JOHANNESBURG – SCORES of people killed and thousands left homeless during the xenophobic attacks that have heightened in South Africa in the past decade have been remembered as Africans of different nationalities converged in Johannesburg this past weekend.
This coincided with the commemorations of the Africa Week, marking the formation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), now called the African Union (AU), in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 1963.
African Diaspora Forum chairman, Marc Gbaffou, told CAJ News the coming together of South Africans and other African nationals in Barnato High School in Berea, was clear testimony of unity as people of the continent commemorated the formation of the organisation.
“Basically, we are commemorating the Africa Week following the historic birth of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), now called African Union (AU).
“We are also remembering the death of the 63 people, and more than 200 000 others who were left destitute during the deadly xenophobic violence of 2008,” said Gbaffou.
Those killed during the outbreaks in 2015 and earlier this year were commemorated.
While less pronounced in recent years, the xenophobic violence in 2008 was the worst suffered by South Africa.
Besides the deaths, property worth millions of Rands was looted or destroyed as locals ran rampage blaming foreign nationals for ‘stealing’
their jobs, resources and women.
Gbaffou said such a repeat of bloodshed was intolerable and a recurrence would not be allowed even by South Africans.
He however warned City of Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba to desist from making utterances that would be wrongly interpreted as xenophobic.
People of the continent, he said, always aspired to live together in harmony “from Cape to Cairo.”
In a separate interview with CAJ News on the sidelines of the commemoration in Berea, Gauteng provincial government director of sport and recreation, Fannie Mokoena, said the country’s economic hub was supporting social cohesion.
“We are commemorating the Africa Week to promote social cohesion, but at the same time addressing the issue of xenophobia. We are also
commemorating the African nationals in the country killed from 2008 and other years that followed.”
He said the main purpose of the event was to unite Africans and mobilizes them to remain empathic to each other.
“Sport can be a vehicle to address social ills and xenophobic attacks,” Mokoena said.
Thousands of people drawn from across African nationalities dressed in their traditional clothing, others waving flags from their countries, shared foodstuff, played football , danced and hugged at the event in the spirit of Pan Africanism.
Officials from the newly-formed workers federation, South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU), also attended in solidarity with ADF
Meanwhile, prior to the event in Berea, the Constitution Hill in Hillbrow hosted the launch of the Africa Week Festival, to be held under the theme, “A Better Africa for All.”
Festivities kicked off on Saturday and will run until the 27th of this month. Africa Day is commemorated on May 25.
Activities include film screenings, debates, entrepreneurial workshops and sports.
The grand finale will unfold in a parade and live music performances.
African National Congress mayoral committee member, Dan Mbovu, emphasised the need for local citizens to embrace their colleagues from around the continent.
“South Africans need to consider themselves as Africans,” Mbovu said.
Chairperson of Traditional Healing Practitioners of South Africa, Rapholo Chauke, urged traditional leaders to play a role addressing situations that threatened harmony.
He proposed a cleansing ceremony following the bloodshed in recent years.
“We need to cleanse the spirits of our brothers and sisters lost during the disturbances,” Chauke said.
– CAJ News