In the past weeks, there have been concerns about the upcoming 6th World Social Forum on Migrations (WSFM) scheduled to take place in Johannesburg from the 5th until the 8th December 2014: Updates about the proceedings had been scarce and some NGOs were reported to have withdrawn from the organisational team. These concerns were heightened on November 21 by a press release, in which the city of Johannesburg announced to “withdraw support to the hosting of the WSFM 2014” because of “governance issues” within “the fragmented civil society movement”. According to the release, attempts at mediation had failed and the cities’ suggestion to postpone the meeting had been rejected.
This decision also meant that the University of Johannesburg, Soweto Campus, was no longer available as a venue for the event. But in an interview last night, a representative of the local organizing committee reassured me that the event will take place (almost) as planned and that a new venue had been secured – one with a very symbolic meaning:
Constitution Hill in Braamfontein Johannesburg. Since 1892, the “Fort” in this precinct had been an infamous prison. Many of the inmates were political prisoners and fighters against the apartheid regime, including Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. Nowadays, the area hosts several museums; it is close to the University of the Witwatersrand, where accommodation is offered for the WSFM delegates.
The organizers are very upset with the decision of the city of Johannesburg, but determined to go through with the event and its numerous workshops, plenaries, rallies etc. Without knowing all the intricacies of the disagreements (yet), the suggestion to postpone the meeting seems very unrealistic to me, since many of the delegates and observers (including myself) had already booked and organized their travels.
I plan to post the full interview with more information on the controversy as well as the meetings’ agenda, program, keynote speaker etc. soon, so stay tuned.