I marched to Pretoria today. Never marched before. And I must say, I was humbled. I partook in a protest that had no race, no elitism, no classism, no comparing who is ‘better’ or ‘bigger’. 120,000 of us showed up – in our modesty, to march against Zumpie. So I have this to say: “Fuck you, Cape Town, our march was bigger than yours. Go and cry about it on the mountain.”
I was only 10 minutes into the march when I was in kak with the Cops. “Moet nie in die straat loop nie. Loop op die sypaadjie!” The cop was serious. I was admonished for walking in the road while I was supposed to walk on the pavement. What?! Turns out Ron and I was walking past a ‘Drive Alive’ campaign. Skaam. I was a revolutionary! What shite was this?! But at least I had some police action. Gangsta, you know what I mean?
Even at this early stage, it was clear that this March was poorly organised. I mean, they said they were expecting tens of thousands, yet it was only Ron and I protesting. The only two! Not a single other protestor. “Can’t they do anything right?” I wondered.
Turns out we took the wrong exit off the Gautrain and were walking loneliny through the wrong streets of Pretoria shouting “Zuma must fall!!” After 5kms and a few questions, I realised our error and that we were going to miss the march. I stopped and hailed a Taxi. I don’t know much about hailing taxis except you have to do hand signals, which I also don’t know anything about. So I just did the ‘YMCA” and ‘Macarena’ till someone eventually stopped. “Church Square?” I asked, ‘Can Zumpie ride for free?” They laughed and said yes. I had brought old Zumpie on a pole. as I attended the march as the official editor of The Daily Zumpie.
We turned the corner to church Square and there were about 100,000 people. In perfect order and spirits. Rows of neat toilets, food stalls and marshalls showed you the way. The different opposition parties each had their stages with entertainment and leaders bellowing speeches, including reminding everyone that we were there joined in opposition against a corrupt regime. No delinquent behaviour would be tolerated. And indeed, none occurred. No looting, fighting or rude behaviour. Poorly organised indeed.
Even now, looking back, Church Square blew my mind. The music, the vibe, the DA and EFF comrades joining sides, the ghoefed EFF member who moered Zumpie with a Vuvuzela. People looked at the Zumpie head in amazement. Zumpie looked at the people in amazement. I had Zumpie dancing above the crowd, as if he was looking over their shoulders in horror.
The march started. I gooied my best Toyi-Toyi (I looked it up on YouTube) but my struggle songs were a bit of an embarrassment. I mostly mumbled, ‘blah-blah, nklosi sikelele’, like a rugby player, but there was a bit of the one song I understood. As I toyi-toyi-ed with some EFF comrades (by that time I was wearing an EFF beret), I could understand some of the words: “Tra-lal-al, voetsek ou man, fokof ou man. Tral-lala”
I cannot tell you how much it meant to me to be part of this occasion today, even though I made snarky comments about it a week ago.
We just marched for the occasion. To feel part of something. And I did. The combination of physical exertion, sense of purpose, scale of the event and the multiracial sense of revolution returned to me something I thought I had lost – HOPE.
I packed a bandana (soaked in lemon juice) for in case the cops teargassed us, I had bail money in my bra (for in case I needed bail.) I had water, snacks, sunblock and money with me. I was ready for everything. I wore my R1,500 Solomans for in case I had to run away from the ‘pigs.’ I saw a crowd, reputed to be 120,000 strong at the Union Buildings united in peace, with protesters sitting on the statue of Pretorius. The moment was too big for me. I was prepared to be jailed, yet, the biggest transgression I made was chewing gum on the Gautrain and not walking on the pavement in hill Street.
This I can tell you, old Zumpie fell many times today. I don’t know if was that I was tired of all the toyi-toying, the sunblock making my hand slippery of the second hand distribution of zol, but Zumpie landed on the floor many a time. The one time, shame, I was marching behind a guyI suspect being the source of the strong Dagga smell and Zumpie slipped out of my hand. The poor oke, he was already paranoid because of the skyf and as he turned around, Zuma whacked him on the snout. Uxolo. Askies.
That was one of the moments that I will remember. I also somehow made it into the newspapers. I saw a photographer following me and then motioning to me to stand still. Without words, I complied. He motioned to put Zumpie higher I did. He snapped and took off. It took a few seconds. Days later a friend in London let me know I was in a picture in the New African with Paul Kruger and Zuma. Another memorable moment.
However, the moments that will stay with me are the following:
While we were marching up the hill to the Union Buildings, I was thirsty. I fished out my water, while overaking an old lady, let me call her a ‘Sissie/Ousie” so I can spare you the description. She had no backpack, no one marching with her and she was desperately trying to keep up with the ‘Fokof ou man’ brigade.
“You look thirsty,” I said, trying to not look patronizing. “Do you want water?”
I gave her my water. I realized I was not really thirsty.
Later, on the lawns of the Union Bulldings, I noticed a Municipal Cleaner collecting cans and glass, left behind the reveling ‘revolutionaries.” Except he was not a worker, he was a recycler. “Zuma must fall” he said. I don’t know if he meant it or whether he was just saying what everyone on the march wanted to hear. I took a photo and gave him R100. He almost cried.
Then, I bought a mealie from a guy who sold fresh mealies from a shopping cart. Jesus, it was fresh and full and fantastic. He ever organized salt. He wanted R15, I gave R50 – he started praising me. I bit into it – heaven. It tasted so great because I was hungry. The march had taken longer than I thought. Another guy came up to me and asked/begged: “Can I have a piece?” I gave him the mealie, because I realized I did not know what hunger was.
And I KNEW, that from now one I (privileged/white) will have to give a lot more than your ‘water’. Your ‘half-eaten mealie’ or your ‘precious time’to make this work.
We are going to have to give a lot more. A LOT more. We have not even started ‘marching’ yet.