What is “Occupy Cape Town”? More Information about the “Take Back the Commons Movement”

ImageDue to the requests here is some additional information and background into the situation in South Africa today and who some of the people’s groups are – tj

More Information about the Take Back the Commons Movement:

Principles:

* We are all leaders: There will be no celebrity speakers or celebrity activists.
* We strive for a direct participatory and inclusive democratic process in all our activities and actions (by democracy, we mean inclusive spiritual and direct democracy in concert with nature and mother earth). We are open, accountable, transparent and honest.
* We aim not only to change the world but also to change ourselves.
* We strive to build unity, not to divide. We strive to be all inclusive. We are non-party political.
* We are confronting issues, we are not confronting people. We are constructive, not destructive. We aim to build a culture of caring and sharing.
* We aim to be realistic about the past, present and future.

Understanding “the Commons”

“The commons” is a term that refers to resources that are owned in common, or shared between or among communities, or the people of a country. These resources include:

* natural resources (like common land, forests, the atmosphere, rivers, the sea, fisheries, and mineral wealth) and our environmental heritage
* public goods (such as public space, public education, health and the infrastructure that allows our society to function)
* our cultural heritage (our shared history, literature, music, arts, design, film, video, television, radio, information, software and sites of heritage).

Under colonialism and apartheid most of the commons of South Africa were privatised and are now being owned, controlled and monopolised by a small elite – to the extent that South Africa is the most unequal country in the world (as measured by the Gini coefficient).

There is overwhelming evidence that these high levels of inequality and exclusion are what make South African cities the crime, murder and rape capitals of the world. Taking back the commons means that we reclaim the wealth and resources that should be used for the benefit of people and communities rather than the further enrichment of the elite, to create a more just and sustainable society.

Our Purpose:

Our short-term goal is to hold a Summit where communities can share their experiences, come up with strategies to deal with the problems they face, and learn the practical skills to assist in meeting those challenges.

Our long terms purpose is to

* continue building ties between and within communities, organisations and other groups
* explore how to “manage” collective discussions; deal with differences of culture, class and opinion; and  how to communicate and manifest our intentions effectively
* begin to reclaim the commons, as a collective

Our Website: mpbackyarders.org.za
Email us: admin@mpbackyarders.org.za
Call us: mpbackyarders.org.za/contact-us
Follow us: twitter.com/backyarders
Join us: Backyarders Facebook Page

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This Saturday COSATU will hold a “Celebration” at Rondebosch Common.
What exactly are they celebrating?

Statement by Occupy Cape Town

Alternative General Assembly
Date: 4 February
Time: 10am
Venue: Community House in Salt River

Many of us who participated in last week’s disrupted event at the Common are distancing ourselves from the event this Saturday. We believe that:

* As COSATU was never involved in the planning of the march & summit, they had no right to appear late on Friday afternoon, and make statements as if on behalf of the Take Back the Commons movement.
* Our principles clearly state: We do not recognise leaders or celebrity speakers. We are not party political. We are not destructive – we want to protect our shared natural and cultural heritage. The way this event is being managed contravenes these principles (see below).
* One of the purposes of the original event was to symbolically reclaim “the commons” (see below) – the public space that should be available for all. The fact that this weekend’s event is able to take place is a testimony to our small victory, but –
* Reclaiming “the commons” was just one of our aims, and to celebrate at this stage sidetracks us from the work that still lies ahead, at a time when it is important to stay focussed on our purposes and principles and to keep the momentum going.
* The celebration may provide good publicity, but it does not move us any closer to the real purposes and aims of the movement (see below).

This position is supported by the active representatives of Occupy Cape Town – and reflects the consensus with this particular group, as well as the stated opinions of many others within the Take Back the Commons Movement.

Because of this, we are exercising our freedom of choice, and choose not to attend the COSATU event. Instead we will meet to discuss other plans, debate some of the issues we seek to address, and build our relationships with each other.

This choice in no way means that we are withdrawing our support for the movement as a whole, nor that we are excluding ourselves from it. In fact, we look forward to continuing to build it in accordance with its stated principles and purpose.

Each of the many other communities, groups and organisations within the movement is free to decide (on an individual basis, or through consensus) whether they will attend the COSATU event or the General Assembly.

All will come together again in support of the !Nou on Sunday (the KhoiSan cleansing and renaming ceremony) as well as at future General Assemblies.

Written by Gizelle Rush of Occupy Cape Town / Take Back the Commons
Contact 072 845 6142

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