Why did your people attack us? - Democratic Left Front

Organisation says Ethekwini Municipality COP17 volunteers assaulted activists


08 December 2011

Open Letter to eThekwini Mayor and City Manager: Explain use of eThekwini City Resources to Attack Climate Justice Protesters

On Saturday December 3rd, the international day for a climate action march, the 500 strong Democratic Left Front contingent made up of activists from different parts of the country, arrived at the Botha Park Assembly point with its banners demanding: ‘1 Million Climate Jobs Now!' ‘Africa is Burning,Transform the System!' and ‘Listen to the People!'. Our red t-shirts said the same thing. Our activists also prepared their own posters the night before. We had our own marshals and sound system. We were unarmed and intent on acting peacefully.

We were participating in the march to peacefully condemn the ruling elites who are obsessed with profit making market mechanisms as the solution to the climate crisis. Such solutions have not worked, will not work and are taking all of humanity closer to planetary destruction. We were also there to celebrate and amplify the call of other components of the climate justice movements for genuine alternatives like 100% renewable energy,binding and ambitious emission reduction targets, climate jobs, food sovereignty, mass public transport systems, the rights of nature and the indication of climate debt.

On arrival at the assembly point at 9.30amwe were physically attacked by a group of 150 youth. Our posters were torn and our banners were also pulled down. We were also pelted with stones and bottles. In this context we defended and restrained ourselves. The police stood by and watched. (The story of this violence and intimidation was covered in the Mail and Guardian online weekly.)

Our attackers wore green tracksuits and hats that were branded with the Ethekwini Municipality logo. The tracksuits also explicitly stated these were volunteers for COP17. It turns out that this was standard gear issued by the City to COP17 volunteers and such volunteers were meant to assist visitors to the City. These volunteers were meant to be the goodwill ambassadors of the City and of South Africa.

We would like to pose the following questions to the Mayor and City Manager of Ethekwini (Durban) Metropolitan Council:

(i) Why were these volunteers, who were meant to be busy with organisingCOP17, allowed on to the march?

(ii) Based on our investigations it was established that these were a group of special volunteers linked to the Mayor's office and were paid by the City. Why did the City leadership instruct these volunteers to physically attack us and constantly disrupt the march?

(iii) Why were these volunteers brandishing ANC banners, posters (100% Zuma) and ANC paraphernalia when they were meant to be non-party aligned?

(iv) Why should we not ask the Public Protector to investigate you for abusing public finance to fund an ANC goon squad?

The physical attack we endured was more than an attack on the DLF. It was an attack on our democracy, on our democratic rights and freedoms we have as citizens to assemble and to protest peacefully. With the world watching, the City of Durban has embarrassed South Africa and has shown to the world the ugly side of how the ANC rules. The climate crisis will worsen in South Africa and the world, but be assured at every moment we will be using our democratic freedoms and rights to struggle for climate justice and transformative solutions.

Statement issued by Mazibuko Jara and Vishwas Satgar for The Democratic Left Front National Convening Committee, December 9 2011

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