“Unite for the Africans abroad! Unite for the Africans a yard! Unite for it’s later (Africa uniting) than you think! … So-o: Africa unite!..”
This is part of Bob Marley’s song, Africa Unite, which characterised demonstrations organised by a collection of members of the civil society in Lilongwe today in protest of the xenophobic attacks by South Africans targeting other African nationals living in South Africa including Malawians.
The marchers who gathered at Parliament Round About started their march along Presidential Road heading towards South African High Commission where they handed over the petition outlining their demands to the visibly shaken South African High Commissioner to Malawi, Mbuyane Mokeane, soon after reading it out loud to her.
The march started with a couple of thousands of people the number of which kept growing as people from the roadside kept joining the train of singing, jeering and the visibly disgusted demonstrators.
As the music was blasting from the public address system which was mounted on a truck the marchers could be heard either singing along the songs of peace by Bob Marley, Salif Keita, Lucky Dube and Evison Matafale or chanting songs which were promptly composed on the scene calling for action by South African government towards the perpetrators of the xenophobic attacks.
The petition amongst other things is suggesting ways to South African government on how best it can address the xenophobic utterances and attacks which in the CSOs opinion, are stemming from “structural inequalities amongst South Africans that are rooted apartheid and white privileges.”
Reads the petition in part, “These inequalities were not instituted by migrants and will not automatically disappear if the migrant population decreases, the most sustainable way to address the economic frustrations felt by many South Africans is to adopt policies that reduce the inequalities and create programs that empower ordinary South Africans.
“We urge South African Government to categorically condemn any individual or institution that encourages the widespread use of xenophobic, aggressive and militarized rhetoric as a trend of blaming foreigners for social ills.”
In her very short response the Ambassador Mokeane said that she is going to make sure that the petition reaches her country which is going to take appropriate action, saying, “Fellow Africans, I wish to thank the CSOs for this petition and also promise that this petition will be forwarded to Pretoria.”
The petition has been signed by Billy Mayaya, a human rights defender, Gift Trapence who is executive director of Centre for the Development of People (CEDEP), Robert Mkwezalamba from Human Rights Consultative Committee, Lucky Mbewe the executive director of Youth Empowerment and Civic Education (YECE) and Timothy Mtambo who is executive director for Centre for Human Rights Rehabilitation (CHRR). There were also other human rights activists such as Martha Kwataine and Hebrews Misomali.
The activists through the petition have also called on South African Government to ensure that South African Human Rights Commission investigates xenophobia comments reportedly made by the Zulu King, Goodwill Zwelithini, Edward Zuma and Small Business Minister, Lindiwe Zulu and take appropriate actions.
The petition then ended with a threat to boycott South African business and products in the country, saying, “If these are not met within 48 hours, we shall have no choice but to call for a boycott of South African products and businesses in Malawi.”