News agency, Cape Town, South Africa
Thursday June 29th 2017

President leaves 15 000 letters blowing in the wind

Caitlin Ross

Tens of thousands of letters addressed to President Jacob Zuma asking him to prioritise the fight against crime, were dumped on the steps of parliament after the presidency refused to accept them on Tuesday during his response to criticism of his state of the nation adress.

The letters were sent by South Africans in response to a call from trade union Solidarity’s campaign to make crime a bigger priority.

Members of Solidarity, who traveled to Cape Town from Pretoria to deliver 15 000 letters to President Jacob Zuma, wheeled the packages of letters in wheelbarrows around parliament grounds and up to the front doors of Tuynhuis, where they were told by security to leave.

Solidarity deputy general secretary, Dirk Hermann, said a member of the presidency had confirmed telephonically “several times” that the letters would be received at parliament.

The parliamentarian who supposedly organized for the letters to be delivered, who Hermann said was known only as Mavis, allegedly invited the group to Tuynhuis to deliver the letters, but could not be reached once the group had arrived with their load.

“This is a slap in the face of every South African who democratically shared their feelings with the president, who has refused to listen to the pain of these South Africans. We will drop the letters on the steps of parliament and the question now is whether the president will collect them or ignore them and let the feelings of South Africans blow away in the wind,” said Hermann

The anti-crime campaign was launched at the weekend in reaction to last Thursday’s State of the Nation address, in which the president spoke for less than a minute on the issue of crime. Solidarity aimed to gather a target of 10 000 letters from people affected by crime but as of Tuesday morning 23 000 had come in, with more pouring in. At one point the president’s email, sent via www.dearpresident.co.za, received one email per second. The contents of the letters ranged from people expressing their fear of crime in the country to those expressing their pain and loss of being victims of crime themselves.

“This confirms our original feeling that there is not enough seriousness about crime if the president is not even prepared to listen to the pain of these South Africans,” said Hermann, before he and two other Solidarity members upended the contents of their wheelbarrows onto the parliament steps. He said the group would return after the national address to see whether the letters had been brought inside.

He said the rejection of the letters would not deter the campaign and it would now be “intensified”, making use of various web media. “We have a long road to walk,” he said.

Representatives of the presidency and parliament could not be reached for comment.

Tags: Dirk Hermann, Jacob Zuma, Presidency, Solidarity

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