Thembelihle Crisis Committee contesting elec­tions through Operation Khanyisa Movement: PDF Print E-mail
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Saturday, 30 April 2011 17:52


Thembelihle Crisis Committee contesting elec­tions through Operation Khanyisa Movement:

by Siphiwe Segodi

Thembelihle Crisis Committee chairperson

Thembelihle Crisis Committee, which organises the community of Thembelihle ‘informal settle­ment’ south of Johannesburg, explains how the organisation has decided to use participation in the elections to further their struggle. The TCC is contest­ing May’s local government elections as part of Operation Khanyisa Movement, which already has a councillor in the Johannesburg City Council:

The Thembelihle Crisis Commit­tee (TCC) was established in early 2001, inspired by the Soweto Elec­tricity Crisis Committee (SECC), out of the need for a struggle for the installation of electricity in the area. We are affiliated to the Anti-Privatisation Forum (APF). TCC is leading the struggle in resisting the forced removal of the entire informal settlement. It is fighting for other basic needs such as running water for each yard, water-borne toilets, a clean environment and development of the area into a proper township with houses. Most importantly the TCC also struggles with raising political consciousness, particularly on the importance of community control of community issues. The TCC also now includes supporting workers more generally as a prin­ciple in our struggle. For example we supported the Shoprite workers in 2006 and SAMWU strikes in Johannesburg in 2010 and others.


The TCC was part of founding Operation Khanyisa Movement (OKM) in 2006 as an electoral front for the contestation of the local government elections in that year, together with the majority of the APF affiliates in the Johannes­burg region including the SECC, Motsoaledi Concerned Residents, Kliptown Concerned Residents, Wynburg Concerned Residents and Marlboro Crisis Committee. The APF had taken a position which left it on affiliates to decide how they wanted to approach those elections. We believed that the APF position was problematic since it opened its affiliates to political confusion which would result in some voting for parties that have no working class interests at heart. Ordinary members of the TCC also thought that it was important to challenge the ANC in the ballot as well and to fight from inside the council chamber rather than ‘making noise’ from the streets only – the noise must also come from within. We also wanted a councillor that would be accountable to its constituen­cies. Looking around there was no organisation offering this.

Currently the OKM is made up of the TCC, WCR and SECC. As community based organisa­tions we are some of those who are engaged in daily struggles around resisting electricity cut-offs, evictions, prepaid water metres and for delivery of basic services through direct action such as ‘Operation Khanyisa’. The OKM is a socialist electoral front which takes the working class, socialist voice inside the cham­ber. Our belief is that our struggle must not go on a ‘holiday’ when a particular day, so called Election Day has come – we need to have coordinated action that takes our struggle forward at all times, be it election period or normal times.

The experience of having an OKM councillor in the Johannesburg City Council quickly exposed the TCC members to where and how exactly decisions were made about our lives and basic services. The OKM is made up of mostly poor people, most of whom are uneducated in the bourgeois sense and that knowl­edge had not been obvious to them. We used our only seat attained during the 2006 local elections to bring a socialist voice into the bourgeois chamber and this obvi­ously frequently resulted in busi­ness being ‘unusual’ to the bour­geois councillors. We encourage each other to ensure that we wear our APF/OKM T-shirts when going to hear our councillor presenting our mandate which was prepared by all affiliates of OKM with their issues included where it is appro­priate. Most importantly what one learned was that mere trust on an individual is not enough in politics, we certainly need some degree of control mechanism on those we give the responsibility to lead.

We have been testing out control measures, how we prepare our councillor for chamber meetings and use her in community mass meetings to expose what is hap­pening there. OKM candidates now sign a pledge committing them to account to their commu­nity, take the struggle forward, to be subject to the right of recall, and to hand over the councillor salary to the organisation which then pays them a living wage.

The way forward for the OKM as a working class organisation is to struggle towards the formation of a mass workers party on a social­ist programme, a party that will lead the working class to a genuine revolution. In the interim the OKM must add weight to other socialist initiatives of organising and unit­ing other struggling communities such as those that form OKM. As an electoral front it must assess the political situation and working class mood each time election time comes and decide firstly whether to contest or resort to another tactic, such as spoiling the ballot, and also whether to insist on the name or allow changes to accommo­date other working class forma­tions interested in collaborating.



Last Updated on Saturday, 30 April 2011 17:58

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