Resistance against Exclusion,
Exploitation and Discrimination
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The Solidarity Economy:
Towards a people-driven economy

Solidarity economy ESSEt

South Africa, 21 June 2017

Ecumenical Service for Socio-Economic Transformation (ESSET) introduced the concept of the Solidarity Economy to the informal trader organizations that we work with, in 2012. The Solidarity Economy is a key theme of our work with informal traders. One of the key achievements of our work on the Solidarity Economy is the formation of 11 women’s worker cooperatives and a women’s business association in South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland, comprising women informal traders, in 2014. Read more...


Women! Together organizing for power and change!


South Africa, 22 June 2017

Women are involved in social movements that are patriarchal, where women continue to be marginalised. While there are few women in leadership positions, they often do not promote women’s interests. Organisational forms tend to replicate male leadership even in cases where there are women leaders. Women are excluded from decision-making and their reality is not taken into account. Read more...


Sexual Violence and Patriarchy: Situating the role of patriarchy in sexual violence

The stories of black women


Sexual violence and the patriarch the experience of African women. ESSET


8 April 2017

Our initiatives are unapologetically biased towards women, because they tend to bear the brunt of poverty, discrimination, exploitation and abuse. We have and continue to provide legal literacy, skills and leadership training to women informal traders. ESSET has held a write-workshop for women that all three ESSET programmes focus on. The women shared their stories as a means of building and empowering other women who have been and are in the same situations as theirs.


Effects of patriarchy and means to dismantle and crush patriarchy. These are their stories...



ESSET is hosting a political education forum on 7 & 8 December 2016. The political education forum will be attended by leaders and members of informal trader organizations, women's cooperatives, youth organizations, women's organizations, social movements and church organizations. READ MORE...


Date: 7 & 8 December 2016
Time: 9:00-16:30
Venue: Misty Rivers Lodge, Johannesburg



As a response to issues that affect women and children, specifically based on their gender and sex, ESSET will be hosting a dialogue with women ONLY! This dialogue seeks to address issues of gender-based violence, guided by the theme “challenging Gender-Based Violence (GBV)”. ESSET intends on creating a safe space for women to critically reflect on GBV issues and also to look at how certain biblical interpretations legitimise gender-based violence.


Date: 30 November 2016
Time: 9:00-14:00
Venue: Khotso House, Marshalltown


Informal Trade

@ESSET this week, 25 October 2016
In 2013, ESSET launched the SADC informal trader policy engagement with country governments & women empowerment project. After the launch, the common expectation was the informal trader organizations will with the support of ESSET organize local engagements meetings with their governments and present a list of demands that was prepared by the traders during the local consultative meetings facilitated by ESSET.


It was reported that other countries / organizations managed to organize their local engagements meetings. However, some, due to various challenges were not able to host theirs, although they managed to do their plans.


ESSET is hosting a regional assessment meeting that will take place in Johannesburg on the 28th – 29th October 2016. This regional meeting is for the purpose of assessing the extent in which the local processes have taken place, as well as to find out if there were positive results from these local initiatives, and collectively plan for the local follow-up meetings.


Theology and Social Justice

@ESSET this week, 25 October 2016
While the informal regional trader’s meeting takes place, ESSET’s Theology and Social Justice Programme Officer, Xolelwa Mshubeki will be meeting with the Tembisa Methodist Church Women. This is a reference meeting with the women to share with, their challenges and experiences within the ecumenical movement to challenging Socio-Economic issues that they face. The Reference group meeting will take place at Tembisa, east of Gauteng on Thursday 27th October.
The main purpose of this reference group is to be a feeder and resource to ESSET’s Theology and Social Justice Programme.


North West LGBTI community celebrate Pride

Matlosana Pride 2016

6 August 2016, Matlosana (Klerksdorp)

LGBTI pride march and celebration, took to the streets on Saturday, at Klerksdorp Jouberton, North West. According to the organizers, this Pride exists to create a space for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons to be themselves and celebrate their existence, even though are at times faced by homophobia.


The event started with a march to a park where the LGBTI community could meet and socialize. The crowd was very lively. They sang, chanted and claimed their space in Jouberton. Some had support from their families and heterosexual friends. “I do not think Pride should be celebrated only by queer people, this is an act of resistance and because I love my (lesbian) friend, I will claim that space for her existence and happiness, with her,” said Lebogang Motlhodi from Gauteng.


“Pride is about celebrating ourselves, our sexuality and a statement that we are fighting for our rights, as well as connecting with other queers,” says Lumka from Bloemfontein.

