Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign

Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign

The Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign is a popular movement made up of poor and oppressed communities in Cape Town, South Africa. It was formed on November 2000 with the aim of fighting evictions, water cut-offs and poor health services, obtaining free electricity, securing decent housing, and opposing police brutality. It has been able to successfully mobilise against the recent xenophobic attacks in the areas where it is strong.

The movement is the oldest of the first generation of so-called 'new social movements' to spring up after the end of apartheid and is known for its direct action style militancy, its refusal of NGO authoritarianism [ [http://www.wombles.org.uk/article2007121403.php African movements continue their fights against NGO authoritarianism | WOMBLES ] ] [Both movements have publicly refused to work with some local NGOs, especially the Centre for Civil Society and the NGO run Social Movements Indaba, and insist that the middle class left respect the autonomy and internal democracy of grassroots movements.] and its networked or hydra style mode of organization.

It has an alliance with the KwaZulu-Natal shack dweller's movement Abahlali baseMjondolo and the two organizations support each other closely.

The AEC is currently an umbrella body for over 15 community organizations, crisis committees, and concerned residents movements who have come together to organise and demand their rights to basic services. The organisations that make up the AEC include:
* Concerned QQ Section Residents (Khayelitsha)
* Talefsig Anti-Eviction Campaign (Mitchell’s Plain)
* Silvertown Anti-Eviction Campaign (Athlone)
* Gugulethu Backyard Dwellers (Gugulethu)
* Newfields Village Anti-Eviction Campaign (Hanover Park)
* Mandela Park Anti Eviction Campaign (Khayelitsha)
* Gympie Street Residents Committee (Woodstock)
* Leiden Anti-Eviction Campaign (Delft)
* Delft Symphony Anti-Eviction Campaign (Delft)

Affiliated movements and committees:
* Joe Slovo Liberative Residents (Langa)
* Hangberg Solution Seekers Association (Hout Bay)

In recent months the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign has been closely involved in supporting opposition to the government's planned forced removals of thousands of people from the Joe Slovo settlement before the 2010 World Cup. [ [http://www.wombles.org.uk/article2007091265.php South Africa: a new Crossroads? | WOMBLES ] ]

Role of AEC Coordinators

The AEC has a highly democratic federated structure. Its leaders are mandated by the community movements it works with. For that reason, the leaders are called coordinators. As one AEC activist put it: “As coordinators of the anti-eviction campaign, we are not leaders in the traditional authoritarian sense. Instead, we are like a set of cutlery. We are the tools that are there to be used by poor communities fighting against the cruel and oppressive conditions of South African society.”

AEC Current Activities

The AEC is fighting evictions and water and electricity cut-offs on many different levels. Its current activities range from direct action demonstrations against evictions and cut-offs. Activities range from legal actions that challenge the constitutionality of evictions, to mass mobilisation and popular education initiatives, to creative organisation and capacity building programs. Some of its current activities are as follows:

* Direct Action. Aside from organising mass marches and demonstrations against evictions, the AEC directly challenges evictions as they are taking place. The AEC protects families from being evicted primarily by staging sit-ins and demonstrations aimed at turning away government and privatised security forces that come to evict families. For those families who have already been evicted, the AEC often responds by moving them and their belongings back into their homes. Should these tactics prove unsuccessful in waving off evictions and in instances where the government is determined to move forward with evictions, the AEC has at times responded by rendering the contested property unliveable, saying if the people cannot have the land, then no one will.

* Legal Challenges. The AEC’s Legal Aid Team, with the support of the Legal Aid Clinic and Women’s Legal Centre at the University of the Western Cape, is in the process of legally challenging the constitutionality of evictions. In response to the AEC’s marches, demonstrations, memorandums, legal challenges, press statements, etc, the Provincial government has taken up a commission to look into the illegality of evictions. Unfortunately, even after constant pressure form the AEC, government has yet to make the finding of this commission public. Currently, the AEC in continuing both with its impending court cases and with its pressure on the government to publicise the commission’s report.

* Mass Mobilisation and Popular Education. The AEC is currently involved in a wide spread mobilisation campaign to get communities from all around the Western Cape involved with the AEC. Via mass public meetings and more targeted activists workshops, the AEC has engaged in popular education initiatives around the issues of evictions, and water and electricity cut-offs. Through its popular education activities, the AEC works to make the linkages between people’s concrete experiences with evictions and cut-offs, the government’s macro economic strategy GEAR and its privatisation policies. By mobilising the communities around these issues, the AEC hopes to build a mass political base from which to challenge evictions, one that the government will be forced to listen to and think about before continuing with its eviction policies.

* Organisation Capacity Building. The AEC is currently embarking on various activities geared toward building the strength and capacity of the Campaign. In an effort to develop the capacity of its Legal Aid Team, the AEC has taken part (and continues to take part) in a legal research training courses offered by a number of organisations. The skills learned in these courses are used in order to help community members in dealing with legal documents and procedures relating to evictions and cut-offs. They also to facilitate the strength and number of the legal challenges against evictions. By building up the skills of our members, we are able to also conduct research on the socio-economic effects of evictions and water and electricity cut-offs. This research is used not only to give empirical evidence to the Campaign’s counter arguments against GEAR and privatisation, but is also used to take the Campaign forward in terms of developing concrete alternatives to such policies.

* Democratising Communities. The Anti-Eviction Campaign works to democratise the internal governance of poor communities as they attempt to mobilise and stand up for their rights.


External links

* [http://www.westerncapeantieviction.wordpress.com Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign]
* [http://www.abahlali.org Abahlali baseMjondolo Website]
* [http://www.apps.org.za Africa Project for Participatory Society]

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