24 February 2020
This opinion piece was originally published on JusticeInfo.net.
In South Africa, organized survivors of apartheid violations have increasingly focused on socioeconomic issues. There are continuities, they note, between the colonial and apartheid past and the democratic present. While building on the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, survivors break new ground in bringing socioeconomic rights and locally grounded initiatives to the forefront of transitional justice, explains the co-author of a new book, Jasmina Brankovic.
“We forgot the struggle continues. We thought that we had democracy once Mandela was free, but there was no democracy, and it is far from existing because the poor are still poor today and will continue being poor.”—Nomawethu C., apartheid survivor.
Despite its lauded political transition in 1994, South Africa remains one of the most unequal countries in the world. Members of Khulumani Support Group, the national social movement for survivors of apartheid violations, argue that democracy cannot be fully realized until the country addresses its inequality. Connecting activism for redress for past abuses with activism for social change in the present, survivors model an inclusive and transformative approach to dealing with the past that goes well beyond current transitional justice practice in the country. This approach, which has not received sufficient attention to date, seeks to address the socioeconomic oppression that underpinned apartheid and the racialized marginalization of the post-apartheid period. Survivors demonstrate the need for transitional justice efforts that acknowledge the long-term nature of transition, continually engage with issues of transition as they emerge over time, and respond to the needs and demands of those most affected by them.
The evolution of apartheid survivor activism
For the past five years, I collaborated on participatory action research with Khulumani members in Western Cape Province. We looked at apartheid survivors’ understandings of inequality and violence in the context of South Africa’s transition. Our study shows that, since the early 2000s, the movement has increasingly focused on socioeconomic issues, noting the continuities between the colonial and apartheid past and the democratic present. In 2010, Khulumani adopted “socioeconomic transformation” as a strategic focus. Members in provincial branches across the country have established community-based income-generation projects and social enterprises, engaged in protests and advocacy regarding access to clean water and sanitation, and offered local trainings in subjects ranging from literacy to information technology. They have analyzed socioeconomic challenges in partnership with young people through citizen journalism, youth dialogues, school workshops, and the performing arts.
Despite these developments, the literature on apartheid survivors and Khulumani as a movement continues to focus on their activism concerning mainstream transitional justice issues as articulated by the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC, 1996–2002). These center on reparations, prosecutions, truth recovery, and institutional reforms relating to violations of civil-political rights and bodily integrity committed under apartheid. In so doing, the literature tends to restrict Khulumani members to their positionality as ‘victim-survivors’ of events in the past, emphasizing how they relate to their pain and victimhood, to other survivors, and to dominant transitional justice and human rights norms and institutions. While this positionality is key to Khulumani’s activism, the movement’s aims have evolved as the South African context has changed. While members continue to engage with mainstream transitional justice issues, they have expanded their activism in response to the lived experiences of members living in marginalized communities, especially older women, who make up the majority of the membership and are disproportionately affected by socioeconomic exclusion.
Identifying inequality as an issue of transition
The Khulumani members we worked with say that their households continue to be subject to spatial apartheid despite democratization. Most live far from economic centers and face restricted access to information, quality education, and skill-building programs, as well as employment opportunities and social networks tapped into mainstream economic life. Inadequate social facilities in their neighborhoods do not help address these consequences of apartheid, while the availability of land for subsistence farming is quickly shrinking. Moreover, survivors argue that economic liberalization, which accelerated South Africa’s shift away from labor-intensive industries post-apartheid, has resulted in economic policies that undermine self-sufficiency and promote wage labor at the same time that they inhibit access to wage labor by privileging educated and skilled workers in capital-intensive industries. Despite the promises of transition, these developments—among others that emerge in the study—have reinforced racialized inequality and the intergenerational transmission of poverty in Khulumani families.
Khulumani members identify inequality as an issue of transition linked to failures of democratization. In working toward a just transition, they advocate for people-driven transformation through collaboration, knowledge exchange, and mutual training. They highlight the value of interventions that build on community-based knowledge, tactics, and relationships, which are often formidable given that they have been tested by local challenges. While privileging the experience and knowledge of Khulumani members, they also stress the need for engagement and solidarity with broader communities of marginalized South Africans from different backgrounds and generations in dealing with apartheid legacies and contemporary problems. Whether the interventions are small- or large-scale, survivors recommend that they be co-designed with those most affected, in collaboration with government and other stakeholders. In this, they both model and call for participatory governance.
Going beyond the Truth and Reconciliation Commission
Importantly, these Khulumani members do not view the TRC as the only or even the main mechanism that could have made a just transition possible in South Africa. They call for ongoing and continual engagement with issues of transition, in the form of accountability, reparations, truth recovery, and institutional reform via mainstream transitional justice measures, and in the form of socioeconomic transformation via participatory democracy, redistributive measures, and inclusive economic development. Instead of making a distinction between these two forms of engagement, they indicate that both are necessary. While building on the work of the Commission, survivors go beyond it to adopt broad strategies for dealing with the past. They convey an ambivalent attitude toward the state, asserting that it has the power and obligation to address the shortcomings of its transitional arrangements in collaboration with those most affected by them, while also taking a practical approach in looking to community-based interventions and partnerships with other stakeholders for opportunities for collective action.
Today, civil society efforts around transitional justice in South Africa do not reflect the approach articulated by Khulumani members. Our research indicates that these efforts tend to portray the TRC not as one of many measures for addressing past abuses but as the transitional justice mechanism in the country, into which other efforts feed. Taking a cue from the TRC, they focus on mainstream transitional justice issues related to civil-political rights violations, and continue to side-line socioeconomic abuses and inequality. They also focus almost exclusively on the state as the driver of transitional justice, ignoring other stakeholders working on dealing with the past. These are strategic choices that acknowledge the democratic government’s resistance to mainstream transitional justice and maintain the TRC’s recommendations as a concrete starting point for further activism. Yet, they serve to constrain imaginings of what transitional justice could mean.
