“More Than Just A Hashtag: What #EndSARS Means For Nigeria?”

“We are determined to continue these protests until justice is served.” – Judith Caleb


Following the formation of the unified Nigerian Police Force in 1930, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) was created in 1992 to combat the rising number of robbers and criminals in Lagos and southern Nigeria. At the beginning of SARS’ existence, officers dressed in plainclothes, conducted their duties unarmed, and were responsible solely with arresting criminals and robbers. As SARS gradually expanded outside of Lagos to address more widespread crime, however, its responsibilities grew to include arresting armed robbers, violent criminals, etc. and investigating/ prosecuting such people. SARS’ increased power led to extrajudicial killings, beatings, random arrests, extortion at roadblocks, and other human rights abuses. SARS officers began carrying guns, and many abused their control over civilian populations. 

The social media movement started with a single tweet from user @yabakid on 2 December 2017 who wrote: “A SARS officer just shot a boy in the head right in front of me [expletive]!!!! I’m so SHOOK!!!!!” This tweet resulted in a mass inflow of tweets that brought to light the shared trauma that many Nigerians experienced at the hands of SARS. Within 5 days of the tweet, Al Jazeera reported that 1 million #EndSARS tweets had been shared and a unified protest was planned for 11 December 2017 in 10 cities across Nigeria. In response, Public Relations Officers for both the Lagos state police and the SARS headquarters denied that a problem exists and reaffirmed that SARS was, in fact, doing their job well and that the social media outrage was primarily a misconception. Contrary to the government’s opinion, Amnesty International’s 2016 report detailed that SARS, “is responsible for widespread torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (other ill-treatment) of detainees in their custody.”

Since 2017, the Nigerian public has put up a fight against the violence and abuses imparted by the police force and SARS specifically.  While the government has promised to reform or disband SARS four times already, most of this “reform” has extended to simply moving officers around from one unit to another, and allowing the human rights violations and abuses of power to continue. This past October saw an increasing level of violence from SARS officers against protesters in the form of shootings, tear-gassing, and using water cannons on groups.

SARS was disbanded on 11 October after a recent upsurge in protests in October, but as suspected, SARS officers have been reassigned to other police units. Protests are, however, still occurring because of the history of reforming the unit, the continued seeking for justice for victims of the violence caused by SARS, and a push for larger systemic reform. Shortly after the disbanding, the Lekki toll Gate Massacre occurred where Amnesty International reports that Nigeria security forces shot and killed 12 people (they also remarked that the death toll is likely to be higher). Despite this, the Nigerian Government has continued to threaten that they will deploy the military. The government has also cracked down on the supposed leaders of #EndSARS as they have placed them on a no-fly list and as of 12 November, the government has succeeded in freezing the accounts of 20 #EndSARS campaigners after telling the federal high court in Abuja that the accounts are linked to terrorist activities.

SARS has primarily targeted young people, especially those who appear Westernized and well-off, “flashy,” have tattoos, dreadlocks, drive cars, and carry laptops and smartphones, labeling them as internet fraudsters. Targeting young Nigerians is particularly problematic as young people under 30 make up more than half of Nigeria’s population and are also the worst affected by unemployment (14.2% unemployment rate; World Bank Data). In March 2017, SARS arrested 23-year-old Miracle Ifeanyichukwu Okpara and detained him on a charge of having stolen a laptop. Amnesty International reported that he was tortured and hardly given any food during 40 days of detention before being taken to court and charged with armed robbery. The court discharged the case for lack of evidence. 

A notable element of the movement is that it has declined to select leaders, stating that they do not want anyone negotiating with the government behind their backs. This decentralized approach to the movement has been a key function that has “democratized the #EndSARS movement”, and stands in contrast to the manner in which Nigeria’s public institutions are run. This is one of the ways that he #EndSARS movement has highlighted the disconnect between Nigeria’s tech-savvy young generation and the older patronage-driven Nigerians, as the former calls for a change.

#EndSARS has become more than just protesting SARS but has become a movement representing people that stand firmly against the many dysfunctional Nigerian institutions that reproduce its extreme poverty numbers (World Poverty Clock currently reports that Nigeria has the highest number of people living in extreme poverty). A restructuring of society is needed that moves away from nepotism, cronyism, corruption, and other government, cultural, and religious systems that reproduce inequality and protect the abuse of power (physical and figurative). This movement links to a larger problem that many developing, resource rich, former colonial states face: how does a nation restructure its public and private institutions that are, in most cases, remnants of colonial-era extractive institutions that served the sole purpose of oppressing the majority for the unjust benefit of the few. There are still many legal changes that have to be made and regarding police brutality, Nigeria’s Constitution and the Nigeria Police Force Order 237 (Rules for guidance in use of firearms by the police) still permits any person attempting to escape arrest to be shot. Perhaps the democratic nature and hard work of the #EndSARS social movement is a step in the direction of restructuring a nation, but a lot of time and hard work is still needed to get on that path.

Africa Unite supports the #EndSARS movement and countersigns the notion that the government of Nigeria must be held accountable for not upholding the obligations derived from the many international treaties that they are party to. These treaties include: International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT) and its Optional Protocol (OPCAT), the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, and the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights.

Resources to follow and donate to the #EndSARS Movement

Social Media Accounts


https://www.instagram.com/seuntheactivist/?igshid=1hiedcljbyuxs
https://endsars.carrd.co/#socials

Organizations to donate to and keep you updated


https://endsars.carrd.co/#donate

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Africa Unite and the community of Laingville in dialogue

On the 17th of November 2020, Africa Unite held a conflict mediation dialogue with some of the community members from Laingville. The dialogue took place at St Helena Bay municipal hall, which is 155.9km outside of Cape Town. Social distancing was maintained, and everyone wore masks.

The facilitator engaging participants in the Laingville community dialogue

The purpose of the dialogue was to get insight into the community’s issues and find a way to deal with these challenges faced by this community.  These meetings are part of our community conflict mediation process, based on building a community’s grassroots capacity in conflict, building tolerance, and inclusive communities. The area has had several protests by the residents for service delivery, unemployment, and housing issues in the past. However, the death of a 9-year-old child (supposedly at the hands of riot police) has reignited protests from the communities of Laingville, where most social upheaval & protests have been taking place. Additionally, this has deepened the divide between the Coloured and Black communities, leading to tension and conflict.

This community dialogue took place in the presence of a municipal representative from the Saldanha Bay Municipality and community stakeholders from the Laingville region.

During the dialogue, community members had raised several issues;

LABOUR ISSUES: The people of Laingville are disgruntled because of the lack of employment opportunities. They also stated that nepotism plays a significant role in the community. Additionally, the community members expressed that there are no opportunities for the creation of local businesses. The participants felt that this would help the community develop as well as create employment. Furthermore, the community members stated that one of the only ways’ young women could gain favours or services are by having intimate relations with older men.

Proposed solutions:
• The Africa Unite team should conduct information sessions and skills development alongside other stakeholders such as the WCBDC (West Coast Business Development Centre) and the Saldanha Bay Municipality.
• Africa Unite can help facilitate peaceful dialogue between the community and stakeholders on creating a Business Development centre in Laingville.

YOUTH ISSUES: There is a lack of resources and programs for youth in the community. There is no community centre for youth to go to, and sports facilities such as the soccer field are inadequate. The community members feel like there is an unequal distribution of resources i.e. The rugby and cricket facilities are well developed and financed but the soccer and other indoor sports facilities are not designed for skills development. The community members expressed that the youth often turn to drugs and alcohol because there is nothing for them to do after school and during the holidays. There are no opportunities for engagement and development for young people.

Proposed solutions:
• More dialogue between the community and the municipality to build a community centre for the youth and to renovate the current soccer facilities should be conducted going forward.
• A task team elected by community members and the ward committee members should lobby with the Saldanha Bay municipality and the Western Cape Government to start implementing youth development programs and facilities for the Laingville/St Helena Bay region.

HOUSING: Community members in Laingville felt that an injustice was being done to them concerning social housing. To receive a house from the municipality, a household cannot earn more than R 3 500.00 as a combined household monthly in addition to this, you have to be under the age of 35 years old to receive or qualify for social housing, making it very difficult to receive support from the government. The community members stated that the last time the municipality-built houses was in 2002. The community members have tried on several occasions to reach out to the municipality and host meetings, however, without success. The communities feel that the municipality and Department of Housings are dividing the Coloured and Black communities to encourage conflict and destabilization in the area.

Proposed solutions:
• The Coloured and Black communities need to present a united front and present the issue of housing in one voice.
• The community needs to understand the local government structures’ roles and how to lobby with National and provincial government departments with issues such as housing.

WATER AND SANITATION: The community expressed that the sanitation and water facilities in the community were inadequate, to say the least. Nine taps service over 265 plots and raw sewerage are dumped into the streets. Additionally, community members said that toilets were not easily accessible, especially during winter. Community members have to walk a long distance to use ablution facilities, this is unsafe and often unsanitary, especially for women at night. These water and sanitation problems are becoming major health risks within the community, especially in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Proposed solutions:
• More dialogue between community members and stakeholders to effectively communicate with the municipality needs to take place, to improve service delivery and water/sanitation facilities for the community of Laingville as well as host workshops to teach people proper sanitary and hygiene practices.

High School infrastructure: There are currently four primary schools in the area; however, there is no high school. The students must travel around 20 km to the nearest high school in Vredenburg. There is a plot of land that was initially dedicated to the construction of a high school. However, community members are frustrated that the municipality and State have yet to deliver on its promise of building an accessible High School in the area.

Proposed solutions:
• A cohort of community members (Black and Coloured) should engage the department of Education and the Saldanha Bay municipality to build a well-equipped and multi-lingual High School in the area.

Way forward:

To create a line of consistent communication between Africa Unite and the community of Laingville, a working group of ten members (Black and Coloured) was formed. This working group of community members will be responsible for following up on the proposed solutions made above and further engagements with the various stakeholders in the region.

Dialogue participants, stakeholders and AU team members after the discussion

Conclusion:

The community members were ultimately pleased and thankful that the Saldanha Bay Municipality sent a representative and provided a suitable venue and also grateful to Africa Unite for facilitating this process.

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An open letter to the President of the Republic of South Africa

11 November 2020
HIS EXCELLENCY PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA
MR CYRIL RAMAPHOSA
UNION BUILDINGS
PRIVATE BAG X1000
PRETORIA


CC:
Minister of Police, Bhekokwakhe ‘Bheki’ Hamilton Cele
Email: GaehlerSMK@saps.gov.za
Premier of Western Cape Province, Alan Winde
Email: Alan.Winde@westerncape.gov.za
MEC of Community Safety, Albert Fritz
Email: Hod.Comsafe@westerncape.gov.za
Mayor of Cape Town, Daniel Plato Email: dan.plato@capetown.gov.za

Your Excellency Mr President,

“Protection fee and Gang violence,” a state of emergency.


As the youth of Africa Unite, we are heartbroken in addressing this letter to you to voice out a serious challenge faced by the people of the Cape Flats. The year 2020 is characterised by hardships caused by COVID-19; however, we are facing another demon of murdering innocent people. In the Cape Flats, we are very concerned as we witness daily brutal killings of innocent people by gangsters who are collecting money for protection fees.

