Sunday, 17 February 2013

Crowd Renting or Struggling from Below? The Concerned Citizens' Forum in Mpumalanga Township, Durban, 1999-2005

by Buntu Siwisa, Journal of Southern African Studies, 2008

This article considers the problems of water in Mpumalanga Township in Durban, South Africa, and examines the emergence and activities of the Concerned Citizens Forum (CCF), for whom activism around water services was centrally important. It contributes to the debate over the backlog in municipal services delivery and the attendant emergence of new social movements in post-apartheid South Africa. Set against a background of changes in water policy, a profile of the water industry and the drive to cost recovery, the article provides an account of collective action in Durban, by investigating the history and activities of the CCF. The article questions the standing of the movement and argues that the CCF is given to ‘crowd renting’, lacks transparency, and is prone to disorderly decision-making and racial and leadership crises. The article contextualises CCF’s collective action programmes, including its activism over water disconnections, by situating them in Mpumalanga’s neighbourhood politics. By doing so, the reader encounters councillors of the ruling and opposition parties, CCF city-based intellectual-cum-activists, African township youth activists and local council officials and bureaucrats. The collusion and conflicts between these various parties highlight political opportunism, careerism, and the ruthless pursuit of self-enrichment, revealing the complexities of collective action and the contentious politics of new social movements. The article also highlights the looming crisis of the breakdown of social citizenship in relation to cost recovery and the struggles over water services.

Click here to read this paper.