Our research with Khulumani members suggests an updated and expanded vision of transitional justice in South Africa. Like elsewhere on the continent, the design and implementation of transitional justice measures in the country has been dominated by state actors and a small set of formal human rights organizations. A more inclusive and participatory approach that recognizes a wider range of civil society initiatives as transitional justice would bring a different set of actors—such as student groups, women’s groups, social movements, faith-based organizations, and other collectives, including successors of those that contributed to the liberation struggle—into agenda setting and strategy development. It would also highlight that transitional justice is both backward- and forward-facing, bringing the socioeconomic to the forefront along with the civil-political and linking redress more explicitly to social transformation. Given that South Africa is considered a model of transitional justice, rethinking measures from the perspective of apartheid survivors’ continuing activism presents a new opportunity for innovation, much like the TRC did in the 1990s.
The writing of this piece was supported by Heinrich Böll Foundation Southern Africa. The author was a participant in Robert Bosch Stiftung’s 2019 Berlin Seminar: Truth, Justice & Remembrance.
Inequality is the primary driver of inequality, say apartheid survivors
6 February 2020
This opinion piece was originally published in the Daily Maverick.
Describing how high levels of inequality and violence feed each other, survivors of apartheid violations hold that people-driven social transformation is key to reducing both—and to fulfilling the promises of the democratic transition.
“What is the cause of violence? It is caused by poverty, hunger and jobs being unavailable.” Organised apartheid survivors, like the Khulumani Support Group member quoted here, attest that efforts to reduce violence will have little effect until we commit to addressing inequality and racialised poverty.
For the past five years, I co-designed and implemented participatory research with Khulumani members in the Western Cape, looking at apartheid survivors’ understandings of the high levels of violence in democratic South Africa. Focusing on Khulumani members residing in Khayelitsha township and young people in their families, our research indicates that, for survivors, the socioeconomic oppression that underpinned apartheid abuses simply turned into socioeconomic marginalisation with the advent of democracy.
Khulumani members note that the limitations on life opportunities experienced by black South Africans under apartheid—especially those marked by the liberation struggle—continue to affect the lives of their children and grandchildren today. Based on their experiences in a majority women’s movement, they also point to the disproportionate effect of socioeconomic exclusion on women and girls. As a result of ongoing spatial apartheid, the Khulumani families we worked with live far from Cape Town’s economic centre and face restricted access to information and social networks tapped into mainstream economic life, in addition to inferior educational institutions and few sustainable employment options in the township.
Instead of being resolved after 1994, these legacies of the past have been entrenched under democracy. Survivors critique the government’s choice to abandon redistributive policies in its pursuit of economic liberalisation, arguing that the economic blueprint applied in other countries is not suited to the challenges specific to South Africa. They note that the country’s growing focus on capital-intensive industries and production at the expense of labour-intensive ones has contributed to a job market that privileges educated and skilled workers. At the same time, the high cost of quality basic education (plus secondary costs such as uniforms and transport) and, especially, the financial difficulties of accessing and remaining in tertiary education prevent many in Khulumani families from gaining the education and skills the market largely requires.
They suggest that the township’s limited and low-quality social facilities—from early childhood development centres to libraries to training institutions—do little to fill the gaps in capacity-building and other forms of support that might assist residents in accessing education, skills and formal employment. In addition, urbanisation spurred by the shrinkage of small-scale farming and certain labour-intensive industries, combined with the inflow of migrants from other countries after apartheid, among other factors, has created greater pressure on already inadequate social facilities and other resources in the township.
Survivors note that while in the past their households could rely on agricultural activities to survive when money was tight, the decreasing availability of land for urban farming, especially due to population growth in the township, along with rising food prices have made residents increasingly reliant on income through wage labour. Here, they indicate, the democratic government has placed them in a dilemma, implementing economic policies at the national level that undermine self-sufficiency and promote wage labour at the same time that they inhibit access to wage labour by favouring highly educated and skilled workers.
They say that the added factors of racial discrimination and exploitative business practices, particularly among labour agents, push them towards informal initiatives and piecemeal work in the township. Yet even there, laws and regulations at the local level often prevent residents from succeeding in a sustainable way, despite the government’s exhortation that people “arise and act” to help themselves—vuk’uzenzele.
The government’s main solution to the pressures of economic liberalisation, survivors suggest, has been to provide social assistance—particularly in the form of expanded and absolutely crucial social grants—but this intervention only keeps their heads just above water while the government’s other interventions contribute to the flood that threatens to drown them. Additionally, they say, the example set by government officials has given rise to a culture of competition and an acceptance of apartheid-style corruption practices that are eroding unity and collective action among black South Africans.
According to survivors, the structural barriers that promote socioeconomic exclusion, and awareness of the continuities between the apartheid and democratic dispensations despite the promises of transition, create an enabling environment for crime and violence. The effects of spatial apartheid and constraints on education, employment and other life opportunities enforce a sense of stuckness and there being “nothing to do” in the township while raising the threat of hunger.
These combine with intergenerational expectations and other pressures within households, as well as a mix of solidarity and coercion in the struggle for social status among young people, to create pathways from marginalisation towards acts of crime and violence. Widespread substance use and dependence, the need for community-based crime control in the face of an inadequate criminal justice system, and xenophobic attitudes and anxieties represent an additional set of pathways.
The promises of equality, inclusion and progress represented by the transition to democracy heighten the strain survivors and other residents experience at not being able to achieve economic success. This strain, survivors indicate, brings up feelings of frustration, anger, shame and insecurity that can encourage transgressive behaviour and acts of violence.
In survivors’ narratives, the causes and effects of violence as well as the pathways between them are portrayed as a complex web. This web of violence cannot be unravelled with technical solutions or piecemeal efforts; it requires a big-picture approach that encompasses the breadth of continually interacting aspects of violence within a certain place, including the socioeconomic context in which violence is couched. For this reason, violence prevention efforts will not work sustainably until they are met and combined with dedicated efforts to reduce inequality and its historical and contemporary drivers.
Making a range of recommendations, survivors call for the democratic government to take responsibility for reducing racialised inequality at the national level. For example, they advocate for economic policies that support labour-intensive industries and promote job creation for low-skilled workers, along with higher taxes on the wealthy. They advocate for the government to meet its obligations regarding basic and higher education by providing more (no-fee) early childhood development centres, state subsidies for the secondary costs associated with schooling, long-term bursaries for tertiary education, support for the establishment of tertiary education institutions in townships, and skills-training centres that combine capacity building with mentorship.
