Former Witsie Warren Chalklen embarked on a twenty-four hour hunger strike that ended yesterday, in a peaceful protest against corruption by South African leaders.
The former Witsie and many other supporters of the cause were “protesting against the alleged Nkandla corruption and to protect the dignity of all South Africans” according to Chalklen. The strike began on Wednesday in Texas, from 7am to 7am the following morning.
The protest comes a week after Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s release of the Nkandla report that accused President Jacob Zuma of unfairly benefitting from security upgrades to his private residence in Nkandla. The President is yet to respond to the report.[pullquote]“How else can I voice my disgust at this situation than to ally with the poor who will go hungry as a result of this?”[/pullquote]
Zuma now has less than a week to respond to the prosecutors report claiming that he should return a portion of the money used on his Nkandla home.
Chalklen believes that if ordinary citizens can go for a full day without food and have the discipline to voluntarily starve, by the same logic, South African leaders can discipline themselves to reduce spending for personal gain.
When asked why he chose to do a hunger strike as his form of protest, Chalklen responded: “This is a moral issue that requires a moral response …Through peaceful protest we show them that we will not stand for this impunity.”
Chalklen said his aim with the hunger strike was to stimulate discussion and encourage people to build a better South Africa. “The principle of the matter in my context, how else can I voice my disgust at this situation than to ally with the poor who will go hungry as a result of this?”
Many of his social media peers supported his plight by liking and sharing his posts. However, some criticised Chalken, questioning his rationale in not waiting until after Madonsela’s deadline and then to strike if he did not get answers.
“The aim of the strike is not to gain support, the aim is to use our energies to send a message that each citizen has the power to utilise their democratic freedoms to hold leaders accountable. There is never a good time to act. Corruption happened, powerful people are unaccountable, individuals feel hopeless, and we need, in the short term, something to give people purpose, hope and a sense that they matter. It is likely this will not conquer anything, but that’s not the point nor purpose.”
Chalklen, a South African, graduated from the University of Witwatersrand with a Bachelor of Education where he also received the Jack Hutton Memorial Award. He has since graduated as a Master in Public Service and Administration (MPSA), at a university in Texas, where he currently resides.