Social Justice Coalition
Position: Politics / Advocacy
Are you interested in doing political advocacy work? Are you passionate about working towards social justice? Do you enjoy working with diverse groups of people? If the answer is yes, you should consider an internship with the Social Justice Coalition, an exciting, new grassroots civil society organization that is rapidly gaining prominence in South Africa. You could not have picked a more exciting time to do a social justice internship in South Africa. The country has just gone through a major election, and there is a new set of political leaders in government. Democratic participation is growing, and people are coming together in greater numbers to demand accountability and justice from their political leaders. Change is in the air!
The Social Justice Coalition (SJC) is a grassroots social movement campaigning for safe, healthy and dignified communities in some of South Africa’s largest, most under-developed and dangerous townships. The SJC’s main focus area is Khayelitsha, Cape Town— home to 700 000 people, most of whom live in shacks made of wood and metal sheeting. With approximately 11 active branches and over 40 partner organisations, the SJC promotes active citizenship through education, policy and research, and community organising to ensure government is accountable, open and responsive. We focus on some of the most basic rights and services guaranteed in the Constitution to advance this vision. Meaningful engagement between communities and government to realise these rights is a core principle of SJC campaigns. We are currently engaged in two primary campaigns – The Clean and Safe Sanitation Campaign and the Justice for All Campaign. We also participate in broader campaigns to combat hate crimes (most notably homophobia and xenophobia), prevent corruption, and protect the supremacy of the Constitution and rule of law.
The Clean & Safe Sanitation Campaign
Using a toilet is the most dangerous activity for people living in informal settlements. Residents are robbed, beaten, raped and murdered while trying to relieve themselves. There are too few communal toilets and taps, and residents must walk very long distances – often kilometres – to relieve themselves or get water. In many cases, a few hundred people have to share one toilet stall.
Polluted water and raw sewerage routinely flows between and through homes making these communities places of illness and death. Lack of access to clean and safe sanitation routinely emerges as the number one concern for people living in these communities. The SJC believes that by ensuring existing toilets work optimally—through improved State maintenance, monitoring and coordination—and by encouraging meaningful engagement between the State, communities, civic movements, and experts; universal access to the most basic of services can be achieved. In addition to improving safety this will also dramatically improve health conditions in communities where preventable illnesses attributable to poor sanitation and hygiene standards – such as diarrhea,
gastroenteritis, worms and TB - are widespread. Ensuring sanitation facilities are clean, safe and dignified is a critical first step in building community power to ensure access to other basic services is progressively realised.
The Justice for All Campaign
Another reason why residents of townships are unsafe is that despite being South Africa’s primary victims of crime, these areas are served by under resourced policing and court systems. Families and comrades face a criminal justice system that is crippled by lost dockets, corruption, poor investigation, escaped suspects, the State not opposing bail for accused standing trial for serious crimes, mistreatment of victims, failures to update victims and families about cases, years-long forensic backlogs and endless postponements that see cases taking years to be resolved. In 2011, SJC members together with the Treatment Action Campaign, Free Gender, Triangle Project and others have attended numerous court cases and held a variety of demonstrations to address these barriers to safety and justice.
Potential Work at the SJC
The SJC believes that success in our campaigns depends on building wide support and understanding of our work. The Policy, Communications and Research (PCR) department is responsible for spreading our message and educating the wider community on the issues we aim to address. Our policies and advocacy work are largely informed through our research. This takes the form of collecting personal testimonies, monitoring court cases, working with academics, digesting and distributing existing research, and conducting our own. In 2011 we have produced a variety of materials that have been distributed to our branches and through our door-to-door education and workshops, to the broader community. We have distributed 10 000 Sanitation Campaign Booklets around Cape Town, as well as thousands of factsheets, pamphlets and posters. Our factsheets have covered topics including victims’ rights, fire and flood prevention, illegal evictions and the 2011 census. These have been distributed in both English and Xhosa. Currently, the SJC is working with budget expert Alison Hickey Tshangana (Ndifuna Ukwazi) to analyse the City of Cape Town Budget, prepare budget education materials and to organise community-based workshops on local government budgeting. We have also worked to ensure that issues on which we focus receive maximum public exposure through the media. Over the past year the SJC has received wide press coverage locally, nationally and even internationally. In addition to this coverage, we have published more than twenty opinion pieces in local and national papers. The SJC has also attended and presented at a number of conferences in 2011. Topics have included: water and sanitation, housing, the justice system, the use of force by the police, lesbian rights and hate crimes, xenophobia, building partnerships in civil society and the structural and spatial development of Cape Town. Through the SJC website, Facebook page and Twitter we provide updates of the work we are doing which allows a far greater number of people to become involved with and learn about our organisation.
Social Justice Coalition members dance at the arms deal rally.
-Members of the Social Justice Coalition call for an inquiry into the arms deal.