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Branding of Social Movements

Heinrich Böhmke, April 2010 Introduction  For a few years, controversy has been bubbling beneath the surface among activists involved with social movements in South Africa about how these movements are represented in the academic and activist literature.  In short, questions are being raised whether the claims made about or on behalf of some of the movements are substantially accurate.  This controversy about knowledge production has been sharpened recently with the added critique that the movements’ politics, strategies and tactics have waned to a point where many of the best-known organisations are a spent force; more liberal NGO than radical movement[1].  When the historical propensity to exaggeratedly praise social movements faces their recent, marked decline as a radical political force in society, the gap between fact and mythology becomes problematically large.  This paper argues that the intellectual and media support given by a range of academics and activists to movements in South Africa has slipped into branding.  …

The shackdwellers and the intellectuals

Abahlali base Mjondolo and the missionaries from the academy. Heinrich Böhmke, 21 October 2010 Africa Report Don’t talk about us talking about the poor When the ANC came to power it was on a mandate to implement policies to bring about a “better life for all”. The social inequalities bequeathed by apartheid meant that the new government would have to take dramatic steps to uplift the masses of the Black poor from their desperate conditions. The ANC marked its arrival in the Union Buildings in Pretoria with the promise, on a mass scale, to build houses, provide water and electricity and to develop new infrastructure. However, for reasons that will keep historians busy, the reconstruction and development of the new South Africa was conducted within the confines of a conservative macro-economic framework. At city-governance level, this translated into an insistence on cost-recovery for services and, when the poor did not pay, evictions and cut-offs followed. There seemed …

The Call For a Tribunal is Urgent and Correct

Published in Sunday Tribune, 22 August 2010 There is a class of citizen in our country whose occupation gives them enormous influence. They are capable of spreading unsolicited opinion and news that affects us profoundly. What they say can cause stock exchanges to fall, reputations to be destroyed and public fear and panic to be sown. Despite the incredible power they wield there are no formal qualifications needed to hold this job nor do practitioners have to pass any professional enquiry into their moral fitness. They are appointed by their bosses and are answerable largely only to them. Naturally, there is some oversight in the industry but it takes the form of self-regulation. This self-regulation is weak if the work of their ombudsmen is surveyed. Unlike doctors and lawyers getting struck from the roll for misconduct, that does not occur to them. When wrongdoers are chucked out it is only into the recycle bin. Soon …

The White Revolutionary As Missionary

Below is the text of ‘The WHITE REVOLUTIONARY AS MISSIONARY”. It was carried in New Frank Talk, critical essays on the Black condition, No 5, January 2010. A comment by Andile Mngxitama and poem by Aryan Kaganof follow after the main text. The White Revolutionary As Missionary Contemporary Travels and Researches in Caffraria I.  “Your Missionaries have dived into that mine from which we were told no valuable ore or precious stones could be extracted; and they have brought up the gem of an immortal spirit, flashing with the light of intellect, and glowing with the hue of Christian graces” So reads Reverend Richard Watson’s inscription opposite the frontispiece to Stephen Kay’s 1834 tome, Travels and Researches in Caffraria, describing the character, customs and moral condition of the tribes inhabiting that portion of Southern Africa. (Harper Bros, New York) This book is a lump of treasure.  Small and thick with a worn, green spine carrying raised letters, it …

Liquidation, A Stilfontein Story (2005)

A documentary about the devastating economic ripple effected by the closure of the DRD gold mine in the town of Stilfontein in South Africa. Abandoned by their employers and the government, the unions and local residents came together to avert a food crisis. Produced by Heinrich Böhmke of Xalanga Peak Productions. Co directed by Aoibheann O’Sullivan and Heinrich Böhmke. Music: “Skeleton Coast” courtesy of Nibs Van der Spuy, from the album “Lines of my Face” © 1999 Greenhouse Music “Hoekom” courtesy of Disselblom, from the album “Goud en Marog” © 2004 Geblikte Afrikaans. Additional Stills: Reint Dykema Links on youtube: Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1eaA9DUvef0 Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ruCS4j9CC1E Part 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HvwMFDejPxY