More locally, survivors call, for example, for increased access to land and support for urban farming, in addition to incentivisation and investment in black-owned businesses and social enterprises in the township. They call for more and better social facilities, such as skills-training and resource centres with internet access; no-fee crèches to assist work-seeking mothers; and community and arts centres, sports facilities, and parks and playgrounds where children and young women and men can interact in new ways and support each other as they face challenges. They identify a specific need for drug and alcohol recovery and rehabilitation facilities, as well as policing interventions co-designed with residents. They also point to the burdens of vulnerability and family responsibilities carried by the elderly, and recommend a larger older persons grant, monthly food parcels and more old age homes in the township.
In the meantime, survivors focus on their own community-based initiatives, relying on self-funded income-generation projects, mutual training, knowledge exchange, and capacity building and mentoring of youth to create access to livelihoods and a stepping stone to further life opportunities. They hold that these efforts—along with projects that fill the gaps in social facilities in the township and encourage learning, productivity and meaningful social interactions with people who might be outside one’s regular social networks—serve to block or redirect the pathways from marginalisation to violence.
Our research shows that, above all, survivors emphasise the value of interventions that are based on local knowledge, tactics and relationships, which are often formidable given that they have been tested by local challenges. Whether the interventions are small- or large-scale, survivors recommend that they be co-designed with those most affected by the problem in question, in collaboration with government and other stakeholders. In this, they both model and call for participatory governance.
As members of the apartheid survivors’ social movement and as active members of their communities today, these survivors identify ongoing inequality and violence as issues of transition linked to failures of democratisation. In working towards a just transition, they advocate for people-driven transformation processes based on community-level initiatives informed by local knowledge, including apartheid survivors’ perspectives on the links between the past and the present.
This research was supported by Heinrich Böll Foundation Southern Africa and the DSI-NRF Centre of Excellence in Human Development.
Title: Two New Reviews of ‘The Global Climate Regime and Transitional Justice’ Available
Authors: Sonja Klinsky and Jasmina Brankovic
Two new reviews have been published of ‘The Global Climate Regime and Transitional Justice,’ by Sonja Klinsky and Jasmina Brankovic.
In the International & Comparative Law Quarterly, Ottavio Quirico writes, “Klinsky and Brankovic comprehensively apply transitional justice principles to climate change regulation. Their analysis discloses thought-provoking insights, necessarily de lege ferenda, and provides ground-breaking suggestions for further developing specific substantive and procedural regulation.” For the full book review, click here.
In the Carbon & Climate Law Review, Jonathan Pickering writes, “The authors are to be commended for presenting a fresh, thought-provoking and informed perspective on the political and legal dimensions of climate justice. The book offers a valuable contribution to the emerging literature on how climate justice could achieve the transition from ideal to reality.” For the full book review, click here.
‘The Global Climate Regime and Transitional Justice’ was published in 2018 as part of the Routledge Advances in Climate Change Research Series. It examines the potential of transitional justice insights to inform global climate governance. Laying out core structural similarities between current global climate governance tensions and transitional justice contexts, it explores how transitional justice approaches and mechanisms could be productively applied in the climate change context. These include responsibility mechanisms such as amnesties, legal accountability measures, and truth commissions, as well as reparations and institutional reform. The book then steps beyond reformist transitional justice practice to consider more transformative approaches, and uses this to explore a wider set of possibilities for the climate context.
Each chapter presents one or more concrete proposals arrived at by using ideas from transitional justice and applying them to the justice tensions central to the global climate context. By combining these two fields the book provides a new framework through which to understand the challenges of addressing harms and strengthening collective climate action. This book will be of great interest to scholars and practitioners of climate change and transitional justice.
Author: Tarique Niazi
Title: Book Review: ‘The Global Climate Regime and Transitional Justice’
Published by the Global Policy Journal, 7 December 2018: https://www.globalpolicyjournal.com/blog/07/12/2018/book-review-global-climate-regime-and-transitional-justice
The Global Climate Regime and Transitional Justice, by Sonja Klinsky and Jasmina Brankovic. London: Routledge, 2018. 196 pp., £92 hardcover, 9780415786027
The debate about global climate change triggers visceral emotions – moral outrage, a sense of injustice, feelings of empathy, and concerns for equity. When passionate partisans advocate their positions on climate action (i.e., what to do about climate change), such advocacy turns inflammatory. The intensity of emotions, as a result, deeply divides the global North and the global South. The United Nations, which has emerged as the world arbiter on climate action, has long been at work to bridge this divide. The Global Climate Regime and Transitional Justice engages with this divide, and the raging debate about it, especially in the halls of the United Nations. The volume’s authors Sonja Klinsky, who is a climate justice scholar, and Jasmina Brankovic, who specializes in transitional justice theory, have joined their intellectual forces to reconfigure the transitional justice approach in the climate context.
In this endeavor, they document how the United Nations has been modulating its position on climate action to get the dissenting sides to agree on the basic minimum about how to stop global climate change (i.e., climate action). The most contentious areas in this debate are the fixing of responsibility for contributing to action on climate change and its stabilization, and who is to repair the harm inflicted by climate change. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) initially designated ‘common responsibilities’ for all world nations to stabilize climate change. The idea of common responsibilities, however, was resented by the nations of the global South. These nations argued that responsibilities to fix the climate should be determined in light of world nations’ historical contributions to global climate change, and individual nations’ (read southern nations’) capacity to shoulder these responsibilities. The South’s resistance led to the reconstruction of the idea of common responsibilities as ‘common but differentiated responsibilities.’ The reconstructed concept allowed taking into account historical contributions to climate change, and individual nations’ capacity to help stabilize the climate as well.
