Category Archives: 2011 AGM

2011 AGM Report

Abahlali baseMjondolo (ABM) Movement, South Africa

Annual General Meeting (AGM) Report

Date of AGM
24 September 2011, 10am-5pm

Number of members in attendance
168 (excluding the outgoing executive committee of eight people)


After six years of all the struggles and successes of building an active base of participant leaders, Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM) is a movement at a key point of transition. With a core membership of 10,000+, and with its leadership having faced ongoing government-sponsored repression for its work, the movement is now taking stock of its successes, challenges and planning its next steps for the future. Nine branches were re-launched before the AGM and were thus constitutionally eligible to fully participate in the AGM. This meant that each of these branches could elect 22 delegates to vote in the AGM. These branches included: Annet Drive, Intake, Kennedy Road, Palmiet, KwaMashu, Richmond Farm B, Motala A, Siyanda, and Shallcross.

As with all AGMs, this one was a chance to have the membership hold its leaders and its movement accountable and to renew its mandate. This AGM also specifically looked to:

(1) vote on proposed constitutional amendments
(2) implement a new color coded voting system and
(3) cope with the transition of key leaders

AGM preparations and logistics

Prior to the AGM, there was task team selected to deal with all logistic and outreach preparations. The task team was selected through the general meeting process. The task team consisted of eight members who were not on the executive committee. They met weekly prior to the AGM. It was a challenge in the last 1-2 weeks prior to the AGM that some of the task team were for many reasons unable to complete the preparations for the meeting. It fell to 2-3 of the team and the office staff to complete the core preparations for the meeting including: materials productions, securing a venue, refining the AGM’s program, finalizing the food and transport for the day, coordinating the committees, ensuring the re-launch of branches and that all candidates for election were submitted. Having these tasks being taken up by this small number of people put the preparations in to a state of crisis as only a few people took up the work in the final stages.

Constitutional Amendments Voted on at AGM

1. changing term of service of the secretariat from 1 year to 2 years
2. moving Annual General Meetings at which a new secretariat is elected from a yearly event to an event held every two years
3. adding guidelines for launching an AbM branch to the constitution
4. adding the condition that only members active for at least a year can stand for election and that they can only stand if their community has successfully launched a branch that adheres to all the standards for branches to be in good standing as laid out in the constitutution

All of the above constitutional changes were passed with near unanimous accord. The amendments came directly from the people and the executive committee undertook a 6-month process to meet with branches to refine the constitutional amendments that were eventually presented at the AGM. The amendments were presented by the head of the constitution task team in a 15 minute speech to remind members of the proposals. While there was an opportunity for disagreement no one offered a dissenting vote. This may be because most in attendance had previously had space to ask for changes to be made to the amendments prior to their presentation at the AGM. While the change to the terms of the officers may be a practical necessity to ensure that the leadership has the appropriate time to learn and fulfill their jobs, their will need to be mechanisms in place to ensure that the lack of an annual electoral mandate for the movement’s leadership does not compromise the democratic history and nature of the movement. There will still be a yearly meeting which will be like a AGM at which the leadership will be evaluated by the members. If the members are not happy with the leaders they will be able to recall them and to nominate others leaders who will be there in an interim capacity

Voting Process

Voting was set up, overseen and votes were counted by the AGM’s Independent Electoral Commission (IEC). The IEC consisted of three allies of ABM. This AGM was the first one to employ a color coded voting system. Each position was represented by a specific color ballot paper (i.e. red=coordinator, blue=president, green=chair, etc.). Voters we asked to select a candidate for each position and put the appropriate color ballot paper in a box with that candidate’s name. There were eight positions to be filled on the executive committee including: President, Vice President, Chairperson, Secretary, Deputy Secretary, Speaker/Public Relations Officer, Treasure, and Coordinator

The process was a seeming success as members noted the ease of voting particularly for those who cannot see well or who may not be fully literate. Glitches in the voting process occurred when it became clear that enough ballot papers had not produced. The IEC had to retain and reuse the ballot papers from the previous branches’ vote. This severely delayed and lengthened the process. Many members noted however that while the process was long it would be used again with improvements that will make it more time efficient. It was also helpful when several volunteers offered to assist the IEC since voters using this system for the first time often needed to be guided through it. It may be recommended that the IEC consist of at least five people in future.

Election Outcomes and their implications for movement

The election results were tabulated and presented to the membership by the IEC toward the end of the AGM.

The results are as follows:

? President: Mdlalose (previous vice president)
? Vice President: Mashumi Figlan (former vice president)
? Chairperson: S’bu Zikode (previous president)
? General Secretary: Bandile Mdlalose (previous general secretary)
? Deputy Secretary: Dumisani Nzimande
? Treasurer: Simelane Bheki
? Speaker/Public Relations Officer: Mazwi Nzimande (previous AbM youth league president)
? Coordinator: Mama Manyawo (previous treasurer)

Each of the newly elected officers of the executive committee won by significant margins and membership was enthusiastic at the presentation of the final results. Most members of the newly elected executive committee have served in leadership positions before in the movement (see above). While membership holds its leaders in high regard and has high expectations of them, there are concerns that:

(1) leaders become exhausted from continuous service
(2) other members believe they do not have to ability to serve as well as previous leaders OR
(3) members leave the responsibility of service to a small group of people who have previously served in leadership positions in the movement


1. conduct an evaluation of the day with the task team and the new and old executive committees to understand the day’s successes and challenges to contribute to future planning for general meetings
2. have more ballot papers in use in future elections and have the IEC consist of at least five people
3. continuously develop concrete and democratic ways to ensure accountability of leaders between general meetings and elections that will now happen every two years
4. make concerted efforts to develop more leaders from the base who might stand in upcoming elections (who have not stood in the past)

Compiled by Janis Rosheuvel (Visiting Activist from New York)