This phenomenon of “protection racketeering” started a few years ago, targeting foreign owned-shops in different townships. Without paying the fees, the foreign-owned shops (spaza shops) were robbed, looted, and even killed. At the time, the general public was not concerned and viewed this phenomenon as normal because the local people were not affected.

The collection of a “protection fee” grew drastically over the years and it has become more organised to the extent that it is now operating like a mafia in the Cape Flats. It has started claiming many lives of both foreign nationals and South Africans in both Coloured and Black townships. The situation has now reached a point where the criminals have formed two groups (the Guptas and Boko Haram) who collect money. These two groups are currently fighting using guns against each other, day and night, to control their targeted victims. The situation has become uncontrollable, so that they are now targeting and collecting money from property owners and ordinary women street vendors who sell fruits and vegetables.

Besides the above Your Excellency Mr President, Cape Town is known for its gang violence and has become so common that, unfortunately, some consider it a South African sub-culture.

The police are overwhelmed and unable to control the situation. Moreover, the current situation has extended to neighbouring farm areas such as Grabouw, etc. The gangs’ business is booming; hence, as Africa Unite, we are very concerned that these gangs will recruit more young people to sustain their businesses during the upcoming festive holidays. Recently, seven people were brutally killed in Gugulethu in one day. In areas such as Philippi East, the gangs are forcing people to go to bed by 6 pm as it will be their time to start operating. Currently, the situation is more than critical as everyone in the Cape Flats is living in fear.

Your Excellency Mr President, as concerned Africa Unite youth, our plea to you is to give your urgent priority to this issue by:

  1. Declaring a state of emergency in the Cape Flats before the start of the festive season
  2. Calling all the security services to bring to book all people responsible for these harmful activities.
  3. Addressing Gender-Based (GBV) violence against young girls who are victims of gang violence during the upcoming 16 Days of Activism.

Your Excellency Mr President, It is therefore incumbent on us the youth to raise this issue with you as a matter of great seriousness. We hope that your attention to this matter will be highly appreciated.

Finally, Your Excellency Mr President, as the Youth Representatives we are available at your convenience, to lead a delegation of Youth Representatives to meet you to discuss these matters further and pave a new trajectory for our City.

Yours in Youth Development:


Akhona Madikane
Lyle Breda
Melusi Mahlaba
Rouxbin Smit

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“Conflict mediation: The How, the Why and the When”

Since the inception of Africa Unite, grassroots informed interventions have been part of the Africa Unite practice with the youth being at the centre of the interventions. The key strategy for the human rights of social cohesion is capacity development for human rights peer educators and hosting community dialogues.

Africa Unite held the 2020 Community Conflict Mediation training on the 6th and 7th of November 2020. However, the element that sets the 2020 workshop apart from every other year is that the facilitator conducted the two-day session via Zoom, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this brought a very unique aspect to the training.

As the workshop proceeded one of the initial statements were the rules of engagement in any conversation going forward, this led the participants to investigate the importance of listening and asking questions in their respective groups.

This is a very critical element of both community engagement and conflict intervention strategy. Communication is a key aspect in this process and is essential to mediation and dialogue in general as misunderstanding can fuel the stages of conflict.

As the Worksop continued the participants were asked to discuss the state of any area, community or place in conflict and to look at the elements that exist in that conflict. The participants chose to use the DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo) and the Cape Flats community of Mitchells Plain as their case studies. It was discovered that there are fundamental similarities between Mitchells Plain and the DRC and that the breakdown of social fabric is often a signifier of what is currently happening on a macro scale in a country.

Participants profiled these communities according to the factors that affect those communities and how they contribute to social ills. These factors included social, historical, political, cultural and economic factors. The participants analysed the factors from the international, national and regional spheres. Their analysis did not only state which factors affect those communities but also included some of the areas where the potential for conflict existed as a result of the state.

The training covered numerous topics that form part of the tools needed to begin the conflict intervention process. The training engaged participants about one of the critical elements of intervening or mediating any conflict which is listening to the affected parties and asking questions. Participants thoroughly discussed the importance of listening and questioning. The human rights peer educators concluded that these two are important because listening as a skill helps to deepen understanding, to remove stereotypical barriers and improving perspective. While question helps to improve interaction, clarity, eliminate assumptions, ambiguity and provide clarity and confidence. The facilitator further emphasized these tools through the Action Learning Cycle and other similar tools.

Participants engaging in the Action Learning Cycle

After engaging on the nature of conflict and its elements, the facilitator introduced the topic of factors that cause or make conflict more susceptible in communities through a group discussion among participants. The participants were asked to investigate the social, political, economic and cultural issues emerging in our communities. They mentioned economic issues as such as unemployment, lack of business opportunities, the lack of social development and corrupt greedy leadership are all contributing to a powder keg of social tension and conflict.

The workshop is used as a tool to raise awareness and to sensitize Human Rights Peer Educators to the nature of conflict and other characteristics of conflict. This then further increases awareness about the causes of conflict, the result of unmanaged conflict and why it is critical to develop strategies to manage and resolve conflict peacefully. All peer educators were well empowered and equipped with the necessary tools to go back into their communities and implement their training.

At the end of the workshop, the participants concluded by exchanging tools and strategies required to begin the conflict intervention process. These tools include stakeholder relationship, community profiling and analysis of communities and how to engage in the conflict prevention process. The group concluded throughout the sessions that everyone views conflict differently, based on their perceptions and experiences and that we should not allow emotion or bias to dictate how we mediate conflicts.

