Durban, South Africa, is a notoriously difficult city to motivate. When the Sharks are performing poorly, King’s Park rugby stadium stays virtually empty all season. The running joke for musicians is, if U2 performed live here on a rainy night, Durbanites would choose staying in and watching the band on DVD. Tickets for events take forever to sell, and usually only in the 20 minutes leading up to the event itself.
Why are we like this? Who knows. Too much sun and sea breeze, perhaps. Durbanites have it tough.
I must qualify this, though: I’m talking mainly about white suburbanites. African and Indian Durbanites have no qualms about showing up en masse for things.
So, the prospect of a significant political rally that included all Durban’s race-groups at first did not bode well. A march was planned for the morning of the 7th April, as part of a nationwide protest against South Africa’s beleaguered and deeply-unpopular president, Jacob Zuma. When it comes to political protest, the modern generation of white South Africans, like their compatriots in most Western democracies, tend to draw the line at joining Facebook campaigns, so imagine my surprise when I arrived at the rally’s meeting point to discover over 20 000 people ready to march.
For most white Durbanites, this was their first experience of communal political involvement. Their excitement was palpable. They were all dressed up, Ray-Bans and coffee in hand, ready to kick Zuma out of office. White South Africans are often criticized for leaving the real protesting to ‘other’, more experienced South Africans, but this time, idealistic and self-aware as we may be, we got off the couch and participated. Regardless of the outcome, it gave formerly-complacent citizens a taste of what democracy could be like if we all gave a damn, all the time.
For my part, I was amazed at the variety of home-made signs on display, and the efforts to which people had gone. So, I spent much of the march capturing some of this artistic activism on camera. The photos tell their own story. Here is Durban’s contribution to the Zuma Must Go campaign:
If you didn’t make a sign, you were the sign:
My pic of the day: this lone Zulu woman, standing a little apart from the crowd at the kick-off site, with a home-made sign that captured the importance of this protest action for the country as a whole:
Well done, Durban. At last, a significant and legitimately multi-racial contribution to the future of democracy in our embattled land.