Following break away sessions each of the four commissions presented their resolutions. Discussions were made after each presentation and one presenter in each Group was asked to integrate the presentation with the discussions that followed and compile a comprehensive report. The four reports are presented below.
What are the challenges in building a co-operative movement in bottom – up approach?
What are the suggestions that can build the movement?
What role should government play in movement building?
What time frames should be given to build movement in the Eastern Cape?
Response to question 1
Interference by funders like government departments and municipal officials. It was argued that when funders interfere with the operations of the co-operatives, this undermines the autonomy of the co-operatives and leads to co-operatives being dependent on the funders and most of the time this happens where co-operatives do not even know that they are autonomous associations that cannot be dictated to by funders.
Such conduct affect movement building since the influence by funders plays a very crucial role in the way decisions are made not only in those affected co-operatives but also in the entire movement.
Lack of co-operation among co-operatives. Co-operatives tend to compete with each other and therefore will resist any co-operation amongst themselves since they regard each other as competitors, this could be attributed to lack of access to markets and lack of understanding of co-operatives’ values and principles. Due to lack of understanding co-operatives’ principles, some co-operators are driven by self and personal interests.
Misunderstanding the concept of ‘movement building’ .Co-operators do not understand this concept and would therefore battle to involve themselves in something they do not understand.
Political landscape is said not to be level since not only co-operators lack understanding of this concept but also politicians in local municipalities as well as government officials who through this misunderstanding sometimes act as if they own co-operatives especially those that they have rendered support to.
Co-operatives are always told what is good for them by those that play a supportive role to them.
Since there is lack of understanding of principles and values, co-operators do not have social aspirations as they should in line with co-operatives principles.
Co-operatives do not have a clear understanding of sectors in which they operate which makes it even harder to organize per sector.
The commission argued that dependency syndrome also plays a role in weak movement building. Although the movement appreciates support (financial and or non-financial support) from government and private sector, there is a strong feeling that it discourages a strong independent movement.
The drive to build movement has been an on-going programme for a long time and in many conferences resolutions would be taken on how take this battle forward but failure to translate resolutions into programme has been a challenge for the movement.
Although the movement acknowledges the need to build the movement applying the bottom up approach, weak structures at grassroots level is an inhibiting factor.
Response to question 2
It was agreed that the movement can only be built from local structures. The resolution was taken that from the committees in the district fora, two members must be elected to represent each district to co-ordinate the new structure that will organize the movement in sectors.
The commission also adopted a view that assistance should be requested from government to support the implementation of the programme that the new structure will come up with.
After a long debate and deliberations, the commission agreed that there can only be a strong movement if it is based in sectors and examples of the financial services and housing sectors were used as sectors that are strong and organized.
Response to question 3
Government should assist with resources. It has was heard earlier on in the discussions that one of the reasons that contributed to the failure of the districts and provincial fora was lack of resources, e.g. not having funds for transportation of members to attend meetings. It was agreed that a proposal to government to have budget allocated to assist in movement building, a specific mention was made to the Department of Economic Development Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEDEAT) to make this allocation as it has done in all the other pillars in its Provincial Strategic Plan.
Government’s assistance should only take a supportive form and let the movement make its own decisions about what’s good for it and what it needs to be strong and have a voice that would influence policies and regulations.
The commission’s resolution was that, since the term for which the interim structures were allocated for has lapsed that a new structure be formed of the two elected representatives from districts convene and develop a programme going forward. The new structure should be set up to facilitate formation of structures in various sectors and should also draft its terms of reference.
It was also proposed that the new structure be given six weeks to convene a meeting where they will report progress.
The way Foward
The house agreed with the commission’s proposals of forming structures from sectors. It has also been agreed that the elected representatives from local and district structures co-ordinate the formation of the interim structure.
A suggestion was made to learn from financial and housing sectors. More information must be collected about sectors that exist within the co-operative movement as a whole.
A six-week period to establish the interim structure was endorsed by the house.
A need to consider how to build the movement nationally is very critical although provincial circumstances should not be overlooked.
The Institute For Co-operatives Development and Co-operatives Development Centers are entrusted with the duty to assist in building the movement. Although government’s support and assistance could never be more emphasized, caution was made against over-reliance on it.Clearly defined programmes should be developed by the newly formed structure.
The house resolved that the movement should be built applying a bottom up approach in various sectors.