(Above: Sheik Musa Khalil on the left has been fighting alongside us since the beginning)
“He has arrived; he is in office.”
Excellent. Against all odds, we have everybody in the same space. Media present? Tick. Religious leaders? Tick. Mayor in his office with no known escape routes? Tick. Ready for ambush.
Since the Mayor intervened and ruined the last sachet alcohol-impounding operation, he had affectively blocked all enforcement by refusing to let his enforcement officers take part in operations. Theres a lot riding on this ambush.
Our District’s former Anglican Bishop (still an influential figure) and Muslim Sheik lead the way with a gaggle of media swarming behind them. At first, I tactically remain outside. The last time I saw the Mayor, we both lost our tempers. I waited. Then my phone rang and I was summoned inside to join the discussion. Things weren’t going well. The Mayor dodged everything, weaving in lies and half truths. His attack was threefold-
- He claimed enforcement was unfairly targeting certain businessmen in the town area, and that we should be going out to the villages. This is true but justified- the main suppliers of illegal alcohol are in town!
- He claimed that business owners had not been properly ‘sensitized’ to the ordinance, and there should be multiple meetings hosted for business owners to have ‘input’ into implementation of the ordinance. Firstly, the news about the ordinance had already saturated the media since its launch the previous year, and business owners had already had illegal product confiscated! The time for ‘sensitization’ had clearly passed. ‘Sensitization of business owners’ is at best a delay tactic to make sure nothing happens, and at worst, an opportunity for business owners to rebel and swing things to benefit their profit focus.
- Most bizarrely, he claimed that the first round of impounded sachets were never actually burned, and that the big public bonfire was ‘faked.’ How on earth he thought this ridiculous claim would even help his position, I’m still not sure. Afterwards I provided the video footage and photographs to the media of the sachets being burnt.
The Mayor completely dominated the discussion. The religious leaders (who I clearly had not prepped strongly enough), folded under his pompous display of authority and importance. Too gentle, too polite, their message demanding the Mayor release his enforcement officers for operations was lost. My own attempts to ‘up the anti’ were shushed. We left, I felt deflated.
Outside, we reshaped things with the media, and managed to rework the message to make it stronger!
Despite having essentially failed in our main mission of influencing the Mayor, our ambush had an unexpected positive result. Perhaps frustrated by failed ambush, the Muslim Sheik called the District Chairman and they went on radio and thoroughly dressed down the Mayor. The District Chairman then resolved to go above the Mayor’s head, and ensure enforcement would go on, with or without the town enforcement officers. Boom.
Most of the media coverage was on local radio, but a local reporter also wrote it up on their news blog.