The re-designation, nevertheless, had the global North decry the concept of ‘differentiated’ responsibilities, which entailed more obligations for them to share while fixing the climate. These differences were acute at COPs (conference of the parties), i.e., climate talks in UN-speak, in Poland and especially in Peru, which all but dashed any hope for a climate pact the following year in Paris. By the time, climate talks moved to Paris in 2015, ‘differentiated responsibilities’ were again made over into ‘self-differentiated’ responsibilities. This designation meant that individual nations would ‘self-assess’ how and how much they could cut back on greenhouse gas emissions. In the lead up to the Paris talks, the UNFCCC conceived the idea of ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contributions’ (INDCs) to allow individual nations to self-determine the size of their emissions cuts. The Paris Climate Pact was eventually signed on the promise of a kind of good-faith efforts by each signatory nation as to how much it can contribute to overall emission cuts. Many, including this reviewer, called the INDCs no better than ‘New Year Resolutions.’
Klinsky and Brankovic, rationally but empathetically, challenge this sneering, and attempt to sweep the landmines of dissent on the subject with transitional justice theory (TJT). The authors present transitional justice as a kind of third way between retributive justice and restorative justice. The empirical field of this theory has been the crimes against humanity that are committed within or between nations, and where conventional criminal justice approaches are unhelpful in determining and punishing past harms or forging a collective path to national or civil reconciliation for warring factions. The authors incorporate transitional justice approaches in the climate context by revisiting the core ‘justice challenges’ that in their view will be central to global climate governance, especially in meeting the objectives of the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement: ‘This includes the debates about uneven historical emissions, unevenly distributed climate harms, and the way that both of these issues intersect with pre-existing and profound inequalities globally’ (p.6).
Klinsky and Brankovic contextualize the idea of responsibility in climate talks to embed it in transitional justice theory. They identify three pathways to understand ‘responsibility’ in the climate context: first, an acknowledgement process to manage the political temptations and long-term repercussions of de facto amnesty; second, a process of truth-seeking and truth-telling through institutional mechanisms such as a truth commission that would recommend financial and nonfinancial contributions from state and nonstate actors to repair harm; third, continuing efforts to apply legal accountability norms to individuals and collective action (such as states and corporations). The authors argue that these pathways are mutually reinforcing as legal accountability pressures recalcitrant actors to acknowledge responsibility via non-retributive pathways, and truth commissions shield them from legal accountability in a nonpunitive form of acknowledgement.
The authors speculate that these measures could answer the question of reparations as well. A truth commission, in their view, could be instrumental to effecting reparations or informing the ways in which acts of repair could match the self-identified needs of affected communities. Reparations, as defined in transitional justice theory, include compensation, restitution, rehabilitation, satisfaction, and efforts to promote nonrecurrence. Importing the concept of reparations into the climate context, the authors frustratingly declare, makes it ‘toxically contentious.’ They still dare hope in suggesting a way out of this toxic contention by segregating ‘responsibility’ and ‘repair,’ which would permit a nonpunitive approach to reparations that is explicitly meant to mitigate climate-caused harms, leaving ‘responsibility’ to be addressed separately. In specific terms, the authors envision a Reparations Commission housed within the UNFCCC which would work to connect community-based claims for harm to appropriate reparations.
Klinsky and Brankovic certainly break new ground to extend transitional justice theory to global climate change, and couch the debate about climate change in terms of climate justice, especially integrating climate policy with concerns of justice. They have dexterously shown how transitional justice mechanisms can address thorny questions of past climate harms, and the responsibility and reparation for them. Yet their efforts to reconcile global actors’ militantly conflicting positions on climate action have been centered on making climate accountability, responsibility, harm and repair non-retributive, and even unenforceable. If a bad actor has to escape justice for the harm it has caused, or the harm itself is indeterminate, then non-punitive justice can be anything but justice. The authors’ argument still carries weight that only transitional justice and its proven mechanisms can have powerful global actors accept climate accountability, responsibility, harm and repair.
A sidebar to the issue of climate justice is climate denial, whose tropes are less of escaping justice and more of embracing the growth imperative over climate imperative. Climate deniers refuse to accept even unenforcable ‘self-differentiated’ responsibilities in the Paris Climate Pact that were to materialize into climate action in the distant 2020! Since 2015, when the Paris Climate Pact was signed, very little has actually happened which could be called climate action. Instead, the efforts have since been afoot to reverse the pact. It suffered a huge blow when President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the pact despite pleadings to the contrary by fellow Western leaders. President Trump is unconvinced of the reality of global climate change. In 2012, he tweeted: ‘the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.’ His is a classic case of climate denialism. The INDCs, since the passage of the Paris climate pact, have little to show for their worth either, while climate change has continued to worsen. Global CO2 emissions rose from 400.88 ppm in 2015 to 410 ppm in 2018. This statistical evidence rebuts any claim to the contrary that the Paris Climate Pact has made any difference to global climate change. That said, climate action cannot be sidestepped for too long. Such is climate justice, with which Sonja Klinsky and Jasmina Brankovic deftly frame climate policy debates in their groundbreaking study, The Global Climate Regime and Transitional Justice.
Tarique Niazi, Ph.D., is a Professor of Environmental Sociology at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire. He specializes in resource-based conflicts.
