They seemed to be isolated incidents; flare-ups of discontent in traditionally classified “coloured communities” across Johannesburg, and even the country.
From the violent protests in Westbury, Newclare, Ennerdale and Eldorado Park this month, to the housing protests in these areas in 2017; protests over the appointment of teachers in Klipspruit and protests in the North West and Durban, communities of people previously classified as coloured have made no secret of their unhappiness.
But, as it turns out, these events have not been isolated. A clear, well-organised effort by a group calling itself the Gauteng Shutdown Coordinating Committee (GSCC) has been central to many of the protests.
Anthony Williams, now famous for being the face of the Total Shutdown Gauteng movement that has taken over Johannesburg, is the committee’s chairperson.
The GSCC has an executive committee of nine people and a broader structure of about 50 people.
Williams told News24 that the committee came together after noticing that protests were happening in silos, but were essentially about the same thing: “classified coloureds” (the term Williams prefers) say they have been marginalised economically and socially.
Williams has been busy. He has slowly grown in notoriety since Westbury exploded two weeks ago, and found himself surrounded by cameras as the GSCC led a small protest to the Johannesburg Stock Exchange on Monday.
‘First nation’ descendants
The following day, tired and a little hoarse, Williams told News24 that the GSCC comprised “classified coloured” people who have been working together for about six years. Its members have marched, protested, campaigned for clinics, campaigned for jobs, and more.
In Gauteng, where discontent in coloured communities continually brims under the surface, the GSCC has also been known to join protests that don’t happen under its banner. In Westbury, Williams says the protests were started by women. The GSCC joined in.
As the demonstrations spread in the days following the Westbury protests, Williams says it was decided that a meeting would be held in Eldorado Park. There were too many “memorandums” floating around and people operated in silos.
The committee meets about once a week and there are moves to formalise its structures through proper elections, and to make its cause a national project.
“It is about the national implosion of service delivery and the financial exclusion of our people,” Williams said.
Where the GSCC organises, members of the Khoi and San community, dressed in traditional garb, are often close by. Williams explains that “classified coloured” people don’t assume they are the same as the Khoi and the San – the “first nation” – but they are their “descendants”, and should be treated as such.
For now, as the structure formalises, the “shutdown” campaign is likely to become more structured.
Williams and his committee hope this will be a process of unification for the “classified coloured” community around the country, which remains “economically excluded”.