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South Africa activists say will defy police on summit

Date: 25-Jun-02
Country: SOUTH AFRICA
Author: Manoah Esipisu

Police said they would get tough with protesters targeting the meeting, dubbed Earth Summit 2 and expected to draw 100 leaders, and have banned "spontaneous gatherings" in a bid to avoid the chaos seen at other summits in recent years.

But Edward Cottoe, one of the organisers of a so-called "NGO Indaba" that will make its grievances known only through demonstrations and pickets, said it rejected what it saw as attempts by the government to curb its protests.

"We've rejected the Big Daddy approach, whose goal is to hinder our ability to organise," said Cottoe, adding that his group had also refused to cooperate with government plans to issue computerised identification for all activists planning to come to South Africa for the August 26-September 4 event.

"We'll do everything in our power to make our grievances known. We'll defy any police attempts to restrict that," he said.

CIVIC GROUPS SPLIT ON SUMMIT

South Africa's civil society groups are sharply divided ahead of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD). The umbrella grouping of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) called Sangoco and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) - seen as moderate - are organising a parallel Global Forum, the "official" civil society event during the summit.

NGO Indaba split from the Sangoco-Cosatu group earlier this year, protesting that the government was being allowed a strong hand in how the Global Forum would be organised.

Cottoe said NGO Indaba was organising demonstrations to which there will be no invitations or registration.

Demonstrations have hit virtually every international political gathering in recent years to protest against capitalism, globalisation or military operations. In 1999 protesters derailed the launch of a new round of World Trade Organisation negotiations in Seattle.

South African police spokesman Sean Tshabalala said last week police had learned lessons from Seattle and other international gatherings and would arrest illegal protesters and impose a registration system for demonstrations.

Musie Khumalo, a spokesman for the Sangoco-Cosatu group, said the Global Forum would go ahead and would see "constructive discussions on a wide range of issues affecting the planet".

The WSSD is a follow-up to the 1992 Rio Earth Summit and its dates were changed to avoid the first anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks on the United States.

President George W. Bush does not plan to attend the WSSD, U.S. officials said last week, ending months of speculation.

The government expects 65,000 visitors to South Africa - including 40,000 activists from environmental, labour, youth and woman groups.

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