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“Muster Rhodes is treating Sigcau un-righteously. He will have a fall. He will have a fall,” said Reverend Peter Hargreaves in 1895 to Sir Walter Stanford, the Chief Magistrate of the Eastern Cape. The incident was arguably the start of the “Rhodes must fall” campaign. The increasingly hubristic Rhodes had issued an arbitrary warrant of arrest for the King of the Mpondo nation, iKumkani Sigcau ka Mqikela. If King Sigcau and Rev Hargreaves had not charted a non-violent response a far greater loss of life than occurred in the Jameson fiasco, would almost certainly have occurred.
 
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It was clever for the GFIP E-toll Advisory Panel to use the National Development Plan to contextualise and frame their report and recommendations to resolve the etoll impasse.  But was it wise?

It would have been wise for the panel to couch their analysis in terms of the wisdom generated from the Dinokeng Scenarios back in 2009 when an inclusive group of 33 high profile leaders explored what South Africa might look like in 2020. Three possible futures were imagined, each depending on how the State and Civil Society chose to relate to one another.  Now that six years have elapsed revisiting the scenarios in the light of what has actually happened is very startling.  But the anti e-toll movement provides some hope.

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Two apparently disconnected major news stories broke last Thursday.  In Johannesburg Gauteng Premier David Makhura released the E-toll Advisory Panel report, and in Hollywood the annual Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences released the nominees for the 2015 Oscar awards.  Look closely at the content of each story and an exquisite synchronicity emerges.  In the “Best Picture” category the Academy named Selma - a film that tells a true story about civil courage and civil disobedience in the face of State injustice.    In the E-toll Report the panel said there was “no justification” for civil disobedience by boycotting e-tolls and that to continue doing so “sets unsustainable precedents and threatens democracy and social cohesion.”

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Why should anyone weep over the death of a woman one has never actually met in person, has only known via written communications and with whom one has only corresponded for a brief five-month period?

Because she was more compassionately Christlike than many Christians (despite having given up faith in organised religion) and because her way of dealing with online serial violators of human rights was much sharper and much more effective than anything the Human Rights Commission could ever do. She helped many within the heady-hearty, arty-farty virtual-reality space of the Daily Maverick commentariat to confront reality. And she helped me sharpen my pen and find its target without having to commit suicide or cause collateral damage.

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About John GI Clarke

John Clarke hopes to write the wrongs of the world, informed by his experience as a social worker and theologian, to actualise fundamental human rights and satisfy fundamental human needs.  He has lived in the urbanised concentration of Johannesburg, but has worked mainly in the rural reaches of the Wild Coast for the past decade.  From having paid a fortune in toll fees he believes he has earned the right to be critical of Sanral and other extractive institutions, and has not held back while supporting Sustaining the Wild Coast (www.swc.org.za), the Southern African Faith Communities Environment Institute (www.safcei.org.za) and the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (www.outa.co.za), in various ways.

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