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A conversation is recounted in the book # Shantaram  in which the character, Khaderbhai, says: “There is no such thing as believing in #G...

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Sunday, 5 February 2017

THE #POWER OF #COMMUNITY: #TOXICTREK

Perhaps not exactly an #ArabSpring, but yesterday morning the good people of #Hillcrest #KZN and surrounds came out in their thousands to march against the toxic smell which has pervaded their neighbourhood for the past year. This was #peoplepower at its best. The waste management company, #EnviroServ, has been fingered for illegally dumping of #toxicwaste on the local landfill and causing respiratory illnesses (and probably much worse) to everyone in the area. Needless to say, EnviroServ deny everything, but as @molefepontsho tweeted: "We're sick and tired of being sick and tired."

What was so inspiring to see was this huge community pulling together for its greater good when local government has, until this week, failed to intervene. With the thousands of marchers came a large group of HOG riders, community water tables, medical facilities to deal with any heat stroke casualties, an army of volunteer marshals and a parade of local police vehicles. There were posters, chanting, people, a memorandum of demands and a motor parade to the offending dump, all underpinned by a social media campaign (see Upper Highway - What's that Smell?) and a reaching out to the mainstream media. The bottom line is that this was a superbly organised and coordinated wider community effort.  And it's going to keep on going.

EnviroServ can hardly feel un-embarrassed by this show of people power. The build-up to Saturday's crescendo has led to the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) threatening to suspend EnviroServ's licence. That's what people power did before Saturday's march. The pressure on the DEA to deal with this now is immense and the pressure on EnviroServ to start acting in a responsible manner is enormous. Their reputation is in ruins and no matter how much they protest their innocence, their business will never be the same again.

Now let's head out of parochial pastures of Hillcrest across the Atlantic to America and, indeed to dozens of other countries around the world. In response to Donald Trump's misogyny, Muslim ban and host of other socially unacceptable policies, we have seen the biggest protest marches in history. That seems like a pretty poor start to the career of a United States president... well, any president really, but especially the so-called leader of the Free World. Far from showing his greatness as a leader, he has simply managed to unleash the fury of people around the world. Who knows where the protests will lead, but if Mr Trump sees out a full term of office, I'll be surprised.

The Arab Spring brought about fundamental change in all the countries it touched, the Iron Curtain and Berlin Wall came crashing down under the pressure of people power and apartheid finally crumbled when the South African government could no longer bear the internal and external heat.


We may think we as individuals are powerless against the unscrupulous corporates and abusive presidents of this world, but give enough people a common purpose for the greater good and it eventually becomes possible to triumph over any evil.



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