Cape Argus: Meet the pioneer of poo protests

Meet the pioneer of poo protests

Daneel Knoetze

Cape Town – The man who pioneered faeces-dumping protests at government offices has expressed his support for the shack dwellers in Cape Town who have adopted the strategy.

But Ayanda Kota, founder of the Grahamstown-based civic organisation the Unemployed People’s Movement (UPM), says he is concerned that the fight for better sanitation in informal settlements has been mired in “party politics and electioneering” between the ANC and DA ahead of next year’s general election.

In October 2011, the UPM joined the Occupy movement and staged an “Occupy Grahamstown” in solidarity with poor and marginalised people from around the world.

The Occupy movement is an international protest against social and economic inequality.

The Occupy Grahamstown protest reached a climax when Kota and a handful of his fellow activists charged into Grahamstown’s City Hall (where the Makana municipality’s offices are housed) and dumped bucket loads of human excrement in the foyer.

“This is their s***, this is not our s***,” Kota had told protesters moments before.

Speaking to the Cape Argus in Grahamstown at the weekend, Kota reiterated his support for faeces dumping as a form of protest.

“It takes the suffering that is usually hidden away as a private shame and makes it a public embarrassment to the government… When people experience their suffering as a private shame, things don’t change. But when this suffering becomes politicised and collective action can be taken, especially in elite spaces, things really can change.”

Questioned about the current spate of similar protests and subsequent political and civic debates about sanitation in Cape Town, Kota stuck to his views.

He noted with concern, however, that the ANC had seized the opportunity to denounce the DA’s sanitation service delivery in the province as part of a bid to win back the province in next year’s elections.

Although the ANC has denounced the ringleaders – former ANC ward councillor Andile Lili and ANC Youth League member Loyiso Nkohla – President Jacob Zuma expressed his disgust at the DA’s lack of service delivery during a visit to the Imizamo Yethu informal settlement outside Hout Bay last month.

Lili and Nkohla have also denounced the DA, and the DA has responded by variously claiming that the protests are part of the ANC’s campaign to reclaim the province, and by denying the existence of a sanitation crisis in Cape Town’s informal settlements.

Kota said: “This should not be about party politics; it is about both the DA and the ANC’s failures where they respectively hold government offices. These challenges are being experienced all over the country.”

He pointed out that the UPM’s 2011 protest in Grahamstown was against an ANC municipality.

“The ANC goes all out to attack the DA for the way that it treats poor black people in Cape Town while saying nothing at all about how badly poor black people are treated in Johannesburg or Durban.

“What is happening in Cape Town is not motivated by a concern for human dignity. It is motivated by a concern for elections and for access to the state and the tenders that come with state power.”