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Publication Details

Reference
Sakhela, Buhlungu  (2005) The Anti-Privatisation Forum: A Profile of a Post-Apartheid Social Movement . University of the Witwatersrand : 1-27.

Summary
The advent of democracy has resulted in a proliferation of movements representing a wide range of constituencies and interests in South Africa. Many of these movements were formed or operate outside the auspices of the former liberation movements and other civil society organisations that were part of the anti-apartheid struggle.

For this reason, some observers and activists leading these new forces have styled them ‘new social movements’ to underline the fact that they represent new constituencies facing new issues in post-apartheid South Africa. One of these ‘new’ social movements is the Anti-Privatisation Forum (APF), an umbrella organisation that has gained prominence since its formation in 2000. This report aims to present a profile of the APF by

• Tracing the origins of the movement,
• Identifying the basic characteristics of the movement as well as the social characteristics of its members and leadership,
• Considering the relationship between the origins of the APF and the structural transformation of South Africa’s economic and political system,
• Examining the relationship between the South African transition and neoliberal globalisation.

In examining the above issues, the report will explore whether the APF can be characterised as a counter-hegemonic movement struggling for fundamental change, or one that is struggling for more limited or short term relief from the marginalisation of its social base.

In exploring the above issues, the paper also considers the relationship between the APF and traditional struggle organisations in South Africa, particularly those that constitute the Tripartite Alliance of the African National Congress (ANC), the South African Communist Party (SACP) and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU). This report argues that it is not possible to grasp the origins, politics, strategies and campaigns of new social movements such as the APF without reference to the organisations that led the anti-apartheid struggle, particularly from the The material for this report was gathered from various sources including interviews with activists of the APF and leaders of various organisations, including the main trade union federations. In addition, primary documents, such as minutes, reports and pamphlets were collected from the APF office in Braamfontein.ii Other documents were accessed through the websites of the APF and various other organisations, many of which have links with the new social movements.

Other information and insights were gained through attendance of meetings and workshops of the APF or its affiliates and attending seminars addressed by APF leaders, some of which took place before the existence of the APF and its affiliates. The first of these is a workshop focusing on the theme, ‘South Africa:

Consolidation, contradictions and continuing struggles’ held at the University of the Witwatersrand on the 9 June 2000, a few weeks before the formation of the APF. Among the speakers at the workshop were Andile Mngxitama of the National Land Commission, Trevor Ngwane, then recently expelled from the ANC, and Dinga Sikwebu of the National Union of Metalworkers (NUMSA).

The APF and all the other new social movements have attracted considerable attention from the media, researchers, the government and other more traditional organisations, such as political parties and trade unions. Indeed, because of their unconventional brand of politics and actions, these movements are often labelled as ‘ultra-left’ by representatives of the ruling alliance comprising the ANC, the SACP and COSATU.

But little is known about the origins, structures, strategies and campaigns of these movements, and thus some of the media coverage and labelling by their detractors is often based on a limited understanding of these movements. This report hopes to contribute by providing information that could help inform the debates about the new social movements in general, and the APF in particular.

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