Increasing community mobilization for stronger local democracy and community-driven development
Azola Goqwana , ESSET Gender Coordinator conducting a strategic work-plan: All photo credits Kokeletso Legoete
7 April 2016, Johannesburg. In the 'new' South Africa, many remain homeless, unemployed, illiterate, with total lack of service delivery in their communities. When civilians exercise their rights to protests and demand basic service delivery, they are met with violence from their government. Police brutality towards community protesters in South Africa, has gotten worse, looking back at the Marikana Massacre. Many of these brutal acts by our police remain unreported, while a few get reported. Community activists are arrested and murdered, yet these cases remain unreported and unspoken of.
In 2015, ESSET hosted a Popular Assembly on Local Democracy and Development with several community activists from Gauteng, Limpopo, North West, Western Cape and Kwa Zulu-Natal. The assembly aimed at venturing a grassroots assessment of service delivery by local authorities and of the practice of local democracy, as well as reflecting on community protests. Decisions were taken at the assembly that would enable poor communities to be actively involved in the developments of their communities as well as being able to resist law enforcements that infringe on their rights."Authority should know that people on the ground are not happy, our government need to include communities in their developments", said Mandla Mndebele, ESSET's community driven development programme officer.
As a follow up on decisions taken at the assembly, ESSET hosted a consultative meeting on 7 May 2016 with the same groups that made it to the popular assembly. The purpose of the meeting was to reflect on the current spate of community protests in SA, as well as to develop a plan of action to implement the decisions of the popular assembly.
Comrade Thami Hukwe of Abahlali base Freedom Park and Comrade Bongani Jonas of GWCRA from Bekkersdal sharing their experiences of police brutality and corruption by the ANC led government.
It is through the ESSET’s Community Driven Programme that such spaces are created to capacitate the communities to take leadership of their own struggles and demand better services from those in offices. ESSET strong believes that the communities are the main custodians of their own change, transformation and development.
"Communities have the potential to hold the authorities accountable to perform their duties responsibly. It is through this notion that ESSET has committed itself and resources to support communities that are struggling towards challenging the current status-quo and make their lives better. We are committed to supporting popular struggles of the marginalized groups so that we can collectively make our government, especially our local governments and municipalities to deliver the basic services effectively to eradicate the forces that hinder socio-economic transformation in our society" Mandla Mdebele further commented on the state of community protests.
ESSET as a mediator between the poor and the justice system aims at Increasing community mobilization for stronger local democracy and community-driven development. ESSET believes that every citizen of this country deserves a decent living and basic service delivery, as the South African constitution states.
It has come more than once that community activists believe that the ANC led government wants to silence activists while they ( ANC) get away with corruption, murder and their police brutality towards protesters, " The ANC government wants to take control over everything, with their money and corruption...I was also promised a motor vehicle and a house to keep my mouth shut, so that they can go on with their murders and brutality. I must say, I am ready to lose my life to this struggle" said Comrade Bongani Jonas of GWCRA in Bekkersdal.
Esset will continue creating platforms for forging solidarity networks between the socioeconomic struggles of poor communities and municipal worker struggles, and to establish on-going engagements among poor communities and municipal workers on local government.