Exploring Human Rights through self-expression

Celebration of youth leaders: an afternoon of SELF and poetry

Every Wednesday, a group of local and migrant school leaders gather online for the Social Emotional Learning Forum (SELF) to discuss relevant issues affecting their personal lives and communities. In acknowledgment of both Human Rights Month (March) and Sexual Harassment Awareness Month (April), Africa Unite hosted a special event on April 7th, 2021.

Our special guest, the poet, publisher, activist, and tv personality Kay-Dee Mashile welcomed the audience. In the first part, the participants focused on sexual harassment discussion and how it affects them personally and socially. The second part focused on the winners’ announcement of the Africa Unite Poetry Competition on Human Rights Day.  

Out of the 18 poetry submissions received, seven got shortlisted and received a chance to perform their spoken word live infront of the camera during the Zoom event, which saw an attendance of over 30 learners from different cultural backgrounds and provinces.  

This event was so successful that Africa Unite decided to renew it for Africa Month (May) and Refugee Month (June). Kay-Dee Mashile offered to partner with Africa Unite for the Poetry contest. She even extended an invitation to our young writers to submit their work for the next competition. The top 5 will be published in The Poetry Pulpit Journal, which comes out every month. The Journal is also recorded as a podcast every few months.

This online event brought together over 30 persons, more than half of whom have a migration background.

SELF-active discussion about sexual harassment

Every week, through the SELF program, each participant can propose a topic and moderate the debate. As an opener, Peer educator Avuzwa Ngubo facilitated a game where participants collectively had to create a poem with the first line being “No man is an Island.” Then, the youth shared their different views on sexual harassment, which led to tackling other vital subjects such as gender differences, equal rights, toxic masculinity, consent, and social media users. In the end, youth acknowledged that we are all humans who live in the same world and experience feelings. We have to help each other take accountability for what needs to be done to generate change in our communities—as a youth, being a proactive actor of change means starting in your own environment, whether with your family or friends. No action is too small if it is done intentionally.

Event’s poster: “Poetry competition on Human Rigts – Announcement of winners & original spoken word”.

Poetry Competition for Human Rights

This poetry competition was launched during Human Rights Month. It was extended outside the SELF group, and there were 18 submissions in total, from which seven were shortlisted. Those shortlisted were allowed to perform their poetry during the event. After powerful recitals and online voting via Zoom poll, the winners were finally announced as follow:

1st: Death of an African Dream, Sasikelelwa Matshayana (R500)

2nd: A thousand more tears, Natasha Muberuka (R300)

3rd: We are all born free and equal, Fayth (R200)

4th: A child has a right too, Danielle Uwacu Ndagijimana – grade 4, the youngest participant (R100)

A special moment with guest Kay-Dee Mashile

Kay-Dee Mashile joined this event to share her own experience as a poet and an activist. She gave some valuable advice to the young writers. She reminded them that blogs and social media are very significant to reach a larger audience, but she recommended only to share small parts of their poems, just enough to convey their style and still own their work. She also talked about the motivation behind writing, making some inspiring comments:

“The importance of activism is not about what we are against but who we are for.”

Writing can be used as a form of activism, but you have to know:  What are you standing for? Who are you speaking for?

All in all, we would like to thank all of our participants and are looking forward to the next event, where we expect great contributions on the topic of Africa.

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AUSC Anti-Bullying statement

19 APRIL 2021

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

BULLYING MUST STOP IN ALL LEVELS OF THE SOCIETY

Bullying is a serious challenge facing many learners across the world. School bullying often takes place in and outside of school premises. In most cases, a group of learners would isolate one student who would become vulnerable to either physical, verbal, or emotional bullying. Female learners from poor backgrounds and migrant communities are often victims of this kind of bullying. According to Crime statistics of July 2020, 345 serious assaults and 546 common assault cases were opened due to bullying in the country’s schools.

On Monday, the 12 April 2021, a video of a 15-year-old learner Lufuno Mavhungu at Mbilwi Secondary School in Limpopo being attacked by fellow learners went viral on social media and sparked fury among many. Mavhungu is seen being repeatedly slapped while other pupils cheered on, taking a video of the incident. Once back home, she locked herself in her room and died after allegedly overdosing on prescription pills.  She was rushed to hospital on Monday evening and was certified dead upon arrival.  

This incident indicates the failure of Ubuntu and the growing of bystanders culture in South Africa society. Bullying is a longstanding challenge and sadly has never been appropriately addressed and now resulted in a young girl taking her life.

