This year Johannesburg is 100 years old. The Johannesburg City Council wanted people to come together for Jo’burg’s birthday. They started a committee called the Johannesburg centenary Festival Committee (JCFA).
The Festival Committee wanted to organise sports, games and musical shows. They wanted to have big birthday parties in the streets of Joburg. They even built a city called Gold Reef City, which looks like Jo’burg one hundred years ago.
But other people were also thinking about Joburg’s birthday. They also started a committee for Joburg’s birthday. This committee is called Cosco — Community Support Committee.
Cosco had two questions about Jo’burg’s birthday. Their questions were, “What does Joburg mean to most people? and “What is the City Council going to do with all the money they make?”
Cosco said that many businessmen had made a lot of money out of Joburg and the mines. But for most people Joburg is a hard place to live in and to work in. Wages are bad and houses are small, people are arrested, children are shot. Can people have a party about these things — no, they said, use the money for everyone. They hoped to get more than a hundred million rands. But only R6 million was going to be used in the townships — the rest was for “white” Joburg.
COSCO STARTS TALKING
“We spoke to many people,” said Cosco. “We spoke to unions like Azactu, Cusa and Cosatu. We spoke to sports organisations like the National Soccer League (NSL), National Professional Soccer League (NPSL), South African Council of Sport (SACOS), boxers and other sports people.
“We also spoke to the Soweto Chamber of Commerce, churches, teachers, welfare organisations, students and many others. Everyone agreed with us — there was nothing to have a party about.
ARTISTS UNITED AGAINST APARTHEiD
“We spoke to musicians. We went to see them one by one. The first person we spoke to was Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse, then Mara Louw and a few others. They told us to leave it to them.
“They had a meeting and they decided to call themselves “Artists United Against Apartheid.” They wanted to show the people that musicians and artists are not with Jo’burg’s birthday.
NO POLITICS PLEASE
The Festival Committee was very upset when they heard that Cosco wanted people to boycott Jo’burg’s birthday. They said, “We are not interested in politics. We only want people to have a good time.
“Companies like Anglo American promised us nearly 140 million rand. We were going to use that money to make Jo’burg a better place. We wanted to start 15 projects for Soweto and Alexandra.
“But now groups like Cosco stopped us. They wanted to boycott everything to do with Jo’burg’s birthday. They also said they will punish any firm that gives us money.”
COSCO WILL TELL
Cosco says they did not stop any company. “The companies came to us,” said a spokesperson from Cosco. “We told them that they can give so much money to Joburg’s birthday but they still pay their workers badly. We told them if they give money to the Festival Committee, we will tell our people about it.”
After this, the Rand Show and Gold Reef City quickly said “We are not part of Joburg’s birthday.” They did not want to be boycotted. Many big companies also decided not to give money. Joburg’s 100 birthday candles were quickly blown out.
HURTING PEOPLE WHO NEED HELP
The Festival Committee also said we were hurting people who needed help.” say Cosco. “But we spoke to the people that the Festival Committee promised money.
“One group is an organisation for blind people in Soweto. The Festival Committee said they would give them one million rands — if they went on TV. These people came to Cosco and we spoke about it. Then they went back and said no to the Festival Committee. “The Festival Committee also promised money to the Self Help Association for Paraplegics (SHAP).
They also said, “No, thank you”. Then the Festival Committee told the newspapers that we stopped the cripples and the blind from getting money. But we did not do this — it was the blind and the cripples themselves who said no.”
MONEY FOR THE PEOPLE
The Festival Committee told Learn and Teach, “We will give the money for the townships to Cosco or to anybody who wants it. They must talk to the companies who are giving the money. They must see that the projects get the money — not as part of Joburg’s birthday but as projects of the big companies.”
“If the Festival Committee wants to give the money to us, they must give it,” say Cosco. “We will give it to the people. Then the people can choose how to spend the money. As far as we can see people need homes — not parks and sports stadiums like the Festival Committee wants to build.”
Maybe the Festival Committee will learn from COSCO. If the Festival Committee spoke to the people and not for them, then the people of Egoli will be happy — and Egoli will be a better place for everyone to live and work in.