The year under review has seen Khulumani’s engagements in supporting its membership deepen with the recognition of Khulumani Support Group as a member of the National Victim Em-powerment (VEP) Management Forum of the National Department of Social Development. This recognition has signalled a shift in the Department’s policies which provided services only for victims of crime committed after 1994. After more than twenty years of service to survivors of the gross hu-man rights violations of apartheid, Khulumani welcomed the DSD’s recognition of its work and its commitment to provide some support to Khulumani’s work, based on its development of specific programmes to address the deep wounding caused by the harms of the country’s past.
Khulumani’s work has also moved beyond its focus on apartheid atrocities to dealing also with post-apartheid gross violations. The recognition of the need for the services of Khulumani in providing community-based rehabilitation services was welcomed in the situation of diminishing global funding for South Africa as an identified middle-income country, despite the levels of destitution of half the country’s population.
Khulumani has pursued its objectives of contributing to the building of an inclusive, just and peaceful society in which the dignity and agency of people harmed by gross violations of human rights, are restored through its key objectives. Primary amongst these is its advocacy for a people-driven transformation of the society with its existing deep structural forces that have shaped and sustained injustices, inequalities and exclusions over generations. For Khulumani, this involves sup-porting the unlocking of the agency of its members and creating opportunities for their meaningful contribution to the wellbeing of their local communities with a vision of a future built on principles of collaboration, not competition; and on reciprocity as opposed to extraction for individual benefit.
Khulumani provides space for working out in practice the principles of ‘commoning’ on which the shaping of ‘a new earth’ will emerge with people refusing to surrender their lives to “the violence of global capitalism, market fundamentalism and militarism”. There are new alliances to be forged in working across all our differences, to safeguard our earth with its limited resources that must provide for all humanity. This defiance is the basis of designing new ways of living sustainably and respect-fully within the environmental limits of the earth. The emancipatory work involved in environmental politics involves working in solidarity with many others to build strength through fusing different con-stituencies often with opposing political strategies and paradigms by working both inside and outside the prevailing system. Some of the emerging practices relate to experiments in food sovereignty, collaborative natural-resource management, and public-interest design initiatives that test new mod-els of economic democratization. Khulumani has been engaged increasingly in projects that pro-mote food security, climate change adaptation, environmental protection and advocacy, the collec-tive management of river catchments, and the cooperative development of economic activities.
Beyond Khulumani’s advocacy work that is shaped and driven by its members, is its ongoing commitment to storytelling for social transformation, based on Ben Okri’s continuing advice that “if we listen to stories right, if we read them deeply, they will guide us through the confusion of our lives, and the diffusion of our times … (because) there is nothing that expresses the roundedness of human beings more than storytelling. Stories are the highest technology of being. There is in story the greatest psychology of existence, of living. Indeed, there is in story something semi-divine. The nature of story itself is linked to the core of creation. Story belongs to the micro-moment after the big bang. It belongs to the micro-moment after the “let there be light!” act of creation. Stories are never what they seem. They are whispers from beyond the invisible screen of existence. They are whis-perings from the gods we carry within us.”
Khulumani is involved in promoting community reconciliation. One aspect of this work is our continuing efforts in truth-discovery to help families learn how activists came to die in police detention. We seek to end the prevailing impunity of agents of the apartheid state. In 2016, we remembered and honoured Mrs Nonhle Mohapi who was the very first person to testify at the first TRC Victims’ Human Rights Hearing, on 15 April 1996 in the East London City Hall. Mrs Mohapi set the tone for these hearings as she showed exemplary courage in testifying about the death in detention of her beloved husband of three years, Mr Mapetla Mohape, the very first political detainee to die in detention. To this day, no-one has been found responsible for this crime – a reality that is slowly being overturned with the revisiting of judicial inquests, such as the re-opening of the Ahmed Timol inquest during 2017 and the revision of the outcome of the original inquest findings. This was a powerful example of how the truth has the power to heal.
April 2016 also saw Khulumani’s National Organiser, Ms Bonase and Ms Seidman accompany two of the Marikana widows to present a powerful statement to the Annual General Meeting of BASF, the German manufacturer that purchases its platinum from the Lonmin Marikana Mine on the Rus-tenburg Platinum Belt. The widows called on BASF to “plough back the fruits” of their husband’s labour by supporting the initiatives of the widows to develop livelihood activities. The “Plough Back the Fruits” Campaign was awarded the prize of the European Critical Shareholders’ Forum for the most effective advocacy campaign for corporate accountability for the year.
The widows, Ntombizolile Mosebetsane and Agnes Makopano Thelejane, representing all the widows of the Marikana Massacre of August 2012, explained that their lives had gone backwards since the Massacre of August 2012, because Lonmin had not repaired the damage caused to them as families. They explained, “We say to you that all is not well with us.”
The year continued with several dramatic events including the early July 2016 spiritual repatria-tion of the remains of several activists whose bodies were disposed of in the Komati River, close to the border with Mozambique. The grieving families listened to the explanations of how and exactly where bodies of activists had been disposed of into the crocodile-infested water of the river. The group next vis-ited the farm an hour’s drive south of Komatipoort to visit the room in the then-rural police outstation in which the father of the Sambo children, Mr Johannes Sweet Sambo, had been suffocated to death with a rubber inner tube. The agricultural workers now employed on the farm were horrified to learn of a history of which they had no knowledge. It was an important space of taking leave of a loved one who passed when his youngest daughter was only three months old.
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