The death of Lufuno has shocked everyone in the country. Learners from the Africa Unite School Clubs also shared their views on the seriousness of bullying in schools. They condemned the incident to ensure that no learner goes through the same experience as Lufuno went through. Below are some of their comments:

“It is painful to see how we as the future leaders have become so toxic and detrimental. It is very sad to experience the trauma we have been putting each other through in the past years. It is only now we actually come to the realization of the fact that we are as good as the perpetrators because we do not only ignore these incidents during their occurrence, but we also contribute to the victim’s demise,” said Princess Mkhwanazi, 17 years old and President of the Africa Unite School Club at the Newgate College (Hillbrow).

“Children have to die and commit suicide first; women have to be reported missing and discovered dead, days later for us to realize that there’s a problem and it needs to be fixed,” Princess added.  

“I am saddened by the news of the grade 10 learner who committed suicide because of bullying. Lufuno was ridiculed on Facebook because someone thought she was ugly. This indicates that this incident was deliberate. This shows the amount of self-hate amongst women, which is ignored in our daily lives,” said Nikita Nqwaba, grade 11 learner, Princeton High School (Cape Town).

Nikita Nqwaba added this“Lufuno, we are sorry we never heard your cries until the last day. No one deserves to go through what you went through. Rest in peace, beautiful Lufuno, and may you cry no more.”

“What happened to Lufuno shocked me! But, one thing, I asked myself, is how many learners or children have been killed because of bullying, and what can we do as the youth? What can we do as the people of this country? I feel it’s not only the youth’s responsibility but everyone’s responsibility. We need to stand against bullying and GBV; we need to know why all these things are happening and what we can do to stop them. We need to have programs that are going to be based on bullying so that it can be easy for youth to talk when they have a problem at school.”

Said  Khanyo Lose (Grade 11, Masibambane Secondary School in Kraaifontein, Cape Town)

School Club Members propose the following to the Department of Education:

  • To build the confidence of  learners starting from primary school
  • To promote activities that enhance social-emotional learning (SEL) at the school level
  • To increase the visibility of social workers at schools in disadvantaged communities
  • To explain concept of bullying to the learners in their languages as most of them do not understand its implications.
  • To create safe spaces where the learners can feel safe to report bullying.

#STOPBULLYING

The Africa Unite School Club Programme gives learners from disadvantaged backgrounds a platform to learn new skills, share their own experience with peers, sharpen their leadership skills, and promote the role of youth as equal partners in developing their schools and communities with the slogan “My school is my community“.

Contact Person: Akhona Madikane,

Cell: 0812577877

Email: akhona@africaunite.org.za

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The deaths of 4 children that could have been avoided

12th February, 2021

Press Statement

Immediate release

South Africa has been ranked as one of the most unequal states due to the growing disparity between the rich and the poor, high unemployment rates, high crime levels, and many other social ills. Disadvantaged communities have poor infrastructure and harsh living conditions, which expose children to high levels of neglect, harm, and injury in the home and community.

As Africa Unite youth, we are devasted by the untimely death of four boys from Gugulethu District, Cape Town: Iva Kalikopu (13), Azola Quweni (13), Nqabayethu Mlaza (12) and Axolile Mambangula (11). These lives were lost due to the collapse of a sand dune near the N2 at the Bocherds Quarry Road intersection on the 8th of February 2021. Like others, children played at the dunes and noted a hole they thought could serve as a playhouse. Unfortunately, the dune collapsed, closing in four of the boys and only allowing a fifth child (five years of age) to run home and report the event to their families.

We want to note that these children were part of the Africa Unite Children’s program that was initiated to keep children off the streets. Such a tragic incident is a true reflection of the need for action to be taken in response to the challenges faced by children living in informal settlements. This is not the first time we have raised the need to have playgrounds for these children, and sadly our pleas seem to be ignored.

The townships are overcrowded; hence, children tend to find other alternative playgrounds, leaving them more vulnerable to injury and even death. We are concerned that these children’s lives could have been spared if the City of Cape Town had fix this sand hole after receiving complaints from residents over two years ago.

This tragic incident happened during a critical period of COVID-19 where schools from the disadvantaged communities are closed, and the Africa Unite program is also temporarily closed.

Just imagine if these children were from the suburbs. This incident could have attracted more national and international outcry; even some authorities could have been fired but because these children are from a township, the sad event has been even forgotten barely a week after the tragic event.

We call on the City of Cape Town not to turn a blind eye on the reported and unaddressed service delivery challenges. These need to be addressed urgently and holistically to avoid similar incidences in the future.