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Tracing the ecumenical movement in the fight against social injustices in post-apartheid South Africa

Written by Xolelwa Mshubeki, 2016

A reflection paper on the issues raised at the Symposium on the role of the ecumenical movement in the struggle for democracy and lack of ecumenical activism against hate crimes and gender-based violence that ESSET held in September 2015.


The objective of the paper is to explore strategies for increasing ecumenical activism in post-apartheid South Africa.


Freedom Park to occupy and claim their land back #BringbackOurLand

August 2016. From Friday 29 July to Saturday 31 July, Freedom Park residents will be illegally occupying land that is unused, for sustainable economy in their community.


Female Informal Traders meeting ESSET 2016

Regional meeting with female informal trader cooperatives

23 June 2016, Johannesburg. In 2013 ESSET initiated a project for female cooperatives. The main goal of the project was to improve the livelihoods of poor and unemployed women who rely on informal trading for survival.
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KASA: Revitalizing solidarity: Relations between North and South in changed framework conditions

22 June 2016. Conference on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the Ecumenical Service on Southern Africa.


The Ecumenical Service for Socio-Economic Transformation (ESSET) was invited by the Ecumenical Service on Southern Africa (KASA) to participate in celebrating 20th Anniversary in Heidelberg, Germany. ESSET was represented by the Prof Vuyani Vellem, chairperson of the board and Miss Nomasonto Magwaza, ESSET Director.
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Consultative meeting ecumenical movement in
post-apartheid South Africa

Friday, 29 April 2016, 09:00-15:00
VENUE Johannesburg, at Khotso House (Chapel-1st floor)

Download the press release...


Xenophobia in post-apartheid South Africa: A Theological Reflection

March 2016. ESSET’s 2015-2017 strategic plan points out that the church continues to guide us with contextual analysis of unjust acts in our country, and ESSET strongly believes in the God of the marginalized, and the God who cares. Therefore, in view of this, the theological reflection paper on xenophobia notes that xenophobia is a crisis that impels us to return to the Bible and search for the Word of God that is relevant to the xenophobic attacks; and that the church can play a vital role in making life worth living for victims of xenophobic attacks in South Africa and should draw social and political concerns in its rights.


The objective of the paper was to stimulate theological debate on xenophobia. The paper highlights the statistics of xenophobic attacks in South Africa. It also highlights the underlying factors that lead to xenophobic attacks.

Download... Read online...


Thabo Molefe gets a slap on the wrist for raping and murdering Thembelihle Sokela

December 2015. On Wednesday 30 July 2015 at the Pretoria North Magistrate’s Court, Judge Mokgosi sentenced Thembelihle Sokhela’s rapist and murderer to 22 years in Jail. Read more...


The Informal Trading Sector in SADC: Legal, Policy and Programme Support

ESSET The Informal Trading Sector in SADC: Legal, Policy and Programmatic Support


A Desk Study by the Ecumenical Service for
Socio-Economic Transformation (ESSET)

November 2015. ESSET’s view is that the active participation of women informal traders must provide the voice and compass to inform programmatic support in the sector. It must also be noted that the sector is not heterogeneous and particular circumstances should be looked at on a case by case basis.
Download the report here.




Community dialogue on social transformation in Freedom Park

ESSET community dialogue in Freedom Park

South Africa 21 June 2017

As we attempt to analyse dialogue as a human phenomenon, we discover something which is the essence of dialogue itself: the word. But the word is more than just an instrument which makes dialogue possible; accordingly, we must seek its constitutive elements. Within the word we find two dimensions, reflection and action, in such radical interaction that if one is sacrificed – even in part – the other immediately suffers. Read more...


LawFocus- ESSET on Informal trade Issues

ESSET Speaks on LawFocus with Wits radio about the work they do with eight informal trader organizations in SADC. These countries include South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, and Zambia. The interview was held with Mandla Mndebele, ESSET's Informal Trade Programme Officer, on issues that continue to affect informal traders.

Click here to listen to the interview.


Community activists continue the struggle against 'corrupt' ANC members

28 June 2016, Bekkersdaal

Bongani Jonas, a community activist from Bekkersdaal in Gauteng, speaks of corruption that the ANC members continue to get away with, in his community. As a community activist Bongani has personally experienced bribery and corruption from the African National Congress. 


"It is time we react towards these reactionaries (ANC)... We are ready to even lose our lives, to see that, that (my) community reaches and advances its developmental goals," Bongani says.