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Africa Unite Schools Club Reflection Sessions 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic had an overwhelming impact on the lives of people. Many NGO’s around the country had to re-evaluate how activities or events are planned and organized. Due to the official lockdown restrictions, Africa Unite could not host its 5th Annual Red Carpet Award Ceremony, which normally serves as a much-anticipated highlight for the school club learners, teachers, parents, staff and renowned guests alike.

Instead, each of the three School Club branches in KZN, GP and WC organised a Reflection Session to acknowledge the great work of School Club members who have been outstanding leaders and agents of change tackling social ills in their respective schools and communities even during the COVID-19 pandemic. Learners had an opportunity to share what they have done throughout the year, what challenges they experienced and what recommendations they have for the new year. The following is a summary of the different sessions in each province.

AUSC member discussing prospectives for 2021

School Clubs in KwaZulu Natal

The Reflection Session took place on November 27th at Sun Coast Entertainment Centre with four learners from Ikusasalentsha High School, one learner from Lamontville High School and their respective AU Peer Educations being present.

Successes:

The school club learners in Lamontville High School managed to source a tailor who assisted in sewing masks to hand out to the learners at school who otherwise wouldn’t be able to attend their classes. Furthermore, AUSC members requested the school governing body to revive the feeding scheme to ensure learners attend classes and can learn without hunger. The school leadership responded to the cause and the feeding scheme was opened and it is still ongoing. The school club learners in Ikusasalentsha High School wrote a list of recommendations for the principal to revamp the schoolground. Several changes took place within the school which include the renovation of the school fence, replacement of broken windows, painting of the school buildings, lockers were fixed and the nutrition scheme improved. Furthermore, the AUSC members organised a fundraising initiative to buy more plates for the Matriculates as part of the feeding scheme project as well as collaborated with ENACTUS of the Durban University of Technology in doing recycling initiatives on school grounds.

Challenges:

The greatest challenge was communicating with each club member  during lockdown as many do not have mobile phones. Such hindered them to adequately communicate and plan activities together and many could not attend the virtual sessions organized by AU during the lockdown. Furthermore, a lack of resources like data and internet access discouraged learners from thinking they will pass their final exams. When asked whether the Department of Education did enough to resolve the challenges of the learners, the AUSC members highlighted that when school reopened there were no masks and sanitizers distributed on time from the department, thus putting the lives of learners in danger. The delay of the distribution of these essentials was also attributed to the corruption that saw many linked to politicians looting COVID-19 state funds.

Awards:

The award was given to Andile Ngcongo, the President of Ikusasalentsha AUSC for her outstanding work in writing a letter to the President of the Republic of South Africa, in raising concerns about the increase of Gender-Based Violence and further organizing a GBV summit at her school. Unfortunately due to the pandemic and shift in academic year, the summit is rescheduled to take place in January 2021.

School Clubs in Gauteng

AUSC Gauteng

The reflection lunch took place on November 27th at the Reef Hotel in Johannesburg CBD and saw participation of 20 young leaders accompanied by their mentors/patrons. The schools represented by the learners were New Gate College, Fons Luminis and Katlehong High Schools.

Successes:

At the beginning of lockdown, Fons Luminis learners organised awareness campaigns to inform others on how to take care and prevent the spread of the Corona virus. In addition, they had an interview with Umphakathi TV where they spoke about RDP houses that people were promised by the government but have not received yet since 1994. They also conducted an interview with the owner of Yummy Snacks on the impact of Covid-19 on his business. Katlehong learners participated in the ongoing fight against Gender Based Violence and bullying through awareness campaigns. Additionally, the learners from New Gate College highlighted how they partnered with their school and community  in organising a Feeding schemes where they contributed and bought food parcels for the less privileged.

Challenges:

School Club representatives shared their experiences of the detrimental effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, firstly stating how their education was affected as some could not afford to attend online lessons because of data issue or not having smart phones, including the ones broadcasted on channels such as SABC because they faced long power outages in their locations. In addition, most of them are now facing pressure to learn a lot of content at once. Secondly, there was less social interaction between club members and peers hence all their plans were postponed, and they had set up different programs for the year. Everyone had to stay indoors; Zoom and WhatsApp interactions proved futile as some parents could not afford data for their children. Economically, most parents and guardians lost their jobs and a lot of businesses closed down, making it difficult for them to provide basic needs. This led to a lot of stress and anxiety which saw a lot of children witnessing gender based violence and being abused themselves in their homes.

Awards:

Certificates of recognition were given to two learners Shantel Usayihwevhu & Princess Mkhwanazi, who have shown exceptional leadership. One of the recipients, Shantel Usayihwevhu- the President of Fons Luminus, said that being the president and having received the award has boosted her confidence and all you must do as a leader is to be strong and everything will be well.

School Clubs in the Western Cape

AUSC Western Cape members doing their presentations

The Western Cape reflection lunch took place on the 28th of November at the Brass Bell Restaurant in Kalk Bay. The event saw participation of 30 learners from 6 AUSC schools and 2 AU partner schools (Hector Peterson FET School, Masibambane Secondary School, Rosendaal High, Dr. Nelson Mandela High, Portland High, Heideveld Secondary School, Gardens Commercial High and Salt River High School). Unfortunately, due to the long drive, it was not possible for our active School Club members from Ashton Secondary School to join the event.

