Module 2

Pre-module 2 work 

Preparation for our Thursday (Activity 10) town-hall discussion with activists and existing movements

On receiving this Module 2 Fellows Guide, please take time ahead of the module or between Sunday and Thursday morning (when this activity will take place) to critically engage the readings (links below) provided, do your own research, ask your comrades or fellow activists what they know (including comrades from these movements), to prepare for this town hall meeting. This is your meeting and an opportunity to draw lessons for those who have and are taking a political economy approach to their campaign and movement building. Bring your questions, comments or any related points to the meeting, and we will have activists from these movements, to respond and engage. 


Module 2 will be on the conceptualising of the political economy, its impact and how it can be used as a frame of analysis. Time will be spent understanding global politics/economy and their impact in local communities, as they control health systems and health inequality.

Taking context into account means we witness and acknowledge the communities where we work, the environment and the social conditions under which we live, and the authorities that we challenge. As activists, our lives and work impact on, and are in turn impacted by, the different political, social, and economic contexts at different levels (personal, family, organisational, community and beyond), and thereby influences our choices and decisions. Context can either affect or optimise our agency. 

This session will focus on the leadership for social change aspects of leadership development, and the building of health movements, where we will deepen our focus on the leadership journey, the building of a movements for health through existing movements for health equity.

For this day, Tekano takes the approach of Town Hall Meetings/Discussions, known in South Africa as a platform for communities to engage, government, policy or even plan how to tackle challenges faced. We will take our learning on political economy into engagement with fellow activists as we unpack the current political context and what it means for building a movement for health.

For the town hall discussion, comrades and activists from, the global People’s Health Movement (PHM) Africa section, the trade union NEHAWU, the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), and Section27 a law centre, will join us for a discussion on building movements for health, challenges faced, what are the gains and what does this all mean for activists?  We are also hoping to have a union organising community health workers with us but have not been able to confirm this by the time of circulating this pre-contact work.

You, our Cohort 4 Fellows will be the audience, while activists from these movements will engage with questions and comments from Fellow activists for health. 

Questions for your preparatory reflection

  1. What motivated the birth of this movement?
  2. How did the political context contribute to its success of failure?
  3. What are the key lessons for activists for social change?
  4. What lessons could you draw as an activist for health equity?

Brief profiles of each movement are included on the pages that follow.

Brief profiles on each movement or campaigning organisation

These are brief profiles from the internet. Remember that your preparatory task for the town hall meeting with activists from these movements, is to do further research on your own or with other Fellows, including finding and engaging current or past activists from these movements yourself: 

Treatment Action Campaign – a movement
The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) was founded in December 1998 to campaign for access to AIDS treatment. It is widely acknowledged as one of the most important civil society organisations active on AIDS in the developing world. One of its most significant victories was the 2002 Constitutional Court ruling in which the South African government was ordered to provide anti-retroviral drugs to prevent transmission of HIV from mothers to their babies during birth. In the years following the judgment the TAC’s campaigns were instrumental in securing a universal government-provided AIDS treatment programme, which has since become the world’s largest. In 2006 the New York Times called the TAC “the world’s most effective AIDS group,” while the founding director of UNAIDS, Dr Peter Piot, has written that “TAC was in my opinion the smartest activist group of all, worldwide.” In 2007, in large part owing to pressure from the TAC, the National Strategic Plan on HIV, STIs and Tuberculosis 2007-2011 was adopted by Parliament.

Today the TAC continues to represent users of the public healthcare system in South Africa, and to campaign and litigate on critical issues related to the quality of and access to healthcare. The organisation currently has over 8,000 members and a network of 182 branches and provincial offices in seven of South Africa’s nine provinces. Members elect the leadership of the organisation, which ensures accountability and that the TAC’s policies reflect the realities on the ground. Members receive basic training in the science of HIV, TB and related conditions, and about their rights in the healthcare system. Through its branches and members, the TAC monitors thousands of clinics, and hospitals. Its members are the people who need the public health system to work, so they are the first to notice when it doesn’t. In addition to the large national campaigns, the local activism of the TAC’s members is the true lifeblood of the organisation. By organising locally, our members demand accountability and quality healthcare services where the services are delivered.


National Education Health and Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU)
NEHAWU was founded on 27th and 28th June 1987 by workers from the Education, Health, Government and Social Welfare sectors. The Union is affiliated to COSATU – Congress of South African Trade Unions, which is the biggest federation in the country with over 1.9 million members.

NEHAWU struggles for union recognition, a living wage and a free and democratic South Africa. NEHAWU members faced brutal repression from the apartheid regime which saw the union as a direct challenge to its control of the public service. In other sectors, bitter struggles were fought against employers with reactionary practices like the Lifecare Group, Clinic Holdings, various old age homes, universities and technikons.

The battle cry of NEHAWU’s national strike in 1992 was “Wawutshelwe ubani ukuthi I-NEHAWU ifile?” Who told you that NEHAWU is dead? This slogan highlights the union’s will to survive.

Comrade Pholotho, who was later known as “Timer”, certainly hit the nail on the head when he said: “We involved workers in politics. Ours was the right strategy. We were not confined to the workplace”. The struggle was more than the bread and butter issues. Clements Kadalie’s Industrial Commercial Union (ICU), formed in 1919, was similar. “The ICU reached out to the rural masses, taking up their demand for land and recruiting tens of thousands of peasants, including a number of chiefs.”

Many comrades charted the way for us – EJ Khaile, J La Guma, John Gomas and De Norman built the labour movement through the ICU. Another union was the Industrial Workers of Africa. Stalwarts from the 1940s and 1950s include Selby Msimang, Moses Kotane, JB Marks, Moses Mabhida and Joe Slovo.


People’s Health Movement – a movement
The People’s Health Movement (PHM) is a global network bringing together grassroots health activists, civil society organisations and academic institutions from around the world, particularly from low- and middle-income countries (LandMIC). We currently have a presence in around 70 countries. Guided by the People’s Charter for Health (PCH), PHM works on various programmes and activities and is committed to Comprehensive Primary Health Care and addressing the Social, Environmental and Economic Determinants of Health.

The world is facing a global health crisis characterised by growing inequities within and among nations and millions of preventable deaths, especially among the poor. These are in large degree due to unfair economic structures which lock people into poverty and poor health. In 2000, concerned activists, academics and health workers got together for the first People’s Health Assembly. The People’s Charter for Health (PCH) – our founding document – was developed, and PHM was born.

The People’s Charter for Health is the framework within which PHM acts and offers strategic guidance to the movement. It is both a tool for advocacy and a framework for action. By endorsing the Charter, one becomes part of PHM. The PCH endorses the Alma Ata declaration, and affirms health as a social, economic, and political issue but above all, a fundamental human right.


Section27 – a campaigning organisation
SECTION27 is a public interest law centre that seeks to achieve substantive equality and social justice in South Africa. Guided by the principles of the Constitution, SECTION27 uses law, advocacy, legal literacy, research, and community mobilisation to achieve access to healthcare services and basic education. SECTION27 aims to achieve structural change and accountability to ensure the dignity and equality of everyone.