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An open Whatsapp message to President Ramaphosa: ‘Dude, it’s not fair’


Chris Roper is deputy director of Code for Africa, a director of the African Network of Centers for Investigative Reporting, and most recently held the position of editor-in-chief of the Mail & Guardian. He was founding portal manager of Tiscali World Online, portal manager for MWEB, and Editor-in-Chief at He was a Knight Fellow for the ICFJ from 2015 - 2019.

Mr President, bru, – you’re using Covid-19 as an excuse to deny surfers our civil liberties and human rights. We demand you open up the surf breaks! You strike a surfer, you strike a reef!

Dear Mr President, sir:  On Tuesday, I have never felt prouder to be a South African. All over our beloved country, except for the bits without beaches that don’t count anyway, surfers came out in their dozens to protest the unjust and oppressive laws you have forced upon us.

Mr President, bru, do I have to remind you of the poignant chapter in Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, Long Paddle to Freedom, where he describes the pain and suffering imposed on him by the apartheid state? You will recall that they imprisoned him for 18 years on Robben Island, in a cell a few hundred metres from a fairly consistent left point break, but refused to allow him to surf?

Why are you denying us the civil liberties that Nelson Mandela and others, whose names escape me because they’re not friends with Bono, fought so hard to get? You probably don’t know this, Mr President, because you come from Soweto, but surfers also played a big part in the liberation struggle in South Africa. I think I can safely say that if surfers hadn’t played so much Bob Marley, the revolution would have taken a lot longer to come.

My President, you should have been there on Tuesday. You would have been moved by the courage of the protesters. Some of them weren’t even wearing a beanie, Mr President, and it was a kak cold morning where I was. I overheard one brave soul saying: “Why won’t they let us surf. Don’t they know surfers WANT to be healthy?” A supportive woman agreed. “I don’t know why they’re punishing us!”

Why ARE you punishing us, Mr President? This erosion of our civil liberties cannot be allowed to continue. You are using the excuse of Covid-19 to deprive us of our HUMAN RIGHTS! Our HUMAN RIGHTS, Mr President. I don’t want to pull a Cliffie on you, bru, but as Gareth said: “There are more of us than there are police officers and soldiers, so if you piss enough people off, things get very hairy. Im sure those advisers in the security cluster have mentioned that they cant shoot us all or put us all in jail.” You don’t want to provoke surfers, Mr President. If we go full Locals Only, we can topple your government. I mean, assuming there’s no swell on Election Day.

Mr President, when you couldnt put your mask on we laughed and we were charmed to see that you were able to laugh at yourself too. Although, alright, some of my friends did make fun of you, and say they’d like to see you try and get into a wetsuit, but I defended you. Don’t take me for a fool, Mr President. I defended you! 

Bru, it’s like you’re bringing back apartheid. I don’t know if you remember, but the Afrikaner regime wouldn’t let black surfers onto the beaches. I mean, I don’t think there were any black surfers back then, but whatever, if there were, they wouldn’t have been allowed to surf.

I know you’re going to tell me that we’re all supposed to be flattening the curve, but Mr President, bru – surfers don’t do flat! We do peaks, Mr President. Don’t tell me we’re being selfish, and might contribute to the disease striking down someone else. When you’re surfing in the ocean of life, and a Great White shark bites you, or some other kind of non-racial shark for that matter, you don’t cry about it. You took your chances. It’s nature.

Allow me to quote some of the inspirational slogans our brave protesters were carrying. “Is SAPS now Baywatch?” (I mean, who wants to see Bheki Cele in a red thong?) “Ocean users naturally self-isolate” Although admittedly, that one would have read better if the surfers weren’t all sitting clustered together on a fence. And my favourite, “Fishing, Tourism, Lively Hood”, which I think is from a Bob Marley song.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking this is just about selfish privilege, Mr President. It’s the poor people who are suffering that we really care about. We are showing solidarity with our brothers and sisters in less privileged areas, like Midrand and Bellville. They too are losing their civil liberties, such as they are. Let my people go! as Gareth said in the Bible. Or else there will be plagues and lamentations such as you have never seen before. You strike a surfer, you strike a reef.

Dude, it’s not fair. We’ve all seen those pics of thousands of desperate, starving people queuing for food parcels. They’re not practising social distancing.  How come they’re allowed to do whatever they want, but we can’t surf? We are just as desperate! This is like some sort of surfer genocide! And the army and stuff! Civil liberties! Cele don’t surf!


(If you would like to contribute to the Direct Intervention Campaign Krew [D.I.C.K], please purchase one of our lekker WWJD bracelets #WhatWouldJordyDo, or one of our limited edition Billabong Long Paddle To Freedom t-shirts. Please join our #IAmSurfing Facebook group.) DM



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