Monday, March 12, 2007

To Do Nothing

Where was everybody?

Where were those thousands and thousands, perhaps even millions, of angry South African citizens showing in our numbers that we refused to live any longer in an unsafe nation?

Thabo Mbeki must have been laughing in his mahogany Union Building office when reports came back that the Johannesburg march had consisted of maybe two hundred people. Puffing on his pipe, he so easily could have said, yes, see, it is all just media perceptions. If South Africans really were being so traumatised by crime they would have turned out in their thousands.

Where was everybody?

This is also what I was mildly thinking as I drove in circles about town on Saturday morning, searching for the Anti-Crime march. But I get too easily distracted when in the CBD – by taxis letting me in, cutting me off, the shops, the argh-not-another-one-wrong-way! But search for 3/4s of an hour I still did;
“Oh Look! That looks like an angry crowd….no, no, only the usual Saturday morning shopping crowds trying to cross the road. Mooooooovee…it’s my turn to go….argh”.

Finally, up near the Civic buildings I detected the flashing blue lights of badly parked cop cars, journos, white t-shirts & pink ribbons, and some banners waved about by a handful of an angry mob.

I parked my car opposite the Parktownian. Prayed it would still be there on my return. Thought of the foreigner murdered there a few years ago, for his laptop, because he chanced to walk one block at night. I hid all “valuables” under seats & in my pockets, and joined the throng. Added my voice. Stamped my feet. Banged on my “ANTI CRIME. PRO GOV” poster. And felt despondent about the poor turn out.

I wonder if I would really have made it, had I not received a reprimanding the night before. Even joking that I might be sleeping off Friday night’s wine was met with a good friend heavily reminding me of my constant bleating about More Action, Less Talk.

She could not be there as she was filming a crime story somewhere else that day. My Darling D could not make it because he was working. My folks could not make it because they had puppy training. My maid couldn’t join me cause she had to be in the house. Some others were riding Argus bicycles. Not everyone even knew the march was taking place. But where was everybody else??

There was but one face I recognised amongst the few people chanting
“Down with crime!! Down Down Down!”
“Listen Mbeki! Listen!”
That face was of the woman who used to work at my last flat. It was so good to see her again. We miss each other.
The crowd was blessed through a Muslim Prayer.
And inspired by the words of African Christian Democratic Party president, Kenneth Meshoe.

We reminded officials present that we were not there to insult South Africa. We loved our country. We should not have to leave because of criminals. That we wanted our nation be healed from the violent and criminal atmosphere it currently endured. That this was not the atmosphere we voted for in 1994. That our movements and lives are currently restricted because of criminals – and that this should not be. (Thank you to VIRSA & others for organising the protests.)

Imagine there had been thousands of South Africans standing outside the Mayor’s office shouting our agreements to Meshoe’s words and others’ chants. Imagine how Mbeki would have listened then.

Where was everybody?

Meshoe finished his speech with:
"All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men and women to do nothing.”


ChewTheCud said...

We couldn't make it. We were worried about the crime in city centre ;)

Revolving Credit said...

Based on the congestion in Cape Town, I'd venture to say that ALL the missing people were down for the Argus.

It may have been a better idea to have all the riders wear black armbands, kinda mourning the state of the country.

Anonymous said...

Can you believe i had no idea about this march?

I woulda been there, I swear I woulda!


Champagne Heathen said...

Chews - ja, ja, ja. On a Saturday noon time it is like any other busy global city. You just have to keep your wits about you, and not too many valuables on you. And of course walk with an air of arrogance.

If I can go on my ace, so can you next time!

Rev - I also thought that the groups should have urged cyclists to wear some sign about being part of the protest. So simple AND they can keep doing their normal daily-life things.

HPF - Ja, it seems the publicity around it had not been as great as I had assumed. I also thought I'd sent an email around about it, but apparently not. Next time!

High in Dubai said...

I probably have a good excuse. But I would like to think, especially after your impassioned post on the matter, that I would have been there!

Anonymous said...

Come on champers a march to "raise awareness" on crime!? We all know about it right. Walking the streets isn't going to keep us safe at night...

Anonymous said...

Just a thought. Do marches really work if people keep voting for the same guys regardless of track record?

As for the cyle idea. Don't think the gov. would allow such a protest?

ChewTheCud said...

champers - if you want company, tradition holds that you somehow notify that person, say through phone, fax or e-mail ;P

Champagne Heathen said...

Dubaian High - Good to know! Maybe you can get the THOUSANDS of S.Affers over in your area to march through the deserts in protest.

