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Case #543

Post-ANC Era Sees New Community Organizing in South Africa


The tape of South Africa's history appears to have been rewound to the time when the community protests that began to topple the apartheid regime were at their height. Led by veteran activist Trevor Ngwane, the Soweto Electricity Crisis Committee (SECC) is on the march to protest the fact that the poor in the townships that have outstanding bills owing to the (soon-to-be-privatized) electricity utility Eskom are being cut off.

For Ngwane, electricity cutoffs in Soweto are easily located in the global economic diktat that services are better run on profit lines. For this reason, Ngwane has also brought his protests to the Washington protests against the World Bank, the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil, and the World Economic Forum meeting on South African soil in June 2001. Though at heart he is a community activist, he takes hope from a new wave of international protest against economic globalization. Ngtvane's message to this movement is: `Through international solidarity we were able to get rid of the apartheid regime. But now our freedom is coming to naught because of neoliberal policies of these institutions which undermine our freedom.? Assisted by local and international academics, radical groups, trade unionists and others, the new protest movement is nascent but has potential.

Please see Full Text for details on changes in South Africa?s ANC organization, the effects of IMF neo-liberalization policies, and biographical information about Trevor Ngwane.


Trevor Ngwane has moved from the inside of power (where he was part of the ANC) back to the outside. For him this means moving back to challenge, back to protest, and back to organizing community based actions. He says, ?Organizations like the Soweto Electricity Crisis Committee are small beginnings, of this we are under no illusions. But I am also aware that history can move in leap, and bounds.?

Ngwane continues, ?The struggle against apartheid is so recent that a proud culture of resistance is still latent in the townships, and it is this that is feeding the rumbling at the grassroots. It's just like the old days. We are pamphleteering. We have meetings. There's a defiance campaign called Operation Khanyisa, where people themselves reconnect electricity that's been cut off. It balances the power between Eskom and us, we contest their power to switch on and off.?

Other strategies that Ngwane and other former ANC members have utilized for community organization include: going door to door to collect information about conditions in Soweto and to help bolster the call to end electricity cut-offs and organizing `defenders of communities' - mobile groups who forcibly stop evictions.

Above all, Ngwane says, ?We need solidarity to oppose the policies that we object to. Our problem now is to provide a political home for former ANC mass movement people, but there isn't a consensus of how we relate to the state.?
Location: South Africa
Action: Direct
Setting: Third World
Extent of Action: National
Issues: Human Rights
Year(s): 2000
Outcome in progress
Source: New Internationalist, September 2001, p. 21


Prepared By: sl 2/02
Rating: 1
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