Achievements:

Despite the difficult year, most School Clubs managed to continue their efforts in bringing change into their schools and communities. Primary focus areas during Covid-19 were food security, environment, GBV and Sanitation. Another strong theme was establishing good partnerships with local stakeholders. Rosendaal partnered with Usave for their feeding scheme while Portland High provided masks and food parcels to the needy. Masibambane partnered with SOS (Save our children) for a Sanitation project as well as with RNDA on a clean-up day for their polluted local river. Heideveld High successfully lobbied for the construction of LGBTQ toilets for those discriminated against. Students from Hector Peterson took the recent Brackenfell incident as a calling to stand up against racism at their school and in their communities. Gardens Commercial High, as well as Masibambane and Rosendaal High tackled the prominet lack of female hygiene products by distributing sanitary pads to different communities. Furthermore, Masibambane organised a GBV march in front of their school all dressed in black as a sign of solidarity.

Challenges:

The challenges experienced by learners were the same as in the other provinces, namely enforced isolation, lack of communication due to being able to meet at school and some learners not having phones or sufficient data for calls. Furthermore, there was a lack of support from their schools when it came to academics. This increased the pressure on the learners and made it hard to focus on their planned activities. Learners also witnessed increased cases of GBV and heightened anxiety.

Awards:

The team identified 10 learners who showed outstanding leadership during 2020 received a certificate as well as a voucher for a Virtual Reality Session in the AU office. The Award for best Leadership went to Kauthar Jardine, President at Portland High for her commitment to the wellbeing of her school and community as well as Kanyo Lose, former President at Masibambane for his outstanding achievements as a community activist.

Recommendations for 2021:


When asked about their recommendations for the upcoming year, learners proposed:
• Work together with parents of all members of the AUSC especially when it comes to communication as some do not have mobile phones, but their parents do have them.


• Current members of the AUSC nurture other learners for the sustainability of the programme when they leave the school to proceed to tertial institutions.
• Africa Unite must run capacity building sessions for learners focusing on report writing, etc.
• Have coordinated events around GBV, bullying, crime etc. and make use of social media such as Facebook Lives when covering marches at different schools in the country.
• AU to assist in sourcing funding so that remote schools can be reached out.
• Schools to have exchange programmes where they will have an opportunity to share experiences and collaborate.


All three reflection lunches served as a successful and well-deserved celebration after a challenging and trying year. We would like to thank all AUSC Schools and stakeholders for supporting our learners and program throughout this year.

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Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement (MTPBS)

press release

South African finance minister, Tito Mboweni, delivered his medium-term budget policy speech in parliament on the 28th of October. A five-year fiscal consolidation pathway was tabled, promoting economic growth while bringing debt under control. The impact of COVID-19 and the nationwide lockdown’s economic effects have made the outlook for 2021 more uncertain than ever, with the economy expected to contract by 7.8 % this year.

What the budget aims to do:
The government is planning spending cuts of more than R300 billion over the next three years. Reducing the public sector wage bill was proposed to support fiscal consolidation. Current budget guidelines proposed a wage freeze over the next three years. The public wage bill accounted for 40% of the government’s total expenditure during the 2019/20 financial year. The government targets to reduce the wage bill by R160 billion over the next three years. However, the MTPBS made no mention of the implications that this will have on some 1.3 million civil servants.

Additionally, R10.5 billion has been allocated to SAA towards the implementation of its business rescue plan. This is in addition to the R16.4 billion, which was given in February for settling guaranteed debt and interest. Mboweni stated that the treasury reduced spending plans of government departments to raise funds for SA Airways. Consequently, salary budgets for government employees in the departments of primary education, higher education, and health, among others, will be reduced over the next three years.

Rationally, the finance minister’s budget speech sets out the administration’s fiscal goals or stated aims. These have real-life consequences that directly affect citizens. It is thus fundamentally crucial that citizens are aware and educate themselves on what their government is doing, not just on legislative issues but also on economic and fiscal matters. As citizens, we have a contract with our public officials; we give them power and privilege in exchange for our due representation in state matters. Tito Mboweni owes it to us to let us know the country’s economic state and what this government plans on doing with public funds.

Our opinion:
There are criticisms that the MTPBS was nothing more than a set of neoliberal austerity measures. Mboweni made it clear that the priority of the MGTPBS is GDP growth and making South Africa’s economy investment-friendly. However, this type of economic growth does not always translate into human development. Those who will feel the consequences of the MTPBS are those who are most vulnerable in South African society. The minister admitted that the treasury’s plan carries significant risk, especially around the speed at which the economy is expected to recover, given COVID-19 and its effects nationally and internationally.

There is a significant risk from the pressure to spend on state-owned companies such as SAA, an insolvent company. Yet SAA was allocated an R10.5 billion bailout; meanwhile, departments responsible for crucial service delivery and social programs are forced to shave off millions. Unfortunately, critical departments such as education, health care, and other basic needs heavily relied on are now being cut to invest more money into SAA, which has only served as a debt-pit. According to Mboweni, these difficult measures must be implemented to build a prosperous future. Additionally, the minister spoke on COVID-19 and the impact it has on the future of work in South Africa:

“The crisis has highlighted and unfortunately widened inequality. We must continue to protect the most vulnerable.”

However, the budget measures, such as reducing the wage bill, implementing a wage freeze.0, and cutting critical programs, are likely to exacerbate already existing problems and contribute to deepening income inequalities. The youth are the future; thus, it is essential to ensure that they are set up for success for the country to have a prosperous future. The effects of these measures will be felt most by vulnerable communities. In a society that is already characterized by inequality, the current plan is likely to make it even more difficult for youths in vulnerable communities to succeed. The measures mentioned above make it clear that the government prioritizes a state-owned enterprise over its people.