Dazz - It was not just to raise awareness amongst the public. But make the government realise that the public is PISSED OFF about the crime levels, and violent nature of even the most petty of crimes. To demand that our government at every level start reacting better, faster and more powerfully - to address corruption & ineffecient systems within our disgracefully-paid police forces, to build an law-abiding atmosphere within SA - or face the dire consequences,to not have top officials associated with mafia-like criminals or steal tax money & have nothing done to them. Or rather, to be celebrated on their entry into, and very soon exit from prison.

A massive angry mob hopefully can make our gov feel more accountable to the public, and act accordingly.

Guinnie - People are not voting anymore, out of protest, and because they have not been educated to realise a spoilt vote or vote for an opposition party is more powerful than no vote.

Look at Zuma's actions & words 2 weeks ago/ last weekend. Dangerously for us, he is playing the public right into his hands, as he says what we are desperate to hear Mbeki say - that crime is an incredible problem for SA. He is gaining support because of this. So do not suppose people, and the power-hungry politicians, are not considering their votes for the next election.

As for the cycle race - if the gov did not allow it, they could be taken to the Constitutional Court. It is not a race in the name of Anti-Crime, but a race where some of the participants use the media spotlight to highlight their issues. People do it in every major event. Hell, I do it every once in a while just by wearing my AIDS ribbon.

Champagne Heathen said...

Chews - nobody had expressed any interest in attending.

Revolving Credit said...

Maybe they should have cycled the race anti-clockwise this year. Starting in Greenpoint and ending in Cape Town centre.

Just to prove how crime is driving this country backwards.

Anonymous said...

Hey constitutional court is great in theory, but who runs it? Also who selects who sits on it?

As for the cycle race, its not like is has not happend before VERY recently (remember).

Thought you were going to bring up the JZ thing :-) Quite scary, but what can one do?

Anonymous said...

Well, i'd say the first problem was the organisers making it for the weekend of the Argus.
i was there in spirit!

Phlippy said...

Potentially a march is not the right medium with which to gain the attention required.

People generally like to use their Saturdays differently and are quite comfortable to whine and do nothing about what they are whining about. If a medium was found where all parties could participate and the result was legal and garnered attention, then something may happen.

My opinion is that marches are quite ineffective because people don't want to march

Anonymous said...

Phlippy "If a medium was found where all parties could participate and the result was legal and garnered attention, then something may happen."

Think they call that a general election :-)

ChewTheCud said...

Who waits around for people to express interest. Just call everyone and say be there or be square. I'm not gonna call ya and say I'm interested, but I'll tag along if you ask ;P

As Jam would put it -
"Tell Chew to pull himself out of his ass and come and meet some amazing people. He won't be disappointed..."

Champagne Heathen said...

Rev - or ride backwards! Now that would be worth waking up to watch the guys coming over from Muizenberg to Tokai!

Guinnie - are you implying that our constituional judges are biased towards the ANC? That is quite an implication to make. And one I would have to disagree with. By that level, judges are expected to only look through objective eyes of The Law.

The FNB campaign, & publicising that it was being suppressed, generated incredible awareness, and was actually one of the causes of VIRSA's march. It has been argued that the "failed" campaign actually generated more publicity that if it had quietly just happened.

It pushed citizens one more step towards stopping to be so incredibly apathetic & whining & actually make demands on our government.

What can one do?? One can make more vocal demands on a president who as done a lot of good for SA, but is too stubborn to backdown to the few things he has done wrong. One way to do this is TO MARCH.

Phlippy - yes, being too busy on a Sat and not liking to march = apathy.

Apathy might just be the demise of SA.

Changing the status quo means having to work for it, which requires effort, requires us to step out of our normal lives. Trust me, I'd rather have slept, and I had 1001 admin things to do, but I shout so much about crime & holding my gov accountable that I would've been extremely hypocritical had I not attended the march.

Guinnie - and sadly, as for the last General Elections, I also recall many people choosing not to vote then, cause "what difference would that make". Apathy is alive & well in SA, in every form & to every political level.

Champagne Heathen said...

Chews - this event was about one's views, one's beliefs etc. I had let people know the march was happening in two of my posts. Everyone has their own issues to support. I am fairly selective about mine. It is not up to me to force my priority issues onto anyone else.

That said, I know of many people who complain loudly about crime. I had hoped some of these people were willing to be involved in ANY initiative to protest levels of SA crime, as that is how sick of it they were.

I am left to assume that many South Africans are not that sick of the levels & nature of crime yet, and are content enough with the status quo.

Anonymous said...

I really really wanted to.
But I really really had to listen to some guy about being attacked...
So sad really. Perhaps it's the way in which these marches are advertised. Not enough viral communication. In communities in townships, it's always been easy to organise marches because there is a sense of, well, community. But in our closeted, gated, paranoid lives, how does word spread unless on a major television announcement?

Anonymous said...

Champs I won't argue on the impartiality of the judges, but if you look at the selection process and who has the last word How judges are appointed.

