The Right2Know Campaign organised the march, but were also supported by Consumer Fair and Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), with their long term ambition being that every citizen should be able to have free access to a minimum amount of airtime.
Right2Know presented a “memorandum” to leading network operators Vodacom and MTN on World Press Freedom Day, May 3, 2013, and the organised march, which included a police escort, was a follow-up after a lack of response from the telecommunications companies.
Speaking to HumanIPO before the march, Right2Know’s national coordinator Mark Weinberg said: “We are looking at all of the networks, but these two in particular (MTN and Vodacom) because they are the duopoly that dominate the market.
“We have seen that Cell C has made effort to undercut prices and the big two have been slow to respond because they have 80 per cent of users captured in their networks.”
The campaigners argue that the high cost of communication, such as airtime, SMS and data, is limiting South Africa’s democratising potential because it hinders access to information.
The protesters also called on the operators to comply with the Consumer Act, the Independent Communication Authority of South Africa (ICASA) and parliament’s portfolio committee on communications.
Imraahn Ismail-Mukaddam, national advocacy director of Consumer Fair, told HumanIPO: “We raise the issue of access to telecommunication as a basic human right and we are also raising the issue of access to the internet very much becoming a basic human right.
“It must grow momentum so there is free access to telecommunication and the internet. Access to communication can be the big equaliser in society.”
The march started late, at around 11am, and once they made it to Vodacom’s offices they were confronted by security staff and no officials appeared to discuss their grievances.