The South African National Civic Organisation (Sanco) was formed in 1992 to provide a national structure for the existing local level civic movement and more than 2000 civic bodies were represented at its founding conference.
Writer Libhongo Ntlokonkulu has argued that “the circumstances of its formation were highly contested, as many local civics were concerned that subscribing and subordinating themselves to a national organisation and a single constitution would compromise their autonomy and local identity”.
Some, especially those with long histories and strong bases of support, were concerned that Sanco’s ties to the ANC would compromise them and specifically the non-partisan character of the movement. Many in Durban, for example, while expressing their support for the ANC, chose not to affiliate with Sanco.
In Gauteng, tensions between civic autonomy and support for the ANC resurfaced in 1997 and resulted in the formation of breakaway civic structures, most notably in Tembisa, Soweto and Alexandra.
The entire Transkei region also broke loose. This, by all accounts, marked a low point for the organisation, but Sanco simply refused to die. During the mid-1980s, the civic bodies reached their height as a movement, they could mobilise and contest state authority and they could do so across hundreds of communities with the thinnest of organisational infrastructure.
It was a movement in the classic sense of the term: mobilisational, contestatory and community-based.
This week 30 years ago, apartheid died. But the structures of its economic framework exist, perhaps now more than ever. The attention to the hypothesis of state capture, corruption and malfeasance have delayed us from becoming the critical voice Sanco was created to be. In this dispensation, Sanco must find itself beyond the mechanics for mass mobilisation and must become the economic think tank and contestatory movement of the fifth administration.
We must, with urgency, attend to a significant programme of unity to re-stand an alliance with four legs.
We must ask ourselves how many toilets we built in Limpopo and how many shack classrooms we replaced with decently built schools in KwaZulu-Natal, while we wandered into the deep factional waters.
The largest part of our development lies in amending the structures of our economy. That must become Sanco’s beaming call to action. It must rile us up that in 2020 the Johannesburg Stock Exchange is still 97% white-owned. Sanco must return to ANC branches for sober economic discussions and we must engage with our alliance, the governing party, at the highest level. We need to urgently build an industrial production system that has strong manufacturing sectors. They must be able to produce goods that compete on global markets.
They must do this without relying on captured markets, like in the case of commodities or trade deals with unequal power relations such as the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). Such a production system must also integrate an agricultural sector that offers food security. It must promote subsistence farming for both rural and township communities.
Pursuing these ideas cannot happen without audacious measures aimed at radically restructuring the production system away from the dominant monopolies in mining, agriculture, energy and finance.
Like in the 1990s, Sanco has a lot of work to do. The Struggle has altered in shape but it is still deadly to the African person. Without Sanco, the alliance is one leg short. Let us return to the ground to build the strong four leg alliance this country needs.
* Moloi is the acting provincial secretary for the South African National Civic Organisation in KwaZulu-Nata. He writes in his personal capacity.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL.