Let me tell you why last Friday was the wake-up call we all needed!
And it wasn’t just because the country united against President Jacob Zuma.
While many people were terribly upset by Zuma’s decision to fire a hot air balloon full of ministers, the thing that got up their noses the most was the axing of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.
In fact, most people can’t even tell which other ministers lost their jobs and who the new ones are.
They are only concerned with Gordhan and his deputy having lost their jobs.
And while the protest didn’t see the many millions some had hoped for, it was significant to send a message to government that people are unhappy.
So I have been trying to figure out why I was so min gepla and not nearly half as passionate as some of my colleagues.
It actually bothered me a bit, because I felt like I had to participate, but couldn’t bring myself to do so.
I didn’t want to be half-hearted about it, so I watched half-amused as people around me prepared to toyi-toyi, side-stepping the whole thing in favour of some soul-searching.
They departed from my building, walking past those waiting to have their UK visas approved, hopped into their company cars, smiling in anticipation of the excitement that lay ahead.
Some even joked about having watched a funny video teaching first timers how to protest. It was funny because it had elements of painful truth.
It slowly dawned on me that what I was witnessing was controlled anger, responsible protesting from those desperate to maintain their privileged business as usual.
So you saw a lot of CEOs and department managers hand-in-hand with clerks and receptionists picketing on pavements.
If you wanted to go protest, you either had to limit it to your lunch time, or take a day’s leave from work. It was all very proper and by the book.
The exact opposite from the protesting that we as South Africans are accustomed to.
And the irony was lost on those swaying gently from side to side while singing “Kum ba ya” and the occasional muted “Viva”.
But ask yourself, is it as powerful when you can return to your privileges; when your return to your comfortable life tomorrow is a certainty?
Does it carry the same moral weight when your protest has to fit into what’s convenient for you?
I fully expected people to arrive in stilettos, cous-cous salad stuffed inside Louis Vuitton bags and protest posters designed by Andy Warhol himself.
The last time I protested with passion and purpose, the word “bourgeoisie” was being spat out with venomous contempt.
On Friday, everything was turned upside down when it was those very bourgeoisie doing the protesting.
I heard comments about the irony of a divisive president actually bringing people together and how this is the straw that is breaking the camel’s back; the one thing that is finally bringing us all together.
But did it really?
This was a protest by people who realised that Gordhan’s firing was going to affect the very economy that they are running; affect the price of their lovely homes; the interest rates and ultimately their own material worth.
And I’m afraid this is why Friday’s call to action was a poep in the wind.
It failed because Gordhan’s axing only affected some of us directly, especially those visa applicants negotiating the protesters to buy Euros and Pounds in time.
It reminded me of our old war cry “an injury to one, is an injury to all”.
So next time when there’s a protest against gangsterism; when there’s a group of people protesting against the lousy working conditions on farms; when a community marches to the local police station because they are upset about crime; when workers go on strike against labour brokers; or when people protest against their horrible outside toilets, let’s all jump in.
Let’s picket in support during our lunchtime.
Let’s sacrifice our comforts in sympathy. Because until everybody understands that an injury to one, is truly an injury to all, no protest can be successful.