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'Corruption has no place in this country': #UniteBehind camps outside Parliament demanding change

BY Lisalee Solomons and Jenni Evans

Unite Behind is holding a three-day anti-corruption demonstration and fast outside Parliament to draw attention to the suffering that corruption causes ordinary people and to call for the expulsion of MPs implicated in the Zondo Commission report.

But first, the civil society group had to get permission in terms of the Regulation of Gatherings Act and challenge the City of Cape Town's limitations on its plans.

Because Unite Behind wanted to set up a tent, a stage and gas heaters to keep warm at night, the City said the group needed an events permit, not a regular gatherings permit, in terms of by-laws.

But Unite Behind leader Zackie Achmat, speaking for the group in court, told Judge Gayaat Salie that the City does not have the right to give permission, that is for a chief magistrate.

The City's role, he said, is to facilitate the constitutional right to protest.

"Must it be a sleepover?" asked Salie.

Achmat replied that they had engaged Parliament for years on what corruption does to society and said they have a right to show MPs that they are protesting.

Salie suggested that the parties have another try at reaching a compromise and stood the matter down.

When they returned, they had reached a compromise that would allow the pitching of a tent, amplified sound from 06:00 to 20:00, and an agreement that no gas heaters would be used.

They would also leave one lane on the road open at all times for traffic and would clear the road completely during peak hour traffic.

In granting an order for this agreement, Salie said to the packed public gallery: "The court must jealously guard the right to voice discontent with the state.

"I wish you well, and be safe in your gathering. And, I trust that your voice will be well received and well heard."

Meanwhile, disgruntled Cape Town residents gathered outside Parliament singing struggle songs as they held up banners with the faces of those implicated in the Zondo Commission report.

They want the MPs to be removed from their positions in Parliament so that a stern message will be sent to everyone that "corruption has no place in this country".

Mandla Majola, a social justice activist and member of Unite Behind, said residents gathered in their numbers to protest against the corruption that South Africa is subjected to.

"We came here to voice our frustration and anger against the level of corruption in this country. Our people are shocked and frustrated that MPs implicated in the report are still in their positions," said Majola.

He added that people want those implicated in corruption to be charged and convicted.

Majola added:

We cannot understand why the ANC has not taken a stand against this corruption because the money [that was stolen through corruption] could've changed so many lives. Our trains could be working and serving the working, many people could've had jobs and our young people could've had bursaries.

Unite Behind plans to camp outside Parliament for the next three days to make sure that the people are heard.

"Our members will fast for as long as they can for these next three days. Some will be living just on water. We must take a stand against this corruption in the country," said Majola.

Residents Ketiwe Ndlovu and Siyabonga Makijima said they joined the protest because they wanted their voices to be heard.

"For far too long we have witnessed these politicians steal money that was meant to enrich our country and its people. For far too long we have been quiet about this because nothing seems to happen to them. But enough is enough," said Ndlovu.

Makijima said he was "sad" that MPs had not apologised for their wrongdoings.

"Too many of our people are suffering while they are stealing millions for themselves without thinking of how it will affect the poor," he added.

The group said a memorandum would be handed over to Parliament on Friday.

This article was first published on 21 September 2023, on News24.

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