South Africa

A little World Cup turmoil in Durban

A sizable protest took place in downtown Durban this afternoon over the government’s high spending and actions taken in hosting the World Cup. Over 600 protesters from several groups marched to City Hall to express their anger with South Africa’s government over its spending billions of dollars on the World Cup at the expense of helping bring services like electricity, homes and roads to poor people. The protesters were also marching against government actions like the forced removal of shanty dwellers from highways near the airport, delays and broken promises in providing basic services to poor flat neighborhoods and the banning of fishermen from parts of beaches presumably as part of beautification projects. The anger was not solely directed at the World Cup because dissatisfaction at the government has been going on for some time, and for at least one marcher, the World Cup was just seen as a cover to carry out policies that the government wants. Interestingly enough, there were a large number of FIFA stadium security stewards at the protest. Presumably they still have issues with their employer FIFA’s security contractor and their pay dispute is still ongoing. Durban’s deputy mayor and an adviser to the provincial premier both showed up and talked to the crowd, making the usual assurances that you’d expect politicians to make, and not surprisingly, members of the groups were not too hopeful. It was still quite a feat to have made those officials make an appearance though an organizer basically said it wasn’t by their choice.

There was a solid police presence including riot police and police armed with shotguns but the marchers were peaceful and fortunately, there was no violence or arrests.

This was the tail-end of the marchers as they headed towards City Hall.

I had heard of this rally a few days ago and decided to go downtown to check it out and it was an interesting experience to say the least. There were a lot of people and also a good number of police, and the protesters were definitely spirited but not violent. There were a mix of groups who were marching for different causes such as fishermen, market vendors, shackdwellers and even socialist and green party activists , but all were directed against the government and its policies.