Thursday, September 17, 2009

Hunger Protest - Three Hunger Protesters Stop, Two Carry on - 18th Sept, Johannesburg


The hunger protest coalition announced today that three of the hunger protesters had started eating again at the beginning of this week, leaving two protesters still currently active on their water fasts in support of ethics, transparency, and partnership with the SABC in delivering local content to the public.

Gwen Britz (14 days), Aluta Mlisana (8 days), and Thabiso Mafane (14 days) all had to stop their fasts for different reasons. And all three plan to continue to support the action strongly, although while eating instead of fasting.

Mafane developed intolerable stomach cramps. On going to the doctor, he realized that the kidney operation he had three years ago made it impossible for his kidneys to keep up with the volume of water he had to drink to keep from getting dehydrated, more than five litres a day at that point.

Mafane says he felt disappointed to stop but understood he had no choice. “I felt great until the cramps started, and I really believe in what we are doing. In fact, before the cramps, I had never felt better in my life.”

Mafane adds he will be running the blog and Facebook groups dedicated to this action, to increase awareness virally and build up a broader base of audience outside the TV industry itself.

AFDA student Mlisana was forced to stop for family reasons. “I was entering two weeks of intense shooting at school,” she said. “Twelve plus hour days, no days off. My mom refused to let me continue not eating, and I am very close to my family. If she was so against it I could not fight her.”

Mlisana will continue to produce the documentary she has been working on about the protest, and the history of the SABC.

Britz declined to explain why she stopped, only saying she is building up strength to start again at the right time. “I'm not scared of these people,” was all she would state. “And I won't be bullied. And I want them to know that.”

Michael Lee, the producer who started the action with a 30 day water fast of his own, and has now eaten – carefully – for one week, says that while it was a difficult moment for the movement, they had all learned from the experience and this would strengthen the action going forward.

All three of them started their fasts before following the rules – as did I,” Lee admits. “That was irresponsible of us. We now understand that there are important procedures that anyone wanting to join in need to do first, up front.”

Lee says these procedures can now be found in full under the blog heading “JOIN US” (

Lee says, "People keep asking us what we want, why it is worth starving. And we keep saying, we're not starving, we're just taking a break from food to see what it's like, and to make a statement. The statement is in short the SABC belongs to the nation and the nation needs to be consulted."

Meanwhile two protesters continue. Production coordinator Zamambo Tshabalala is on day 11 today and has never felt better. “It's amazing,” she writes on the blog. “I just don't need food. People can't understand it, but it's like, I have all the energy, all the focus, and no food. My lips have gotten a little dry, so I'm upping the water.”

Keitumetse Qhali, also an AFDA student, and the director of the documentary Aluta is producing, is on day 9 now, and struggling a bit more, having trouble sleeping, feeling dizzy some mornings, and dealing with concerns from her mother, to whom she is very close. In her blog yesterday she writes: “I myself am starting to doubt if I can do the full 21days, but...this strike is about regaining what is rightfully ours...people need to wake up and realize what is happening.”

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