Activists march at ‘elitist’ World Economic Forum in Durban
On Wednesday, scores of activists marched through Durban to protest against the "elitist" World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa, as well as corruption in SA and on the continent.
Under the banner of the People’s Economic Forum, marchers demanded their voices be heard as the forum kicked off with a discussion about finding solutions to the challenge of inclusive growth.
There was a heavy police presence during the march to Durban’s Inkosi Albert Luthuli Convention Centre where delegates, including African heads of states, government officials and captains of industry are converging for the three-day forum.
Marchers sang freedom songs and carried placards decrying the effects of corruption, the looting of African resources, as well as rising poverty, the lack of water and sanitation, and decent housing.
They also denounced preliminary nuclear energy agreements reportedly signed between SA and Russia, but which were set aside by the Western Cape High Court earlier this month, citing a lack of public participation.
Desmond de Sa, a prominent Durban environmental campaigner, said they decided to take their march to the WEF on Africa as they wanted those discussing the future of the continent to take the issues affecting the poor into consideration. He said that the conference was nothing but an elitist gathering aimed at helping the rich to make money at the expense of the poor and marginalised.
"We are marching today to tell the leaders that they cannot take decisions about us without consulting us. We are saying that all these big projects that they are discussing must benefit the poor. At the moment, all the big projects are benefiting the few," De Sa said.
Sbongiseni Mhlongo, an activist from Inanda, said they wanted to show the leaders that their job is not to enrich themselves and their families but that they are elected to serve the poor: "We want to tell presidents like [President Jacob] Zuma they cannot continue like everything is normal. Our people are poor, our people are unemployed and very soon they will revolt against them. There is a crisis out there and they need to act and act urgently.
Ben Thomas, an activist from Uganda, said: "It is a pity that we are not invited to attend WEF on Africa and influence the policies that affect our everyday lives. Africa is poor because its people are not consulted. Big business [is] benefiting and profiting because our leaders are colluding with them. They are profiting from our resources because we don’t take a stand."