Day 13 – Petitions

Posted 07 June 2010 | Journal   

Wow, two weeks tomorrow. After seeing how well ones time can be potentially used, it’s frightful to see how much of it I’ve wasted. This evening I sit in my room listening to the patter of constant rain, which feels so close without sealed and double glazed windows. There’s something so soothing about rain, washing everything away.

It was an eventful day. What seemed like a tedious Monday morning in the vegetable garden was interrupted by a request for help. Mamre has 475 hectares of land which can potentially be used for anything from agriculture to housing – if it were in the hands of the community. A group has been working to get the land from the ministry for years, and developments in the last few months have lead to that eventuality becoming much more real. Today we needed to collect 300 more signatures from people of Mamre to add to the 700 already collected to take to the Minister of Land and Agriculture.

We set out in groups, engaging with the locals in a way we were yet to properly experience. Confidence quickly boosted, going from door to door explaining the purpose of the petition and encouraging individuals and families to fill in their details. Peering into people’s homes and seeing their lifestyles is always fascinating, and in this open community such sight is actually possible. To The same procedure in the UK would undoubtedly be faced with immense scepticism and coldness, certainly a much more daunting task (minus the dogs, oh my days the dogs..!)

Within a few hours, we’d exceeded the number required – with the campaign collecting some 1,200 in total. I was keen to see the next stage, so while the rest of the group went back to work, I joined the local campaigners to take the petitions to ministry offices in Cape Town. One of them is the Vice Chair of the ‘ANC Veterans’, having been involved in the ANC struggles for over 40 years. The drive was filled with stimulating political discussion, and strong opinions were offered from all parties. What concerned me most was the level of animosity (justified, I’m sure) that some still felt towards the whites, with hints that an armed struggle would have brought about a greater sense of justice: “If you steal a man’s car, you don’t just seek their forgiveness. You give them the car back!”

The notion of Nelson Mandel not being ‘all he’s made out to be’ is something I’ve heard before: “Mandela was their saviour. That’s why the white man loves him, but they hate the ANC.” There was a feeling that Mandela had compromised too much on crucial values, to which I responded “That’s what happens when you become a politician.” I’m not sure entirely where I stand, as there are two very strong opinions here, and the struggles that people like Nelson Mandela endured should not be underestimated. I offered the example of favouritism to Martin Luther King over Malcolm X (with the potent lyrics of Tupac Shakoor in my head: “No Malcolm X in my history texts, why’s that, because he tried to educate and liberate all blacks, why is Martin Luther King in my book each week? Because he told blacks if they get slapped, to turn the other cheek.”), to which the ANC man responded “Exactly, because Malcolm X was militant.”

The ‘handover’ in the government offices wasn’t as smooth as you’d picture, with the ‘big’ people of the village becoming incessantly small in the city. Still, the forms were eventually given, and I happily completed my video documenting the beginning of the petition signing to the handover.

Wow, it’s only 10PM and I actually feel like I’ve had a useful day. Awesome!

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