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Shereen Essof © 2002


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The last two days I've been attending a seminar on African Perspectives on Land and Sustainable Development which was part of the Week of the Landless. I presented a paper on the Zimbabwean case specifically focusing on the trajectory of women's organising around the securing of land rights - highlighting the lessons that can be learnt. The manifestation of women's organising in Zimbabwe around land presents an interesting case and this is what they wanted me to share, which I did on behalf of the coalition.

I have been filling in the gaps in terms of person power at the NLC and Women's Net (who have set up a cyber café), and there is a lot that needs doing. I'm also tracking some of the developments taking place within the SA camp, which I believe makes our need to protest even more crucial and urgent. "Our world is not for sale" is not the only message that needs to get through.

In what is it, 7 years, SA has come full circle. The struggle we face here is also about the right to organize and to demonstrate freely. The history of this country is about activism, popular struggles that took place on the streets and that are still real and fresh, although the ANC seems to have conveniently erased this from memory when it sold out. While we know that the old apartheid regime is not much different from the "new SA", I have been accosted by the militarisation of Johannesburg in the last few days. What the fuck is this? The red ants and the heavy police presence in Sandton hark back to the days of forced removals and mass action.

Yesterday a women who was arrested and detained had a miscarriage in prison because of mis-treatment and guards refusing to respond to her pleas for help! How different is that to Zubeida Jaffer being offered a chemical cocktail in the 1980's while in detention so that she might abort?

And of course apartheid's legacy of inequality remains too. Huge and growing divides between the rich and poor and once again it is clear whose interests the ANC is protecting. The up side is that the Social Movement Indaba merely reiterates what I have always known: People in SA are resisting, they want the ANC to be brought to book for broken promises, injustices.

There are amazing and courageous struggles being waged, resisting privatisation of basic services, resisting evictions, demanding housing and land. Then, of course, there are the battles taking place within SA civil society and, contrary to popular belief, it's not about internal power or intra-civil society conflict.

It's a political struggle; the SANGCO/COSATU process was exclusionary and their alignment with government was seen as a political strategy to control and silence those civil society groupings with
"radical" agendas, like the Landless People's Movement - National Urban Communities, National Rural Communities, First People, Rural Development Services Network, Environmental Justice Network Forum, National Land Committee, etc.

So here, too, it's about social justice and integrity, the right to autonomy, the right to exist and organize freely. On Sunday and Monday the lesson I carried was the co-existence of the fight and the dance. Today I carry the message of the Social Movement Indaba: a call to all organisations of the working class, the poor and the marginalized to act and struggle for a world free of poverty, inequality and environmental degradation. It's a call to women and men to act and struggle against gender oppression, violence, and the impoverishment of women! A call to the workers to act and struggle against falling living standards, against unsafe, unhealthy and unfulfilling work. It's a call to all indigenous first nations people to act and to struggle against cultural intolerance and against genocide. A call to rural people to act and struggle against landlessness, poverty, lack of social services and marginalisation. A call to the youth to act and to struggle against the marginalisation of the young. It's a call to all learners in formal and informal institutions to act and struggle against illiteracy lack of education and the control of knowledge by a few. A call to the people in townships and squatter camps to act and struggle against homelessness, poverty, lack of services, to the unemployed to act and to struggle against lack of job opportunities and against a lack of social security. And it's a call for all of us to unite, to act and to struggle against crushing debt, poverty, diseases and inequality. For all of us to unite, act and struggle against the degradation of our environment and the threat to our survival and its a call to all of us to bring these actions and struggles together for a world in which democracy will mean people's control over their own lives!

The sun is setting now. The struggle continues.




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