Friday 30 October 2015

Solidarity Economy News: Issue 12

Solidarity Economy News is the online magazine of the Solidarity Economy Movement (SEM) in South Africa. It is made up of waste pickers, unemployed peoples movements, small scale farmers, cooperatives, the Children's Movement and various support organisations.

This is the 12th issue and it covers current debates, activist news and campaigning information about the South African Food Sovereignty Campaign and the Worker Cooperative Campaign.

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Monday 26 October 2015

COSATU In Crisis: The fragmentation of an African trade union federation

Launching in November 2015

New Edited Volume 2 in Democratic Marxism Series, WITS Press

Launching in November 2015

United Front Statement on #FeesMustFall

25th October 2015


Friday 23rd October 2015 will go down as one of the most significant moments in the history of post-Apartheid South Africa as the student mobilization around #FeesMustFall campaign won two important gains 
·      Zero Fees Increases for the 2016 Academic year.
·      The postponement of exams to accommodate students.
The United Front salutes the students for their unrelenting fighting spirit that has resulted in the resounding victory!  While these gains are partial and does not solve the underlying question of a neo-liberal-based education system, it was hard fought for and literally forced out of the capitalist ANC government and their University managers. The determination and resoluteness of the students struggle has taught many lessons and has challenged not only the education system but the entire edifice of the capitalist system.  The most important lesson from the students has been that unity and mass struggle is the main weapon in the hands of the oppressed, and it works for us!  These struggles have brought the democratic dispensation of 1994 directly into focus and students across the country are questioning the false and rotten basis of this compromise which merely accommodated the aspirant black bourgeois to the table of white monopoly capital.                                                                               

This victory is the first decisive step towards FREE QUALITY EDUCATION!
THE STRUGGLE FOR FREE QUALITY EDUCATION CONTINUES. While these gains have been a major step in the fight against austerity, the market orientation of higher education remains and perpetuates inequalities in society. These neo-liberal elements include privatisation, outsourcing, competitiveness, user-fees, racism, patriarchy and managerialism. Even without the fee increase university education remains unaffordable for most students!

#FEES MUST FALL                                                                                                                                 

Parents have been struggling to meet the high university academic and residential fees which caused many of them to become hugely indebted to the banks and moneylenders.  The fight for free quality educationwas part and parcel of our struggle to overthrow Apartheid. Twenty one years later we still do not have free education. The government says it is too expensive to pay for this. This is a lie because it would cost the government an extra R71 billion to provide 800 000 students with free tuition. This money is already there!  R80 billion is lost every year through illegal money flows – clampdown on this corruption!  Big business has cash piles of R1, 35 trillion – tax the super-rich and corporations to educate the poor!                                                                                                                                                          Corruption must fall!  Tax the Rich to educate the poor! 


The moratorium on fee increases was a means to bring an end to the student protests and benefits only those who can afford them. In fact many ‘No Fee Increases’ have been won in previous years by students at campus level. However being forced to step down in public before the entire nation represents a major defeat for the ruling class. This has emboldened the students and laid the foundation for heroic further battles, the struggle for Free Quality Education. The attempt to stall the process and channel it into governmental and ministerial commissions will not succeed as the crisis of education is part of the systemic crisis of the entire capitalist system.  As university exams approach there will be a drop in student activity, but this will be but till January when the question of paying registration fees arises.  Students must prepare for these big battles ahead by strengthening their organisations and mobilisation of the entire mass of students. This moment also calls for the widest mobilisation of solidarity with the students across the board – high school learners, unemployed youth, parents, workers and their trade unions, school teachers, progressive religious organisations and broader civil society. The United Front will contribute to building this solidarity with the students. 

Forward to the struggle for Free Quality Education Now! 


1.    Shaheen Khan – National Committee member: 082 375 9408
2.    Mazibuko K. Jara – Interim National Secretary, 083 987 9633
3.    John Appolis – Interim Campaigns Coordinator, 071 623 5996
4.    Dinga Sikwebu – National Coordinator, 078 457 9855

Sunday 25 October 2015


Please pass on to others and hope to see you there.


