communities resisting evictions and water cut off. Activists are demanding access to fair education and to medicine especially for antiretroviral medicine so needed in a country with one of the planets worst AIDS epidemics. Environmentalists have begun to challenge projects such as the controversial Lesotho dam project as well as other dirty industries. Poor black people living in apartheid created townships next to polluting chemical and refineries factories are standing up and confronting these multinationals.

The World Summit on Sustainable Development will offer the opportunity for the social movement to demonstrate with the whole world watching. This will be the time to show that the neo-liberal paradigm aided by the international financial institutions and profit hungry corporations do not deliver social or ecological justice to those who need it most.

For more articles and information on Nepad, GEAR and the Social Movement contact ASEED, email

The two faces of civil society

Glenda Daniels, 24 May 2002

The New Partnership for Africa's Development appears to be key to the divisions in this sector. The ideological split in South Africa's civil society sector is likely to end in two independent processes being staged at the World Summit on Sustainable Development at the end of August. The original Civil Society Indaba, from which the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and other major groups - including the South African Council of Churches (SACC) and the South African NGO Coalition (Sangoco) - split, say they are rejecting the New Partnership
for Africa's Development (Nepad), the country's development path, outright. The Civil Society Indaba has a leftist, anti-globalisation focus. It has claimed there is "big brother" interference from the government in the new, mainstream South African Civil Society Forum set up by Cosatu and its allies. The Forum will be responsible for convening the civil society sector gathering at Nasrec during the summit. It will be the largest component of the summit, with between 50000 and 60 000 delegates. The in-fighting in the civil society sector began about six months ago, when Cosatu began alleging weak management and a lack of financial controls of the Indaba, headed by Jacqui Brown. After two audits, Brown was suspended in March this year. Cosatu, the SACC and Sangoco took the reins and constituted the South African Civil Society Forum. But not all parties came on board. The Rural Services Development !Network (RSDN) and some rural groups and NGOs allege that the Forum is being hijacked by the government via Cosatu. The breakaway group appears to be headed by the RSDN. The group also has the First
Peoples group within its ranks - although the Forum, headed by Sangoco leader Zakes Hlatswayo, is trying to persuade the First Peoples to come back on board. The head of the RSDN, Eddie Cottle, says more organisations are joining the Indaba group. He has over the past few months claimed "big brother" interference in the Forum, implying that Cosatu is not independent from the government but is rather toeing the political line, especially that of Nepad. A key mover and shaker in the civil society process and senior Cosatu official, Neva Makgetla, says at this point the Forum is indifferent to what the Cottles of the world are up to. "We are working so hard to make this work that I can't be bothered. These people are not relevant," she says. "My view is that the logistics and facilitation are more important than these ifferences. Indications of success are that [delegates] leave South Africa happy. The R!SDN and the other small groups are not building solidarity. They are being divisive, but at least they are not planning
to disrupt the Nasrec process," she says. It is, however, expected that he breakaway group will have some international support from other NGOs ith similar ideological positions, probably anti-globalisation rotestors, who might well take to the streets of Johannesburg. Cottle says his group will not be in conflict with the main Forum group at Nasrec. "Our process is not conflicting with the formal United Nations process, but is a politically independent process that will result in a Global Indaba Forum." His group is involved in the preparation of several "pre-summits", such as war and peace, women, labour, water and sanitation, health and debt and trade. Cottle adds that his group's process is catering for the world's social movements - from the anti-globalisation movement to the landless and the anti-dams types - "who either do not recognise the UN or have no confidence that the Agenda 21 review [of! the Rio Earth Summit in 1992] will have any meaning." Cottle alleges that the "government-led process" of civil society is "chaotic". "In essence our process is one that seeks to act as a political pole and contest the politics of civil society as a whole. We will have a people's declaration of all the world's social movements, together with a commonly defined plan of action, as our objectives of the Global Indaba," he says. Makgetla responds: "They are a separate issue, not a competing thing. The summit is going to be so huge, so exciting, so full of different ideas, with over 1 000 different events going on, that they can't possibly replicate it." She says her concern is logistics and facilitation. "Our policy process is not as trong as we'd like and we will be having a series of workshops over the
next few weeks to sort this out." She says in other countries overnments organise the fund-raising and logistics for civil society, ut in South Africa this is not happening because of a strict divide between the government and civil society. "So now we have policy people running around fund-raising and organising logistics." "If we have chaotic facilitation and logistics aren't sorted out, then the whole summit will be useless. As South Africa we have to get this aspect right."

South Africa Gearing up for Protest
- Solidarity actions could be needed
South African police have warned the social movement about protests and are mobilising a massive police force which will be barricading certain streets and conference venues. Protests have happened before in South Africa, notably at the UN Conference on Racism in Durban last year and police response is often as brutal as anywhere else. We at ASEED urge people to keep in touch with the situation down in South Africa as it could be quite an affair with the social movement wanting to show that the neo-liberal policies implemented in South Africa, and which are being mirrored at the WSSD have not worked. At the same time the police and the ANC government want to protect their showcase event. The social move- ment will not be deterred and for all people reading this, get ready to email, write, fax, or even demonstrate occupy your local South African embassy or consulate.

Also in the Roots from July/August you can find a lot of information about South Africa and the World Summit

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