South African Anti-Eviction Campaign: Organizer Speaks at Encuentro 5

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Introduction by Suren Moodliar:

Ashraf Cassiem's Saturday evening presentation at e5 concerning the Anti Eviction Campaign that he coordinates in South Africa's Western Cape. Several people have written back trying to locate (or asking me to situate)
the Campaign within the traditions of South Africa's national liberation struggle and/or the global justice movement.

This is a relatively difficult task since the tradition that has most inspired movements like the Campaign barely ever emerged from obscurity. For decades, the Unity Movement of South was seen as a left-wing gadfly and rarely an alternative the African National Congress. That changed in the 1980s when many of its ideas were incorporated into the United Democratic Front and the trade union movement. However even then, very few people recognized those ideas and the related practices as having their origins in the Unity Movement.

In the post-Apartheid era, the Unity Movement liquidated itself, although a few Trotskyist groups still use it as a major reference point. Nonetheless, today the Anti Eviction Campaign, the Treatment Action Campaign, the Anti-Privatisation Forum and several other movements challenging the commodification of basic services have given the Unity Movement tradition a grassroots following and global reputation that transcends anything the movement enjoyed in the 20th century--even when compared with its halcyon days in the mid 50s in the Transkei.

For a useful survey of contemporary left thinking in South Africa, see Dale McKinley's essay, "The Crisis of the Left in Contemporary South Africa" ( http://bit.ly/dm-sa ) and the conversations taking place at the Center for Civil Society (headed by Patrick Bond): http://www.ukzn.ac.za/ccs/. Part 4 of Naomi Klein's "The Shock Doctrine" has a useful account of how the African National Congress' modest economic reformism became a neo-liberal project (I have a
somewhat different reading but she outlines the process quite well). There is an interesting right-wing and left-wing critique of the last 15 years in South Africa in New Left Review 58 (new series) http://newleftreview.org/?issue=292 featuring the nihilistic R.W. Johnson and Patrick Bond. Of course, it will be most interesting to hear directly from Ashraf about his movement and its strategy. You may access their website at http://antieviction.org.za/

My spotty notes of the end of a most excellent talk and discussion

2010 - anti World Cup
in Cape Town, they just spent over 500 million ren for a stadium that will hold two matches.

There's a housing prject, for 22,000 people, started a year earlier, willing to spend 1/3 what they have already spent on

Street vendors have to reapply under FIFA rules-- even if you've been there 15 years, and some they made it untradeable. Plant a tree there, to make it pretty for you tourists coming from overseas

The informal trading environment, the resistance is weak

we initiated - we aren't traders -

FIFA is only in South Africa for June, but they are rearranging all of Cape Town.

We managed to win concessions, but we are losing the battle.

against runnig for office

take constitutional rights, laws

we want housing. there is the house we want

You have the right to housing, but in South Africa it is a "progressive right" meaning, you have the right to housing, if you can aford it.

1989 - before the ANC came into power was when [the right to housing] was admitted.

Cute (too young, surely) girl: right to water?

must excercise ubuntu - love for the next person
I am not a person unless you are a person
we depend on one another
we have to love our enemy
that is what our government wants to teach us
a "progressive right" starts from the understanding that South Africa has nothing -- you can have water if we can afford the water.

We used to fight about going to white beaches. We can go to these beaches now, but can't afford the transit to get there, because we have been move km away

it is not a democracy, it is a capitalist democracy.
You can participate if you can afford to participate.

We will never be in the stadium

280 ren - that's like a weeks salary for a very poor person

when the world is watching, for those who can afford it and going into the stadium, underneath your soccer T-shirt, have all the same t-shirt and 5 minutes of silence suggested inside the stadium -- we won't be in there, but looking for a display of solidarity

Black man, dreads, thanked him for the presentation, asked what those in the U.S. who can't afford to go to World Cup will

take this question to the communities and I will sure

demand Section 8 housing

those 30% in the housing will never have rights, will always be intimidated by the 70%
[me: hmmm]

Demand 30% of the land, so poor people will have their own land, and have their own rules. Like outdoor barbecues.

