Visitors to Beacon Bay Retail Park were no doubt surprised to find a large cage containing five people in the middle of the food court.
The cage is part of a protest against the East London Zoo by ANC MP Christian Martin, Khoi and San chiefs Trevor Kopeledi and Gaokxaob Kai Anib, as well as fellow Khoi and San activists Melvin Smith and John George.
The protest began on Monday March 11 and will continue until Human Rights Day on March 21.
For the duration, the protesters will remain in the cage and will only leave to use the restroom. In addition, they have also switched to a completely vegan diet.
“We believe, as the Khoi and the San, because we live so close to animals in nature and animals and ourselves are one, that these animals can’t talk for themselves, so we are talking on their behalf,” said Martin.
Martin said zoos are “glorified Robben Islands and glorified homelands” and that South Africa SA should strive to be a zoo-free country.
“Before 1994, our people were put in homelands. We didn’t like that although the homelands were big. But human beings were not created to be in homelands. Animals are the same. If we fought then against homelands, we must fight now against zoos and putting animals in cages,” he said.
“It’s been said this whole situation will be dealt with according to the law. Remember, there were laws before 1994 so all laws are not necessarily good laws.”
“zoos are glorified Robben Islands and glorified homelands”
According to Martin, the claim that zoos serve an educational function no longer holds up thanks to the expansion of the internet and online information.
“Because it is now possible for people to view animals in their natural habitats online, through organisations like such as National Geographic, there is no longer any need to keep animals in cages.
“Remember Sarah Baartman. She was put in a cage for many years for people to look at. If we don’t want it for human beings, we should will never allow it for any animals,” said Martin.
“All of us are custodians of animals. Our custody over animals was put there by God himself. What we are doing is to claim that responsibility back.”
The ending of the Beacon Bay protest on March 21 will coincide with another protest organised by Ban Animal Trading (BAT) which will take place outside the East London Zoo on the same day from 11.15am.
Buffalo City Municipality (BCM) spokesperson Samkelo Ngwenya said the municipality stood by the statement sent to the GO! & Express last week and denied that the animals in the zoo were poorly treated.
“The city’s zoo reflects the green belt and floral vision of the city and is a huge feature for schools across the province. We call upon the general public to take the opportunity to visit this facility and get a first-hand experience,” said Ngwenya.