Additional Forum Information

Registration: 17h45 - 18h00
Forum Start Time: 18h00​​​​​​​​
Length: 1 hour 30 minutes
Cocktails will be served after the event



Cosatu has played a crucial role in championing democratisation, and it has been a critical voice for workers. But today with the current crisis crippling Cosatu, the future of Cosatu is uncertain. 

While having to face the challenges posed by a rapidly informalising labour market, Cosatu is bitterly divided between those who support and those who oppose the alliance with the ruling ANC.  Formerly one of the most advanced and respected trade union federations in the world, some see Cosatu as undergoing the degeneration and marginalisation that has characterised the fate of many postcolonial labour movements in Africa. 
So what are the implications for broader South Africa and its economy of the threatened disintegration of Cosatu and more importantly – what's next for Cosatu?? 
Join Vishwas Satgar co-editor of the book Cosatu in crisis,  Zwelinzima Vavi former general secretary of Cosatu and Loane Sharpe from the Free Market  Foundation for a lively discussion that promises to tackle the underlying causes of the federation's demise, and provides crucial perspectives on why organised labour is key to understanding the future of Alliance politics, industrial relations and democracy.

Friday 23 October 2015

#Fees Must Fall to # Neoliberal SA Must Fall!

#Fees Must  Fall to #Neoliberal South Africa Must Fall
A Message of Support from a Veteran Activist of the Student Struggle

It was inspiring and exciting to listen to students this evening, in the renamed Solomon Mahlangu (executed by hanging in 1979 by the apartheid regime) Building at WITS University, deliberating about tomorrows march to union buildings. Students across South Africa’s Universities have rocked the country this week in their rejection of fee increases and inadequate gestures such as capping fees at 6% by the Minister of Higher Education. It cannot be denied that this is the highpoint of post-apartheid student activism. It is a decisive historical moment with various possibilities.

For me this entire experience took me back to the late 1980s, when I was General Secretary of the Black Students Society at the University of Kwazulu-Natal Pietermaritzburg. The highpoint for my activism was ensuring we unbanned the UDF through open defiance even by courting arrest together with academics, workers and students. I remember the police ‘mellow yellows’ picking us up line by line. We were peaceful, disciplined and united. This solidarity emboldened us for more and eventually we ended up in the streets with over 20 000 marching in Pietermaritzburg and various other cities unbanning the mass movement through solidarity from different sectors of society: religious, sport, cultural, youth, workers and so on. In my view, this was the highpoint of student activism across the country in the 1980s and its horizons were framed by the national liberation struggle.

Of course, history has its overlaps and layers. At the same time, and due to the fiscal crisis of the apartheid state Universities began increasing fees and financial exclusions became the lifeblood of student politics. I remember failing academically in 1989, for the first time in my entire life, due to various political commitments but also fighting financial exclusions. By the early 1990s this  issue dominated student politics. The South African Students Congress (SASCO), replaced the South African National Students Congress which was underground and in the shadows. SASCO  was born in this crucible of struggle: the struggle against financial exclusions. As political education officer of the branch and one of the many co-founders of the new student movement I remember travelling for months in 1992 from Pietermaritzburg to the Durban campus to negotiate with university management to stop financial exclusions. It was exhausting and almost cost me my law degree. Years later the SASCO leadership, bravely defending their independence in the hurly burly of ANC-led Alliance politics conferred distinguished activist contribution awards on a few of us. We were given certificates. Mines hangs on my study wall. Everytime I look at this certificate I have  always been conflicted because I knew we had not won the financial exclusion struggle but more importantly we lost the battle for the public university. Of course there was anticipation and hope that the ANC state would ensure public education is fully realized.

However, financial exclusions  continued for decades and worsened with ANC neoliberal policies and cut backs in university subsidies. The public university has been remade into a quasi private institution with a strong managerial ethos, all kinds of privileged hierarchies and enclaves tied into leveraging non-public finance, the rise of the celebrity academic but underpinned by cost cutting through outsourcing and increasing student fees. The university has become a place of reproducing inequality and ultimately racialised exclusion.

