The march yesterday, though of a respectable size (my guess is around 8000) and exuding a really great vibe at times, certainly suffered from some curious features, including talk-left walk-right speakers (two COP17 leaders – Figueres and Nkoana-Mashabane) who bizarrely were given a free pass; very weak turnout from Durban communities and Cosatu; a failure to take advantage of the US consulate en route; extraordinary shenanigans at the start of the march by Zumite infiltrators (with “100% COP17” placards) from the municipality (see the reports below); often banal messaging; a failed ending (no concert as had been advertised) and inability to reach the beach for what we’d hoped would be a ‘going away party’ by virtue of nonsensical municipal orders; a wasted afternoon follow-up; and numerous other flaws. Luckily there was cloud cover and some water points so no cases of exhaustion on the 4km trek from Botha’s statue via City Hall to the ICC and Tech Fields.
Other critical views. As Ashwin Desai remarked, “This was a march organized in part by a self-liquidating left, delivering a constituency and legitimacy to the COP17 on a silver platter.” It was, Mithika Mwenda of the Pan African Justice Alliance put it, a “policed march, not a people’s march – and those green-suited guys were just state cops” (referring to the city ‘volunteers’). As for the overall politics, Jos Marten of Rosa Lux concluded, “repressive tolerance”, as the establishment can sleep easy. Ashwin called it a “tame set-piece predictable show”. Other groups – as you see below in Rehad Desai’s letter, including the Democratic Left Front and Rural Women’s Assembly – felt that there were unacceptable policing moves, once fisticuffs between red and green shirts began. And aesthetically, my own complaint: having financed 250 vuvuzelas from my savings account, I was surprised that we didn’t achieve a wall of sound at the US consulate (a block west of City Hall) or the IEC. Best tee-shirt was probably Earthlife’s: “Never trust a cop”… and you’ll see many more displays of militancy and Climate Justice at Orin Langelle’s lovely slideshow: climatevoices.wordpress.com/2011/12/03/photo-essay-global-day-of-action-against-un-conference-of-polluters-cop-in-durban/
But for those of you not there, I would want the pessimism of the intellect to be balanced by optimism of the will. It was a joyful and boisterous march, sure, even if utterly lacking the edginess of the day before when the Rural Women and DLF broke out of the Speaker’s Corner pen.
So who won? I would imagine that from Durban city manager Mike Sutcliffe’s viewpoint, yesterday was a great success (especially if indeed he did arrange a R180/day+tracksuit gift to provocateurs, as widely alleged), judging by his smirk at around 3pm. Indeed I was chatting with Trevor Ngwane at the Speaker’s Corner and he drove up to us in a big white 4×4 and said, “Hah you guys, you know I’m watching you – I have cameras everywhere here.” I replied, “Ok, but what about microphones?” He answered, “Ah well we’re still working on that.” So I guess we can keep on planning the revolution at Occupy General Assemblies, hoping against municipal lip-readers. Occupy set up some nice tents yesterday for us to have a rest in, and as we get closer to the end on Friday maybe some will brave the steady rain to try it overnight. As you see below, Occupy adds such a dash of political spice, so for the dozens that do the General Assembly each day at 1pm, please hang in!
On Friday, while we were having SDS/CCS staff lunch at incongruous Zimbali, that revo was being led by 800 rural women and DLF red-shirts, who did Occupy briefly and then broke out into the Bram Fisher Road right in front of the ICC, blocking traffic for a couple of hours with a powerful toyi toyi before, finally, they were cop-kettled back into the Speaker’s Corner. This is an inspiring group of 500+ (with Trust for Community Outreach and Education facilitation and Action Aid funding), occupying the G6 Gate near the front entrance to UKZN so do join them for activities there the next few days, they are very inspiring.