Understanding People to People Solidarity
An essential aspect of ACTION’S commitment to social transformation is centred on empowerment and solidarity. It is only by linking individuals together, and finding the organisations that can support and strengthen us that we realise our collective potential and the power we know we have. STA promotes and strengthens initiatives that recognise that freedom is indivisible, and that transformation requires a collective effort from everybody committed to sustainable peace, democracy and human rights. The Support Centre currently hosts the Zimbabwe Solidarity Forum, a network of progressive South African civil society organisations and provides support to the Swaziland Democracy Campaign and serves as the communication hub of the campaign. The ASC also initiated the Somali Solidarity Campaign. Through our solidarity work on Zimbabwe and our involvement and support to a broad solidarity agenda across the continent we have built strong partnerships with a wide range of civil society organisations including youth, labour, faith-based and women’s initiatives.
The Solidarity and Transformation Agenda (STA) is an essential resource for understanding and responding to conflict across Africa and the world at large. Additionally it works as a support mechanism for refugees and migrant communities in South Africa.
STA operates by mobilising communities on issues of people-to-people solidarity and distinguishing grassroots level collaboration as integral to the sustainability and legitimacy of a cause. STA disseminates information via pamphlets, word of-mouth, seminars, round-tables, workshops as well as mass campaigns such as rallies, marches, pickets and targeted media campaigns.
This initiative has been particularly successful with the Swaziland Democracy Campaign, which organised a Global Week of Action on the 5th to 9th September 2011, with trade unions, faith groups, civil society, legal fraternity, students and the unemployed joining hands in a march to demand democracy, unbanning of political parties and release of political prisoners in Swaziland.
STA also works closely with the Zimbabwe Solidarity Forum (ZSF) facilitating information exchange and maximising the utilisation of resources. The ZSF has grown significantly in recent years and actively contributes to a greater understanding of the challenges in Zimbabwe, and the wider region.
STA engages with high-level institutions, on the basis of empirical research, to lobby SADC and the AU on issues of peace and conflict, making specific policy recommendations regarding migration, xenophobia, criminal violence and refugee issues. STA is challenged daily by working with sectors that pose divergent opinions and ideologies regarding conflict situations and issues facing the continent. It is testament to the individuals and groups involved that STA succeeds in progressing forward with movements of solidarity having negotiated and mediated with the various partners.
Evidence of this is clear in the collective condemnation and active censure of atrocities in Zimbabwe, Swaziland, DRC, Western Sahara including Palestine and Burma. STA is committed to expanding its network of solidarity and collaborative learning, lobbying and action-focused initiatives and to building sustaining with the broader solidarity movements such as those that focus on Palestine, DRC, Somalia, Sudan, Cuba, Burma and many other countries around the world. ASC emphasises the value and strength of a more unified approach to issues of solidarity, peace and conflict and to addressing the needs of Africa’s vulnerable people. Currently, at the heartbeat of STA programs, is the endorsement of the SADC report on Zimbabwe and support to the call by Zimbabwe civil society for a genuine process towards free and fair elections, a support for the Swaziland Democracy Campaign and many other solidarity initiatives.
- Provide a platform for information sharing, discussions, reflections and strategising for all solidarity movements in South Africa.
- Support the development of clearer and adequate services provision and strong socio-economic and political partnership between communities and their respective governments in countries where there is conflict.
- Conduct awareness campaigns to help the South African general public and others understand better the truth about the experiences of refugees and move towards a more tolerant and welcoming approach.
- Organize workshops on understanding discrimination and xenophobic attitudes and developing good practices for effective management of diversity in different South African communities.
- Other workshop themes revolve around understanding human rights using a conflict transformation approach, Civic Education and advocacy and lobbying for both South Africans and other countries on the continent.
- Identify counseling avenues that will help develop a clear and practical support systems that can act in a collaborative and systematic way in helping the refugees and reduce the further trauma associated with forced relocation.
- Lobby government to ensure that the frontline personnel especially in the department of Foreign / Home Affairs are suitable prepared and skilled in dealing with refugee problems.
- Establish information and operational research, in order to document and record relevant information and report appropriately to organizations and authorities, a specific management information system has been developed and regular operational research have been initiated and maintained.
- Promote a functional partnership with other key service agencies so that resources are shared equally.
- Establish and coordinate an effective networking with mainstream education, health and social services to maximize the benefit for asylum seekers and refugees without necessarily depriving the South Africans of their resources.
- Locate lawyers of Human Rights in South Africa and identify the resources they need to represent the refugees on legal matters and possible influence reform of national policies and laws in the consideration of the plight of all refugees.
Key Strategies and approaches
- Identifying and popularizing International Solidarity Days.
