#TotalShutdown In Durban Shut It Down By Cheryl Roberts

2 Aug



#TotalShutdown in Durban was lit. It was huge. It had soul, heart and pleasure. And it carried much sadness. It wasn’t about rich, powerful women wanting it their way. It was about women who wanted violence and rape to stop. Because……when a woman’s fed up, she’s fed up. When a woman knows she’s had enough, she knows just that. Enough!




And it was because women have had enough of the violence, assault and attacks inflicted on their bodies and against their bodies in femicide-inflicted, rape-saturated, patriarchy-littered South African society that thousands of women took to the streets all over South Africa on Wednesday, 1 August; this, as South Africa’s ‘Women’s Month’ took its commemoration-month space, to protest gender-based violence and all its toxic masculinity associations and deep-rooted patriarchal causes.




It was a groundswell of online activism that culminated in meeting spots and times for women to gather, march and protest and claim their power. I was wanting to be back in Cape Town by end July after DIFF wrapped, but somehow I also knew I wanted to be at #TotalShutdown march in Durban. It was over 25 years ago that I was in a march in Durban; that being in the anti-apartheid era when I was a student at the then University of Natal. I thought I would get to Curries Fountain, our legendary anti-apartheid sports ground and anti-apartheid protest venue, perhaps get some pics, then leave the march after about a km and meet it again at the city hall, a few hours later (didn’t think I could do the entire route). Instead, I walked the route with my cameras, enthralled by the growing crowd, entranced by the enthusiasm and keenness to march and protest as being shown by the marchers and feeling the strength of women to say ‘no more violence on and against our bodies’.




#TotalShutdown in Durban was massive. They say over 5000 marchers were on the street. Women turned up, many of them in a protest march for the first time. It was an intergenerational march. It grew bigger along the route and never lost momentum. Women marches surely felt increasing power, resilience and happiness for their being on the street, marching for what they want. Nothing was going to break their resilience, on that day!






Thousands outside the formal march, along the route, watched from the street pavements and cheered on the protest. Some looked on in bewilderment, seemingly asking ‘now what is this’. A defining moment for me was when women street traders, on seeing the march approaching their selling spot, spontaneously joined the march, and sang, danced and clapped their protest contribution. Also when people walking on the street spontaneously joined the march. Durban’s CBD working people came out to see ‘what was going on’ and they saw the posters and banners all speaking out against violence.




For the victims and survivors of gender-based violence, those in the march and those on the streets, they knew that for as long as the march was underway and proceeding, women had the power to call out, on their terms, the horrendous violence and attacks.


This protest activism against gender-based violence hadn’t occurred before in South Africa, on such a national level and with such support. Women all over Durban’s CBD, from Curries Fountain to the city hall, knew this was what women were waiting for, what women wanted and demanded. And here it was happening…….


This march wasn’t about women defending some man, businessman, male politician or honouring men who had been to war and back. It was about women stating their power because they’d had enough of the violence.


#TotalShutdown in Durban will be debated, discussed and assessed. Opinions, convo and arguments will differ about the strategy, the attendance, the women who attended and talk about the positives. For now, with the march still breathing, we not going to forget very quickly how women found the strength, used their power and marched with resilience and fearlessness to own the streets and demand the society they want to live in.


 Text: Cheryl Roberts

Photographs: Cheryl Roberts

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: