Interview Revistatag.com.br magazine in Sao Paulo, Brazil on the Occupy South Africa movement. Interview done by Regiane Folter.
1. First of all, what’s ur full name and what’s your function in the movement Occupy South Africa?
A1. I am known as Joe Hani and my role is restricted at the moment to participating in online organizing and creating and sharing awareness media material such as our short videos produced by Winds of Change Media.
2. When did the Occupy start in South Africa? And who took this idea to your country?
A2. The first countrywide occupation took place on October 15th 2011 in 5 cities simultaneously. The event started with online Facebook events set up and the idea took on a life on its own from there.
3. In which aspects Occupy South Africa is similar to Occupy Wall Street? And what are the differences about them?
Occupy South Africa is nowhere near the size and consistency of Occupy Wall Street yet. But the similarities lie in the general anti-capitalist theme of both movements as well as the recognition that the movement is against all corporate political parties. Unlike the assumption of some, our anti ANC stance does not mean we are pro DA. This was proven in the ‘Battle of the Common’.
4. How does Occupy South Africa organize itself? Do you use internet and social medias a lot?
Organizing in the beginning relied a lot on the internet but as the movement developed the organizing shifted primarily to on the ground organizing with the internet being used to facilitate.
5. How do you act in South Africa? In how many cities?
The first South African occupation was held simultaneously in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban, Grahamstown and East London. Since then the core participants in each city have developed Occupy according to their local circumstances. Occupy Durban has all but died out and I hope it will be revived soon. Grahamstown have a dynamic alliance between the Unemployed People’s Movement and Students for Social Justice of Rhodes University. UPM has also over the last few months met with the few but very determined activists of Occupy East London and are working on ways to spread the idea throughout the Eastern Cape. Johannesburg have set up a Drillhall where they gather on weekends to discuss creative ideas to combat the system. But the most active of the cities has been Cape Town. Late January 2012 Occupy Cape Town together with more than 20 poor community organizations took part in an occupation of a common public piece of land in a wealthy area of Cape Town and the mayor of Cape Town ordered a heavy police crackdown on the people which resulted in the aggressive arrests of 42 people including old women with sicknesses. This was all caught on camera and proved once again that the DA is no less an anti-poor authoritarian party than the ANC. As a result of this event, Occupy Cape Town developed into the ‘Taking Back the Commons’ Movement which is very active in Cape Town and surrounding areas. This Friday they will be holding a Guerilla walk to commemorate UnFreedom Day which is officially known as Freedom Day, but we say that none of us are free until all of us are free.
6. What are the most important ways that OSA is using to send its message?
Through meetings, networking between groups, online through websites, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, as well as articles written by activists in the conventional media.
7. Is OSA getting any results? Are you reaching your goals?
Id say in Cape Town and in the Eastern Cape it is moving forward at a good pace. I encourage those in Gauteng to organize bold events that will actually confront the state.
8. What are the most difficulties that Occupy South Africa face?
Lethargy, refusal of some to let go of their political allegiances whether it be to the ANC or the DA, Trade Unions schizophrenic attitude to the people vs. the state scenario etc and a few others. The government however is doing a good job at ensuring that more and more people are taking an anti state stance.
9. What are the opinion of the population? Are they joining the movement?
Personally, I am not interested in all South Africans ‘Joining Occupy South Africa’ and this will not happen. This is so because there already exists an uprising of the poor in South Africa in townships across the country which is growing in momentum, size and radicalism. Professor Peter Alexander called this the “Ring of Fire” uprising which is closing in on the big cities and he among many others including myself predicts that this will eventually lead to a Tunisia style total and complete revolt.
10. Do you think that the Occupy movements are going to change the present democratic systems?
A.10 Occupy, Take Back the Commons, Take Back South Africa, UPM, the township movements and many other groups in South Africa will all contribute to challenging the so called democratic system yes. It is not a matter of if but when, and not only organized groups but the suffering masses will definitely rise-up, its inevitable. My message to Jacob Zuma and Hellen Zille is that your time is running out. You are oppressors and we are oppressed and when the day of confrontation arrives it will benefit you to remember that we the people of South Africa are the sons of struggle, we came from her belly and we drank from her breasts and we will not stop until Anglo-American leaves our land and until all of you are tried for your crimes against the people of South Africa.
11. Which others movements does Occupy South Africa respect?
A.11 Any movement that strives for the liberation of mankind. Personally I respect the movements that toppled the dictators in North Africa, the Greeks and Spaniards, The Yemeni’s and my most heartfelt respect and awe goes out to the brave people of Syria standing up to the oppressive regime of Bashar. They will go through trying times ahead when the East and the West tries to feast off their struggle so I encourage them to maintain the purity of their struggle and to remember that victory is merely an hour of patience.