The Alexandra Civic Association (ACA) – which has always firmly boycotted official structures – is considering a plan for possible participation in the October 26 municipal elections. The plan, written by ACA's chairman, Mike Beea, is to be discussed by the ACA executive and will probably be presented to residents at a mass meeting next weekend. A smaller meeting this week resolved to allow the mass meeting to decide whether to participate. A magistrate has apparently given permission for the gathering, due to be held on September 10.
This week's preliminary meeting was attended by 32 people, including five executive members of the ACA and members of the Reverend Sam Bali's Save Alex Party, which participated in the last election. The names of nine people to be fielded as candidates in the election were on the agenda. A number of speakers warned against the folly of pre-empting the outcome of the public meeting by proposing names of election candidates at this stage. They argued this ould be a negation of the democracy they wished to excercise by testing the will of the people at the meeting. Because of much heated debate and difficulty in maintaining order, the meeting was closed before this issue was resolved.
Participants at the meeting listened attentively when a former councillor who served under Buti emotionally recounted the past. With hands raised and his eyes occasionally closed, he warned against the idea of fighting the system from within. He said: "My council was rotten, accused of corruption … we never consulted the people … then we were forced to live in hiding in Sandton, afraid of the very people we claimed to have represented. "I appeal that we carefully examine each step and not repeat the mistakes of the past," he said. According to an ACA representative, "events" led themto assign Beea to study and prepare a plan for participation to be presented to residents.
At least one member of the ACA, Thomas Ndzondza confirmed this. Beea is expected to present his plan to an ACA meeting for approval. Only once it has been adopted will it be taken to the mass meeting. The plan entails a local organisationalstructure with a 25 person central committee. Some will take out Progressive Federal Party membership to enable them to serve in the Transvaal administration and the regional services councils. The committee will elect two members to each of these bodies to be the "eyes and ears" of the local authority.
However, it states clearly that they will not participate in the national statutory council or parliament at this stage. The formula calls for a new “community voters' roll" and for election manifestoes to be read at mass meetings as working documents rather than campaign statements. Candidates will be obliged to work for "meaningful" change, to challenge the government to provide more land to build proper housing for all sections of the community and to abolish the Group Areas Act and the Population Registration Act. They will also demand the release of all political prisoners and the lifting of the State of Emergency.
Candidates will strive for an "unfragmented.' South Africa and the abolition of all segregation laws. On a local level they will fight for all Alex hostel and shack dwellers to be accepted as permanent residents, the building of a hospital in the area with its 'doors open to all races" and for educational institutions to be reorganised on the basis of education – not skin colour.
Beea was released from prison last year after 12 months in Emergency detention. On his release he was served with restriction orders preventing him from addressing political gatherings, from being with more than 10 people, from leaving Alexandra without permission or disseminating information to the press. The mass meeting will be held a day after the official closing date for the registration of candidates.
However, organisers said this week that the government was expected to extend the closing date if the residents chose to contest the vote. It would be particularly significant if the ACA chose to participate in the municipal vote, not just because it would signal a fundamental shift in strategy, but also because the township was a focal point of unrest during 1985/6 and had one of the most developed street and area committee structures. Since the State of Emergency, Alex has become a focal point of the government "winning hearts and minds” upgrading programme.
This article originally appeared in the Weekly Mail.