Church Land Programme – Working in solidarity with the landless poor!

What is your core business?

The Church Land Programme (CLP) is an independent non-profit organisation that was initiated in 1996 in response to the land reform process taking place in South Africa. It works to affirm, learn from and journey with those who are systematically excluded and impoverished in their struggles related to land and justice. CLP connects with movements and groups to learn from and affirm their struggles as a key intervention in giving power to ordinary people. Working with grassroots formations is rooted in an animation approach which is about an emancipatory practice that ensures that those who do not count make themselves count. It is based on democratic values where egalitarianism is an underlying principle.

What have you been doing during COVID, and have you learnt any new insights about your practice?

The corona crisis and the ‘lockdown’ restrictions on activity, movement and physical distancing dramatically affected the work of CLP. We talk about our work in terms of proximity to the life and struggles of the people and formations we work with and learn from in terms like ‘being present’, ‘walking with’, or a ‘living solidarity’. When we literally cannot be in the places, or listen to the voices, or be present in the meetings, or participate in the actions of the people, there is no ‘business-as-usual’ for us!

We embraced experiments in new forms of sustaining connection and mutual learning. We anticipate that what we discovered during this time of disruption and experimentation might turn out to be helpful as we “tool up” for whatever a “new normal” may turn out to be! We had to re-think and experiment and mostly focused on (a) sustaining &/or maintaining contact; (b) providing encouragement and support for people and their efforts to live, to organise and to resist; and (c) hearing and learning how the people that we’re in touch with are experiencing life and activism during the corona crisis period.

We made time to reflect on the reality of Corona in South Africa and the challenges it poses for emancipatory praxis. We shared these reflections through our Padkos, and also published them with Daraja Press in their Thinking Freedom series, in a booklet entitled In, Against, Beyond Corona. It seems to us that kindness, social solidarity, and an appropriate scale of time are some important ways of being / relating that need to be sustained to move away from the “normality of death”.

What are your dreams / visions / plans for the work you do post-lockdown?

Throughout the lockdown period and the Covid-19 surge, CLP staff continued to seek ways to hold on to good praxis and also embrace the new reality of physical distancing, limitations on travels, limitations on gatherings, etc.  We developed short and medium term plans that will help us focus and hold us accountable for the time and resources we deploy. Two key priority processes will form part of our plans: (1)broadening participation and (2) UnSilencing the silenced by breaking patterns of domination.

How do you see solidarity and social justice?

Building and sustaining movements is in the hands of the people. CLP works to support them. Its practice of listening has created a strong relationship of trust with local groups. This relationship is the foundation of CLP’s accountability to the people it works with. Through the connection between CLP and movements, solidarity actions have been sustained through on-the-ground organizing and action, allowing movements to lead and shape their struggle. People’s movements, organised groups of the marginalised, and those acting in solidarity from within institutional spaces are the key groups with whom CLP interacts.

Click here to visit the Church Land Programme website.