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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Waiting for the rains

While the city of Durban recovers from a disastrous storm on Sunday night which killed eight people (“It’s a La Nina event,” they say), neighbouring countries are looking to the skies with anxious eyes.

“I left last week to come to Durban,” says Zimbabwean activist Thomas Sithole of Plant Development Trust, “and we’d only just received our first rains.” Normally Zimbabwe farmers expect rain round October, not late November. “It looks like we will have another drought.” This is why he’s here, he says: to ensure that the delegates “honour their promises” and give farming communities hope of a more certain future. Mailes Zulu Moke from Zambia (Save Environment and People Agency) agrees: when there is not drought, there is too much rain, she says, and the crops are washed away.

Thomas Sithole and Mailes Zulu Moke were some of the many activists from around the world present at an event organised by Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), Jubilee South – Asia/Pacific Movement on Debt and Development (JS-APMDD), World Development Movement (WDM), CRBM Italy, IPS-SEEN and Friends of the Earth –International. The group made a colourful picture on the lawns of Speakers Corner, just opposite the official UN precinct where the negotiations are taking place. The language being used echoed the OWS language of 1%/99% - but among activists from the Global South, it packs perhaps an even greater punch, due to the circumstances they face.

Africa is being harder hit by climate change than other regions, says Bobby Peek of Groundwork and Friends of the Earth Africa. “It’s a reality that we feel and not only talk about, like they are talking across the road: we feel it, and we live it.”

As Africans, we are sick of old solutions, he says: “We do not want carbon trading; we do not want nuclear power; we want reductions at source. We want reductions in the North; we want reductions by the rich countries. We recognise, sadly, that the UNFCC is under corporate siege, that there’s a corporate capture happening inside. We know that governments are listening to corporations and they are not listening to me, they are not listening to you.” He used the rousing language of South African protest, with its typical repetition: “So comrades, we must say Down with corporate capture, down!” (On South African streets, this would become a chant for a toyi-toyi dance: Phanzi corporate capture, phanzi!)

As the second day of COP17 winds down, the feeling is that the action has only just begun to get into gear.

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