Witsies say ‘no!’ to xenophobia

 

WE ARE ALL AFRICANS: Wits students, united outside the Wits Great Hall steps against xenophobia. The message was very clear, according to Vice Chancellor Adam Habib "everyone at Wits on Wednesday was an Africa."     Photo: Anelisa Tuswa

WE ARE ALL AFRICANS: Wits students, united outside the Wits Great Hall steps against xenophobia. The message was very clear, according to Vice Chancellor Adam Habib “everyone at Wits on Wednesday was an Africa.”                                                                                                                                                                            Photo: Anelisa Tuswa

 

By Anelisa Tuswa and Sinikiwe Mqadi

“NOT IN OUR NAME! NOT IN OUR NAME!”

That was the message from more than a 1 000 Witsies on Wednesday, a huge show of support by Wits staff and students for an anti-xenophobia march that was called on short notice.

The Witsies marched from International House to the steps of the Great Hall, carrying flags from African countries and placards with the words “Nkosi sikelela iAfrika”, “Africa unite”, and “No one is illegal”

The students, some wearing green t-shirts reading “I AM Africa”, marched singing liberation songs “Siyaya noma kubi.” and “Azania”.

“From Cape to Cairo

Morocco to Madagascar

iAzania izwe lethu

Solithatha ngebhazuka”

The message was clear “No to xenophobia!”.

Afikile Qobo, 4th year Medicine, said South Africa have come so far as the country and should share with people who have helped the country in the past.

“I am here because I want action to the words that have been going on social media,” she said.

“Wits intellectuals have made a broad statement today that there is one Africa and it belongs to all of us”

SRC president Mcebo Dlamini said the massive turnout from students showed Witsies stood in solidarity with their fellow Africans.

“The bright minds have spoken, not in our name, Wits intellectuals have made a broad statement today that there is one Africa and it belongs to all of us,” Dlamini said.

For Mildred 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.

At the rally at the Great Hall, Witsies listened to the story of 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.

“I stand here well, attending a few session for physiotherapy just to get my leg on track,” he said. “But I am sceptical of using a taxi.”

Munutshawa said the march “reflected a positive side” of South Africa “I haven’t seen in recent weeks.”

Ayofunde Awosusi, the president of West African Student Society at Wits, agreed that the march showed South Africa’s good side.

“From the foreign student perspective it 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.”

Mark Heywood, director of Section 27, apologised on behalf of all South Africans for the brutality of the xenophobic violence and urged Witsies to continue fighting against the injustices.

“Today we do not stand the heart of South Africa and the African continent.”

Wits students were led by Vice Chancellor Prof Adam Habib and the SRC, who organised the march. Giving his speech, Habib chanted “Mayibuye iAfrika” and “Amandla awethu” (Power to the people).

“I want you to say it louder so that the whole South Africa can hear,” he shouted.

Habib described the past two weeks for South Africa as “shameful” but on Wednesday he expressed his pride because Wits stood together and said “not in our name”.

Habib thanked students for speaking against xenophobia, “Thank you for coming, you have lifted my heart and I think you lift the heart of everyone in the world.”

“Today we do not stand here in front of this Great Hall as Wits University but we stand here as the heart of South Africa and the African continent.”

Xenophobia: not in our name!

WE ARE ALL AFRICANS: All Wits students, united outside the Wits Great Hall stairs to send a message.

WE ARE ALL AFRICANS: All Wits students, united outside the Wits Great Hall stairs to send a message against xenophobia. Photo: Sinikiwe Mqadi

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”.

“Today, I lift up my head when I look at the Wits community”

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. .

“The march has reflected a positive side of South Africa that he hasn’t seen in recent weeks”

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.