Fri, 2011-12-09 16:11
Submitted by SandileSekeleni

The moment has come for those visiting Durban for the first time. The city went on its daily business as normal. The sense in everyday Durban crowds is to keep away from the fortressed International Convention Centre. As billboards scream in green that the international status of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the streetwise citizen knows that it is advisable to avoid main streets and hotels in Durban during this period.

Of the people I had the chance of interacting with ordinary Durbanites, at taxi ranks, street corners and public parks; very few knew what the fuss was actually about. People said that in order to get informed and involved, one had to be super connected to the right people otherwise any hope of understanding what is going on is a distant illusion. Information does not seep down to the mass of people, fast enough. The impression of high tech applications and technical jargon about scientific rationale is a real de-motivation to participation.

This is how I explain why if one meets a person who stays in and around KZN and ask them about what is happening at COP17, they shrug their shoulders and say that they have no idea, they only know that there are large numbers of military forces and double the numbers of police personnel said to be protecting the national interests while negotiations continue.

Images of regal looking smooth negotiators are thrown at us across TV channels sitting around the table like pirates settling around the table dividing the loot. The news of a march by civil society organizations came as a welcome relief to me. December 3rd, 2011 was a big day for the global people's organizations. People walked in the blazing Durban heat singing, laughing, pushing and shoving. They came out in their thousands to make their voices heard against the negotiators inside.

Some people on the march believed that the day of freedom fighters has come, as thousands of people come from all over the world to Durban in solidarity with the rest of mankind threatened by climate change. Delegates and activists from all over the world gathered at what the apartheid regime called P. W. Bhotha Park in downtown Durban, which Durbanites call instead King Dingan Park. The march begun at 10am and the itinerary included the ICC building, to end at the Pavillion at South Beach.

At the beginning of the march, ANC undercover march participants wearing formal suites and carrying blue bags, which spelled “COP17 host” went off to grab and burn a poster carried by one woman activist in the march saying: “Zuma is a rapist.” This started a scuffle between ‘hosts’ who were seemingly ANC or President Zuma’s supporters against other participants in the march from organizations, clowns and children. The angry ‘hosts’ in satin green outfits from Durban started to throw bottles of water and empty cans at the protesters who were wearing T-shirts in support of the “One million job campaign”.

No one reacted to the violent provocations and continued to take part in the march without losing hope and motivation. They came to Durban to protect the right of Mother Earth. Besides these confrontation, no other violent accidents or clashes were reported. The march ended abruptly when people were ordered to ‘go home’ by apparently famous organizers.