African movements continue their fights against NGO authoritarianism

12 02 2007

Africa | Social Centres / Free Spaces
Submitted on 02/12/2007

The revolt against NGO control of popular struggles in South Africa continues.

A small group of, often European funded, networked NGOs, some connected to ‘Globalize Resistance’ in UK, have consistently sought to use their money to speak for and essentially take over popular struggles in South Africa.

Since last year the biggest militant movements in the country have declared their rejection of this authoritarianism. The paranoid response of the left NGOs has mirrored that of the state – the movements have been publicly declared irrational and criminal for demanding democratic horizontally organised networking forums and the right to speak for themselves.

Yet these NGOs, who have no mass support and whose only credibility comes from their access to European money continue to mediate much access to international solidarity. For instance it is these NGOs who have the money and decided who goes to the WSF and who doesn’t. And of course they send themselves and exclude the popular movements!

Below is an open letter from the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign – the oldest of the generation of militant movements to emerge after apartheid and the most active movement in the country in recent times. It declares a public refusal of NGO control.

[See also Abahlali baseMjondolo, the South African shackdwellers' movement,

An open letter to participants in the Social Movements Indaba

The Western Cape Anti Eviction Campaign wishes to make clear to all social movements and participants in the Social Movements Indaba that its representatives will not be attending the SMI to be held in Cape Town from 2-5 December 2007.

We have seen the “Planned Agenda” and want to make absolutely clear that we did not give the SMI leadership permission to cite our name as participants. We reject the dishonesty of the SMI leadership in this regard with the utmost contempt. Our inclusion as participants will mislead other social movements throughout South Africa, Africa and internationally. It also will mislead funders such as the Rosa Luxembourg Foundation who have partly financed this gathering of the SMI.

One of our constituencies has indicated the very same sentiment: the Joe Slovo Residents Association, also cited in the agenda as participants, will not be attending the SMI.

The Western Cape Anti Eviction Campaign was a founder member of the Social Movement Indaba in its original intention to be a platform for social movements. In its ranks it concentrates the experience of most of the mass struggles in the Western Cape since that time: in Mandela Park, Tafelsig, Silvertown, QQ section, Gugulethu, Hanover Park, Gympie Street and so on.

But since its inception the SMI has degenerated into a vehicle controlled by NGOs. Now it merely poses as a forum for bringing together social movements. In reality the SMI has become an obstacle to the linking up of real social movements around the country and is a source of division.

The Western Cape Anti Eviction Campaign will not allow some NGO’s and academics to further their careers with the blood, sweat and tears of communities. We despise the way they act as Trojan horses and the way they co?opt activists because of the resources they enjoy. Major social movements such as Abahlali base Mjondolo in Natal and the WCAEC withdrew from the SMI a year ago because it no longer fulfilled its original function. The SMI needs to be reclaimed and driven by people on the ground and not by its self-appointed ‘leaders’.

Let us compare the record of the SMI in the Western Cape in 2007 with that of the AEC. With far less resources than the Western Cape SMI, the AEC has done the following:

(1) As a result of years of campaigning under the leadership of the AEC, by ten villages with defective housing managed by the Cape Town Community Housing Company, the government allocated R46 million to repair the defects.

(2) As a result of the AEC’s ‘scrap the arrears’ campaign (directed against the pink letters issued by the Cape Town Council), the Council agreed to scrap arrears up to September 2003. This was a partial victory.

(3) The AEC has been involved in helping organise marches of thousands of people on parliament by N2 Gateway residents and by Joe Slovo settlement residents, worked with Joe Slovo on the occupation of the N2, and has also cooperated with the Joe Slovo task team in working out a strategy to fight the forced removal being attempted by Sisulu, Dyantyi and Thubelisha. This has thus far won a reprieve until the High Court hearing on 12 December.
All this is in addition to regular assistance by the AEC of individuals and small groups with struggles against evictions. What has the Western Cape SMI done in 2007? So far as we know, it has only organized one small demonstration at parliament of some 50-80 people! There has not even been an SMI presence at the court appearances in Bishop Lavis of 8 Joe Slovo militants on charges of public violence. This shows the extent to which the bureaucracy of the SMI has lost touch with community-based organizations.

We invite all representatives of genuine social movements – provincial, national and international — attending the SMI conference to join residents of Joe Slovo and members of the Anti-Eviction campaign in showing our solidarity with the 8 Joe Slovo militants at their next court appearance in Bishop Lavis at 9am on December 5.


Power to the Poor People

Issued by the Western Cape Anti Eviction Campaign Phones:
079 370 9614; 078 580 8646; 073 256 20336; 072 392 5859; 073 144 3619; 076 186 1408

See also Abahlali baseMjondolo, the South African shackdwellers’ movement,

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One response

11 03 2012
Xiaochen Su (@xiaochensu)

The current case of Kony2012 is just another example of this NGO authoritarianism!


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