Know?what you fight for

2014-06-08 15:00

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When the announcement was made that Gauteng ANC Youth League (ANCYL) members and supporters would march to the Mail?&?Guardian’s offices in Joburg, I welcomed the protest.

Whether I agreed with what they were protesting against or not, I felt it was appropriate that young people stand up for what they believe in — especially considering the history associated with the month of June.

I often get flak from my father that today’s youth lack the conviction to stand up for what they believe. So I quickly volunteered to cover the event – to show him he might be misguided.

The ANCYL promised that thousands of young people would take to the streets in protest against what they called a “willing propagandist of a counter-revolution against the ANC”.

The issue at hand was a month-old editorial published in the Mail?&?Guardian ahead of the May 7 elections that urged South Africans to vote tactically to dilute the ANC’s power.

Traffic announcements were made and police officers were alerted to ready themselves for the march on Thursday morning. The march was set to commence promptly at 9am at Wyndham Park – a few kilometres from the newspaper’s offices.

But upon arrival, my colleague and I were welcomed by only two dozen police officers. This was not too surprising, considering that all the rallies I attended this year never started on time.

An hour and a half later, there were still no protesters.

Agitated, I approached Gauteng’s head of ANCYL campaigns about the agenda and he was quick to reassure me that “40 buses filled with supporters” were on their way and they were ready to fight.

An hour later, only four half-full buses trickled in carrying the young people.

They arrived in a jovial mood, singing the ANC and President Jacob Zuma’s praises. They quickly hurried to a makeshift assembly point where they were given ANC T-shirts to wear over their school uniforms.

“We are here to fight,” shouted one of the pupils as she sped towards the assembly point.

But it seemed the battle was soon not so much against the media house but rather to get a turn on one of the installations of playground equipment nearby.

As the pupils waited for further instructions, the equipment, including a jungle gym in a corner of the nearby park, attracted a great deal of attention.

Laughter and screaming filled the air. It sounded like breaktime at school.

When it was announced that the young supporters should stop playing, as the rally was about to start, the joy levels decreased. The more than 100 supporters assembled in the street in front of the park and prepared to make their way to the Mail?&?Guardian.

When speaking to a number of the marchers, I found that some were very passionate and clued up on the issues. But the majority were unable to relay the reasons for their protest. They simply felt it necessary to skip school and show their support.

I think the lesson from this experience is that fighting for what you believe in is very important. But of equal importance is to know what you believe in.

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