Thursday, 4 October 2012

The significance of the JBRA march on 3rd October 2012

Approximately 100 people participated in the Jeffreys Bay Residents Association march on the Kouga Municipal offices on Wednesday, October 3rd 2012.  Although a much smaller march than the 12th September affair, this was still a good turnout for a single residents association in Kouga. This civil protest had unusual significance.

This march was surrounded by controversy. The municipal manager of the Kouga Municipality(KM) refused permission for the march to proceed in a letter received the day before the march.  The KM did not attend the police briefing sessions required by law, and did not respond to several communications regarding the march. Attempts were made to sow disinformation in the community by sending SMS’s stating that the march had been cancelled.

This march re-affirmed that South Africa is a country governed by law and a constitution, and not by men.  These marchers had much in common with those farmers in 1899 who stood up to the might of the British Empire for the sake of their freedom, with those students in Soweto who defended their rights as citizens against an all-powerful state, with those Germans who tore down the wall dividing them in 1989. Despite an order banning the march, these brave people gathered and walked because the law gives them the right to peacefully express their opinions.  On behalf of all the citizens of Kouga, these 100 people demonstrated that the officials are not our masters, that they do not have the final word on what happens in our district, or our country. From now on, everything this municipality does is subject to the law and to the constitution.

These 3 recent marches have awoken a new sense of solidarity and determination amongst the citizens of Kouga. The marches were not about politics, or power, or advantage. Citizens, rich and poor, black and white and coloured, old and young, came together peacefully and in good spirits to demand that the civil servants simply do their job, earn their large salaries, look after and develop our beautiful region. These marches made it clear that people of influence and power in the administration will be held to account, individually, for the shortcomings in the performance of their duties.  After years of corruption, waste and incompetence the citizens have finally had enough, and are stepping up to make their voices heard. “Shape up or ship out” is the clear message.

It was Abraham Lincoln who said “You can fool all of the people some of the time, and you can fool some of the people all the time, but you can’t fool all the people all the time”. Our administrators and officials in Kouga should take note.

Trevor Watkins