By Andre Marais – Amandla Magazine,
Henrietta Mongalo – Ngulunews Community Paper,
and Happy Pretty Ntsanwisi – Nthavela Newspaper
photos by Khanyisa Sinqe – Zithethele Community Newspaper*
DURBAN, Dec 4 – (TerraViva) “Unite against climate change” was the order of the day on Dec. 3, when Greenpeace successfully coordinated a march through the streets of Durban. Several thousand people took part, including both South African activists and campaigners from around the world who have come to Durban to make their voices heard on the issue of responding to global warming.
“World leaders are discussing the fate of our planet, but they are far from reaching a solution to climate change,” said Desmond D’Sa, a Durban environmental activist and one of the protest’s organisers.”
“Never trust a COP”, “Climate Justice Now” and “Ensure the survival of coming generations” were just some of the messages held aloft by demonstrators.
The march had to overcome an early conflict at its outset in Durban’s Botha Park, when a group of young people dressed in the green tracksuits issued to COP 17 volunteers attempted to take up a position at the head of the procession. They said they represented the African National Congress Youth League and had come to show support for President Zuma who they felt was being unfairly targeted by some of the placards and banners posters displayed by protesters.
Marshals managed to contain briefly violent confrontation between this group and members of the Democratic Left Forum; organisers negotiated an agreement that the Youth League group would march further back, with the steadying presence of members of the Rural Women’s Association between them and the DLF marchers.
The march route led through the city centre, pausing outside the International Convention Centre where the 17th Conference of Parties (COP 17) deliberating over global climate treaty is taking place. Here marchers listened to speeches from representatives of youth, organised labour and the environmental movement.
A list of demands was presented to COP 17 president Maite Nkoana-Mashabane and United Nations climate chief Christiana Figueres.
Responding to the marchers’ call for greater attention to adaptation and strong support for women who form the backbone of Africa’s food production, Figueres acknowledged the importance of civil society to the process. “These are the voices we hear from the developing countries. We will make sure that the decisions taken at COP 17 will take adaptation forward.”
On her part, Nkoana-Mashabane promised the summit would be run in a transparent and manner inclusive manner. “We will ensure that we use this gathering to make sure that the demands of the many people you are representing are heard.”
* Community media coverage of COP 17 is being supported by the Media Development & Diversity Agency of South Africa, which is promoting the participation of local journalists through a programme of training and reporting on climate change.