Jasmina BrankovicAnnouncing that President Zuma would not deploy the army to intervene in Cape Flats gang wars, his spokesman Mac Maharaj noted that the president “has directed ministers in the social and economic sectors to study the situation and look for long-term solutions that promote sustainable development and stable communities.” The president should be held to this commitment to look beyond short-term responses to gang violence and identify policy solutions that address the poverty and inequality that drive everyday violence in poor urban areas. As part of a study on the relationship of violence and transition, I looked at how a group of young men under 23 in Gugulethu and Mfuleni describe their experiences of and participation in the violence in their areas. These life stories show that both members of informal neighbourhood gangs and young men who have never joined a gang are exposed to violence every day, especially beatings and stabbings by other young men from rival informal gangs or different neighbourhoods who nonetheless know each other. The young men talk about participation in violence as almost unavoidable and link it to their sense of self, to being socially visible in the neighbourhood and to rites of passage associated with becoming an adult man. The stories suggest that these young men have been turned inward on their neighbourhoods since boyhood, rarely leaving them and disconnected from the rest of the city. One young man says he has not left Gugulethu in the past three years while another speaks about the centre of Cape Town as a separate city. While neighbourhood life offers comfort and a sense of belonging, it also opens the young men to physical violence from other young men as well as neighbours and police suspicious of their lifestyles. Spending days on the corner, young men serve as role models to boys who grow up watching them, including as they daily engage in serious violence. The stories indicate that this dynamic has been reproduced from generation to generation of young men since well before the transition to democracy. A central root of this violence is the historical and ongoing exclusion of people living in poor urban areas from the country’s mainstream economic life. The geographical marginalisation, inadequate education and limited skills and employment opportunities institutionalised under apartheid continue almost 20 years after the transition. Indeed, they are entrenched by current economic policies that sideline people with low education levels and skills in seeking to generate high-paying and high-productivity jobs in capital- and skills-intensive industries.Research shows that constraints on a family’s education and acquisition of skills, combined with living far from urban economic centres in areas with limited public services as well as having social networks with similar constraints, not only undermine their chances of finding work but also negatively affect their children’s life opportunities. Many parents are forced to work in the informal sector, without the protections of predictable hours and personal leave usually offered by formal employment, which, along with poor access to more structured activities, contributes to boys and young men in particular spending days in the neighbourhood with little oversight, watching and often modelling violent behaviour. The past and present socioeconomic exclusion that fosters poverty and inequality is therefore intimately linked to everyday physical violence among the young men, whether gangster or not. The international and local literature supports the connection between violence and poverty and inequality that has emerged from the young men’s stories. While this calls for more discussion in South Africa, where inequality has only increased since the transition and violence levels remain both high and a point of widespread public interest, the stories call for going a step further and identifying the poverty and inequality as violence in itself. The concept of “structural violence” is useful in this regard because it describes the institutionalisation and legitimisation of power inequalities while also highlighting this institutionalisation as violence. Structural violence is so normalised that it is usually accepted as a fact of life but it is perpetrated by individuals and institutions at all levels of society. Government, however, has a particular responsibility to address its role in institutionalising structural violence through its policies, especially economic policies. The term “structural violence” provides civil society actors working for socioeconomic transformation on one hand and a more peaceful society on the other – from social movements to NGOs – with a common ground and an advocacy tool for provoking more public discussion on poverty and inequality and for pushing government to develop a deeper and long-term strategy for addressing this cause and form of violence.
Jasmina Brankovic, “Op-Ed: In Some Places It Is Almost Impossible Not to Get Caught Up in the Violence,” Cape Times, 28 August 2012.Brankovic is a researcher on the Violence and Transition project, run by the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation and the Centre for Humanities Research, University of the Western Cape.
MEMBERS of Parliament’s police committee, the new Deputy Minister of Police Maggie Sotyu and police secretariat officials pronounced themselves disappointed this week when the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation’s report on why crime in South Africa is so violent was released.
They clearly all wanted a magic wand from the academics – David Bruce and Adele Kirsten – who compiled the study, and there wasn’t one. Indeed, after a particularly robust engagement, Bruce told the committee that worldwide there had been many studies done on violent crime and no one had yet come up with an answer.
Committee chairman Sindi Chikunga and Freedom Front Plus MP Pieter Groenewald wanted to know why crime in South Africa was so often accompanied by hideous cruelty. They said the study had failed to find an explanation as to why victims of crime are so often tortured.Indeed, this is a good question. The study reported that the history of structural violence inherent in the way in which colonialism and apartheid worked lay at the heart of the matter.
I suppose the idea is that if you are the victim of institutional violence simply because of your race then it legitimises violence on a personal level.Also, people would have observed brutal state action from police and other departments where there were no consequences. In short, impunity.Also connected to violent crime in the study were things like poverty, education, the destruction of family structures through the migrant labour system and, curiously, the abuse of alcohol by young mothers – often accompanied by domestic violence. Still further reinforcement.
While accepting the bona fides of the research done, it would be nice if the further research which the CSVR said was ongoing could provide answers to some of the questions. For example, there are places in the world where there is far more poverty than in South Africa but where there is less violent crime.It would also be interesting to find out what role is played by the fact that South Africa negotiated its revolution rather than fighting to the end. Is there a sort of feeling that violence is justified because there were no real winners and losers in the revolution?
There were some startling findings which should sound some alarm bells, one being that more than a third of the perpetrators of violent crime are 19 years and younger. That is truly scary and it points to problems with education and socialisation.
Having said all that, the criticism of the report does seem to be unfair. It is an astonishing piece of work and really does serve the vital function of bringing together what we know about violent crime in the country and putting it in an accessible form in one place.
There have also been complaints that R3.5- million of public money was spent and not much achieved. Also unfair. Anything that contributes to a better understanding of where we are and why we behave as we do is worth every cent.
In The Herald
Johannesburg - South Africa's "gender machinery" is in "disarray" with it not even being clear who is co-ordinating the 16 Days of Activism campaign, a group of NGOs said on Wednesday.
"At a time when it is most needed, participants noted, the national gender machinery is in disarray," read a statement from Gender Links and the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR).
"There is a lack of clarity on which agency is driving the 16 Days of Activism campaign, which used to be housed in the department of local government, following the establishment of the ministry of women, children and disability in April this year.
"The ministry has yet to hold a consultation with civil society organisations. There has also been a deafening silence on the status of the 365 National Action Plan to End Gender Violence adopted in March 2007 and co-ordinated by the National Prosecution Authority (NPA)."
They said there is also still no specific "domestic violence" category which would enable monitoring of the crime. They called on the government to resuscitate the 365 Day National Action Plan to End Gender Violence.
'We can prevent violence'
Their statement followed a three-day symposium convened by the CSVR under the banner "We can Prevent Violence". They also called for the establishment of a special fund to end gender violence, in line with regional and international commitments.
In addition they called on Fifa to use the World Cup 2010 to send out strong messages in support of the campaign to end gender violence as well as HIV/Aids.
They said the 12% increase in reported rape cases to 71 500 from April 1, 2008 to March 31, 2009 may in part be due to the expanded definition of rape under the new act. The figures are unacceptably high and likely to be understated due to under reporting.
Government was also still "well behind" in reaching the target of 81 one-stop centres for addressing gender violence by 2010 provided for in the National Sexual Assault Policy.
