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When The Poor Protest Tomorrow, Will You Be There?

After the anti-Zuma demonstrations are over, will the people who urged all South Africans to march turn up when it is the turn of the poor to protest?

08/04/2017 07:33 SAST | Updated 08/04/2017 12:01 SAST
Deaan Vivier / Foto24 / Gallo Images / Getty Images
Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) march from the main campus to the CBD during #FeesMustFall protests on October 12, 2016 in Pretoria, South Africa.

So you marched on Friday. You heeded the call of Save SA when the organisation said, "It is increasingly clear that coordinated, united public protest is the only way to stop further state capture and to defend our democracy, and the only way to get rid of Zuma." You wanted to defend democracy. You wanted to stop a rogue president who is destroying the future of the country. Perhaps you were moved by the Democratic Alliance, which called for you to march "for change."

You may have encouraged others to do so. To seize upon this moment, to unite all citizens, to encourage all people to put aside their differences and march for a common cause.

Perhaps it was the first time ever that you've done this. You were moved by the call for people to do something. You stood up, and you said, "enough is enough." You made sure that your voice, in whatever small way you could, was heard.

You now wonder how this moment can grow. How it can be used to unite more South Africans under this newfound feeling of common purpose that you now feel so strongly.

I'm afraid I have bad news for you. This march? That was the easy part of coalition-building. That was the entrée. Now the real, hard work begins. The work of joining the rest of South Africa, who have been suffering under the weight of poverty, unemployment and inequality.

  • Will you be there when students protest once again for free education? Or does this not count as a genuine crisis for all of us?
  • Will the plight of poor South Africans who are dying needlessly for a lack of access to affordable tuberculosis medication move you to protest?
  • Will you support Pontsho Pilane's campaign to urge the government to provide free sanitary towels to poor women and schoolchildren?
  • Will you march for an end to the political assassinations in KwaZulu Natal?
  • Will you join Nelisa Ngqulana as she campaigns for the government to build a second police station in Nyanga, perhaps the country's most crime-inflicted suburb?
  • Will you join the residents of the Cape Flats as they beg the government to stop the gang violence that has marred those communities for years?
  • Will you join the residents of Bromwell Street as they fight for their right to live and work within the Cape Town city bowl? Will you also ask the courts to censure the acting judge Leslie Weinkove for his incendiary remarks that he made during the hearing earlier this year?
  • Will you urge the government to do something to stop the physical abuse of farmworkers in the Winelands?

Will you show up for these issues too? Or do they not count as national crises?

There will be no mass movement in South Africa without at least an understanding of what the poor face every day. Until their issues become everyone's issues, and their protests become as valid as anyone else's, and just as deserving of respect and protection, then the anti-Zuma demonstration will be just that. A pleasant day out.