Recommendations


South Africa has one of the unequal societies in the world, with income inequality continuing to deepen. The wealthiest 1% owns 67% of all the country’s wealth. The top 10% owns 93%. The remaining 90% of South Africa owns a meager 7% of the country’s wealth. Redistribution of wealth is key to addressing South Africans income inequality. As a human rights and youth empowerment organisation that works predominately with vulnerable communities we are concerned that the vulnerable working-class communities are the ones who will suffer the consequences of the measures laid out by the mid-term budget policy the most.

Therefore, Africa Unite suggests:


• Increase taxation on the wealthy as an alternative to some of the measures proposed during the MTPBS. Researchers at Wits indicate that “a wealth tax could be part of the solution to safeguard long-run fiscal sustainability and inclusive growth”.

• Additionally, they proposed a wealth tax that would only apply to South Africans with a net wealth superior to R3.6 million. They claim that this can raise R143 billion in tax per year, even with a 30% evasion rate. A wealth tax is a viable alternative to freezing wages and cutting critical social and service delivery programs, which are needed more than ever given the circumstances of COVID-19.

Nonetheless, although what the future holds is still uncertain, we will remain optimistic for a prosperous economic future in South Africa.

*Africa Unite is a human rights and youth empowerment organisation that works with youth from diverse backgrounds to prevent conflict, enhance social cohesion, and promote socio-economic development

For more information
Please contact us at the below details

Head office: 6 Spin Street, Church Square

PO Box 1739, Cape Town, 8001

Tel: (021) 461 6551

Durban office: 3rd floor office no. 6

Dennis Hurley Centre, 2 cathedral rd

Durban 4001

Tel: (081) 430 6067

Sport Complex, Gugulethu

Cape Town

Tel: 0741671430

info@africaunite.org.za

NPO no: 033-723

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Africa Unite School Club Heritage Day Event 2020

As a country with 11 official languages and a multitude of local and immigrated cultures, South Africa provides a vibrant combination of traditions, forms of expression, knowledge, and history that makes South Africa such a unique country.

Despite this, young people in South Africa remain largely unaware of the characteristics of the different cultures that exist within their country and are instead only exposed to the few cultures that are the most prominent in their home communities. The aftermath of apartheid has left wide divisions between cultures and races in South Africa and furthermore, people have become used to negatively viewing others who are different from them.

On Saturday, the 26th of October, the Africa Unite School Club hosted a virtual Heritage Day Event on Zoom, in which each of the 12 participating schools got assigned a culture that they were asked to research prior to the event. After an initial reluctance to present a culture other than their own, most learners enjoyed researching another culture and gained a new sense of expertise and open mindedness.

On the day, each school gave a presentation on the different aspects that make this culture unique. During these presentations, learners educated their peers and some invited principals and teachers about cultural rituals and customs, language, population size, origins, housing and clothing styles, traditional food and dance, history, religious traditions and much more. Some school clubs beautifully honoured different cultures by reciting their clan names (ukuzithutha) at the beginning of their presentations and some even went as far as teaching the audience some local greetings, which was much appreciated. Each presentation got followed up by a Q&A part, where the audience could ask questions and share feedback.

Here is the list of participating schools and the culture they presented:

1)Ashton Combined School – Ovimbundu

2)Ikusasalentsha High School – IsiXhosa

3)Lamontville High School – SeTswana

4)Fons Luminis Secondary School – Khoisan 

5)Newgate College – Islamic (Muslim)

6)Hector Peterson FET School – Venda

7)Masibambane Secondary School – Shangaan

8)Rosendaal High School – IsiZulu

9)Dr. Nelson Mandela High School – Chewa (Malawi)

10)Portland High School – Ndebele (Zimbabwe)

11)HeideveldSenior School – Kingwana (Congolese)

12)Gardens Commercial High School & Salt River High School – Indian (Hindi)

The goal of this event was to expose youth to cultures other than their own and in doing so, to open their minds and to better their understanding of those who are different from themselves.

Despite a few technical difficulties at the beginning, it was a successful event that helped our learners and the audience increase their cultural awareness and most importantly celebrate South Africa’s diversity.

We thank everyone for participating and hope that next year we can have a live Heritage Day event instead of having to make do with the technical challenges of an online platform.

AUSC Students and participants enjoying the dialogue
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ǃke e꞉ ǀxarra ǁke, “Diverse People Unite”

On the 24th of September 2020, Africa Unite hosted a Heritage Day Event on Zoom to celebrate the various cultures that call South Africa their home. The event gathered community leaders from the wide array of cultures in South Africa to talk about healing. Given the current global COVID pandemic and the South African femicide epidemic, many people joined in to passionately learn and discuss how different cultures heal.

We had the privilege to welcome Dalali Venge (a Tanzanian Human Rights Project Coordinator), Pejamauro Visagie (a Khoe Revivalist), Vedhan Singh (Interfaith Dialogue Advocate & Human Rights Advocate), Nolihle Gama (a Rastafarian, Social & Economic Activist), Dr Solomon Mutua (a Traditional Healer focused on African Cultural Remedies), Philani Sbonelo Biyela, and Wonke Mapeyi.  The dialogue was attended by 33 people and the Q&A session at the end of the event greatly benefited by having this number of passionate people involved in the enlightening discussion.

The purpose of this webinar was to empower people that represent distinct non-western forms of healing. These practices and their benefits are often isolated within their communities and this webinar sought to create an inter-cultural understanding of healing practices so that we as the larger South African community could benefit from the pioneering healing methods of our nation’s cultures.

