VIDEO: Motsoaledi Concerned Residents (MCR) protest, Soweto, April 2009

This is a news report from a protest by the Motsoaledi Concerned Residents (MCR) in Soweto, April 2009. Motsoaledi was a squatter camp in Soweto behind Chris Hani-Baragwanath Hospital. Anarchists played an important role in Motsoaledi, and initiated the MCR, which joined the Anti-Privatisation Forum (APF). By 2009, the direct anarchist role in MCR was pretty much gone, but at least one Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front founder member was active in the protest, and is interviewed by the media in this report. More on anarchists at Motsoaledi here.


Video: MC Biko: “Anti-capitalistic, anarchistic /Activist gone ballistic”

Lyrics below the video

It’s the anti-capitalistic, anarchistic
Activist gone ballistic

He didn’t battle emcees he fought with the government
Kidnapped the MPs and burnt down the parliament
His punchlines overthrew the president
He was a bulldozer going through impediments
Transferred the power from the state to the residents
Bombed cop stations and destroyed all the evidence
To him bourgeois democracy was just another pestilence
These were not just his views, but the working class sentiment
He expressed himself in spite of the censorship
He was a war veteran fighting the dictatorship
His thoughts were anarchy, his words were hardcore
Disturbing the peace, waging war on the status quo

He’s the anti-capitalistic, anarchistic
Activist gone ballistic

A Bhobho lion, babylon wont give me a visa
Coz I’m a Toyitoyi teacher and I’m pro-Zapatista
Anti-capitalista, I’m the counter-culture
Rooted in the spirit like a Shona sculpture
refuse to lose, used, fused to propaganda
X on the ballot so we struggle no longer
The !@#$%^&*-stem keeps on coming on stronger
Uncle Bee, Uncle Sam or another Uncle Tom
We remain the same; poor and unemployed
A black president or a female head of state
Another window dresser seals the working class fate
The democratic right to chose a new slavemaster
Cosmetic changes make the slave faster
So until the power is in the hands of the people
I’ll be in the streets chanting change, still a rebel

I’m the anti-capitalistic, anarchistic
Activist gone ballistic

Source: “Uhuru Vibes Community Newsletter,” April/ May 2010, H

Video: ZACF member on lessons of anarchist history (interviewed for 2011 Toronto anarchist bookfair)

From here

“Members of the (South African) Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front (ZACF) provide a historical view of anarchism in South Africa and Brazil, and draw conclusions on how anarchist can organize to attempt to recapture what the Rio de Janiero Anarchist Federation (FARJ) calls ‘the social vector of anarchism'”.

Four videos, on youtube, inserted below:

Some notes on anarchists/ syndicalists at Wits in the 1990s and 2000s

Anarchists/ syndicalists had some presence at the University of the Witwatersrand (“Wits”) in Johannesburg since the early 1990s through ARM, then WSF, the BMC, and then through the ZACF, including for example, involvement in student protests in 2007. They also had a sporadic presence in the Wits Workers Solidarity Committee, which worked with outsourced cleaners, and were part of the “Anti-Government-in-Exile of Wits University”  — the latter was a broad group that, in late 2011, deliberately disrupted campus cleaning through direct action and its members were charged with disciplinary infringements by the University management. From 2010, there were study groups and the creation of a ZACF-linked student Inkuleleko anarchist group.

See below for a 1) (low quality) picture of a Wits protest in which ARM participated in March 1995; 2) below that are some YouTube videos of the “Anti-Government-in-Exile of Wits University,” 3) followed by a statement by the “Anti-Government-in-Exile of Wits University.”

Arm 1995 cropped

FROM New Nation March 24, 1995. ARM had a large banner on the right, but this was cropped in the final photo. The text reads “A MATTER FOR THE GOVERNMENT? Wits University students are waging a battle for the meaningful transformation of the institution. But the behaviour of some students and workers, who have engaged in acts of vandalism and intimidation, has angered the government.”




From, sourced here.

Anarkismo preface (not part of the statement) in italics: Beginning on Sunday 28 August, Wits students have been littering parts of campus in solidarity with the cleaners’ strike. Cleaners throughout South Africa are demanding a living wage of R4 200 per month: this compares with less than R2 000 paid to cleaners at Wits, who are employed by outsourcing companies such as Supercare. The strike has been undermined, at Wits and elsewhere, by the presence of scab labour; Wits management and the outsourcing companies are striving for “business as usual”. This undermines the entire purpose of the strike, which is to compel exploiter-managers to meet workers’ demands by withdrawing their labour, by preventing the job from getting done – by making sure the campus is not clean.

Striking workers are unable to keep up a picket line or do anything about the scabs because they have been barred from campus. A court interdict has ordered them not to come within 20 metres of any workplace; and their Wits access cards have been blocked for the duration of the strike. This leav€es it to Wits students and staff to act in solidarity with the workers. The purpose of Operation Litter is to undermine the scabs and help the strike to achieve its purpose.
On Tuesday 30 August, three students were summoned before Deputy Vice-Chancellor Yunus Ballim on less than two hours’ notice. Ballim was acting under rule 1 of Wits’s Rules for Student Discipline, which allows top management to suspend students if they think we are “guilty of misconduct”. Ballim told us that this rule is designed for emergencies; that he considers us a “threat to the university”; and that what he is doing is what he does when a student appears to be engaged in assault or sexual abuse.

