Building Blocs Towards Regional Solidarity

KC JOURNAL NO 4 June 2003

This is the fourth edition of KHANYA A journal for activists The focus of this edition is on the discussions and debates that took place at the Khanya College Annual Winter School. Every July Khanya College hosts a Winter School for activists in the social movements and other mass organisations. The Winter School was launched in 1999 and represents an important aspect of Khanya’s response to the changing political and economic environment within which social movements, community based organisations, trade unions and non-governmental organisations have to work. In particular, the aims of the school are:

To provide the space for activists to critically reflect on their organising and mobilising work in the present national and global context.

To provide the space for activists to develop their theoretical understanding of present developments, debate topical issues, and exchange experiences with each other.

To provide the space for building regional social movements by bringing together activists from the sub-region and beyond.

The theme of the Winter Schools, “Mobilise and Organise for Social Change”, reflects these aims. Various educational events are delivered in the form of workshops, seminars, lectures, as well as cultural events and public speeches. An activist forum is also held and provides space for debates on strategy and tactics in the building of social movements.

In her reflections on the Winter School 2003, Nina Benjamin traces the development of the school from a forum largely attended by non- governmental organisations and community projects, to one that now caters primarily for the emerging social movements. This shift in the composition of the school reflects changes that have been taking place in South Africa over the last three years. In South Africa, the impact on neoliberal policies adopted by the ANC government began to generate resistance among communities in the townships. The key issues around which struggles have erupted have been the privatisation of social services – water and electricity in particular – and the impact of growing unemployment on the living standards of township residents.

The developments in South Africa have also had a significant impact on Southern Africa as a whole. During the liberation struggle many governments of the region, and indeed the peoples of the region, hoped that the liberation of South Africa from white rule would mean an important change in the economic and social fortunes of the region. After all, one of the major sources of the economic devastation of the region – outside of the neoliberal policies imposed by the IMF and the World Bank – was the destabilisation carried out by the Apartheid government. Sadly, these hopes were not to be realised. Instead, the peoples of the region have come face to face with a South Africa ruling class that sees Southern Africa, and indeed Africa as whole, as just another market to sell South African products. At a more basic level, the peoples of the region have come face to face with another ugly face of the ‘new South Africa’: xenophobia.

The consolidation of the neoliberal project in South Africa therefore also marks a new phase of struggle in the Southern African region as a whole. It would not be an exaggeration to argue that it also marks a new phase of struggle in Africa as a whole.

1994 marked the completion of the decolonisation process in Africa, and 1996 – the year in which South Africa’s neoliberal policy, Gear was adopted marked a new phase of struggle for the political, social and economic liberation of Africa from neo-colonialism.

For these and other reasons Winter School 2003 focused on the twin themes of NEPAD and Xenophobia. The discussions around NEPAD focused on attempts to understand the political and economic strategies of the ruling classes in the region. Papers by Oupa Lehulere, Ram Seegobin and Mohau Pheko explored the theme of NEPAD and what it tells us about ruling class strategies in the region. The papers take a critical look at the processes of regional integration, the role of South African capital, and they also look at the insertion of the regional ruling classes into the wider globalisation process. In a number of parallel workshops activists at the school explored NEPAD in greater detail and grappled with what it means for urban communities, workers, rural people and small farmers, the environment, for women, and for the struggle for debt cancellation. In this edition Dalitso Kubalasa looks at the relationship between NEPAD, debt and poverty, and also shares the views of Malawi civil society organisations on NEPAD. Wahu Kaara takes a look at the impact NEPAD will have on women and their struggle for emancipation. Thabo Madihlaba looks at the NEPAD environment initiative, and the challenges it raises for the environmental justice movement.

In a number of the papers mentioned above the authors continually touch upon the question of resistance to globalisation and its local variants structural adjustment programmes, and for some NEPAD itself. MP Giyose takes up the issues of resistance to neoliberalism in Africa and discusses the state of African social movements today. These issues, and other related ones are also taken up in a number of interviews conducted by IndyMedia South Africa at the Winter School. In these interviews activists attending the school reflect in NEPAD, the need for solidarity, the role of the Winter School itself, and on the need to build an Africa-wide movement of resistance against neoliberal globalisation. In this vein, two organisations at the Winter School used the school as an opportunity to build solidarity around campaigns currently underway. The Public Services International launched its campaign on “Quality Public Services”, and a report on attempts by the Bank and the Fund to pressurize Zambia to privatise its electricity utility was presented and debated. The report by Mtayachalo captures the key elements of this struggle. On the other hand, Jubilee South Africa launched the “Drop the Debt” cd, and called for solidarity in the struggle to cancel Third World debt, and for reparations.

The issue of NEPAD was linked to the issue of the growing xenophobia in the region, and in South Africa in particular. The School heard testimonies from immigrants living in South Africa, and debated xenophobia as a barrier to regional solidarity. At the end of the end of the school activists joined the Anti-War Coalition in a march against US President George Bush’s visit to Southern Africa, and made the point that Bush is the world’s biggest xenophobe.

The Winter School was also an opportunity for activists to celebrate a culture of resistance. Activists from different countries shared songs and poetry, and Richard Nwamba spoke on the music of migration in Africa. In this edition we also carry an article on art, culture and resistance in the context of globalisation by Lindsey Collins.

As we were about go to print, news of the death of Edward Said, leftwing thinker and veteran of the Palestinian struggle. We carry a short tribute to Said, by Salim Vally and Yasmin Sooka, as well a poem by Rene Otto Castillo on a subject that was close to Said’s heart: the role of intellectuals in the struggle for the emancipation of the oppressed and exploited.

The Khanya Winter School is but one of a number of initiatives which aim to provide space for debate and political education to activists. Modiehi Khuele reports on the ILRIG Anti- Globalisation School, and Nerisha Baldevu reports on the Anti-War Coalition cultural day against the occupations.

We round off this edition with our regular features. First, we publish documents from the trenches. We share documents emerging in the debt cancellation and reparations struggle, documents from the anti-war movement and a document on NEPAD from Malawi civil society organisations. Secondly, we continue our feature of Barometer of Resistance, compiled by Anna Weekes and Mondli Hlatswayo, focusing on South and Southern Africa, as well as on the anti-war resistance in South Africa.

In the course of many sessions, and many evenings of informal discussions, activists at the Winter School touched upon many ‘burning questions’ facing the anti-globalisation movement. One of these was the issue of democratisation in Africa, and in Southern Africa in particular. In 2004 five countries in Southern Africa go to the polls, and in South Africa social movements are already debating how to approach the elections in the context of the patent inability of the established parties to act as authentic agents of change for the mass of the people. These questions will be taken up in Winter School 2004, as well as in the pages of this journal.

We hope that activists will take the opportunity offered by this journal to share and debate their views on these and other questions.

Lastly, the Editorial Collective would like to thank Nerisha Baldevu and Mondli Hlatswayo, who assisted in editing this Winter School Edition. Further reports on the school, and a video on the school, will be available on www.khanyacollege.org.za

Yours in Solidarity

Oupa Lehulere

Convening Editor


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