The Right2Know Campaign held its fifth National Summit in Observatory, Johannesburg, from 20 – 22 February 2015. The Summit constituted of delegates elected at Provincial Summits in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, and the Western Cape, as well as members of the outgoing National Working Group and a number of observers from supporting organisations .
Delegates assessed the progress made since the fourth National Summit (in March 2014) and the challenges and opportunities facing the campaign in the coming year .
Delegates then developed and adopted the following resolutions and elected a 2015/16 National Working Group.
National Summit Resolutions
1. Secrecy & Whistleblowers
Noting that information struggles are shifting to struggles against state repression and the securitisation of the state, and noting the need to proactively take issues to our communities, the campaign resolves to:
- Link broader struggles around secrecy to community issues through popular education and solidarity action
- Engage critically with and ensure accountability of security oversight structures (for example Community Policing Forums, Safety Forum, Parliament, Independent Police Inspectorate Directorate, Inspector General of Intelligence)
- Sustain public attention on scrapping repressive laws such as the Secrecy Bill and National Key Points Act
- Document and publicise abuse of state security practices
- Develop an agenda for openness in response to state secrecy
- Advocate for party funding reform, including litigation, and highlight the link between public procurement/corruption in our communities in the run-up to the 2016 local government elections
- Monitor and where necessary respond to potential abuses of secrecy in future large-scale procurement, including the ‘Nuclear Deal’
- Draw the link between secrecy and inequality by focusing on the non-payment of tax and the movement of money outside of South Africa by the very wealthiest corporations and individuals.
Noting the very real threats and increasing risks that whistleblowers face, and noting the legal challenges, the campaign resolves to:
- Push for and participate in amendments to the whistleblowers law, the Protected Disclosures Act, particularly shifting the burden of proof from employees to employers and provide adequate protection to vulnerable whistleblowers
- Continue to raise awareness of whistleblowers as sheroes from all walks of life, through public statements and media campaigns, as well as through solidarity events, road shows and rallies
- Produce a whistleblowers calendar in partnerships with others
- Engage unions and relevant organisations to support a programme to protect and defend whistleblowers
- Launch a media and solidarity campaign for justice for whistleblowers who have been killed
- Study and discuss the question of financial incentives for whistleblowers, as well as other proposals to give more protection to whistleblowers, which must be taken to the PWGs.
2. Access to Information
Working towards strengthening the focus of access to information work within the Campaign, we resolve to:
- Use popular education and mobilisation to deepen understandings of the tools and importance of access to information as the bedrock of all local struggles
- Continue to develop other strategies in addition to the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) that address the limitations of PAIA
- Monitor, engage and influence the Information Regulator, including the critical appointment of the Information Regulator
- Root access-to-information struggles in the right to public participation
- Continue to drive our solidarity strategy in pushing for access to information, identifying roles for different organisations based on respective capacities and the linkages to specific struggles
- Work within existing structures to champion open data and proactive release of information
- Adopt a focused approach to identify priorities for access-to-information solidarity, including:
o South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) grants scandal
o Energy and mining
o Local government
o Housing struggles
o Ward councillors and ward committees
- Increase our focus on accessing private sector information
- Engage critically with the Open Government Partnership (OGP), pushing for a focus away from national government to local system of governance, and using it as a platform to put pressure on South Africa to make real commitments to openness
- Hold Chapter 9 institutions accountable to their constitutional mandate.
3. The Right to Communicate
3.1 Media Freedom & Diversity
The campaign will take the following action on democratizing digital television:
- Campaigning for free set top boxes to be made available to all, and for the list of demands included in the Call for Inclusive Digital Television and Free Set-Top Boxes document to be met: “free-to-air” public service television should be FREE!
- Building deeper understanding of digital migration issues through popular education and mobilization
The campaign will take the following action on community media:
- Raising awareness in communities on their rights with regard to ownership and access to community media organisations: community media belong to communities!
The campaign will take the following action on media independence and diversity:
- Joining and supporting action against political interference in journalistic and editorial content at the SABC, in community media and in commercial/private media
- Campaign for the protection of the rights of media workers, including protection from interference in content by media employers and owners, and campaigning for the decriminalisation of defamation
- To work with media organisations in the SADC region (eg. Panos, SADC journalists and editorial networks) to promote media freedom and independence and to protect journalists from harassment and victimisation
The campaign will take the following action on the ICT Policy Review Process:
- We will continue to engage in the ICT Policy Review Process to connect and advance our various Right2Communicate demands.