Our speakers gave valuable insights into their own cultures: Pejamauro Visagie highlighted the lack of representation for Khoe people and the racial injustices resulting from Apartheid’s classification of races. Dalali Venge told the story of COVID in Tanzania and the importance of home remedies (such as the ‘concoctions’), stressed that South Africa has to heal from its femicides epidemic, and fear itself (concerning xenophobia). Vedhan delivered a holistic approach to Hinduism and his presentation on “yoga”, “Ayurveda”, and “Aham Brahmasmi” caught the interest of many attendees. Dr Solomon Mutua emphatically distinguished between chemical & traditional healing and the benefits of the latter by knowing and listening to your body and treating it with certain leaves that bring life. Nolihle Gama was unfortunately cut short due to connectivity but the history of Rastafarian leaders such as Marcus Garvey and defining Rastafarianism as not only a culture/ religion but a liberation movement received a lot of positive attention from the audience. Philani Sbonelo Biyela enthusiastically talked about the history and geography of the Zulu nation and the significance of Shaka Zulu and its various leaders. Wonke Mapeyi presented on the Xhosa nation and highlighted the importance of tradition, whether that be placing ancestors through clan names or relying on Xhosa healing: through Umhlonyane, or the advice of people who have the position of being healers in the Xhosa nation.

Outcomes

The Q&A session was a great measure of outcomes as the participants were able to engage with the speakers and add their context and experience to the event. Pejamauro Visagie placed the discussion back on gender by asking about the role of female leadership in the Zulu dynasty and the importance of the activism surrounding true historical context with examples such as Queen Nzinga of Angola during the Portuguese colonial age. Multiple participants responded: Melusi Mahlaba stated that men do lead to much in Zulu culture and that cultural norms disempower women when it comes to leadership. Abongile Nocanda commented that the role of social/ cultural norms is major in determining why women are put in the “backseat” and that we have to go back to the roots of culture and social standards to be able to empower women effectively. She continues saying that we have to teach young women that they do not have to follow traditions and social standards and that we have to instil a sense of independence and realign what achievement means, e.g. marriage =/= success. Bronwyn February supported this by saying that self-discovery is the foundation of culture and understanding.

Londiwe Nkosi engaged Dr Solomon Mutua about practices that we can use to take care of our homes. Dr Mutua stressed that homes are temporary but our bodies are permanent in our lives. We have to take care of our bodies first and foremost by eating in ways that aid our body in being healthy. If the concern is to purify the air in our house, we should rather eat foods that increase the oxygen intake in our bodies. Additionally, Dr Mutua added that we should keep our house clean (i.e. do not congest it with things) and that we should ideally plant fruit trees in our compound that we can eat daily. The topic of tribalism was also a recurring theme in the conversation; however, it was agreed that continuing along this vein and fiving into agitators and misinformation will only serve to degenerate the remainder of social cohesion in South Africa.

Finally, it was highlighted, with much agreement throughout the audience, that pride in your ethnicity/ culture is good but it should not be to the detriment of other people’s culture/ ethnicities. He continued by saying that we need to work towards accurately representing South Africa’s cultures and that we have to push and support organizations that are doing that work to be able to bring about change. He talked about this in the context of promoting underrepresented languages and that we should put pressure on the pan-South African language board to push for language education in our society.

The Africa Unite team would like to thank everyone who made the time to attend the virtual event as well as the speakers who took the time out of their busy schedules to participate and engage with everyone. This provides us with much optimism for the future and lived up to the title of the event.

Please make use of the link below to access the recording of the webinar/dialogue:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1JdXNVygiDakd3PwQiU_MPQ2WLpd1uFFU/view?usp=sharing

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AUSC leaders make SELF a priority and reap the rewards

Over the past years, the Africa Unite School club program has noticed a need to not only capacitate our learners in leadership but also act as a support system for the young leaders. Therefore, from November 2019 to early 2020 the School Club team has been working tirelessly curating a psychosocial program pioneering social emotional learning for our club members.

AUSC’s new Social Emotional Learning Forum (SELF) officially launched in March 2020, just a few days before our annual leadership camp. Nonetheless,  a new virus called COVID-19 was powerful enough to bring the whole world to a standstill – at least on the outside. Deep within however, people were battling with feelings of overwhelm, anxiety and frustration, caused by dark clouds of fear & uncertainty over their heads.

Learners in disadvantaged communities were particularly affected and reached out to Africa Unite for more support. How would you feel if you got told to focus on your academics – while your stomach is empty, your head is buzzing, your phone is out of data, family members are yelling, and the number of GBV cases in your community are on the rise? No easy situation to find yourself in, but for some this is “lockdown” reality…

Hence, the School Club team in the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng worked together to  remotely initiate the SELF program.

SELF session participants during the inaugural session.

The program started out as a simple WhatsApp group with the Africa Unite School Club learners and in a week, other learners from our partner school in  different parts of the country  joined the program because they too wanted to learn more about how to deal with the stressors of lockdown and Covid-19.

On the 30th of April, the team introduced weekly SEL sessions on the virtual platform Zoom. During these sessions, the facilitators share basic coping tools, self-reflection exercises and the importance of developing a growth mindset from “I can’t” to “I can”. The participants get to set their own goals, therefore taking charge of their journey towards greater success, greater confidence, and greater kindness. Attendance is free of charge because data costs get covered by the team.

Here is what some learners had to share about their experiences with the SELF group:

Tshepang, 17 years, Hillbrow: Well, I have been having wonderful Zoom sessions with AUSC which actually changed my life and I am so amazed because not only do they change your self esteem but they build you with so much love, wisdom and I want to thank them for actually targeting the young people as we have wisdom and powerful ideas as well. Thank you!

Bradley, 17 years, Delft: The insights I have gained is that I realised I’m not alone in the situations I face and that there is a network of people who face the same troubles as me and with their experiences I learnt how to deal with the curves life throws us…I’ve learnt the reason why people act the way they do and that each and every person has a struggle whether it’s internal or external and for that we also have to be kind. The into questions about my week normally make me feel warmth because I get the opportunity to listen to others and to express or share my weekly adventures.

