About 30,000 people have taken part in a march through South Africa’s main city, Johannesburg, to demand an end to a recent wave of xenophobic attacks. Both locals and immigrants joined the protest with placards saying “Africa Unite” and “Welcome foreigners”. An anti-xenophobic protest also took place in the coastal city of Port Elizabeth.
South Africa’s army was deployed to flashpoints earlier this week to prevent further violence. At least seven people have been killed, 5,000 left homeless and many foreign-owned shops looted since the attacks started about three weeks ago. “We will defeat xenophobia like we defeated apartheid,” the premier of South Africa’s Gauteng province, David Makhura, told the crowd in Johannesburg.
Gauteng is the economic heartland of South Africa and includes Johannesburg. Many unemployed South Africans accuse foreigners of taking their jobs. South Africa has an official unemployment rate of around 25%. The BBC’s Pumza Fihlani, who was at the scene, said the crowd marched through Johannesburg’s Hillbrow suburb, which some describe as Lagos because of its huge Nigerian population.
Protesters sang a sorrowful song, Senzenina, or “What have we done?” It was popular at funerals of anti-apartheid activists during white-minority rule. “Mandela must be turning in his grave. This is not the South Africa he fought for,” Johannesburg resident Vusi Hlongwane told the BBC.