"The APF fought against neo-liberalism or capitalism at a time when no one was prepared to fight ...
the fights were very low key, isolated, fragmented, there was no real program, no visibility and they could be easily undermined, isolated and contained. But APF came on the scene and challenged the ANC clearly openly on problematic policy, ideological grounds..."
The immediate impetus for the formation of the APF in July 2000, derived from increasing opposition by students, workers and the unemployed poor to a combination of neoliberal measures implemented by the City of Johannesburg (COJ) and the University of Witwatersrand (Wits).
Out-sourcing of work at Wits and COJ was resulting in large-scale job losses. Tens of thousands of poor community residents were being cut-off from their electricity and water supply as a result of COJ's cost-recovery model, and thousands of others were being evicted from council and bond houses because they could no longer pay the rent/bond.
Additionally, many of the individual activists involved in the push towards the formal establishment of the APF had been leading activists within various structures of the Tripartite Alliance and had tried to fight the implementation of neo-liberal policies from within those structures. The shutting down of such opposition and dissent (in many cases, through expulsion) provided further momentum.
While the APF's genesis was embedded in historic and ongoing macro political and ideological struggles, there was no formal alignment to any political organisation or organised ideological tendency. Nonetheless from the start, the APF clearly identified the struggles of poor/working class communities as the prime force and constituency to lead a more immediate battle against "capitalist neo-liberalism ... to effect fundamental shifts in the basic service/needs policies of the state so that the majority of South Africans can enjoy the full realisation of their basic human needs and rights". The longer-term strategic vision of the APF sought to, "bring about radical changes in the character and content of democracy in South Africa so that ordinary poor and working people can have popular and effective control over their lives."
“During the apartheid era, the ANC used to preach that, 'We won’t be doing this, that and that...' but after they were in power they did exactly the same thing that the apartheid government was doing.”
Mashao Chauke - Tshwane Region & Schubart Park Residents Association
The overall organisational and political purpose was to independently unite these various grievances/struggles and mobilise support from broader community and other ‘civil society' organisations around a broad ‘anti-privatisation' programme. In order to pursue such a programme, the APF set as its goal, the building of a mass movement through educating, organising and mobilising on the ground, centred on consistent mass action. Thus was the APF born.
“The APF represented one of the most alive, one of the most significant movements and a revival ... because it was a difficult period after ’96. And suddenly... things were alive again, people were wanting to struggle or wanting to do things; it was a very significant moment ..."