Church Square vigil plans


The organisers of a vigil in Church Square tomorrow have confirmed that they have received permission from Makana Municipality for the public event.

The organisers of a vigil in Church Square tomorrow have confirmed that they have received permission from Makana Municipality for the public event.

Various civil society organisations have indicated they will participate in the non-party, non-denominational event to be held in Church Square, Grahamstown, from 1-2pm Friday 7 April. The event is one of many being held nationally following last week’s reshuffling of the Cabinet by President Jacob Zuma.

This included the removal of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and deputy Mcebisi Jonas. The resignation of Director General at the Treasury Lungisa Fuzile, after 20 years of service, followed this week. Fallout from the moves has included the downgrading by international ratings agency Standard & Poor of South Africa’s banks to non-investment grade (BB+), in line with its rating of the country.

A main organiser of tomorrow’s event is Dean of the Cathedral of St Michael and St George, Andrew Hunter, who said there would be an open mic.

“We invite people to bring posters, banners, prayers, statements, poetry and songs,” Hunter said.

The Bishop of Grahamstown, Ebenezer Ntlali, is among the guest speakers, and a choir has been invited to perform.

“Our particular calling here for this vigil is in response to what many see as a national crisis,” Hunter said. “Here we add our voices and raise our concern, on the action of our President in the recent cabinet reshuffle.”

He quoted Archbishop Thabo Makgoba’s statement: “The President’s decisions are a frightening example of a leader who has continually showed his profound indifference to the economic health of South Africa. It is telling that he failed to secure agreement to this reckless move even from within his own party and the ruling alliance.”

Among those taking part will be former members of the Black Sash – a 59-year-old veteran human rights organisation – who also staged a silent protest earlier this week..

The group of 26 – which included former Black Sash members and supporters – received mixed reactions to their stand in front of the Cathedral during lunchtime on Wednesday.

Explaining why there were two events, group member Maggy Clarke said, “Black Sash planned to come out and stand on Friday, together with other organisations. Due to our stand being accidentally advertised for Wednesday, we felt we had to come out on both days.”

Rosemary Smith, a former trustee of the Black Sash, explained the significance of Wednesday’s vigil.

“For goodness knows how many years we stood traditionally in front of the Cathedral, until freedom came,” she told Grocott’s Mail.

Smith was holding a poster that read, ‘When will you hear, Mr Zuma?’

“I can remember holding one that said, ‘Mr Botha, when will you hear?’ she said. “It’s a disgrace that we have to do this in the new democracy.”

Helen Holleman, also a long-standing member of the Black Sash, said, “Ironically, in 1955, 62 years ago, the Black Sash was formed to defend the Constitution against the [National Party]. And here we are, 62 years later, doing exactly the same thing. What does that tell us about where our country is and where it’s going?”

Rain is forecast for Friday and should it rain, Hunter said, the event would move inside the Cathedral.

Events and shutdowns in other parts of the country are being planned under the banners of #SaveSA, #ShutItDown and #Junkstatus among others.

Leaders of a wide range of Grahamstown organisations and institutions were invited to make statements on the events of the past week and their implications. Read their statements in tomorrow’s print edition of Grocott’s Mail.

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