This view of Ballim is, quite simply, an insult to anyone who faces assault or sexual abuse. How can there be any comparison between such crimes and our actions? We have acted in solidarity with strikers to strengthen their resistance. We have harmed nobody, nor in any way threatened the activities of higher learning. Which “university” does Ballim think we threaten? If he regards this nebulous “threat to the university” as somehow similar to sexual abuse, we must worry about his commitment to opposing sexual abuse.

Ballim and his colleagues in top management act like the university belongs to them. They have ordered us, for up to 45 days, to “refrain from entering the precincts of the University … except for the purposes of attending activities strictly and directly related to your academic pursuits”. This is pending full disciplinary action for our alleged “misconduct”. In effect, they have exiled us from the political life of campus, banned us both from attending meetings and from engaging in political actions. They say we are a threat to the university; but we say that, within Wits, the greatest threat to the university as a place of higher learning comes from top management. Consider some of the policies of management since 2000:

  • They cut academic staff as part of restructuring measures, and persistently maintain insufficient numbers of teachers for lecturing, tutorials and supervision.
  • They phase out bridging programmes to help students make the transition from school to university.
  • They encourage academics to orient their research to profitable activities, i.e. to the needs of capital and the rich ruling class.
  • They continually increase fees, closing the doors of learning and culture to poor students, and slam the doors in students’ faces with massive up-front payments that prevent us from even entering the halls in the first place.
  • They impose bureaucratic hurdles to hamper the ability of students and staff to publicise radical views on campus, while readily opening their doors to representatives of the murderous racist state of Israel.
  • By outsourcing cleaners and other workers since 2000, they undermine union organisation and leave these workers far less able to defend themselves.
  • They not only cut in half the wages of the outsourced workers, but deprive their children of the opportunity for free education at Wits.
  • They condone apartheid practices by restricting outsourced (overwhelmingly black) workers to separate entrances, separate eating places and separate toilets, and ban these workers even from holding meetings on campus.
  • In short, they strive to turn higher learning and public discussion into a commodity available to a few, and undermine the universal culture of vigorous debate and progress that has long been part of higher learning at Wits.

Who, then, is a threat to the university, and who are its defenders? We are now exiled from the political life of Wits, but we will be back. We have done nothing wrong, we have harmed no one, we knew the risks, we have no regrets. We remain committed to the struggle of students and workers, and we stand behind our fellow Witsies as they continue their solidarity actions. We remain behind the workers as they carry on the strike, behind the fight to put an end to outsourcing and bring the workers back to Wits – and behind the great battle to take back our university, to make a place of higher learning that belongs not to a few managers and capitalists, but to all who live and work in it.

M* N*, J* P*, K* P*


Videos 2: context for the new movement – 1990s Wits University protests

Following on from an earlier post, this presents some videos below extracted from old VHS recordings of SABC (South African Broadcasting Corporation)  TV news reports. The videos below focus on struggles at the University of the Witwatersrand (“Wits”),  where the new South African anarchist/ syndicalist movement emerged as a strand in loose but very militant student political milieu — a milieu with close links to the (black) trade unions on campus. A full discussion of all the events shown below will take another post; for now, again, the point is to evoke the context that shaped the movement.

Video 1: 1994 — Wits management ‘hostage taking’ by workers & students (SABC news)


Video 2: 1995 — Wits students defy ANC leaders, trash campus (‘Operation Litter’) (SABC 1, English)


Video 3: 1995 — Wits trashing after Carolus, Sisulu visit (also OFS Technikon clashes) (SABC, Afrikaans)



Videos 1: the context for the new movement – early 1990s South Africa

The videos below are extracted from old VHS recordings of SABC (South African Broadcasting Corporation)  TV news reports on university student and trade union struggles in 1994-1996.  The aim of posting them is simply to help illustrate the context that shaped the (re-)emergent local anarchist/ syndicalist movement. These massive struggles were a decisive reference point for this current, demonstrating the power of the broad working class, and forcing the new new current to engage seriously with the issue of finding a road to the masses. An, of course, this context helped to radicalise many of those who gravitated to anarchism at this time — and helped to open space for a serious consideration of anarchism.

The political reforms of the early 1990s inspired a massive upsurge in strikes, protests and mobilisation, some high points of which were the massive general strike of 1991, and the 1993 insurrection against the Bophupatswana homeland dictatorship. The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and the National Council of Trade Unions (NACTU) would continue with massive strikes into the late 1990s. Meanwhile, the formation of the South African Students Congress (SASCO) in 1991 was part of a huge wave of protests on university campuses  which lasted until around 1998.


Video 1: 1994 – footage on university student protests in South Africa (SABC African language service)


Video 2: 1994 – SASCO national day of action plus for university bursary scheme (SABC, Afrikaans news)


Video 3: 1996 Cosatu general strike on Basic Conditions Bill (SABC)