The 16-Days campaign takes place every year from November 25, the International Day of No Violence Against Women.
It runs until December 10, which is International Human Rights Day.
Is he an astute politician who speaks to ordinary people's concerns, or a dangerous populist who may be undermining the Constitution? Jacob Zuma's controversial remarks on the pre-election campaign trail that has taken him around the country have left in their wake a number of questions - and while his comments may have hit the right spot with his audiences, constitutional experts and gender rights activists are not amused. The ANC president told a rally in the Western Cape last weekend that truant learners and pregnant teenagers "should be caught and sent to faraway boarding schools by force until they get degrees".
He accused teenaged mothers of abusing the government's child grant and talked about "a war on street kids". He also repeated previous remarks, including one that crime suspects enjoy too many privileges. But since he sensationally pronounced last year that he was willing to reconsider the death penalty, there has been little indication of how he wants to get this past the country's progressive human rights Constitution. The man is certainly playing to his audiences across South Africa's deep social divides. His allegorical, vernacular rally style contrasts sharply with his measured and reasonable utterances last week at the Cape Town Press Club, where his audience was a world apart from the mostly poverty-stricken people who turn up at rallies. Constitutional and human rights experts believe Zuma's campaign approach to be "dangerous" and "populist", one that's testing the limits of the country's Constitution. Some are incensed by Zuma's suggestion that teenaged mothers should be separated from their babies. "There is a complete lack of acknowledgement of the responsibility of the father in any of this. Teenage girls are a nice, easy cheap target and it plays to a conservative populism to bash teenage girls," is the verdict of Lisa Vetten, senior researcher at the Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre to End Violence Against Women. "Frankly, for the ANC Youth League to have not said anything about this either, just goes to show how much they care about the difficulties that face adolescent girls. Why girls fall pregnant is a lot more complicated than we think." Two legal commentators say they believe aspects of Zuma's statements may be in conflict with the country's Constitution. University of the Western Cape constitutional expert, Professor Pierre de Vos, says if Zuma indeed meant that women should be forcibly sent away for education, he was making them into "criminals" when they were not accused before the law - "even more grave if it is directed at pregnant women". "It is obviously preposterous, because you once again make women the scapegoats and the men (who made them pregnant) get away scot-free. It is the old patriarchal approach," said De Vos. While acknowledging that the scope of teenage pregnancies was a shame to society, Unisa's Professor Shadrack Gutto said the ANC president's solution was not necessarily "child friendly", did not address the root causes of the problem and "from a constitutional legal perspective (was) very problematic". "As a safeguard you should build in the question of development of children," suggests Gutto. "In legal terms, the interests of the child (babies) come first, and critical to that is the interests of the child, for instance, in breastfeeding. "We know breastfeeding is universally acknowledged to be better for the child than other forms of feeding (although) other forms are not necessarily bad for the child." He said in this context, the statement "could violate the constitutional principle of protecting the rights of children" even before considering the interests of the mother. From the child's point of view "the statements are unfortunate and in many ways opposite to the principles of law". "We need proper reflection really on this issue - which is a populist statement not properly thought through," he suggested. But ANC national spokesperson Carl Niehaus believes Zuma has been misunderstood. The comments - often mistranslated - are derived from listening to communities where the problem of teenage pregnancies "means that mothers and grannies then have to look after the children of their children" and teenage mothers are stigmatised. Niehaus said Zuma was merely raising real concerns in communities that beg for a response from the government. He said that when teenagers leave a community to give birth, they are seldom welcomed back "because there is a kind of social sanction". "It is first of all not an attitude to let men walk off scot-free. It is important that young men are also kept responsible. The suggestion is not at all to withdraw the children by force, but where possible for them to be taken into a new community where they will be able to grow with the children," he explained. On the ANC president's statements that the rights of criminals should be curtailed, experts argue that this will not solve the underlying problem of weak judicial and police systems that result in offenders walking free. But what it does do is infringe on people's constitutional rights. The constitutional legal basic rights of all persons have limitations, stresses Gutto. "But then to be saying criminals should not have rights, really the ANC president is speaking in a language (that) I think is contrary to our Constitution and the principles of the right to freedom of movement and the rights of expression and freedom of association, which will be severely limited." Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation's senior researcher David Bruce says that while there's evidence that a control-orientated approach to criminal justice is likely to convict more criminals, it also comes at the cost of convicting higher numbers of people who are innocent. Bruce warns that a human rights approach, however, depends on a criminal justice system which is staffed by people who are highly skilled and knowledgeable. South Africa has been struggling to get this right, but all efforts must be exhausted before we start intruding on human rights, he stressed. "Incarceration is a process which brutalises people. We are living in a country that is already severely brutalised. So we need to be very wary of it," he said. De Vos says it's a "typical politician's quick-fix" answer to complex problems in our deeply unequal society. But Niehaus stressed that Zuma had been trying to respond to communities' serious battles against crime and to encourage discussion about whether this could be dealt with "in a tougher way without transgressing the Constitution". Gutto also acknowledges the flip-side - that South Africa offers little for victims of crime. "If you put all those together, you can see where the sentiment is coming from - but the ANC president should not be speaking so loosely." Niehaus denied Zuma was being populist. "It is more about being sensitive to the issues being raised in townships and rural communities where things are really difficult. "These are really issues that I think he is quite right to raise," he stressed.This article was originally published on page 17 of Cape Argus on November 14, 2008
There was no need for court action to force the Gauteng provincial government to keep open temporary safe sites for refugees and asylum seekers until they were reintegrated into communities, spokesperson Thabo Masebe said on Monday. He was reacting to the announcement that the Wits Law Clinic and Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CoRMSA) were bringing an urgent application in the Pretoria High Court. They want the government ordered to communicate and implement a reintegration strategy which protects the rights of all, and to restore and not dismantle the Rifle Range temporary safe site until the reintegration strategy is in place.
