Today, Wits students led by vice chancellor, Prof Adam Habib, and the Student Representative Council marched around campus, singing songs of liberation in solidarity with those affected by the recent xenophobic attacks.
Over a 1 000 Wits students walked from Wits International House to the Great Hall, some in green t-shirts that read “I AM Africa” and placards that with anti-xenophobic messages.
In welcoming the crowd general secretary of the SRC, Senzekahle Mbokazi, described the presence of the Wits students as “overwhelming”.
Habib described the past two weeks for South Africa as “shameful” but today he stood proud to be part of the Wits community.
“Today, I lift up my head when I look at this community,” he said. “Because Wits has stood together and said not in our name”.
“It is fundamental that this university serves Africa,” said Habib.
Elvis Munatswa, a Wits student who was physically attacked recently inside the taxi on his way home from Wits by four men including the driver, also addressed the crowd while standing on crutches.
“I stand here well, attending a few session for physiotherapy just to get my leg on track,” he said. “But I am skeptical of using a taxi.”
Munatswa told the crowd his attack not occurred only because he is a Zimbabwean.
“If they didn’t like me for any other reasons other than my nationality, they would’ve kicked me out of the taxi,” said Munatswa. His attackers took his belongings, including a laptop and wallet, before throwing him out of his taxi. .
Ayofunde Awosusi, the president of West African Student Society at Wits, said the march has reflected a positive side of South Africa that he hasn’t seen in recent week.
“From the foreign student perspective [the march] gives us hope,” he said. “Even though it doesn’t make us feel safe or better but it has the general vibe of what South Africa is about.”
But Awosusi believes a lot needs to be done, and one of them is “constructive measures to make sure that foreign students are safe on and off campus.”
For Midred Airo, the chairperson of the East African student society, the message that Witsies needed to take home after the march was that “violence is not the answer”.
“Tell your brother and sister to stop violence” said Airo.
Wits students are expected to join the Peoples’ March against xenophobia tomorrow, at 1pm. Over 30 000 people are expected to march from Pieter Roos Park in Hillbrow and end at Mary Fitzgerald Square in Newtown, Johannesburg.
Habib said in an email to the Wits community that staff and students could be excused from university work to attend the march. Buses would also be provided from Wits campus to Pieter Roos Park for marchers. Four buses would depart at noon and another four at 12.30 PM from the Amic Deck.
Buses would also be provided for students returning from Newtown at 4pm and again at 4.30pm.