Building vibrant and sustainable co-operative enterprises that stimulate the social economy of the province


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Mr Zacharia Matsela

 In his presentation Mr Matsela spelt out the purpose of the presentation which among other things included the stimulation of debate, rethinking and reflection on renewal or rebuilding of co-operative movement, the approach to be taken, lessons to be learnt from previous attempts and importantly to suggest a strategy and approach towards an apex organisation. Outlining the context in which co-operatives operate Mr Matsela observed the following characteristics;

  • Difficult market dominated environment

  • Market re-organising society in its own interests-pricing and accessibility

  • Need to avoid swallowing up of co-operatives by the market and end up being private businesses.

  • Demobilised civil society – accept anything

  • Unemployment, poverty, misery & desperation – Lure for Multipurpose coops

  • Significant reconstruction and development challenges facing post-apartheid.

On the vision that should drive co-operative movement Mr Matsela pointed out that co-operatives in dialogue with the society as a whole should define the vision. Furthermore, the vision has to address social, economic and gender inequalities, location of co-operatives in the economic and social life of the communities. The vision has to be driven by strong and vibrant co-operative sector that’s economically, systematically, logically and culturally sound.

Mr Matsela expressed the need for a strategy that embraces building from below;

  • emerging organically from below genuinely;

  • Past experience & practice - learn by doing;

  • Through self-activity and initiative;

  • Own language, practices of success, learning methods;

  • Defining its own way, making its own mistakes & taking responsibility for its destiny;

  • Problem solving & painstaking institutional development

Mr Matsela emphasised the need for the movement to be self sufficient and not bureaucratically controlled. A need to be realistic in terms of setting targets was highlighted. The principles of building from below were outlined as follows

  • A genuine co-operative works with ICA principles & values in theory & practice.

  • Bottom up practices of accountability, communication and solidarity.

  • State support should be enabling & strategic but not controlling or creating dependence.

  • Co-operatives organized by sectors.

  • Wider alliances based on mutual respect & independence.

  • Support relationships informed by needs.

  • Harnessing continental & international solidarity to compliment own capacity & learn.

Discussing a co-operative economy Mr Matsela noted the following:

  1. A Co-operative is not a stepping stone for developing private businesses. Co-operatives are an end in themselves.

  2. Intra-co-operative relations through networks, links, forward and backward linkages can compose a parallel economy to that controlled by private business.

  3. Builds a new logic to accumulation:

  • Re-organises production & consumption

  • Captures markets & sectors

  • Self-finances

  • New approach to surplus distribution

  • Decent work and not exploitation

  • Solidarity relations in the economy over exploitative & profit-maximising relations

The role of the state was outlined as including Ideological and institutional support, this however, does not mean control. The state is also expected to create a supportive and enabling environment,

  • Legal regulations and statutory provisions

  • Sectoral based legal and policy reform

  • Preferential treatment for government procurement

  • Tax reductions or exemptions

  • Facilitating access to land, markets, grants & credit

  • Anti-trust regulations to limit monopolistic market power

  • Facilitate information, education and training initially

  • Facilitate for auditing and consulting services initially

Mr Matsela emphasised the importance of a tertiary apex in building movement. An apex body for co-operatives to serve as “COSATU”/ “UDF” of all co-operatives was underlined. This should also scale down to sectoral apexes. The main purpose of which is to be the main representative and voice of co-operatives on issues of common concern to all co-operatives across different sectors and regions. These concerns entail legal, economic and social matters at provincial, national and international levels.

Mr Matsela articulated that an apex has to begin with primary, secondary, regional and provincial organisations. The need to learn and build from the current state was emphasised. The existing sectors include

  • SAHCA – organises co-operatives in housing and collective property ownership

  • SAFOBS – organises burial & life insurance co-operatives

  • SACCOL/NCBA – organises Savings, credit & Financial Services banking co-operatives.

  • SANAWCO – supposed to organise worker co-operatives

  • Others – still to be organised are in the: Consumer sector, Marketing & Supply sector, Social & Care giving sector.

Mr Matsela presented some of the practical tasks and ideas that need to be considered in movement building and these include

  1. Modest goals & realistic time-frames allowing for organic development

  2. Catalysts also needed-Co-operative movement forums at provincial, regional & local levels

  3. Evaluation date annually at the AGM or co-operatives week conference

  4. Building co-operative movement capacity for sustainability:

  5. building a network of support organisations;

  6. capacity in sectoral bodies and secondary co-operatives; and

  7. Co-operative development centres where appropriate. A national co-operatives college - eventually controlled, owned and driven by co-operatives.

  8. 6. Using research to identify co-operatives, learn about co-operative practices and build solidarity links along sectoral lines.

In his concluding remarks Mr Matsela outlined the role of SAHCA which is a housing sector co-operative movement. He pointed out that the organization has a political and social role for the support of the above mentioned Apex organization.Other sectors were urged to arise arguing that SAHCA alone cannot deliver or carry out the aforementioned roles alone.

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