South Africans in their tens of thousands have turned out to support anti xenophobia marches and events around the country this week and South Africa’s Anglican Archbishop Thabo Makgob has urged one million South Africans to join an anti xenophobia march in Pretoria tomorrow (Friday, April 24).
Some 30 000 people marched through central Johannesburg today (Thursday, April 23). Both South Africans and immigrants took part, some bearing placards reading “Africa unite” and “Welcome foreigners.” And in Port Elizabeth the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University called on students, staff and local citizens to participate a silent march against xenophobia today. Another march led by the Anglican Bishop of PE, Bethlehem Nopece, is scheduled for Monday, April 27 (Freedom Day) in Zwide. In Cape Town yesterday trade unionists, religious leaders and political leaders attended an anti xenophobia rally in a City Hall that was darkened because of load shedding.
Speaking at the Cape Town rally which was called by Cosatu, pastor and trade unionist Nosey Pieterse, who led farmerworker protests in Du Doorns in 2013, said South Africans must seek forgiveness from foreign nationals.
“We have sinned against God and we have sinned against foreign nationals. They came here looking for bread and instead found death,” said Pieterse.
Day of mourning
Pieterse called on government to declare a day of mourning for those murdered in xenophobic attacks.“We need to turn to God for healing,” he said.“We must prayer to be cured of this violence in our country.”
Addressing the crowd in the Johannesburg march today,Gauteng province, David Makhura said:”We will defeat xenophobia like we defeated apartheid.”
Archbishop Makgoba will join Graça Machel, wife of the late Nelson Mandela, South African pop icon Yvonne Chaka Chaka and Prof Pitika Ntuli, a sculptor, poet and expert on African indigenous systems on the march beginning at 9am tomorrow (Friday April 24) at the Pretoria City Hall and ending at 11am at Union Buildings.
Christian groups have launched a number of prayer initatives in response to the xenophobia and various humanitarian initiatives have been started to address the health, housing, transport and other needs of victims of the recent attacks in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. The attacksI have resulted in at least seven people killed, more than 5 000 left homeless and foreign owned shops looted. The South African government this week deployed the army to volatile hotspots in Johannesburg and Durban.
In Zimbabwe some 200 church leaders attended an inter-denominational prayer meeting in Harare yesterday in response to the xenophobia in South Africa. Emotions ran high at the meeting and the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe (EFZ) called on the Zimbabwean government to take urgent political and economic measures to avoid an influx of its citizens to South Africa, where they face humiliation.
Reports indicate that around three million Zimbabweans are in South Africa after fleeing the economic and political upheavals in their country over the past decade.