"I don't know really what these people are looking for," said Masebe. There was no need for them to take court action, he said. "All they had to do was come to us." More than 62 people died, hundreds were injured and tens of thousands displaced in a wave of xenophobic attacks which started in Alexandra, Johannesburg on May 12 and spread to the rest of the country. The displaced have been housed in temporary shelters set up throughout the province since then. "All the shelters are still open, including the Rifle Range shelter," said Masebe. However, he explained that when people left any of the shelters any excess tents were folded up. Of about 1 700 refugees and asylum seekers at the Rifle Range camp at the height of the crisis, only 250 remained, he said. The rest had left after refusing to accept temporary identity cards from the Department of Home Affairs or finding alternative accommodation in their communities. Elsewhere in the province, there were still about 3 000 occupants of the safe shelters. "It's going down because people are leaving every day," he said, adding that 10 families left the Rand Airport camp on Friday alone. The government's key role had been to create conditions in all communities - starting with those where there was violence - for people to return to their homes, Masebe said. "They should be safe to do so. They should not fear that somebody will attack them again," he said. This had involved talking to the communities, which the provincial government had started in May. "It's not something that starts and stops. It starts and continues," he said. "I don't know what plan they are looking for." Civil society organisations have come out in support of the court action. While the need for legal action was regrettable, it was needed in the absence of the government's formal communication on a reintegration strategy, said the Reintegration Working Group. The group includes representatives of, among others: the Anglican Diocese of Johannesburg; the Somali Community Board; the Refugee Ministries Centre; the Coalition Against Xenophobia; His People Church; the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation; Mthwakazi Arts and Culture; and the Salvation Army. Masebe said the various groups could assist the government as political organisations and community organisations had done from the start. "That process goes on." In addition, the provincial government was talking to displaced people still at the shelters and who could not reintegrate on their own to find out what kind of help they needed. This included assistance with the building of shacks destroyed in the violence - in Ekurhuleni, communities were already helping in rebuilding efforts - or finding alternative accommodation. "There is no way as government, there is no way we are going to keep the shelters on a permanent basis.". The government did not want to create as permanent, separate settlements for foreign nationals, he said, adding that the government would oppose the court action. "It is not properly informed." - Sapa
In the Independent Online
Police corruption is likely to skyrocket if the Scorpions are closed down, the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR) stated in a submission to parliament. "The SAPS is already riddled with corruption and is very bad at addressing the issue," CSVR senior researcher David Bruce argued. He said that corruption within the service could only be properly addressed if investigating units, with the "investigative sophistication" of the Scorpions, were allowed to remain independent of the police. The CSVR submission is but one of many which the chairperson of the National Assembly's Safety and Security Committee, Maggie Sotyu, expects to be waiting for her when she return to parliament next Tuesday.
The public has until Monday to make submissions concerning their views on whether the Directorate of Special Operations (Scorpions) should be closed and merged into the SAPS as called for by ANC resolutions passed at its December conference. The CSVR said that while it recognised that there were problems with the way the Scorpions were managed - as highlighted in the Khampepe Commission's report - these should be addressed without dissolving the unit. Closing the unit would do nothing to reduce the risk of the state abusing its power in the future by using similar units for its own political gain, the CSVR argued. "Creating a single agency with a monopoly of investigative powers is more likely to accentuate the problem," the CSVR said. Groups within the ANC along with the ANC's alliance partners have accused President Thabo Mbeki of using the Scorpions to carry out his political agenda against ANC leader Jacob Zuma. Meanwhile the Centre For Constitutional Rights (CFCR) on Wednesday described cabinet's decision to close the Scorpions as "irrational and arbitrary". It added it had a duty to draw attention to "conduct inconsistent with the constitution".This article was originally published on page 3 of Pretoria News on July 24, 2008
Brian Indrelunas The government should meet its "international obligation" to criminalise torture, says SA Human Rights commissioner Leon Wessels. He called explicitly outlawing torture "an international obligation" after speaking to representatives of non-profit groups and government departments at a seminar. "We can't just subscribe to the international rhetoric (without) ensuring that torture becomes a statutory crime," he commented. The Constitution lists the right not to be tortured and police policies refer to torture specifically, but "all other policy is devoid of the language", said Lukas Muntingh of the Civil Society Prison Reform Initiative. CSPRI and the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR) hosted on Tuesday's seminar, which explored civil society's role in preventing torture.
Published on iol.co.za
Jasmina Brankovic, Brian Mphahlele, Sindiswa Nunu, Agnes Ngxukuma, Nompumelelo Njana and Yanelisa Sishuba
About the Book
Despite its lauded political transition in 1994, South Africa continues to have among the highest levels of violence and inequality in the world. Organised survivors of apartheid violations have long maintained that we cannot adequately address violence in the country, let alone achieve full democracy, without addressing inequality.
This book is built around extensive quotes from members of Khulumani Support Group, the apartheid survivors’ social movement, and young people growing up in Khulumani families. It shows how these survivors, who bridge the past and the present through their activism, understand and respond to socioeconomic drivers of violence.
Pointing to the continuities between apartheid oppression and post-apartheid marginalisation in everyday life, the narratives detail ways in which the democratic dispensation has strengthened barriers to social transformation and helped enable violence. They also present strategies for effecting change through collaboration, dialogue and mutual training and through partnerships with diverse stakeholders that build on local-level knowledge and community-based initiatives.
The lens of violence offers new and manageable ways to think about reducing inequality, while the lens of inequality shows that violence is a complex web of causes, pathways and effects that requires a big-picture approach to unravel. The survivors’ narratives suggest innovative strategies for promoting a just transition through people-driven transformation that go well beyond the constraints of South Africa’s transitional justice practice to date.
A result of participatory research conducted in collaboration with and by Khulumani members, this open-access book will be of interest to activists, students, researchers and and policy makers working on issues of transitional justice, inequality and violence.
About the Authors
Jasmina Brankovic is a senior researcher with the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation and associate editor of the International Journal of Transitional Justice. She conducts research on transitional justice, inequality and civil society strategies, with a focus on participatory methods. She is co-author of The Global Climate Regime and Transitional Justice (Routledge 2018).
Brian Mkhululi Mphahlele has been a member of Khulumani Support Group in the Western Cape since its founding and currently serves as the secretary of the provincial executive committee. A former political prisoner and torture survivor, he provided testimony to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and continues to fight for redress for apartheid survivors.
