Urban social movements in metropolitan Cape Town South Africa
Williams, John James
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This study set out to investigate the conditions under which urban issues triggered grassroots mobilization in Metropolitan Cape Town, South Africa between 1976 and 1986. It sought to understand the form taken by such collective behavior and tried to discover the relations of power that inform urban social movements, locally, regionally and nationally. I did not only observe neighborhood social life, but neighborhood-based protests. Through a close observation of social practices in different neighborhoods I have managed to document the influence of urban social movements on the dominant relations of power in Cape Town. In this regard, I have demonstrated that through the organizational strategies and mobilizational tactics of neighborhood associations, political institutions in Black townships have been turned upside down; social relationships in some neighborhoods have been dramatically challenged and reviewed, and perhaps most significantly the legacy of constructed cultural silence amongst the oppressed and exploited has been significantly eroded from unconscious acquiescence to the status quo to a conscious disobedience to the dominant relations of power politically, economically and ideologically. It is in the mobilizational moments of resistance and organizational strategies of city-wide neighborhood networks in the form of urban social movements that there emerge, through conscious struggle, the organic potential and conjunctural possibilities for the construction and propagation of counterhegemonic social relations in the arena of conflict and contestation where the State, since 1976 is finding it increasingly difficult to elicit the consent of the governed. Thus, it is in this historically-informed context that urban social movements are first and foremost an expression of an organized attempt by the people at the grassroots level to transform the dominant Apartheid practices at all levels of society.