WE ARE AFRICANS:The Human Rights Commission at the People's March in Pieter Roos Park. Photo: Zimasa Mpemnyama

WE ARE AFRICANS: The Human Rights Commission at the People’s March in Pieter Roos Park. Photo: Zimasa Mpemnyama

Thousands of people embraced unity by joining the People’s March to denounce and confront xenophobia yesterday.

Marchers started at Pieter Roos Park in Parktown, moved through parts of the Johannesburg CBD and ended at Mary Fitzgerald Square in Newtown.

On the way people were singing liberation songs and carrying placards with slogans such as “South Africa belongs to all who live in it”, “I found home”, “Fight Xenophobia, fight racism”.

Zwelinzima Vavi said it was important that people were sending out the message that poverty and unemployment are the enemies, not foreign nationals; “This means victory against xenophobia, uniting our people against their real enemy [unemployment] which is not caused by our brothers and sisters [foreign nationals].”

African Diaspora Forum Vice Chairperson Jean-Pierre Lukamba said the purpose of the march was to send a message to Africans and the world that not all South Africans are xenophobic; “Right now in Africa many people think South Africans are xenophobic, we are sending a message to the continent that not all are xenophobic and to set an example to perpetrators that they should stop what they are doing.”

In Johannesburg CBD, foreign nationals who did not participate in the march were standing on road pavements, waving and chanting with the marchers, “We want peace!”

Max Sisulu remembered how other African countries supported South Africa during the struggle,   “Africans who are staying in our country deserve our support; we were in their countries during the struggle, they gave us home and all the support we needed.”

The march was organised by a coalition of African Diaspora Forum, Gauteng Office of the Premier, City of Johannesburg and major social movements such as Treatment Action Campaign, Equal Education, as well as organisations such as Section 27, Corruption Watch and Doctors Without Boarders.