Saturday, May 24, 2008

South Africans unite against xenophobia

Got this article in an e-mail today.

South Africans unite against xenophobia

(from the South Africa --Good News newsletter)

Reports of xenophobic violence and hatred have featured prominently in South Africa's - and the world's - daily press this week and rightly so. But what hasn't made the headlines is the overwhelming positive response to the violence from the South African public.

Dr Imtiaz Sooliman, founder of Gift of the Givers, says South Africans have shown their true hearts through the outpouring of goods, food, blankets and money for the victims of the xenophobic violence.

"To me, the real spirit of South Africans has been shown. We are not a xenophobic nation," says Sooliman.

Gift of the Givers has set up a base at Sandton's Village Walk where people have been invited to leave any donations they may wish to offer. In just a week, Gift of the Givers has moved over R1 million worth of goods from Village Walk to refugee centres in Alexandra, Cleveland, Primrose and various other parts of Ekurhuleni.

"I've been in this industry for 15 years and I have never seen a response like this. People often show support for causes out of the country, but when it's in South Africa, they say it's the government's problem.

"But now we are seeing massive support. Black, White, Indian, Coloured; they are all here. Clearly the large majority of South Africans are deeply unhappy with this situation," adds Sooliman.

Corporate support

South African corporates have also expressed their condemnation and shown support for victims.
Since launching an appeal for assistance last week, the South African Red Cross Society has received donations from a number of corporates, including a R3 million cheque from Standard Bank.

The Hilton Hotel Corporation has announced that they will erect a temporary soup kitchen in support of victims at the Bramley Police Station. The soup kitchen will be open today. Staff members from the hotel have volunteered to help provide stricken families with at least one hot meal in the day. The hotel will also distribute hot drinks, nappies, pillows, blankets and carpets.

"We feel this responsibility deeply, and we are committed to doing as much as we can with the resources we have at our disposal to help the people of this country through this terrible time," says Axel Hauser, GM of Hilton Sandton.

Students take a stand
Students in campuses around the city have also taken a stand against xenophobia, primarily through protest marches and collection drives.

This week, close to three hundred Wits University teachers and students gathered along Jan Smuts Avenue in Johannesburg, to voice their condemnation of the attacks. The academic protest helped to create public awareness of opposition to the travesties occurring in the country. The university is currently collecting goods for victims through their campus volunteer programme. All are welcome to contribute.

Students from the University of Pretoria took to the streets today in a protest rally thatwill mark the launch of the Tukkies Drop-Off. Students and all Pretoria residents are urged to bring any goods to the Tukkiewerf Building on campus to be distributed to victims.

In the Eastern Cape, Rhodes University staff and students will be signing pledges of African solidarity today. Each person who signs the pledge will be given an Africa symbol to be publicly displayed on doors, cars and windows. The symbol is intended to not only represent solidarity but will serve to identify allies and safe spaces, said a statement from Deputy Vice Chancellor Dr Sizwe Mabizela.

"Should any member of the Rhodes community be the target of xenophobia, they will be able to identify allies and safe spaces by the prominently displayed Africa symbols and seek assistance," he stated.

Africans gather in a show of unity
Ironically, the wave of xenophobic violence that has been spreading through the country has occurred amid earnest preparations for Africa Day celebrations. Concerts, exhibitions and workshops are scheduled to take place throughout the weekend in Johannesburg, in commemoration of the founding of the Organisation of African Unity on the 25th of May 1963 (now known as the African Union).

Addressing concerns that the Africa Day celebrations would be cancelled, Steven Sack from the City of Joburg's Department of Community Development said: "The easy thing would be to cancel or postpone the shows, but we believe that now, more than ever, it is critical that South Africans and our brothers and sisters from the rest of the continent gather together to celebrate and honour the ties that bind us."

Other events taking place this weekend include a protest vigil in Cape Town and a march against xenophobia in Johannesburg.

The protest vigil is hosted by the Cape Town Action Forum and will take place on Friday 23 May from 7pm to midnight at the Parliament building in Plein Street. All those who wish to express their condemnation of xenophobia are urged to attend.

The Social Movements Indaba, a coalition of humanitarian organisations, will be hosting their march against xenophobia in Johannesburg on Saturday 24th May. All are welcome and urged to bring banners, placards and friends. The march will start at 9am at Pieter Roos Park on the corner of Empire and Queen Roads in Parktown.

Since the wave of xenophobic violence broke out in Alexandra almost two weekends ago, South Africans, without hesitation, have shown their true spirit of humanity. On-the-ground volunteers have many personal stories to tell of the inspiring acts of compassion they have witnessed while working in the refugee camps around Gauteng and Ekurhuleni. South African residents of affected communities have come to the refugee camps to simply talk, counsel, sing and pray with victims of the violence.

Perhaps, as David Stevens of the South African Red Cross says, "Ubuntu is not lost."

By Lindy Mtongana

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Make a difference
To find out how you can join the stand against xenophobia, contact the following organisations:

  • South African Red Cross Society - (011) 873 6364 (Odney Matji)
  • Gift of the Givers - (011) 832 1546 (Rabia)
  • Join the For Good network - www.forgood.co.za
  • Central Methodist Church - (011) 333 5926 / 082 600 8892
  • 702.co.za for a organisations to contact if you want to support victims
  • Wits Volunteers Programme - (011) 717 9732
  • University of Pretoria Student Representative Council - (012) 366 9800
  • Rhodes University - (044) 603 8111

South Africans on Facebook are rallying support. Groups to join include:
Against Xenophobia in South Africa
South Africans against Xenophobia

Also, have a look at the suggestions posted on SARocks.co.za

If you know of other organisations or ways to help - particularly in Cape Town and Durban and any other areas where these attacks are taking place - please let us know and we will add them to the list.

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