Project areas

CLP does not generally undertake work outside of its core process of animation. It will take on projects to explore themes that emerge from its work and that are designed as integral to its core process. Across all these thematic areas, as well as in our approach to them as such, we continue to refine and share what we described earlier as CLP’s ‘political thinking about our praxis’ where appropriate.

Six thematic areas have emerged thus far:


The broad land question, as noted earlier, frames so much of CLP’s work in different ways. We believe that a holistic understanding of land shows it to be a fundamental basis of the life of the people, of community, of shelter, of neighbourliness, of community, of the enjoyment of nature and the production of food, but too few people have enough, productive, and sustained, access to land in South Africa.

On balance, government policy is not just failing to deal with the land problem, and not just dealing with it too slowly, but is taking us in the wrong direction in any case. Aligning policy and practice of commercial land-uses (especially agricultural) with the interests of elites (in South Africa and globally) is a disaster, and it relegates land-use policy and practice for the poor to an ineffective side-show marked by lofty rhetoric and zero positive impact.

Land-access and land-use policy and practices that are shaped by the dominant class interests continue to dictate what goes down. For CLP, the land, and the ‘land question’, is best resolved in the hands and the minds of the people.

Attacks on the People

The lives of the poor are under attack on all fronts. Their resistance is often met with state violence and their humanity is continuously undermined. They are excluded from meaningful participation in deciding their own future, they are evicted from their homes and land, and they are confronted by a consistent bias for the rich in the workings of state institutions at all levels.

Against this, CLP supports the freedom of all to own their futures, respecting the dignity of others and their environments. We respect the thinking of people organised to defend their dignities against these attacks. Often this takes the form of actions to defend and advance ‘rights’ in institutions of established and/or state power and representative democracy.

However, it is necessary to think critically about these categories of ‘rights’ and the state. For CLP, we see a fundamental split between state politics and emancipatory politics, to which CLP is committed.

Women, Food Sovereignty and Livelihoods

We recall that the origins of the idea of food sovereignty lie in concrete struggles by landless people and peasants for life and dignity. We must acknowledge that in South Africa we barely have the beginnings of ‘food sovereignty’. If food sovereignty in South Africa is to be truly rooted, and remain faithful to its origins, then it can only emerge in and through the self-defined and self-led struggles of real people – especially the landless and peasant farmers. Movements of the landless and the rural poor remain weak and conditions for organising are profoundly difficult. As part of its core process, CLP works with groups who continue to ensure their access to land, and we facilitate the connection of several rural groups with the skills of organic food production. CLP also facilitates exchange visits and skill sharing between these groups. CLP also engages on a sustained basis with groups of women who are exploring and creating varied and viable livelihood strategies to strengthen their role within society. For example, alongside food production, these strategies have included producing and marketing clothing both locally and provincially, as well as beadwork that is sold locally, nationally and internationally.

Struggling with faith: faith in struggle

Money presents itself as a world of freedom, as an opening of possibilities for all. In fact it is just the opposite. “The logic of money is the logic of closure”, says Holloway, who quotes Ernst Bloch saying “Now is the time to learn hope”. Our resistance & opposition is expressed in refusals, experiments, and struggles for ways of ‘doing’ that we determine for ourselves, and that follow a different logic. In this way we disrupt the world as it is, and create cracks in the system where our dignity and creativity is expressed and can flower. This rebellion of the poor and oppressed against the conditions of their poverty and oppression is connected with the unfolding of their (and our) full human being. In this ‘becoming’ of true selves through struggle, is surely also the becoming of God’s promise of good news. This is a reclamation of the scandalous truth that we are all children of God, created equal and beautiful, created for equality and beauty. … Theologically, ‘the ordinary struggles of ordinary people, become a sacrament of God’s presence and proclamation of resurrection’ (Mondini, 2007).” This leads us to affirm that the concrete struggles of those who do not count, mark the sacramental presence of God in the world and the opportunity of hope and life. CLP has thought of its work as concerning the relationship of people, church and land. Taking the option for the poor gives renewed force to the question then: ‘Who is the church?’ For many people, the institutional church is not present in their lives and suffering, but appears rather as a servant of power. The ‘people’s church’ (irrespective of denominational belonging) nevertheless remains very much part of their lives and struggles. CLP has created a variety of spaces for reflection through which people can explore and make explicit the reality and formulations of their own faith in the midst of struggles of justice and dignity. At the same time, CLP remains cognisant of the social power of the institutional church and of the fact that it is not monolithic – there are spaces where it can and does shift. It has seen the God of the powerful in the institutional churches confronted with the scarred and weeping face of God in the shack settlements, and believes something true and powerful emerges from this confrontation.

Learning in struggles

Learning is reflecting on and challenging what we know and how we know it. This happens throughout society. However, the particular learning/s in spaces of action to change the material and social conditions by/of oppressed people, are especially significant for CLP – as these conditions shape the commonly held assumptions that reinforce people’s oppression. For those who face brutalisation by systems of exploitation, and yet resist their dehumanisation through collective action and thinking, learning is a critical part of the struggle. In reflecting on the work of CLP in its connections with groups, formations and movements of the poor, a staff member of CLP sees the struggles of justice and dignity as “being about confronting systems of power. It is a struggle that rests on issues of equality, justice and social transformation where the rights of being human and rights to a place and to a decent life take priority. Critically important is that this struggle is a school through which its members derive new meanings and power to engage their reality.” (D. Ntseng, Knowledge Production in/for action: A case study of Abahlali baseMjondolo movement, 2014, pg.3.) CLP will continue this focus on knowledge production within formations and groups of the poor, particularly knowledge that emerges out of action, and then is fed back to strengthen action.

People’s struggles, natural resources and extractive industries

For CLP, hearing the stories and struggles of people we connect with in so many different places, it is becoming clear that problems around water and the exploitation of natural resources in our area (e.g. coal, gas through fracking) are really common and seem to be getting worse.

We have been made aware of mining companies’ intentions to expand their operations and open new areas for extraction and exploitation in KZN. In our discussions and learning with groups with whom we connect, CLP has become more acutely aware of the true nature of the water crisis, of what lies ‘behind and beyond the tap’. When it has to be acknowledged at all, the crisis is presented in ways that naturalise it (“it’s a drought”), technicise it (“leave it to experts and their technologies”), and/or individualise it (“here’s what you can do at individual­ level”).

But looking carefully and collectively ‘behind and beyond the tap’ starts to show the real issues and their political character.