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South Africa: Second attack on climate campaigners by ANC goons; Zuma looks on


South Africa's president Zuma watched as ANC supporters assaulted peaceful demonstrators.

[For more on the COP17 Durban climate talks, click HERE.]

December 8, 2011 -- Earthlife Africa issued a statement describing the events. It describes how during a meeting between South Africa' President Jacob Zuma and communities and civil society groups, violence broke out. After peaceful demonstrators silently held up signs asking “Zuma to stand with Africa”, pro-ANC goons, many wearing the official green uniforms of the COP17 "volunteers", violently attacked the demonstrators. Demonstrators were roughed up and some had to flee the hall.

While all of this went on, Zuma sat on the podium and remained quiet. It took nearly 10 minutes before police entered the hall to restore order.

Siziwe Khanyile of groundWork states, “This was our event, organised to communicate with President Zuma. We were then abused, kicked out, robbed and manhandled by Zuma supporters disguised as COP17 volunteers.”

Tristen Taylor of Earthlife Africa Johannesburg states, “This was a terrible display of mob violence that aim to suppress the democratic rights of citizens of this country. It happened in front of the President of this country, and disgraces this country in front of the eyes of the world at time when we should be solving the problem of climate change.”

Taylor of Earthlife Africa told the Weekly Mail & Guardian: "I was standing on the balcony above and saw everything. Some comrades had silently stood up with placards saying 'Zuma to stand by Africa' when they were attacked by the president's supporters. They were surrounded by about 30 or 40 people and it was a free-for-all, people were being punched and pushed quite violently and the president just sat there, doing nothing."

Other reports describe how Samantha Hargreaves (ActionAid) and Ferrial Adam (Greenpeace) were assaulted after displaying posters ("Durban Mandate = Death of Millions of Rural Women", "Stand with Africa"); when filmmaker Rehad Desai tried to defends them, he was fiercely attack, being spat at, kicked in the face, slapped and punched.

At least three activists were seriously injured in the assault.

This was the second attack on climate change protesters during the COP17 Summit. On December 3, during the mass protest demanding real action on climate change, ANC Youth League members wearing green "COP17 volunteer" overalls and hired by the ANC-controlled Durban municipal government disrupted the march and attacked left groups.

Open letter to Ethekwini mayor and city manager

From the Democratic Left Front

On Saturday December 3, 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 vindication of climate debt.

On arrival at the assembly point at 9.30 am we 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 organising COP17, 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.

Mazibuko Jara 0836510271 and Vishwas Satgar 082 775 3420

For The Democratic Left Front National Convening Committee.

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