"Mr Zuma's errors and blunders, quite early in his incumbency were critical glimpses at the quality of an average ANC cadre in South Africa post 1994, a matter the ANC self-identified as worrisome."


Jacob Zuma: The Virtual Image of the Limits of Constituted Power in South Africa post-1994?

by VS Vellem

It is not worth it in this brief reflection to repeat and assess the validity of the debates in favor or against Mr Jacob Zuma demitting office — stepping down as President in order to allow the restoration of the trust, indeed “vulnerable trust” South Africans have bestowed in the African National Congress (ANC), ‘Mandela’s ANC’ for the past twenty two years. No doubt, as one of the leading organizations for the movement of black liberation, the prestigious history of the ANC cannot be denied and this is shown among others by its own members who have echoed the sentiments voiced out by a cross section of our public life for Mr Zuma to demit office. Mr Zuma’s errors and blunders, quite early in his incumbency were critical glimpses of the quality of an average ANC cadre in South Africa post 1994, a matter the ANC itself identified as worrisome.

Reflecting from the perspective of faith on the recent Constitutional Court’s veerdict on Inkandla and the ANC’s response, I am prompted to deeply ponder what the technical distinction between “constituted power” and “constituting power” is. We should, I contend, make a distinction between these two forms of power. A mandate that is given to those in power is “constituted power”. These public officials, including the governing party are given the authority and domain to exercise their power in leading the nation to better prospects of life for all. They govern according to the rules or the law of an established order or pact, as credited public officials for the life or betterment of the life of the community as a whole. The symbols, institutions and all artefacts of our democratic dispensation are legitimated by a mandate that originates from a pre-established consensus to liberate blacks for the liberation of all in South Africa.

Mr Zuma recently, on Workers Day, said that one has to humble himself or herself when people demand change by accepting to step down. But he strangely qualified this by saying people should nonetheless follow democratic process, by implication, respect the vote cast to give him and the ANC the mandate to govern and effect their change possibly when the time for another round of elections come. This for me, is but one example that captures the psyche of the ANC with Mr Zuma as its virtual image.

There is a difference between constituted and constituting power that dangerously questions this mandate, it seems Mr Zuma and the ANC have forgotten! Two important aspects must be remembered. To be constituted as a governing power is not equal to the transfer of power from those who have their faith entrusted to you who indeed are a form of a constituting power. You see, Mr Zuma and the ANC have now shown beyond any reasonable doubt that they can command and govern as if they were the source of power rather than recipients of “vulnerable trust” which requires reciprocity as constitutive of the mandate of the ANC. To govern as if a source of power is dangerous to our faith as believers. It is a betrayal of the vulnerable trust — the trust of the poor surviving masses and their hopes. Yet this “vulnerable trust”, as a constituting form of power, is forever proportional to the extent to which the reciprocation of those constituted as power submit and obey the trust and faith of the vulnerable. Any form of disproportion, results in dictatorship or tyranny and inevitably protest. Do not only equate protest to what has become the dominant narrative of the response of the poor communities that agonize for service only. No! As a form of power itself, protest delegitimizes and renders even the most tyrannical of constituted forms of power inefficacious.

As a child of the black Reformed faith, when we say we are justified by faith, not by law, we refer to the critical consciousness that builds up as a new form of constituting power by ceasing to believe and bestowing our faith in those whose reciprocation is an insult to our lives.


Constituting power ruptures! The extent of the ANC’s injustice and ill-fated trust in itself as a source of power yet in perpetual betrayal of the trust and faith of the vulnerable is proportional to the justification by faith alone for the search of a new legitimacy.


ESSET's work getting more international recognition

30 May 2016. ESSET's board of directors' chairperson Professor Vuyani Vellem and ESSET director Nomasonto Magwaza will be in Germany for the next week at the Conference on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the Ecumenical Service on Southern Africa (KASA).


Prof Vellem will be facilitating a lecture and discussion on 'Resistance against exclusion, exploitation and discrimination. Experiences with solidarity in the “new” South Africa'



Increasing community mobilization for stronger local democracy and community-driven development


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.



ESSET’s Gender-Based Violence Workshop 2015

ESSET’s Gender-Based Violence Workshop 2015

November 2015. On the 18 and 19 November 2015, at Soweto Zola, Extension 1, ESSET had a workshop on Gender-Based Violence. The workshop was held with a youth group that has a community-driven development programme. The workshop was to raise awareness about causes and factors influencing gender-based violence. The workshop also created a space for young voices to get talking about issues of patriarchy, culture, socialisation, and religion.

View the gallery