“The work that has been done by the APF has been quite uplifting to some of the communities which have been there, and that has not been appreciated by organisations outside the APF … when you start to look back, to say somebody came up to you and said ‘I was helped by the APF I was not evicted from my house, I am still having access to water, I have resolved issues around electricity, my children were able to go to school’ - that even in itself will inspire to say the movement has to continue …”
The impact of the APF during its existence, given the limited timeframe, the accumulated challenges of ‘liberation movement’ loyalties and the serious lack of human and material resources – was multifaceted and substantial:
- It was at the forefront of: creating a new organisational ‘voice’ for those that had been socially, economically and politically marginalised;
- It instilled a new sense of collective activism and demand for social / political redress amongst poor communities;
- It helped shift the terrain of political and social engagement and debate in South African society as a whole and in the process, expand the boundaries of democratic politics and representation beyond the status quo framework;
- It managed to effect shifts of some specific socio-economic policies in favour of the poor.
“We have been fighting for the street lights - the street lights are there now. We have been fighting for roads because … now they are busy making some tar road although it’s not all the streets. Schooling has also improved, remember we had only one school called Matome but now we have two schools.”
The APF’s relevance stemmed from the reality of the ANC state’s betrayal of the broad working class (inclusive of the underemployed and unemployed), both organisationally and politically. Indeed, its very existence was a direct result of this and the accompanying capitalist neo-liberalism that was subsequently pursued.
Its role was to (partially) fill the organisational and political / ideological vacuum that had been created, so as to offer a new avenue for the voices and struggles of the poor and a means to impact on the most basic needs of the poor majority through mass mobilisation / action, organisational coherence, political engagement, educational initiatives and the creation of a new consciousness of the possibilities of radical change.
“I think you can finally tell the story of how the APF finally concludes. But hopefully that end is also a new beginning, the kinds of political formations and the kind of political practices and imagination it has forged, the kind of positive moments of the APF, is something that I do hope has a real future … “