North American people don't want to strive for things, they want to l

Our fathers had a plan
we are looking for new answers

Danger of the NGO environment, the non-profit
they bring you this information
so you rationalize everything
you don't act anymore
"we can't act" because the policy says so
"this is actually shit but I have to live with it."

At the time of the world cup, all broadcasters who do broadcast the world cup, boycott
but i don't want to be prescribing, I want it to come out of the space

G: "Before the meeting you said something
creating an organization, fighting for grants, competing with other nonprofits" for the money
How do you build a movement?

You don't. I have not attended Harvard, I don't know all the things that can be done. When I say build a movement, I am not talking about things, I am talking about people.
Donig the hard work.
Putting on boots, and going to talk to people, knock on doors.
You find anything at all to have an action.
Manager of a bank is in the area, go to the bank, say we don't want this guy there, even though he's probably already gone from the meeting he attended.

When you are in your locked door and reading e-mails, you experience it differently.

We believe in people. We aren't even so religious about religion the way we are about people.

People throw us into walls, we go back and try again.

We believe everyone has to be on one side. EV

we have to be angry with systems.

Even the minister is one of us, he just doesn't realize it.

Right now he has money, mercedes benz, double-story house
when his money will dry he will understand

suggesting we do the hard work.

"When you plant potatoes, you get potatoes. When you plant onions, you get onions."

You have to do the work.

I want to make a cake, what's the first thing.

Flour. Eggs. Milk.

No, the first thing, the bowl. And you need to preheat the oven.

We just think hat we are doing is right.
We don't look at the process.

No, you must look at the abnormal ways of doing things, the illegal. That is the anti-state, the anti-system way.

We don't want to be the state, we never could be the state

Exercise what you think the state [needs]
if you are evicted, don't go. Protect that right.

If you need water, take it-- break the water meter.

We have pre-paid water meters in South Africa. Break the meter, free water.

We take the house, and then the housing department comes to us to normalize.

instead of

We assist. Because they are always claiming the progressiveness [pie-in-the-sky]

I know the most radical thing in America is a

this is why we fight
so we can make time for it

promote women above men

Decisions made in communities
- general counsel -
- 3 members of community elected to attend general council
talk about it among communities

in 2003 our first strategic planning sessions (had money to do it after 3 years[
realized this committee useless, talks and meets and does nothing
so we gave responsibility and power back to community

the three people come and form the space

15 communities

locally you organize

we call ourselves spoons and knives and forks -- we all ourselves utensils, because we are used by the people

three people elected this month might be different people next month

8 regional coordinators, our own divisions, of CapeTown

I have been rudely awakened, that's why I am not trying to collect resources anymore.
And I've been everywhere

g: community is essential
and here there is a bankruptcy

the house visit
we would go physically
have to do the work

If you want to have people you have to go to people.
Knock on the door and educate.

get the closed door, go on
Tomorrow they will be back, because then they have [a] problem, and they know where the space is

struggle is for people
can only fight for what people [ask for]
doing it for them, they must be the decision-makers
no NGO or academic

the NGOs thought they knew because they had resources, the academics think they
the person who says they are left, strive to live the middle class life

really sorry I'm being so harsh about it
but I promised myself i would always be honest

man w/ beard: are there any NGOs you consider legitimate?

During apartheid, they were the only things that could organize
but now
they must know their place
they form programs past the community
if they just listen and act more on what they hear

Zapata: Land belongs to who works it
second saying, his brother, Eufamio Zapata: El poder y dinero al hombre
Power and money corrupts the men who [try to help]

Anti-eviction campaign follow many of the models of

I've only read Marcos. That has already inspired communities.

My name is Asharaf
My daughter's name is Quanya - means contentment in Arabic - I am Moslem
My name means most noble, I am trying to live up to it.

Toussaint - [with his name] his father had a plan, famous revolutionary general