By Chloé Osmond
On 21 March - Human Rights Day - a group of students from the Students' Organization for Animal Rights (SOAR) at UCKAR attended a protest calling for the East London Zoo to close down. Ultimately, the students decided to leave due to an encounter with a racist protester. This was one of a series of protests to ban animal trading and close the zoo. The group started at Beacon Bay retail park, where a Khoi & San collective had been sleeping in a cage for 11 days to demonstrate the zoo’s cruelty. From there, the protest moved to the entrance of the zoo itself. During the proceedings, the members of SOAR noticed several members of a biker group that were wearing the old South African flag on their jackets. The flag has strong associations with Apartheid and is a symbol of white nationalism. Two members of SOAR confronted one biker, whose badges identified him as the President of MCC East London (though it is unclear which group he is associated with in particular). He was asked whether he is proud of the flag, to which he replied, "I am very proud. This is the old South Africa." He also stated that he cares more about animals than people. After this encounter, SOAR took a vote in favour of leaving the protest. The head and deputy-head of the society, Joshua Kloppers and Lara Venter respectively, first spoke to the event's organizers and the press to bring the issue to their attention. "SOAR supports what the protest is about - closing the zoo and banning animal trading. However, we strongly condemn the racism that we saw displayed at the protest. Racists should not be welcome at animal rights protests or anywhere," stated Kloppers.
The protest organisers, including the Khoi & San figureheads, expressed their surprise about the incident and also firmly condemned the views associated with wearing the Apartheid flag.