Sindiswa Mirriam Nunu is the field worker for Khulumani Support Group in the Western Cape, organising and mobilising members in cooperation with area committees across the province. She served as a councillor for the City of Cape Town from 1998 to 2000. She is an active member of her community on women’s issues and in the struggle for land rights.
Agnes Ngxukuma is a member of the executive committee of Khulumani Support Group in the Western Cape. She is also an organiser in the African National Congress Women’s League. A mother and grandmother, she runs Eggie’s Soup Kitchen in Khayelitsha and volunteers as a caregiver to those in need in her community.
Nompumelelo Njana is an apartheid survivor and long-time member of Khulumani Support Group in the Western Cape. She is the founder of a waste picking and recycling initiative in Khayelitsha and an activist in the Waste Pickers Movement of the Western Cape and the South African Waste Pickers Association.
Yanelisa Sishuba is the daughter of a Khulumani Support Group member. She is a youth activist, currently working as a Democratic Alliance youth leader in Cape Town Metro.
“In this timely book, apartheid’s survivors illustrate how the capitalist system that drove apartheid continues to drive inequality, poverty and violence in democratic South Africa and how the denial of socioeconomic rights undermines civil, political and cultural rights. All human beings have the right to social, economic, political, civil and cultural rights – human rights are universal, inter-related and inter-dependent. Those in power need to listen to these critical voices: the old fault lines, including race, class, gender and geography, must be urgently dismantled so South Africa can transition to a peaceful, just and equal society.” – Pregs Govender, activist and author of ‘Love and Courage: A Story of Insubordination’
“This book sketches the important links between inequality and violence through the narrative accounts of Khulumani Support Group participants. Through their voices we see their continued marginalisation in post-apartheid South Africa and how it continues to shape present-day experiences, including violence. The authors make an important contribution. They show the need to tackle socioeconomic factors that drive violence in order to address the ‘why’ of violence and reduce both inequality and violence.” – Shanaaz Mathews, director of the Children’s Institute, University of Cape Town
“This volume represents an innovative and desperately needed rethink of approaches to structural violence and the idea of justice in political transitions. … The Participatory Action Research modality that drives the contents of this book articulates the empowerment of the social transformation that Khulumani demands and highlights this as a grassroots effort, incarnated in Khulumani as a social movement, to drive a transformative justice. As such, it represents an empirical case study that both challenges conventional wisdom of the South African transitional justice process as a model and shares the valuable and impressive experience of Khulumani as a tool to understand, make visible and challenge ongoing injustice. Global efforts to build a new practice of transformative justice demand such examples and this volume represents one important step on the path to constructing such a practice.” – Simon Robins, Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Applied Human Rights, University of YorkDownload free eBook Order a paperback copy Download a free PDF
The full post can viewed on the link below
Conducting Participatory Action Research with Apartheid Survivors: Lessons from ‘Addressing Socioeconomic Drivers of Violence in Khulumani Communities’Sishuba, Yanelisa, Sindiswa Nunu, Nompumelelo Njana, Agnes Ngxukuma, Brian Mphahlele and Jasmina Brankovic. 2017. Conducting Participatory Action Research with Apartheid Survivors: Lessons from ‘Addressing Socioeconomic Drivers of Violence in Khulumani Communities’. Cape Town: Khulumani Support Group Western Cape and Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation.
Brankovic, Jasmina. 2016. “Women’s Contribution to Social Cohesion and Violence Prevention through the Community Work Programme." CWP Policy Brief 3. Johannesburg: Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation.
Brankovic, Jasmina. 2016. "Integrating Learning, Monitoring and Evaluation into Policy-Oriented Research: Lessons from CSVR’s Urban Violence Project." Johannesburg: Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation.
Brankovic, Jasmina, and Hugo van der Merwe. 2014. “Transitional Justice in Post-Conflict Societies: Conceptual Foundations and Debates,” in Moving Beyond: Towards Transitional Justice in the Bangsamoro Peace Process. Davao City: forumZFD Philippines.
Part of a publication that outlines transitional justice in the context of the current Bangsamoro peace process in the Philippines, this chapter provides a brief overview of the conceptual evolution of transitional justice. It then discusses challenges likely to be met in post-conﬂict transitional settings - namely, multiple armed groups, legal pluralism, ethnic and religious tensions, socioeconomic marginalization, and gender inequality - along with some of the strategies used to address these challenges.
Van der Merwe, Hugo, and Jasmina Brankovic. 2014. “Transitional Justice and Human Rights,” in SAGE Handbook of Human Rights, ed. Anja Mihr and Mark Gibney. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.
Presenting a brief, political history of transitional justice, this chapter shows the ways in which transitional justice is caught between international human rights' normative claims and local norms and constraints regarding delivering justice. The chapter was published in the SAGE Handbook of Human Rights, a two-volume set that analyses human rights issues of both contemporary and future importance.
Brankovic, Jasmina. 2013. "Accountability and National Reconciliation in South Africa." Ediciones Infojus: Derechos Humanos 2, no. 4: 55-86.(Click here for Spanish-language version)An exploration of the extent of accountability and reconciliation arrived at to date in South Africa calls for a look not only at the agenda and impact of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission but also at the role played by state and other structures after 1994. This article suggests that accountability and reconciliation have been limited, although the responsibility for this may lie more with choices made after the TRC was established than with the commission’s work itself. This article was written for a special journal issue on the 30th anniversary of Argentina's truth commission, which includes reflections on the South African TRC.
Bantjes, Megan. 2011. How others have done it: A desk study of community projects related to torture, Appendix C. Johannesburg: Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation.With the aim of informing CSVR's development of a community work model to address torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, this desk study examines six community projects conducted in South Africa and in other countries. Details of four of the interventions were found in the literature and information about two projects was gathered in interviews with the staff involved. Each intervention is discussed in terms of six questions that have been found useful for thinking about community work (see Questions about community work, Appendix B). The objectives of CSVR’s community work on torture - transformation, prevention and amelioration - provide the framework for considering the implications of each of these projects for CSVR's development of a model.