Heidelberg resident Colleen Wentzel took part in the nationwide march on April 7 where thousands of South Africans called on President Jacob Zuma to step down.
Wentzel did so without any formal affiliation to any political party and was overwhelmed by the feeling of unity that was so evident on the day.
In a letter to HERAUT, she explains just how much it meant to be part of something so special.
Colleen takes a stand
Along with thousands of South Africans, I took to the streets of Jozi, on Friday, in what would be the first time I would participate in any type of protest march in my 37 years on this earth. My hand painted placard was ready with my message for President Jacob Zuma – “#RiseSA Fall Zuma”.
When I arrived in Newtown at 09:35 that morning, the couple of blocks that I walked to the Westgate Transport Hub was quick-paced, but peaceful.
The presence of security and of course, police detail, made me realise that all might not go as peacefully as planned. I continued to walk. I would not back down. This is what I came for. This was my chance to take a stand. For my children, and one day, their children!
As I approached the Westgate Transport Hub, the crowds grew larger and the chanting louder, and for a moment I could swear that my heart was beating even louder than the booming speakers! And there it was – as I came around the corner, I remember my entire body being covered from head to toe with goosebumps.
The indescribable pride I felt as a South African in that very given moment would never be taken away from me. I remember muttering the words to myself, “this is for you” (for my children). It was a liberating experience to be amidst a crowd that was so full of hope for our beautiful country. We all had one voice, irrespective of our race or creed.
We were standing only a couple of blocks away from President Nelson Mandela’s law office where he practiced as a lawyer, whilst police choppers circled the peaceful mass of blue. I remember looking up at the very strategically placed Johnny Walker sign on the building which said ‘Keep Walking’, as we commenced our march to Mary Fitzgerald Square.
This is what I came for. One nation, one voice, and the right of every person to have the utmost pride to be a South African!
Old and young from all walks of life commenced the walk to a very significant location, whereby we would be addressed by the leader of the DA, Musi Maimane. With the familiar trumpeting sounds of vuvuzelas, I remember looking up at the police who were standing metres above us on the M1 highway, with the sky the clearest blue I have ever seen – the moment was now, and it was clear that we were all part of the human race when we joined hands. I have never sung the National Anthem as loud as I did that morning. The thought-provoking speech from the DA leader reminded us that we were not a ‘junk country’, whilst protesters raised their placards higher. “Fire Zuma”. “#Change19”.
Why did I do it? Because as a South African, it is my right to have a voice! And every person’s voice, every person’s hope means something to the future generations.
I might not be able to change the world as once person, but together with my fellow South Africans we can change our immediate world. We are not a “junk country” and the message is clear – Jacob Zuma needs to step down. The time for change is coming. The nation will rise again. History was made that day and I was part of it.