WHY A HUNGER PROTEST IS APPROPRIATE
For at least 2000 years, the protest fast has been used in many cultures to call attention to an unpaid debt or other perceived injustice to highlight the INHUMANITY of the person being protested against. It was never intended to lead to death or harm and was, in fact, a quick non-violent way of resolving disputes.
A person would sit on the doorstep of the accused offender, refusing to eat or drink from even a passer-by, and the HUMILIATION from the surrounding community was enough to bring reconciliation within a day or two. Such protests formed part of the early civil codes of Ireland and India, and were only banned in India finally in the mid 1800s by the colonial authorities.
Only in the 20th century did the hunger-protest-to-death become a common form of political action, when society’s institutions had become so INHUMANE and out of touch with the people they were supposed to serve, that dying for the cause was the only way to gain attention.
And that is why Gandhi is the 20th century’s true inheritor of the ancient hunger protest. Despite 17 protests leading to India’s freedom and temporary cessations in murderous infighting between Moslems and Hindus, he never went more than 21 days. Why? He didn’t need to. Despite it all, the society was still humane enough in his case, and his international reputation so big, the powers he was opposing were shamed into action.
Either way, the hunger protest is ALWAYS about shining a light on inhumanity.
Our primary issue with the SABC is simple. It is an inhumane institution. Its actions and approaches repeatedly show that it does not care about the citizens of this country, it does not care about the national heritage it is entrusted with, and it certainly doesn’t care about the industry that has helped build it. Its management seems to have forgotten completely the SABC belongs to all of us, instead acting as if we all belong to it. These are the actions of a tyrant and they can no longer be tolerated.
We do recognise that “hunger” is an extremely sensitive word to the South African public. Hunger plagues wide areas of our country and continent. We in no way intend to trivialise the impact of real, ongoing hunger, or compare it to our symbolic acts.
We have chosen the word hunger to highlight the fact that wilful attempts to starve the spirit of our nation are also an attack on our essential rights.
We are also aware that this action was initiated two weeks before Ramadan, a deeply sacred time for Muslims. We do not intend to infringe on or conflict with the importance of this time for them.
We also do not compare ourselves to the tradition of hunger protesters in South Africa in detention.
Our fasts are different things for each of us – acts of sacrifice, prayer, or meditation. But for all of us, they are acts of protest.
This protest is not designed to injure its participants. It is designed to demand an end to a situation of injustice and inhumanity, in a tradition similar to that going back in many cultures for more than 2000 years.
We accept any criticism and dialogue regarding any of these and apologise fully for the impact the use of this word might have for people.