The current open spaces behind the following informal settlements of Kanana, Europe, and Barcelona are not conducive for children to play in as there is a swamp with llegal dumping taking place. We are also disturbed that many of the children we work with have experienced traumatic events at Borcheds Quarry Road, such as the shootings and taxi violence that have become normal.

As Africa Unite’s youth, we remind the City of Cape Town not to ignore that every child has a right to life and the right to play in a safe environment.

We cannot continue to be bystanders – we will be opening a case for investigation with the Human Rights Commission as this incident could have been avoided.

For more information, please contact Silindokuhle Hlazo, Coordinator of the Singamakhalipha Children’s Program* at Africa Unite on +27 64 093 4393 or info@africaunite.org.za

*This Press release is issued by Singamakhalipha Children’s Program together with Africa Unite’s youth. Based at the Gugulethu Sports Complex, the goal of the Singamakhalipha program is to provide holistic, psychosocial support to vulnerable children in townships. It intends to develop their confidence and ability to hope to dream – gives them a future and empowers them in life.
We want to build resilience and coping skills in our children so that they can face a wide range of social problems such as domestic violence, alcohol abuse, poverty and unemployment, child-headed households, sexual and gender-based violence, HIV/AIDS, and community violence, including xenophobia-related violence.

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Vaccine roll-out: inclusivity is the key to ending the pandemic

03 February 2021
Press Statement
Immediate release

The COVID-19 pandemic outbreak has created mayhem in South Africa and worldwide, with many people getting infected and dying. There is a greater need to vaccinate a significant population to beat the pandemic both locally and globally. Therefore, we call for solidarity in the vaccines’ roll-out that does not cut across nationalism, nepotism, party politics, or corporate exploiting. Slowing the infection rate is of great urgency to ensure that our health facilities do not continue to be overwhelmed.

We feel relieved with the arrival of the first batch of the vaccine on the 1st February 2021, which is mainly targeting the health care workers on the frontline, as this will be of great help to the workers following losing many along the process of helping. The South African Ministerial Advisory Committee on COVID-19 vaccines has established a plan to ensure equitable access to vaccines using a biometric system as a tracking technique. However, as the youth of Africa Unite, we are concerned with whether equitable access will be achieved especially looking at the unequal healthcare of South Africa, where the healthcare budget was reduced; half of the expenditures cover less than 20% of the population. In comparison, the other half is supposed to cover healthcare for more than 80% of the rest of South Africa’s population, which primarily comprises those living in poverty or are a part of the Black working class.

We welcome the President of South Africa’s good news, Mr. Cyril Ramaphosa, in his (last family meeting) speech, in which he assures that the vaccine will be administered to everyone, including refugees, migrants, and asylum seekers. However, it has been noted that the electronic vaccine data system requires a South Africa ID or a Passport Nr and we know thousands of people do not have SA ID because of the ineffectiveness of the Department of Home Affairs; We hope that particular attention will be given to women migrant domestic workers and women farmworkers. Furthermore, we call on Government not to forget about undocumented migrants. 

The President’s speech gives hope to foreign nationals as they were previously excluded from the COVID-19 relief package offered to the South Africans despite their contribution to the host country and paying taxes along with their counterparts. Our concern stems from some groups within the South African society that feel the vaccines must be distributed only to the citizens, a breeding ground for xenophobic sentiments, and must be tackled before it spirals. No one cannot be left behind as it is the key to ending the pandemic as this will curb the risk of ongoing transmission in the populations.

Despite the President pronouncing and giving assurance on all groups of society’s inclusivity in the vaccine’s access, much accountability and monitoring of the vaccine roll-out is essential.  Our memories are still fresh with the past corruption experiences that hit the country in distributing the Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs).  Sadly, these acts were committed by the same government leaders who will also be in charge of the vaccine distribution. Hence, as the youth of Africa Unite, we call the South African leadership to put party politics aside as these will hamper the equitable distribution of the vaccine. Moreover, we youth of South Africa, we need to be watchdogs of leaders so that history does not repeat itself.

Furthermore, we call upon the Government to adhere to equity as COVID-19 does not discriminate on nationality or race. As mentioned in President Cyril Ramaphosa’s previous address to the nation, we face an unparalleled danger in our democratic dispensation history. It will take the collaborative and concerted efforts of all South Africans and residents of the Republic to defeat this threat. We, as Africa Unite youth, call on all of our people to stand united. “With a fast-moving pandemic, no one is safe, unless everyone is safe” – WHO

For more information, please contact lyle@africaunite.org.za or alternatively info@africaunite.org.za

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“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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