- Organizing regional workshops that bring together all nationalities for discussions on issues affecting them in South Africa and their respective countries.
- Other than the honouring and celebrating of the World Refugee Day alone for example, we advocate and lobby for celebrating and honouring a special day for those displaced by xenophobia.
- Organize press briefings to popularize challenges faced by people in the region including for example Sudan, Somalia, Swaziland and DRC.
- Liaise with the Department of Health, Social Welfare, Home Affairs and other bodies, where possible, that they put more effort in attending to issues that relates to medication, food, shelter, and asylum papers for refugees and asylum seekers.
- Organize workshops on understanding discrimination and xenophobic attitudes and developing good practices for effective management of diversity, and understanding human rights.
- Establish a strong research and surveillance mechanism team to overseer issues involving asylum applications, access to basic services such as housing, legal issue, food, education and other services.
- To organize campaigns and rallies to disseminate relevant information to the South African public on the relationship between the refugees and the South African ever increasing poverty levels and economic inequalities and promoting a non-discriminatory society in South Africa.
- Organize interactive forums where different important organizations can be invited to participate, share information and ideas, hence forming the consortium that we need.
- Locate counseling organizations where refugees in need of such services can be introduced to and be given concrete counseling services to handle their traumas.
- Invite South African Legal Societies to deliberate on important laws and policy matters that are affecting refugee community in South Africa and possible ways of influencing changes over such legalities.
Zimbabwe Solidarity Forum in South Africa (ZSF)
The Zimbabwe Solidarity Forum (ZSF) is a network of progressive South African civil society organisations that include youth, women, labour, faith-based, human rights and student formations in South Africa and across the region.
The forum was established in the late 1990s and was consolidated in 2004. Over the past years the network has grown rapidly in size and influence, and the forum has effectively contributed towards greater understanding of the crisis and challenges in Zimbabwe within organisations and within the broader South African and regional communities.
ACTION Support Centre (ASC) is hosting the Zimbabwe Solidarity forum for all sectors of South African civil society. The forum brings together representatives of labour, the churches, youth and students, as well as several active and concerned individuals and civil society organisations. The ZSF is recognised as a central coordinating hub of South African civil society activities on Zimbabwe. It also has a Facebook page and Google mailing list that has more 350 active members who share information and receive updates on the Zimbabwe crisis.
The objectives of the forum are:
- To share perceptions and insights into the dynamic context of the Zimbabwe crisis.
- To share information and initiatives aimed at influencing the situation in Zimbabwe and seeking areas of synergy and complementarities.
- To expose civil society to the latest information from key opinion leaders around the crisis in Zimbabwe.
- To serve as a platform for building and sustaining a culture of regional and national people to people solidarity with the struggle for democracy, peace, freedom and justice by the people of Zimbabwe.
- Facilitating interaction and collaboration, and where possible promote joint action between South African and Zimbabwean civil Society organizations.
- Consolidating the efforts and to amplify the voices of South African civil society organizations in the promotion of peace, democracy and human rights for Zimbabweans.
- Creating regular platforms whereby members of the Forum exchange and disseminate information on their individual activities relating to the core activities of the Forum.
- Engaging principally in collective advocacy at national, regional and continental levels with the aim of influencing the policies and actions of the South African Government, SADC and the AU with regard to Zimbabwe.
- Reducing the overlap of activities and maximize the utilization of resources through the exchange of information and coordination of activities relating to the core activities of the forum.
- Developing and carrying out short-term and long-term solidarity initiatives towards Zimbabwe
Like the ZSF Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/ZimbabweSolidarityForum
The Swaziland Democracy Campaign (SDC)
Founded on a rich history of collaboration between South African anti-apartheid activists and Swaziland activists, the Swaziland Democracy Campaign transpired from this relationship. The campaign focuses on the exchange of ideas and support of people-to-people solidarity. The SDC is a platform for popular campaigns, mass action and global solidarity for democracy in Swaziland. Events such as the ‘Global Week of Action’ have attracted influential representatives from trade unions, civil society organisations and the media. ASC provides support to the SDC and serves as the communication hub of the campaign.
Visit SDC websites for more information: www.sdcampaign.org
Engagement with SAFIS
ASC is actively involved in the South Africa Forum for International Solidarity (SAFIS) steering committee and task group. SAFIS is dedicated to promoting the creation of an equitable and sustainable world through its efforts and commitment to collaborate around issues of peace, development and social justice in Africa.
Somali Solidarity Campaign
Focused on efforts to engage with and form partnerships, in South Africa, and across the Somali region. Campaign includes raising support for the establishment of the Wajir Peace University.