By Andile Mngxitama
There is a big difference between a shutdown and:
1. Demonstration: this is a symbolic show of force with no effect. A march is a good example of this.
2. Sit-in: this is the taking over of office or public space and causing discomfort for authority.
3. Non disruptive protest: picketing is an example of this.
4. Shutdown: Everything is brought to a stand still, not for a few hours but for days and months. The shutdown by the Yellow Vests in France, or the weeks before the Marikana massacre are examples.
5. Occupation: this is a militant take over of public spaces often chasing from authority those assigned by power. The taking over of a mine or university are examples of this.
In South Africa (SA) we call a demonstration a shutdown. It’s either ignorance or deliberate deception on the part of those making this analogy. Maybe it’s time that we fixed the terms.
A demonstration changes nothing. It’s like an empty symbolic act as it appeals to the “democratic” State conscience which hardly exists. But they are “rehearsals for revolution.” Where it lacks the element of rehearsal it amounts to nothing more than a public spectacle. It’s a mere showing that you can do something without doing it. Mostly it’s a way to make the poor think there is a fight for their rights when there is nothing being done. For example, Eskom will be privatized and the people of Soweto will still be facing harassment.
In Setswana we say; nkago – it’s a mere threat.
A few years ago we saw a 50 000 strong demonstration to the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE). It served as a platform for the angry youth to let off steam; secure a tea time meeting with leadership; and a secret meeting with Lord Robin Renwick in London.
It’s sad because the youth are ready for a real struggle for change.
Andile Mngxitama is the President of Black First Land First (BLF), a radical black consciousness organization.