As for the election process, it is a bit of a problem in the country and most places in the world. People will always vote for the one that makes the most promises (JZ good at that). The majority lack the education to make a real decision, or they just stick with what they know. Bit like life really :-)

ChewTheCud said...

sometimes supporting friends is more important

Anonymous said...

Guinnie - your knowledge is quite astounding. Ever considered starting your own blog? Perhaps it's time...

Anonymous said...

Thanks Jam, but like I said before, blogging is not really my thing. I prefer to vent through a different medium.

Besides, it is so much more fun to harass poor Champs with my comments :-)

Phlippy said...

Champers, the point is exactly that - apathy. Unless you can grab the lazy market then nothing will happen, as driven as people are. It is such a sad reality.

Guiness... I know you monkey - ROFL, but that wasn't what I meant, perhaps I could've been a little more clear in fairness.

Anonymous said...

That's kind of what I meant Guinnie. You're practically writing a blog in the comments section here...

Dave said...

Champs, I can't believe how apathetic people are being about this. I take my hat off to you for making the effort to go down and march, but then I really expect that to be your duty, as you yourself think it is, its just a pity nobody else sees it that way.

I also can't believe people do not see the benefits of this march. I guess once and for all it has just been proved, South Africans don't really care about crime. We don't really think crime is that bad, and clearly we don't think crime is worth a few hours on a Saturday afternoon.

Like you said, proof if ever the government needed it that crime is not an important issue to most South Africans.

200 people out of a city of 8 million, you have to be kidding!

Seriously I am shocked!

Anonymous said...

Jam you know me. I have to do everything differently :-)

Think I would run out of ideas writing my own blog though. Maybe one day, till then I'll let the pros do the hard work :-)

Champagne Heathen said...

Jam - I know you did. I tried to be two of us in one cause of it.

As for viral communication. I was so sure I'd sent out an email about the march, but apparently I hadn't, which I am frustrated about now. Damn.

Guinnie - I know that one of the top Constitutional Court Judges is a white Afrikaans homosexual male, who has voiced his disagreements with Mbeki's views on HIV not causing AIDS. In that regard, I think it is fair to say that they are not only appointing their supporters. And any respectable judge would be highly offended by you implying that their decisions would be swayed by who appointed them.

And it is because the election process is not perfect that we need to use our other means to hold our gov. accountable. One way is through public speech & demonstrations. ...Marching in Protest to Gov Apathy to Crime.

Chews - Careful what you might get yourself into with such a statement. I have many causes I would like more support for!

Phlippy - I think exposing people's hypocrisy & apathy is one way to get people reacting better. To make people consider what the consequences of doing nothing will be & HOPEFULLY act accordingly. To change this apathetic mindset. HA! fcking hard, but I am never one to back down at a challenge against theories.

Dave - It was sad. They'd blocked off a whole massive section of road for this, and we all fitted onto the pavement.

Many people I spoke to afterwards apparently had not heard anything about it, and so I guess we know to do much better advertising next time. But I do know people who did know about it did not make it. Or consider making it there.

And yes, a scary message was probably sent to top government as a result.

Anonymous said...

Champs, I am not saying that all or even any, just that there is a very fine line that can be crossed so easily.

One example
"Debate was recently sparked by proposed legislation that judges undergo training at Justice College in Pretoria. The college is a government institution, which raised questions that the independence of the judiciary would be compromised."

Its these subtle little things that can sneak through.

Dave said...

Champs, I just posted this article on

Anonymous said...

apathy doesn't really interest me.

no govt action = apathy.
apathy = no govt action.

the universe is in perfect balance.

Anonymous said...

Lets all sing along

Anonymous said...

Lets all sing along The Great Song Of Indifference

Champagne Heathen said...

Insano - good to hear your London spirit was supporting us along in the hot SA sun!

Guinnie - what happens when politicians get their hands on a working system. I trust the system to outsmart the politicians.

Dave - aah, thank you!!

Thegodowner - ha ha! And a smack over the head for you anyway!

Revolving Credit said...

Champs - Did you just use the words 'trust' and 'politicians' in the same sentence??

Anonymous said...

Champs I think it might not just be limited to our politicians :-)

Anonymous said...

Rev, :-)

noodle said...

And I thought apathy was a purely Durban problem. We couldn't have had more than 40 people.

We had a couple ministers who speak, but where were their parishioners? They couldn't even get their churches involved…

Champagne Heathen said...

Rev - ja, but I "outsmart"ed the politicians after I "trust"ed!

Guinnie - what's not only limited to politicians??

Noodle - You would think go-getting always-angry Jo'burgers coud get their acts together...but sadly no. I was hoping the other cities did better. Any news on the CT march??