Labour and community advice centres have a long history of being centres of resistance in the struggle against apartheid and capitalism. What made these centres, scattered across hundreds if not thousands of communities become such important links in the chains of struggle in the 1970s and 1980s, was the way communities brought together the problems that faced them to advice offices, and advice offices then turned these into focal points of organising.
For a long time after the dawn of democracy there has been many attempts to turn them into harmless institutions that in many ways hide the problems of access to justice for the working class. The Department of Justice has attempted to co-opt these institutions into the status quo by “professionalising” the paralegals. In many cases the institutions became platforms for the state, via its European Union funding, to become “managers of discontent”.
This week more than 45 organisations, many of them advice offices, were again in action. Unlike the last few years, the advice offices were bringing together experiences of oppression and exploitation in the campaign to stop the defunding of the CCMA (see ‘Campaign Against CCMA Budget Cuts’ article). While this was the beginning of the campaign, the fact that advice offices have taken the step of going beyond dealing with the oppression of the working class in the privacy of their isolated rooms marks a new phase of mass mobilisations in post-apartheid struggles South Africa.
This article was submitted on 26 February 2021. You may republish this article, so long as you credit the authors and Karibu! Online (www.Karibu.org.za), and do not change the text. Please include a link back to the original article.