Three reasons #UniteBehind is different from #ZumaMustFall and #BlackMonday

Civil society organisations in Cape Town are marched to Parliament on Monday afternoon to call for the removal of President Jacob Zuma. This came ahead of Speaker of Parliament Baleka Mbete’s decision on the no-confidence vote.

The coalition, which calls itself #UniteBehind, is taking centre stage and Monday’s march promises to be quite different from previous campaigns calling for Zuma’s fall.

The #ZumaMustFall and #BlackMonday campaigns were met with considerable criticism from the public, particularly from those who consider themselves to be politically progressive. People complained that the earlier campaigns and marches reflected narrow political aims, whitewashed crowds and gave the impression that many supporters only really cared about state capture because it directly affected their privileged positions in South Africa. The racist undertones that crept up didn’t help much either. Many who opposed Zuma’s leadership felt they were left with the choice of either remaining silent about state corruption or marching with people who shared little of their vision for a just and equal South Africa.

But the #UniteBehind coalition seems to be something quite different. Here are three reasons why you might want to consider uniting behind it:

1. They’re calling for more substantial changes than just the removal of President Zuma

#UniteBehind’s vision for South Africa includes:

  • free decolonised education;
  • a universal basic income;
  • land redress for black African, Indian and Coloured – particularly working-class – people
    a living wage for workers
  • an end to gender-based violence for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people to enjoy freedom, equality and dignity;
  • dignity for immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers;
  • radical economic wealth creation and redistribution; and
  • a move towards solar, wind and other renewable energy sources.

2. Many of the organisations behind the movement are reputable agents of change

Some of the organisations represented in the coalition include: the Alternative Information and Development Centre, Centre for Environmental Rights, Equal Education, Ndifuna Ukwazi, Right2Know, Section27, the Social Justice Coalition, Sonke Gender Justice, the Treatment Action Campaign, and the Women’s Legal Centre.

Sonke Gender Justice and the Women’s Legal Centre specialise in work dealing with gender equality and women’s rights. Sonke also campaigns and acts as an interest group for the LGBTQIA+ community. Ndifuna Ukwazi is one of the organisations behind the Reclaim the City movement in Cape Town which continues to put pressure on the city to effectively introduce affordable housing for the poor in the inner city. Equal Education has been one of the chief proponents of fighting for quality public education in South Africa – and have notably supported #FeesMustFall activists in the call for free decolonised education.

These organisations have been pushing for structural changes in South Africa long before President Zuma’s scandals arose, and it seems likely they’ll be fighting for these causes long after as well.

The overall sense is that the #UniteBehind coalition is made of many organisations that work hard to represent the interests of South Africa’s most marginalised.

3. The organisers recognise that #ZumaMustFall did not represent a just and equal vision of South Africa and want to do better
Zackie Achmat, renowned activist and member of the #UniteBehind sectariat, wrote on some of the concerns progressives had been voicing about the anti-#StateCapture campaigns.

“Why the focus on Zuma when racism, sexism, inequality and unemployment are largely structural? Why the clamour about ‘state capture’ now if capitalist interests have administered the South African state from its inception?” he asked.

Newly-formed South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu), who had previously been highly critical of the anti-#StateCapture campaigns, have now also thrown its support behind #UniteBehind. Initially Saftu condemned the marches on Monday, saying, “They are just marching for a return to ‘the status quo’ and delude themselves that the problems of the Zuma era will be resolved by a return to ‘normal’ capitalism or ‘business as usual.” But Saftu decided that it would be joining the people’s march on Monday, meaning that worker’s voices representing trade unions will now also be represented.

The #UniteBehind march will meet at 3pm on Keizersgracht Street, near Parliament, to call for Zuma to be recalled.

“This is just the beginning of a path to building a just and equal South Africa where the people shall share in the country’s wealth,” the coalition said on its Facebook page.

Editor’s note: this story has been updated.

Featured image via Unite Behind on Twitter