History repeats itself

2011-10-05 00:00

AFTER more than 25 years of absenteeism from active politics, this week I became an ANC Youth League activist and guess what happened? Just like in the eighties, I again experienced the fumes of tear gas as heavily armed security guards fired at us.

I was part of the ANCYL activists from eThekwini branches who wanted to participate in the meeting where ANCYL national leaders were explaining the disbandment of the KwaZulu-Natal provincial executive committee (PEC).

Because the media was not allowed at the meeting I was disguising myself as an ANCYL

activist armed with my notebook and a pen.

At the door I was refused

entry for obvious reasons

— I was neither an ANCYL eThekwini branch chairperson or a branch secretary — so I joined the growing number of rejected people in the passage by the lift.

I desperately wanted to be in that meeting as I anticipated chaos in view of the atmosphere at the last meeting of the eThekwini ANCYL which rejected the disbandment of the provincial leadership.

As the meeting was about to start someone started singing a revolutionary song and everyone joined in and began toyi-toyiing and singing pro-ANC President Jacob Zuma songs and others denouncing the ANCYL president, Julius Malema.

I did not know most of the songs, but just like Premier Zweli Mkhize during the singing of the (in)famous Dubula iBhunu at a Cosatu meeting recently, I slightly toyi-toyiied along.

Trouble started when security guards tried to lock the door adjoining the passage to the lift and the ANC offices. The activists rejected this and forcefully opened the door. While the meeting continued inside, some of the crowd surged forward in an attempt to force their way into the meeting.

Security guards then fired tear gas indiscriminately into the crowd and pandemonium broke out as people tried to escape from the fumes.

People were falling to the ground as others rushed to nearby taps to wash their faces. As there were no windows in the passage where I was, some ran to other passages that had windows and gasped for air.

I tried to breathe, but the tear gas was making it difficult and my eyes were teary as people next to me began vomiting and shouting for help.

The security guards then allowed us to go to bathrooms and wash our faces. They then escorted us out of the building and we walked down from the 21st floor to the ground floor, still dizzy from the fumes.

I still wonder how a stampede was avoided and I am relieved that no serious incident was reported. I do, however, want to know who ordered that tear gas be fired at a crowd in an

enclosed area.

As we safely reached the ground floor, I pondered and wondered about some of the dangers and risks I have gone through since I ventured into journalism 24 years ago. My conclusion, though, is that it’s all worth it.

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