The University of Johannesburg (UJ) hosted a two-hour public session convened by the Social Movements and Popular Protest Working Group of the South African Sociological Association on Wednesday, 1 July 2015.
According to UJ’s Dr Carin Runciman
, a post-doctoral fellow in social change who specialises in the politics of protests and social movements in South Africa, since 2012 two significant political developments have unfolded. “First, the establishment and subsequent electoral success of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), the first break to the Left of the African National Congress (ANC). Second, the decision by the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) to withdraw support for the ANC and embark in the formation of a United Front,” she said.
Dr Runciman pointed out that these developments come in the context of sustained and continuing popular unrest often targeted towards local government and the ANC. “However, these struggles have been fragmented and have yet to forge a collective alternative movement,” said Dr Runciman.
The panel that included John Appolis, United Front Campaigns Coordinator; Trevor Ngwane, Activist and PhD student (UJ) and Mbuyiseni Ndlozi (EFF) debated the possibilities and limitations of this ‘new Left.’
Questions that formed part of the critical debate included: Can the EFF continue its initial success in the 2016 local government elections? What is the relationship between the United Front and community-based struggles? How can the seeming divide between the struggles of the employed and unemployed be overcome? What are the possibilities for socialist alternatives in South Africa?