Adriaan Basson

Zuma may be junk status, but we are not

2017-04-07 18:37
Photo by Nola J Seef, Facebook

Photo by Nola J Seef, Facebook

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WATCH: Drone footage of Cape Town's #SAUnites protests

2017-04-07 17:32

SA 1st Forum, Outa, a 'concerned civil society' and ordinary Capetonians formed human chains and protested outside the presidential home, City Hall and Parliament, as part of their efforts for Friday's anti-Zuma #SAUnites nationwide protests.WATCH

Let’s get the basics out of the way: no, President Jacob Zuma will not resign after the #PeoplesMarch of 7 April.

Zuma will also not resign after next week’s march by opposition parties.

If you expected Zuma to resign after one day of protests, you are, with respect, missing the point.

Also; the marches weren’t perfect. As the cappuccino critics on their sofas reminded us frequently on Friday: the (read: white) middle class aren’t really the protesting type. We look a bit funny when we try to toyi-toyi and not all of us understand the meaning of ‘Senzenina’.

And yes, there were some embarrassingly crude and unfunny posters that should rather not have been displayed.

Again – not the point. Here’s the point, I think.

Sipho Pityana, Mark Heywood, Wayne Duvenage and all other organisers of Friday’s #PeoplesMarch slash #ZumaMustFall slash #SAunites wanted to show Zuma and the Guptas that we know. That South Africa – workers, employers, communists, Christians, the rich and the poor – see what they are doing. And that their crude attempts to capture the state will not go unpunished.

If that was their goal, they passed with a distinction.

Pityana et al. took a massive risk when they organised the march. If you believed a certain stream of Twitterati, only a few frustrated housewives from Orange Grove and Claremont would have taken to the streets with their poodles and Evian. Not so. Thousands of people turned out to march all over South Africa, the biggest of which took place in Pretoria and Cape Town.

I walked the Tshwane route with over 20 000 other jovial, proud and gatvol compatriots. They were all out in their splendour and diversity: young and old; priests and punks; gay and straight; fit and fat; sick and healthy; rich and poor and, yes, black and white.

I am now convinced that the paralysing racial narrative that has gripped our social media streams for the past two to three years simply does not exist in the real world (and may even be fuelled by agent provocateurs who simply want to shield a corrupt regime from scrutiny). Of course we have a racism problem, but the level at which people have been shamed into silence on social media for speaking their minds is startling.

That’s why it was such a breath of fresh air to share public spaces with fellow South Africans who have one thing in common above all: they all want South Africa’s constitutional democracy to succeed and citizens to prosper.

On the Gautrain to Pretoria I overheard an intense debate between two colleagues about why they eventually decided to join protest. The summary was: “Yes, it may not be the perfect forum and there may be some unsavoury characters, but God knows we can no longer afford to stay silent and do nothing.”

Remember that famous quote about evil flourishing when good people do nothing?

At Marlboro station a few youngster got into the train and started playing Bob Marley songs on a speaker. There were smiles everywhere and we steamed ahead to the beat of “Get up, stand up! Stand up for your rights…”

At Pretoria station hundreds of protesters made their way to Church Square with placards and flags. I spoke to a number of protestors who said their parents struggled against apartheid and it would be wrong of them not to stand up against blatant abuse of power. This is their struggle.

Some placards were priceless. “Don’t shoot” (in response to the police calling the march illegal). “Connect the dots” (in the words of Pravin Gordhan). “Our parents did not sacrifice and die to protect dictatorship.” “Zuma out, Transformation in” (carried by a white young guy). “The seat of government is Union Buildings not Saxonwold” and “Klap Kleptocracy” were some of the classics.

On Church Square union leader Zwelinzima Vavi again apologised for their support of Zuma prior to the Polokwane conference in 2007. The crowd accepted his apology and cheered him on.

SACP leader Solly Mapaila was a crowd favourite. He asked Zuma to resign and the Guptas to leave the country. The protestors agreed.

Pityana pointed to the offices of National Treasury and dared new Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba to “admit that Saxonwold is your second home… You are NOT Mr Clean!” he shouted and the crowd concurred. A clergyman prayed for Zuma’s fall and the march got going.

Along the road I learnt a whole new range of anti-Zuma struggle songs, the most popular of which tells the president to “voetsek” and “fokof” because he was messing with our money. Another song accuses Zuma of taking sweets from the Guptas and opening the gates of the bank for them.

As we marched past state buildings, civil servants, including soldiers, hang out of windows to take pictures and videos with their phones. On a furniture roof, a woman passionately chanted and cried, “Zuma must fall!”

The march ended on the sprawling lawns of the Union Buildings with Pityana et al. making closing remarks, chanting “the people united will never be defeated” and singing the national anthem. At the same time Fitch downgraded South Africa’s credit rating to junk status.

Zuma has been put on notice. The people won’t stand by as he messes up our economy and country.

Zuma may be junk status, but we are not.

- Adriaan Basson is editor of News24.

Read more on:    sa unites  |  zuma must fall protests
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