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Monday, October 16, 2006

New Job: Saving the Environment Part II

A year and a half ago, I joined Jubilee South Africa to work on the total cancellation of Third World Debt, including the Apartheid Debt, and the payment of reparations for human rights abuses during Apartheid and environmental damage & pillage. For a while, that worked out. Took on Barclays Bank for its role in funding the SA Defence Force in 1976 (they gave 20 million rand to the army during the year of the Soweto Uprising and called in corporate social responsibility), made waves and got the message out about how Apartheid was propped up by multinational corporations, and, in particular, finance capital. This was achieved through a campaign of mass mobilisation of poor communities (including a large march through Africa's Wall Street, Sandton), based on the theory of direct action. It worked so well, that it forced organisational changes and readjusted the internal power structure of Jubilee; essentially moving from a NGO bravely scaling the heights of the next international conference into a the beginnings of a true social movement.

Unfortunately, this lead to a counter-revolution by elements within Jubilee (namely the Board) and a long, protracted, fairly public and nasty internal struggle. The first half of this year was consumed in this dispute, which led, amongst other low points, to myself, other staff members, and grassroots activists being hauled to the High Court by the board for occupying Jubilee's offices (yes, it got that bad, the offices were occupied for a month and a half by individual members of the organisation protesting the Board's undemocratic nature, it's refusal be held to account, and the ongoing attempted purge of staff). Anyway, Jubilee fell apart, with the donors walking away, the staff not being paid as a tactic to force submission, the entire staff resigning in protest (and I mean the whole staff, an amazing display of worker solidarity), and charges laid against some staff members (myself included) and activists. Hillbrow police station was not a fun place to spend some time.

Despite the occasional long-winded missive from reactionary elements, the Jubilee saga is over, and I can move on. For the past couple of months, I have been engaged in the ultra-exciting task of writing funding proposals for a Danish organisation, whom I won't name because they'll probably sue the hell out of me. That, thankfully, is drawing to a rapid close.

On the 15th of November, I'll be working for Earthlife Africa, running the Energy Policy Unit and trying to get South Africa to stop using coal for power generation and start using solar, wind and tidal methods. All of which sounds like a blast, and a tremendous challenge. So, back to saving the environment.

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