Although there’s occasionally still a chill in the breeze, it’s clear now that spring is in the air. Winter is no longer coming, neither is Covid-19. For many people the sense of dread is departing, giving way to a return to normality: time for friends, family, sport, unhindered love, the prospect of summer holidays.
In the last few months we have seen the deaths of ordinary people who helped define our heritage by becoming extraordinary: Andrew Mlangeni, Achmat Dangor and George Bizos. These were people whose lives contained South Africa’s raging currents, epitomised its human beauty and witnessed its cruelty and brutality.
“Economists have only ruined the world – the point is to improve it”. (With a nod to Karl Marx) Today is the United Nations International Day of Democracy. At a time when democracy is under attack in so many parts of the world, the day could not be more important. But rather than activists satisfying ourselves with glib platitudes, we should ask deeper questions about what’s going wrong. One obvious area we should look at is the disconnect between democracy and economy.
The media has been under attack for a long time. Sadly though, this is not only from dictators, corrupt criminal networks and those who benefit from obscuring the truth about what is happening in society. This we expect. We can handle our enemies. What is equally threatening now is the pressure from commercial and economic forces, and the shift to digital media, which has reduced advertising revenues that for a century held up print media, and the daily newspaper in particular.
On 2 September 2019, we published the first edition of Maverick Citizen, a new section of the Daily Maverick that would focus on news and views about activism, human rights and social justice. We promised a springtime for social justice journalism.
That was a year ago.
The launch of the ‘People’s Climate Justice Charter’ this week is important. It is the product of an exemplary campaign, five years of consultation and social mobilisation led by the South African Food Sovereignty Campaign. However, the real challenges to ensure it is taken seriously by society are just beginning.
No recovery without redistribution: No ‘social contract’ without meaningful inclusion of civil society
After President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the move to Lockdown Level 2 in his address to the nation on Saturday night, 15 August, South Africa entered a new phase of the Covid-19 pandemic. But what will this mean to us in our day-to-day lives?
How do we pay fitting tribute to Dr Lungile Pepeta and the 181 other healthcare workers who have so far laid down their lives in the struggle against Covid-19?
South Africa is at a crossroads. All of the strengths we have as a society, which could and should have been mobilised against Covid-19 still exist. There is still an enormous reservoir of solidarity, resources and ideas. We can still save lives, rebuild livelihoods, push back Covid-19 and birth a better society. But ‘in the time of contagion the lack of solidarity is first and foremost the lack of imagination’.
A Love Letter to Social Justice Activists: Now is the time to change the world, tomorrow may be too late
These days, civil society often seems to be the last redoubt of dignity and solidarity. It is a place where love and concern for fellow human beings still drives politics. A place where the noble spirit of sacrifice that animated Nelson Mandela and many other freedom fighters has not been snuffed out. But as much as Covid-19 needs action to defend people’s lives and livelihoods, it also now needs the courage to take risks to fight forward for a fair and equal society.