Enough is enough

Johan van Zyl, Gordon’s Bay

In my letter “The ‘but’ problem” (Bolander, Wednesday October 18) I expressed my disappointment not so much in the actual act of protesting, but in the destructive behaviour that takes place while protests are under way.

What I pointed out was that acts of sabotage committed under the wide umbrella of demonstrations against lack of service delivery, or as part of a worker’s union or student strikes, cannot be condoned in any way.

Having made that point, I concede readily that protest marches might, under certain circumstances, be necessary, and should be allowed by government if conducted lawfully.

In fact, it is enshrined in our Bill of Rights. It is the method by which a group of concerned citizens might hold up their posters and proclaim publicly: “I do not agree!”

But taking the disruptive nature of any stay-away into consideration – impact on traffic flow, business, the economy, etc – such demonstrations should be a last resort.

The frequency with which all sorts of demonstrations have been taking place for several years now, is symptomatic not only of a serious malfunction in government, but also of a worrisome breach in the fabric of our society.

Adding alcohol and drugs into the equation guarantees havoc on the streets, necessitating defensive and sometimes harsh police retaliation, for which they are always blamed afterwards.

And then you have party representatives going hammer and tongs to score political points out of the chaos; some pulling the race card as a matter of habit.

I frequently wonder: where does this phenomenon of demonstration marches come from? Is it an African thing? Might it be something that has blown over from Europe or the Americas?

Protesting was a definite no-no in my time as a public servant during the hazy days of apartheid.

Official letters were signed “Your obedient servant” and that was an apt description of one’s attitude towards one’s work, under the strict gaze of the supervisor.

Today it is referred to as “work ethic”, but in those days we just fulfilled our duties and simply did our jobs.

Striking or marching (other than on the parade ground) wasn’t part of office vocabulary, although we were faced with a striking contrast (the pun is intended) between our wages and remuneration in the private sector.

Today “work ethic” seems to be frowned upon by the majority, and everyone is scrabbling for his own rights to be upheld, instead of working steadfastly to make a contribution to a peaceful and prosperous society.

The latest protest march that has enjoyed front page media coverage was intended to bring the increasing incidents of farm murders under the government’s attention.

I searched through the reports in the papers and could find no mention of shops that were looted by the marchers, tyres that were burnt, traffic lights that were destroyed, or even threats that were directed against people unwilling to participate.

Although voices have gone up criticising this mass action, using reasoning which to my mind seems tragically warped, I nod in agreement with the demonstrators and say: “Enough is enough.”