Problems and challenges facing the new LPM Protea South structure

16 11 2011

Press Statement: Landless People’s Movement – Protea South, November 2011
Land now! Organise and Unite! Background

The Landless People’s Movement (LPM) Charter of Demands was adopted by more than 3000 landless delegates from communities across South Africa, and their landless allies from around the world, at the Landless People’s Assembly held in Durban on 30th August 2001 at the United Nations World Conference Against Racism (WCAR). Further amendments were made following the meetings of Landless Rural Women in Kimberley in October 2001.

The LPM was introduced into Protea South by Maureen Mnisi in 2002. That same year Mnisi was elected Gauteng Provincial Chairperson, and chairperson of the Protea South branch of the LPM. Between 2002 and 2011 no further elections were
held to democratically determine the LPM leadership, and Mnisi held that position for almost ten years.

During her time as chairperson Mnisi demonstrated extremely opportunistic and authoritarian characteristics, as well as corruption when it came to the allocation and use of LPM funds. Mnisi was not transparent or democratic in her leadership style, and there was always a shroud of secrecy surrounding her role as LPM chairperson, especially, again, when it came to funding and her dealings
with the lawyers representing LPM. Mnisi tried to control the LPM branch in Protea South completely, withholding information from its members, and did not want the LPM members to organise or do anything that she did not initiate or could not control. It became clear that Mnisi was strangling the movement, and holding it back from achieving its aims.

In addition to corruption, mismanagement and authoritarianism Mnisi also demonstrated to the movement her opportunistic tendencies, and that she has been using the struggle of the poor in order to advance her own personal agenda: trying to get herself elected as a local councillor, and to curry favour with local politicians and political parties.

First, in the 2009 National Elections, Mnisi started by trying to convince the LPM branch in Protea South to vote for either the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) or the newly formed Congress of the People (Cope) in the 2009 Presidential Elections.

As if that was not enough to demonstrate her opportunistic tendencies to all, she later started canvassing for the Democratic Alliance (DA) and trying to convince the entire LPM branch in Protea South to join and vote for the DA during the 2011 local government elections. Unfortunately, most of the LPM comrades followed Mnisi into the DA and, for the entire time leading up to the elections, it became impossible for the LPM to organise anything in Protea South as almost all the members, especially most of the youth, were engaged in canvassing for the DA and trying to convince people to vote for the DA, under Mnisi’s instruction.

Although the DA did not win a ward councillor to Protea South in thoseelections, Mnisi was rewarded for her efforts by being given a job as a Personal Assistant to one of the local DA politicians in Protea South. A job she still holds. The LPM, however, was largely demobilised as a result: so many people had become confused and lost faith in the LPM because of Mnisi’s opportunism and betrayal of the movement by consistently trying to drag the LPM, which is supposed to be an independent social movement, into party
politics that they left the movement. Most of those that remained were those comrades loyal to Mnisi, who had been following her from the ACDP to Cope to the DA.

A Response from Below

Frustrated with all of this, a small group of LPM comrades that had been trying to sustain the LPM during the demobilisation caused by Mnisi’s attempts to drag it into party politics called a general meeting of the LPM to discuss a way forward. At the meeting, which took place on the 23rd of July 2011 at Emazozweni in Protea South, it was collectively decided that there was a quorum of LPM members present, and that a new leadership could therefore be elected. Elections went ahead, and an entirely new leadership was installed. Although she had been invited to attend the meeting, Mnisi declined to do so.

Since the new leadership was elected, however, Mnisi has done everything in her power to undermine their positions and to prevent the LPM from being rebuilt, from below, along new lines. When the newly elected leadership calls public meetings she calls for meetings on the same day, and goes around telling people that she is the official leader and that they must not listen to anyone else,
or attend any meetings unless she personally calls them. She uses intimidation techniques and tells people that they will get arrested if they follow the new leadership.

Also, although she initially agreed to hand over all the relevant documentation and to facilitate the transition in leadership, she has consistently refused to do so. She has tried in every possible way to undermine the new leadership, even going so far as to try and prevent the new leadership from meeting with the lawyers representing the LPM in order to prevent them from telling the
lawyers how corrupt she is. She has refused to hand over any information relating to the LPM’s financial records and bank account. It is our belief that she is worried that she will be exposed for corruption and mismanagement when she cannot account for LPM funds.

More recently, she has been trying to divide the LPM by promising people that they will get spending money and proper accommodation in Durban during the COP-17 mobilisations if they support her. It is unfortunate that, because she has always withheld information from the other members and tried to ensure that any communication or relations with other movements are channelled through her, organisations which are allegedly funding an LPM delegation to Durban are unaware that she can no longer be considered to be a legitimate representative of the LPM.

Way Forward

We do not believe that social movements such as the LPM should be used to promote party politics or the personal interests of politicians and opportunists. In order to be strong social movements must unite working class and poor people regardless of whether or not they belong to political parties and, if they do, regardless of which parties these are. We don’t care who people vote for, but we also do not believe that meaningful change can be brought to our lives through voting. As the LPM slogan says, meaningful change,
and land, will only come to us when we organise and unite. Party politics divides, and as we have experiences voting disorganises us.

We as the newly elected leadership of the LPM Protea South want to rebuild the LPM so that it can truly defend the interests of the poor and working class, and the landless masses. But we do not want to rebuild it as before. We have seen that when too much power and information is invested in one or two people, and a few others loyal to them, that it causes corruption and dishonesty, and
it weakens organisation by robbing people of their own power to participate in and influence the movement in a meaningful way. We want to rebuild the LPM in a way in which all its members share individual and collective responsibility and a commitment to making strong the LPM, and the struggle of the landless poor in South Africa.

In rebuilding the LPM we intend to improve communication and solidarity with the rest of the Poor People’s Alliance, keeping to the slogan “No land! No house! No vote!

Can petrol be mixed with water? The answer is no, it cannot. Similarly, social movements cannot and must not be mixed with politicians and political parties. The LPM cannot be mixed with political parties, be it the ACDP, Cope, the DA or any other.

AWAY WITH OPPORTUNISTIC AND AUTHORITARIAN LEADERS!!
AWAY WITH TRYING TO MIX SOCIAL MOVEMENTS WITH PARTY POLITICS!!
FORWARD TO CLASS INDEPENDENCE!!
FORWARD TO MASS DIRECT ACTION AND LAND OCCUPATION!!

For further information please contact:
Chairperson: Maans Van Wyk 079 267 3203
Deputy Chair: Moses Thebola 0794347750
Secretary: Lekhetho Mtetwa 073 760 9361\ 071 863 8663

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