Events in South Africa Profiled on Campus

Events in South Africa Profiled on Campus

Two important events took place this semester which highlighted the situation of ordinary people in South Africa some eighteen years after the country’s first democratic elections. We report on them here.

Marikana Public Forum

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On August 16 of this year, South African police shot dead 34 mineworkers at the Lonmin Mine platinum mine near Marikana in South Africa. The shooting  marked a turning point in post-apartheid South Africa, the first time the government of the African National Congress turned the guns on masses of citizens who were exercising  their democratic right to protest.

To draw attention to these disastrous events and commemorate the slain mineworkers and their families, the Center for African Studies organized a public forum. A packed lecture hall heard CAS Research Scholar James Kilgore, who lived in South Africa for 11 years, remind the audience that even though nearly three dozen mineworkers were killed, the rest of the workforce continued their strike and eventually won their pay raise. In fact, their actions inspired a wave of strikes across South Africa which eventually included transport workers, municipal workers and farm workers.

 

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Ken Salo, of the Department of Urban and Regional Planning and a South African citizen, spoke about the disintegration of the alliance between civil society and the ANC, an alliance which brought Nelson Mandela to power and offered so much hope for a total transformation of the apartheid  structures. Instead, he pointed out, inequality has actually risen post-1994, and a new struggle has emerged over land in the rural areas and living space in the cities. He noted that the government had failed to deliver on the issue of land redistribution and that this was a catalyst for political conflict.

A lively question and answer session followed and the program concluded with an inspiring cultural performance by Amira Davis and her dance group,  Jalimuso SISWA,  who sang several South African songs including Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika, the national anthem. They also did a “gumboot” dance, a traditional performing art of mineworkers.

To see a video of the events at Marikana, click here.

To see a video of a gumboot dance click here.

Film Showing: Dear Mandela

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Another important South Africa related event took place on campus with the showing of the film, Dear Mandela, on October 7. The film, which focuses on the struggles of people living in shack settlements in Durban, depicts the efforts by members of a social movement, Abahlali base Mjondolo ( Shack Dwellers in Zulu), to secure their constitutional rights to housing and land. The movie chronicles the disappointment of many people with the post-apartheid government’s lack of service delivery to the poor majority. Dara Kell, (shown at near right) as well as two core members of Abahlali , Mnikelo Ndabankulu  and Zodwa Nsibande (middle and right in photo) spoke.  In particular, the testimony by these Abahlali activists demonstrated not only determination in the face of adversity but a dedication to building a grassroots movement of the poor founded on the principles of internal democracy. They reminded us as well that ultimately their fight was not for land or water but for “human dignity.”

To read an interview with filmmaker Dara Kell visit: http://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/books/84653

For more information on Abahlali visit: http://www.abahlali.org/