Tristan McCormick.

Masifundise - South Africa

Project Description

Preston Public Interest Career Fund Recipient

While at Masifundise, I gained a broad and thorough understanding of the socio-economic, political, and historical context for the marginalization of the small-scale or artisanal fishery sector in South Africa. Further, I learned how a mature and functioning community-based organization can be established that is conscious of that broader context but is also tailored to the individual communities and able to accurately assess, inform and transmit their opinions, even when its constituents suffer from crippling educational deficits, economic hardship and political marginalization. Lastly, I was offered glimpses of how the operations of the community-based organization influence the higher political arena at the legislative and regulatory policy level of the national government.

I spent much of my time outside of meetings reviewing court documents, internal Masifundise memos, and material published by Masifundise to establish the context for the project on which I was working, namely the historical legacy of colonial rule and Apartheid in the fishing community as well as the ruling party’s approach to natural resource management. This review process was hugely informative, especially regarding the legal framework that had been established to govern the harvesting of marine living resources, and the Masifundise constituency’s areas of conflict within that framework.

I quickly came to see the small-scale or artisanal fishery sector’s ongoing battle for recognition in South Africa as a sort of case study in the neoliberal policies of the ruling African National Congress (ANC). To understand the larger context of those overarching ANC policies I read we are the poors by South African struggle historian Ashwin Desai, which details and discusses the environment of privatization and deregulation that has dominated the ANC’s economic policy since Apartheid’s end. This book, in conjunction with my other readings gave me a wide and penetrating grasp on the historical, political, socio-economic and legal context for the work that I was doing.

By the end of my time in the field around 30 August, I had learned huge amounts about how one establishes community-based organizations, keeping in mind my observations of the founding and guiding principles of the mature organizations that I had earlier observed in the Western and Northern Cape. However I also learned how perpetually incomplete one’s education in the area is. I realized that community-based organizing is inherently local, and you can never be fully confident in your approach to any given community. Every location is uniquely complex and what works in one town may not work in another. The only thing you can be sure of is that you will need to be constantly flexible to the exigency of the given circumstances. However I can say with confident that I made huge strides towards understanding community organization and advocacy

Project Details

  • Date September 1, 2011
  • Tags 2011, Africa, Preston, Social Service

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