By Mzwandile Maila and Dorothy Mabelebele
On 28 March 2017, African Diaspora Forum (ADF) organised and led a peaceful march from Pieter Roos Park to the Library Gardens in Johannesburg CBD. The march was held against the recent xenophobia attacks that have been happening in South Africa, and was attended by different representatives from African national and South African organisations, and communities in South Africa.
These include members of the African Diaspora Forum (ADF), Consortium for Refugees and Migrants South Africa (CRMSA), United Front (UF), the new national federation of unions in South Africa (that will be launched later in April), National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), Johannesburg Concerned Residents, Zimbabwe African People’s Union, Economic Development of South Africa, South African Jewish Community, and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). The marchers carried placards written: ‘Phansi Xenophobia, Phansi exploitation, and Racism’, ‘Phansi illegal detention’, and ‘One Africa No Border’. “There is no reason to hate us, we are all Africans,” said a protestor from Malawi.
Marc Gbaffou, the chair of ADF said; “As ADF we will fight against crime, illegal detention, and drugs.” “The South African law makes it very difficult for assylum seekers to study, to work or open a business.” Gbaffou also spoke about how every day African nationals are harrassed by the police, “this must come to an end,” he said.
ADF Women’s League chairperson, Lubelihle Banda, said; “we have seen many cases where pregnant migrant women are treated badly in Lindela [Repatriation Centre, a detention centre for undocumented migrants in Krugersdorp, Gauteng], and forced inside trucks to be taken back to their countries’ of birth. “Women are vulnurable and we as the ADF Women’s League, we will fight for their rights.” According to Banda, ADF Women’s League works for an integrated society that is free of xenophobia and all other kinds of discrimination. “We also promote working together to promote and advance the right of African women and girls”, she added.
Ms. Hibist Kassa, a member of United Front, told the more than 100 marchers that; “South Africa is a country plagued by poverty, unemployed and inequality. These led to a number of social problems like crime, violence, homelessness and drug abuse,” she said. “We must look at the root cause of these problems. It is the bosses and corporations who systematically exploit the poor and take advantage of the vulnerable position of immigrant workers”. She further said that; “it is the government that collaborates with business to make policies and laws that facilitate this exploitation. It is the government that is doing nothing to redistribute the wealth of this country.” “Immigrants are not to blame for the situation they find themselves in”, she concluded.
Premier of Gauteng David Makhura, addressed the marchers, saying; “No matter what colour or gender we are one in this country. If we still have homeless people and places that do not have water we still have to do a lots of work as the government… I am sending a message to those who attack African nationals that xenophobia is bad… [and] to criminals, we [are] going to work together to catch you”. Makhura said that the Premier’a office will be working together with migrants. Makhura concluded, saying he knew Mayor Mashaba refused to take [ADF’s] memorandum, and urged them to bring it to him, and that he would give it to Mashaba.
Some Africans nationals from Cameroon were holding placards saying “UN go back and rectify the mistake you did in Southern Cameroon”, refering to the region’s current struggle to become a sovereign state. Mr. Milton from Southern Cameroon spoke about what was happening in his home country. “We are calling to the South African government to support the African continent. For the past five years, there have been no schools. People from Southern Cameroon have been arrested for no reason and some are abuducted to other countries.”
A moment of silence was observed during the march in honour of the late Ahmed ‘Uncle Kathy’ Kathrada, who passed away.