Khanyo, 16 years, Kraaifontein: The sessions have helped me a lot. They held me with my confidence and trusting myself. The sessions helped me to find myself and know who I am… I know that I can do anything in life and I can be successful too. I just have to work hard and do everything I need to do. Go to school, respect other people and be nice to them, be a positive person in life, support my friends and advise them when they are doing something wrong. 

Ntsikayethu, 16 years, Kraaifontein: I love Africa Unite; the team has been a good support structure. You guys have become our big sisters and brothers that give us good advice. I have actually become more positive about what is happening around me. I try to see the positive in everything, and this has come in handy during the lockdown. Everyone in my family knows that Wednesday is Zoom time and that I don’t want to be disturbed.

Shantell, 17 years, Soweto: Africa unite is making me realize that we don’t have to judge people but we have to help them, doesn’t matter where they are from we just have to help them. Now I am growing up and understand more about helping people. As young people we have creative minds and we just have to use them 💕Africa unite is a blessing to me and my school 💎

Nthandokazi, 16 years, Kraaifontein: This group has not been just a group to me but a platform that made me fall in love with myself more. It made me realise that I’m more important than I ever thought I was. And that my emotions matter. Even if my week is not going well I know Wednesday things will change. I also learnt to motivate myself.

It has been an absolute pleasure to see our young leaders grow in confidence. Seeing the brilliant minds and beautiful hearts that are shining bright when they get the opportunity to express themselves has been absolutely contagious.

Up to this point, the SELF project has no official funding which means we had to limit the number of participants to 15 learners per session. If you want to help us reach more kids, here is a link to our fundraiser: https://gf.me/u/yt2xaa

SELF session participants

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Career Guidance: A Three-Part Webinar Series

Just as the entire world has had to make great adjustments due to the outbreak of COVID19, South Africa is in the midst of their journey restructuring and redesigning their educational approach as COVID 19 continues to create the need for change. The Africa Unite School Club has been a group dedicated to the improvement of the school environment in South Africa for a few years, but their call to action is louder than ever as students enter a completely new school environment.

The Africa Unite School Club is focused on creating strong leaders and motivated students through exposing them to all the wonderful opportunities they have as students in this country. As students in South Africa make their way towards matriculating, the opportunity of higher education through a university or college becomes an option for some, and a dream for many. However, many students do not realize just how possible it is to achieve this dream in South Africa regardless of your socio-economic status as there is limited information on scholarships and various opportunities for Africans abroad shared with learners at school. Even now, with the emergence of COVID-19, there are multiple options, domestic and international, for students to consider regarding higher education. With the correct guidance and exposure to important resources, South African and foreign national students can make their dreams a reality.

Therefore, over the past 3 weeks Africa Unite hosted a three-part webinar series that has been educating and equipping learners with adequate skills and information to prepare them for their  desired career choices, as well as hear from multiple speakers who shared their experiences with higher education and in the work force.

The series started off on the 15th of August 2020 with a presentation from five speakers, Lihle Magodla; a teacher in Kraaifontein Cape Town, Buhlebezwe Siwani; visual artist based in Amsterdam, Thabo Modise; a freelance graphic animator in Cape Town, Leigh-Ann Mdletshe; a financial investment analyst in Cape Town and Tasreeq Ferreira; a Law student at the University of Western Cape. During the session, all five speakers shared information on their respective fields and the various subject choices and degree/diploma required for entering the field in order to introduce the learners to the available possibilities in higher education and in the working force.

In the second session of the webinar series, which was on the 22nd of August 2020, we hosted a Curriculum Vitae (CV) writing workshop facilitated by Human Rights Manager and recruiter Nthati Lesaoana. Ms. Lesaoana explained what a CV is, what to include in it and how to use a CV as a marketing tool. The second part of the session included Teswill Arnold; a brand coordinator at Harambe who wrapped up by educating the learners on various employment-oriented online and offline services and further advised learners on what employers expect from candidates and interview etiquettes.

On the 29th of August 2020 we completed the 3-part series by exposing our learners to various higher education institutions and explored the endless platforms that learners may use to search for funding opportunities of their preferred degree/diploma. We further discussed how the learners may go about searching for funds if they desired to be entrepreneurs. Additionally, the series ended with one of the learners Esther Nkulu, sharing her selected career choice and the possible funding opportunities (although limited) she can apply for as a migrant in South Africa. She concluded by presenting her new CV to her fellow peers which was an activity tasked from the 2nd session.

Overall, the 3-part series was an absolute success and the following outcomes were achieved:

• Learners learnt a broader sphere on available career opportunities across the globe
• Learners were educated on CV writing skills and interview etiquettes which they can not only share with their fellow peers but their family and community members.
• Learners learnt more on the available channels to make use of when searching for employment
• Local and migrant learners got exposed to the available funding opportunities for young people in and out of South Africa

These are the recommendation from our learners:

• The schooling system should provide an in-depth series such as these for all matriculants and grade 11’s in both no/low fee- and fee-paying schools
• The Curriculum Writing workshops should also be provided to unemployed community members.
• The NDP and NSFAS should also investigate creating financial aids inclusive of both local and migrant learners. As migrant learners also need financial assistance for further education.
• There needs to be another session that focuses on sharing more tips on what to expect during university and college interviews

Career guidance webinar poster

Africa Unite would like to thank everyone who took time to be part of this fruitful webinar series and would like to particularly give a big thank you to the guest speakers who did a selfless act by encouraging and motivating the young leaders of tomorrow on shaping their future today.

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