3.2 Access to Telecommunications (Vula’ma Connexion):
The Campaign resolves to keep the cost of airtime and profiteering of telecoms corporations as the focus of our popular campaign. In doing so, we will:
- Continue to engage the cellphone companies and ICASA to reduce the cost of communication and deliver free basic and affordable air-time and data, and free SMSes for all
- Oppose the practice of expiring data bundles
- Demand the simplification and transparency in pricing structure.
The campaign resolves to ensure access to high-speed internet and telecoms and engaging communities in that regard. We will:
- Increase the focus on access to free high-speed Internet
- Push for Telkom to be made responsible for the high-speed internet backbone as a public utility. To achieve this Telkom must be de-commercialised and have a public service mandate
- Campaign for community participation in the governance and management on telecoms infrastructure at a local level
- The digital dividend – spectrum to be freed up by digital migration – must not to strengthen the current monopolies and must not be auctioned to the highest bidder. The digital dividend must be used in the public interest, including the delivery of free public WiFi
- Engage with the big metros regarding their plans to roll out Broadband
- Support working class communities building their own open WiFi infrastructure
- Campaign for access to free landline services
- Get a legal opinion (and develop a legal strategy) to establish that access to telecoms – in particular high speed Internet- is a right enshrined in the constitution
- Campaign within progressive civil society to promote the understanding of access to telecoms as a basic service and utility that should form part of the social wage like housing and water
- Go into communities and listen to people’s needs and visions while raising awareness amongst the youth, focusing on schools and libraries. We must find specific concerns that people want to organize around
- Broaden the R2K activist base and ensure there are comrades to take this campaign forward in all provinces.
4. The Right to Protest
In order to promote the Right to Protest, the Campaign resolves to:
- Continue our popular education work on protest rights and tactics for defending the right to protest
- Ensure that popular education on the right to protest is being carried out through community organisations’ structures
- Engage the police on our right to protest and their responsibilities in protests and towards protestors
- Adopt a collective position on the rules of engagement for R2K protests
- Engage media in protest actions, by publicising our actions, writing our own stories, and using our right-of-reply when media get it wrong
- Campaign against police brutality against protestors, the surveillance of protesters and use of paramilitary units in public-order policing
- Reject laws that can be used to intimidate or target protesters, including the Intimidation Act and incitement laws, and relevant municipal bylaws
- To advance a better legal framework for the right to protest, R2K will support strategic challenges to the Gatherings Act and progressive amendments to the Gatherings Act
- Conduct a research project: roving team to gather stories of protests from all 9 provinces and details of municipal policy framework
- Participate in the Human Rights Day action against police brutality called by the United Front
- Propose that provinces adopt June as ‘right to protest’ month
- Conduct naming and shaming of police members and police stations involved in abuses of our right to protest, including using all avenues of redress
- Examine strategies to strengthen our planning and preparation regarding:
- Anticipating infiltration / agents provocateurs
- Defence strategy including provocation and brutality
- Conscious documenting of actions
- Legal support and solidarity for arrests.
5. Building the Right2Know
5.1 Building Local Struggles
In 2015, the Right2Know Campaign resolves to:
- Identify key local struggles and commemorations throughout the year and work on those issues in those communities and organisations to support activities guided by those communities and organisations
- Improve the presence of R2K comrades at sites of protests and struggles, and to exhibit support for constituent and partner organisations
- Strive to create more spaces for grassroots organisers to inform R2K of key struggles and specific protest action
- Support grassroots organisations by providing educational support as well as sharing experiences and skills development where requested to assist these struggles
- R2K will carry out an audit of which member organisations are part of R2K, what their struggles are, and who is part of those organisations.
5.2 Building Coalitions and Fronts
The Campaign resolves to:
- Reaffirm our 2014 resolutions with respect to our approach to building coalitions and networks
- With respect to the United Front, continue to actively engage the organisation at a provincial and local level; and mandate the NWG to engage in discussions with the United Front’s national leadership
- Engage in talks with the Freedom of Expression Network to explore closer working relations and the possibility of pooling our resources
- Identify networks and coalitions that we need to partner with and strengthen existing partnerships
- Strengthening relationships with feminist organisations.
5.3 Moving beyond urban nodes
The Campaign resolves to:
- Reaffirm our commitment to building a presence beyond our current urban nodes to include rural and peri-urban communities in all provinces
- To this end we should commit human and financial resources to ensure a sustainable presence in the areas where we have already built relationships and partner with existing organisations in these areas
- Set up a team that can support the provincial organisers in this outreach.
- To make better use of virtual networks and mobile phone and internet communication technology to link us up with progressive initiatives in other countries that resonate with our own struggles.
