Working at SECTION24 and protesting when there’s too much wind

Yesterday, one of the kids that was in my honors class casually turned to me and said ” So how’s it going at SECTION24? “You guys just protest about everything right? if the weather changes, you protest, if there’s too much wind, you protest”.

Thixo wase George Goch.

Firstly, Its 27. SECTION27, it comes from SECTION27 of the South African constitution that entrenches the right to food security, health care, sanitation and social security. Unfortunately, what most privileged people (Privileged in a sense that we have never had to struggle to access the most basic of rights) don’t realize is that the constitution is not self-enacting.  Just saying that rights exist, does not mean that everybody experiences them fully and equally.

Without people like us, who have chosen to dedicate their lives to ensuring we really are all equal before the law.  Thousands of people in this country would be left behind.  Thousands of children would just have to accept the fact they will never get access to a proper school and just get on with it. Thousands of foreign Nationals of the SADC region wouldn’t bother seeking health care because they don’t know that they have the right to health care in South Africa.

Yes. We spend a lot of time protesting and maybe it’s a hell of an inconvenience, but can you imagine how much more inconvenient it is to be denied medical attention at your local clinic/ hospital. Imagine how inconvenient it is to  have to write your final maths exam after not having had access to a textbook all year. Imagine how inconvenient it is to be a 60-year-old, arrested and tried for attending a peaceful night vigil.

We don’t just protest because we have nothing better to do with our time.  We get out onto the streets because the constitution is for everyone, we get out onto the streets because even if nobody else will listen to the children of Limpopo, we will. We get out onto the streets  because one more HIV related death is one too many. We get onto the streets because Mining companies cannot and must not  get away with exploiting  poor black people, we get onto the streets because there is no reason a child should die in a pit toilet. We get out onto the streets, because you won’t.

Joining SECTION27 was not a last resort. Making this world a better place is our  first option. All the people that work at SECTION27 don’t have to be here, many of them turned down high paying jobs at fancy law firms to work insane hours, and represent people who will never be able to give them a single cent. Despite this, they show up every morning and do what they have to.

It may mean nothing to you, because what do 117 community health care workers that got fired have to do with this afternoons market report, what does it matter that an entire generation of students in Limpopo have been denied an opportunity at upward social mobility? To you, nothing. To me, it is everything. It is the reason I wake up every morning and go to work, because more than just working for a salary , I am working to make South Africa work.

The reality is, this is a thankless  job. I will probably never be an award winning Journalist, and I will never get a front page story. Kodwa akusenani, I am not here for the by-lines anyway. I am here for Tsakani Shilowe, who has no textbooks but wants to be an environmental scientist. I am here for MaMatwa whose house was petrol bombed, and had nobody to turn too. I am here for Mma Mokeona who dedicated 15 years of her life to save lives without receiving a single cent. I am here for these people,  because they  need just one person on their side, they need one person who will help them tell their stories, they need one person who will stand up for them. I am here for these people, because they are here for South Africa.

So I’m sorry we’re always protesting, but we are activists, and where lives and rights  are at stake we are impossibly impatient. We are world changers, and in this country, we’re a little busy.

If you are not on the front lines  in the fight for Social Justice, or doing one thing to make this country or someone else’s life a little better, then I don’t expect to have this conversation with you again.



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