On 23rd March 2017, Academic BRICS through the South African BRICS Think Tank (SABTT) hosted civil society groupings in order to create a platform where civil society, youth and trade unions can come together and share ideas.
In attendance, were numerous organisations such as the South African Youth for International Diplomacy (SAYID), The Federation of Unions of South Africa (FEDUSA), National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), National Labour and Economic Development Institute (NALEDI), Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), Right2Know, Economic Justice Network, as well as various centres for civil societies. Delegates presented papers on various topics ranging from human rights, labour, access to information and the pertinent issue of gender equality. Presentations focused on how the BRICS vision can be better taken forward.
Serving as a platform for academics to engage, Ms Pamela Tsolekile de Wet from UWC: Centre for Citizenship and Democracy, as well as Ms Bandile Mdlalose from Centre for Civil Society KZN presented research papers looking at how ordinary people view BRICS. They both concluded that there is lack of understanding and little information about BRICS in the townships. They found that although township communities have generally heard about the BRICS inter-state vision, there seems to be a prevailing lack of understanding on how this relationship will benefit South Africa. Dr Dale McKinley, from Right2Know, addressed attendees about the access to information. Dr McKinley cited that data costs in South Africa was one of the highest in the world and this automatically precludes people from having access to the internet. He shared his view that “data must be free to the citizens as access to the internet is a human rights issue”. NUM representative, Mr Shane Choshane and Mr Bongani Masuku, from COSATU, cautioned participants on the high level of exploitation of workers by BRICS countries. They propagated the view that as the Think Tank embarks on its BRICS mandate, it should be sensitive and mindful to such perceptions. Delegates noted that BRICS countries should equally benefit from this inter-state initiative.