5.4 R2K internal democracy & enabling activism
The summit endorses the R2K Activist Code of Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures.
The campaign will take the following action in integrating and connecting the various pillars of the overall program:
- Work to improve coordination between campaigns, provinces and national work
- Maintain and regularly distribute a calendar of upcoming commemorations, R2K activities, and activities of organisations within the Campaign
- Mandate one member from each focus group to act as a liaison between her/his Focus Group and national level.
The campaign will take the following action in ensuring that R2K remains rooted in poor and working class communities:
- Mandate individuals from Focus Groups in the provinces to engage with communities
- Develop specific strategy guidelines to strengthen democracy, link campaign structures with communities and ensure accountability and adequate monitoring of responsibilities. This would differ from the code of conduct in that it would deal with structures rather than individuals and guide the relationship between R2K and community groups
- Actively engaging student organisations, religious groups and civil society organisations that could help extend our reach into poor and working class communities.
The campaign will take the following action in ensuring that we combat patriarchy and other reactionary/anti-democratic tendencies within our own ranks:
- Formulating, in the most inclusive way possible, a set of guidelines specifically for dealing with gender discrimination and bigotry.
5.5 Popular Education
The campaign will adopt the following resolutions regarding leadership schools for 2015:
- Leadership Schools will work with greater input from provinces to understand challenges faced by the particular province, which will be incorporated into the curriculum
- Curricula will be organised around a theme of ‘Organising and Mobilising’
- We will increase the days from 8 to 12 and increase the number of participants from 12 to 36 people – 12 people per province and the schools will take place in the respective provinces
- We will mandate a group of people within R2K to facilitate the Leadership School process.
The campaign will adopt the following resolutions regarding knowledge and skills sharing:
- Provinces will select comrades to participate in the political economy reading course
- We will set up ‘campaign cafes’ that will provide spaces for robust political discussion
- We will foster a greater sense of transparency and accountability so that comrades can freely ask questions and get answers
- We will increase our social media presence, and participation therein, to improve popular education
- The Campaign will use the R2K annual Calendar as a tool for popular education on a variety of R2K issues
- We will work with partner and member organisations to extend the reach of our popular education
- We will engage with community media organisations to promote the inclusion of content on Right2Know issues
- At least one member of each provincial working group will be nominated to sit on the Popular Education Task Team
- We will actively engage youth at universities and schools, as well as unemployed youth.
5.6 Publications & Materials
With regards to the creation and distribution of Right2Know content, the Campaign resolves to:
- Publish an R2K Tabloid at least four times a year
- Ensure the content of our publications/materials is shaped by PWGs and to reflect the issues facing our communities
- Ensure that the language of our publications is accessible and clear.
- In keeping with the principles of R2K, we resolve to address patriarchy and the power imbalances between men and women within the Campaign
- Each province will have a substantive discussion/session on feminist and gender issues as soon as possible after the Summit
- A task team will draw up guidelines for this discussion as well as a template of all the issues that need to be addressed and transformed
5.8. Finances & Staffing
The campaign will adopt the following resolutions regarding staffing:
- There will be no review of the basic salaries in light of frequent increases over the past two years
- We will recommend that we do away with the 13th cheque and instead spread the benefits over 12 months from this year (2015). This will in effect be a once off salary increment
- There shall be no additional changes to the staff contracts themselves
- Should concerns with contracts arise, this is to be raised with the Provincial Working Group and National Working Group
- There will be no substantive change to our Leave Policy but staff members will be encouraged to take adequate leave
- The relationships between provincial organisers and coordinators should be improved and there should be constant engagement between the two
- If provinces need added capacity, they should be in a position to motivate for that
- The National Working Group must look into the prospects for raising funds for a part-time administrator for all provinces
- Work beyond urban nodes is to be driven by the National Organiser.
The campaign will take the following resolutions regarding the budget and funding:
- We will aim to increase programmatic expenditure by increasing the 2015 popular education and mobilisation budget by 25%
- We will establish and grow a Sustainability Fund by ensuring all future funding proposals will include a line item for a sustainability fund of between 1 and 5% to be negotiated with the donor. The funds will only be used with agreement of the National Working Group.
3. Election of the 2015/16 National Working Group
The following people were elected to the National Working group (NWG) for 2015/16:
- Nonhlanhla Chanza
- Carina Conradie
- Ghalib Galant
- Colin Haskins
- Meshack Mbangula
- Thabane Miya
- Godfrey Phiri
- Karabo Raijuli
- Nomvula Sikakane
- Alison Tilley
- Hennie Van Vuuren
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