At the same time, we have witnessed the degeneration of student politics with many SASCO types merely understanding student politics as a pathway into the ANC machine. In this context, political depth was substituted: tactics for strategy, militancy for analysis and political partisanship for alliance building. The past few years of student politics have been about degeneration. Financial exclusion issues including fee increases could never win a majority. But this week a historical breakthrough was made; a highpoint has been achieved. A new horizon of national student politics has been defined, grabbing attention internationally and arousing visible support across society. It is animated by disciplined and generally peaceful action, exposing police brutality and further winning hearts and minds. Our students, through the fees issue, have raised the stakes and placed the reclamation of the public university back on the agenda. They have also done more than that: they have opened the possibility to ensure #neoliberal South Africa can fall. This is a generation that can either change the course of history and open a pathway for a new post-neoliberal South Africa or they can carry this mark of history, on their consciousness, into the future and return to this task later. South Africa is not going to be the same again; student politics cannot be same again. A great advance and opportunity has been brought to the fore through courageous students protesting for transformation. However, it can only be fully realized when #fees must fall unites with #bread prices must fall unites with #low wages must fall unites with ….# neoliberal South Africa must fall. This kind of solidarity is surely the key to realize the democratic revolution the students are talking about.

Author: Vishwas Satgar is an activist and academic. He supports the peaceful and disciplined struggle of students to ensure #fees must fall and ultimately we reclaim the public university and more.

Friday 2 October 2015

Yes Men Are Revolting Against Climate Change - Join US!

The Wits Sociology-Amandla Forum and Inala Wits Food Sovereignty & Climate Justice Forum in collaboration with the Tri Continental Film Festival invite you to the documentary screening: ‘The Yes Men Are Revolting: 2015 confirmed as the hottest year ever recorded’.
For the last 20 years, notorious activists the Yes Men have staged outrageous and hilarious hoaxes to draw international attention to corporate crimes against humanity and the environment. Armed with nothing but thrift-store suits and a lack of shame, these iconoclastic revolutionaries lie their way into business events and government functions to expose the dangers of letting greed run our world. In their third cinematic outing (after The Yes Men and The Yes Men Fix the World), they are now well into their 40s, and their mid-life crises are threatening to drive them out of activism forever – even as they prepare to take on the biggest challenge they’ve ever faced: climate change. More than the first two films, The Yes Men Are Revolting is as much a character study as it is an entertaining depiction of their latest interventions. Revealing the real people behind the ruses, at its heart lies a hopeful message about fighting for change. 
Awards: Berlin International Film Festival: Panorama Audience Award 2nd place.
Date: Thursday 8th October 2015
Time: 5:15pm for 5:30pm
Place: Senate House Basement 2 (SHB2), Braamfontien Campus, Wits University
For more information, email  

Thursday 1 October 2015

The Climate Justice Approach of NUMSA

A Trade Union Approach to Climate Justice: The Campaign Strategy of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa

Vishwas Satgar


South Africa is the twelfth highest emitter of carbon emissions in the world. It has an energy intensity and per capita usage of fossil fuel energy that surpasses other countries in the BRICS, it is currently building one the largest coal-fired power stations in the world, and is championing a green neo-liberal approach to the climate change crisis. This article investigates how the National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa (NUMSA) developed an approach to climate justice and is intervening to shape policy around the just transition in South Africa. The article explores the factors that contributed to NUMSA’s embrace of a politics of climate justice, the internal education and policy capacity developed in the union and the campaigns championed to advance climate justice. The article provides insights into how NUMSA has campaigned around energy efficiency and electricity price increases, influenced and monitored the roll out of solar water geysers and has advanced a position on socially owned renewable energy.

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Support Petition for Fruit Trees At WITS

University of Witwatersrand: Assist Hungry Witsies with Fruit Trees - Sign the Petition!