It was the death of Heather Peterson, a 45-year-old woman from Westbury that sparked the widespread protests amongst the coloured communities in Gauteng. Peterson was killed after being caught in a crossfire shootout between two rival gangs.
For the past month, communities from Westbury to Ennerdale have taken to the streets to protest against the lack of police action, criminal drug rings, and rising unemployment in their areas. Leading with the narrative of being the forgotten people, the coloured communities have been demanding recognition from the government in terms of employment and decisive action against drug dealers.
The Gauteng shutdown coordinating committee (GSCC), made up of several communities, marched on Friday October 12 to the Gauteng Premier, David Makhura’s office. Under the banner, “Blood Friday”, the march called on the Premier to deal with the issues they have raised.
Gathered at the Mary Fitzgerald Square in Newtown were community members from Westbury, Bellavista, Riverlea and Eldorado Park. Shouts of “First Nation, First People” rung out as people streamed onto the square for the plan of action to be laid out. “We came to save our community and the children and, our families. We face a lot of bad things like drugs, fighting and the killing of our people. We just want peace,” Community member Abigail from Noordgesig said.
The general sentiments from the people at the square was their communities are being ignored by the government, their people are suffering and unemployment had led to rising gangsterism and crime. “The best way to destroy a people is to take away their ability to reproduce themselves. That is what they are doing. They are allowing us to kill ourselves,” Shaun from Noordgesig said.
Merica Wells from Bellavista said she was there at the march because: “As the coloured community we are always put down. We are too black to be white with the white people and now with the black people we are to white to be black.,”
Friday’s event, #BloodFriday is to be an annual event held on every second October to commemorate the lives of coloured people which has been lost around South Africa. GSCC member, Anthony Philip Williams said: “One life lost is one life too many. This Inaugural Blood Friday is the celebration and commemoration of all the lives that were lost,”
Sheikh Aadil Abrahams from Ennerdale says this march is a mobilisation against the marginalisation of communities around South Africa. “We want to achieve equality and equity for all communities that haven’t been recognised and that are marginalised in South Africa,”
In a press statement released by the grouping, they heralded the success of the event as historic: “coming from a community who has been perceived as passive, gangsters, violent and unintelligent,” Makhura, who met the marchers at Beyers Naude Park said he would be responding to the memorandum of demands handed to him.
“I want to say again that I will continue to echo what I have echoed before, we can’t allow this neglect and under-investment to continue,” he addressed the crowds. Giving him seven days, the group said while they welcomed his response, they want written undertakings, and a measurable, immediate response.
An elderly woman from Westbury said the area is not a nice place for children to be raised, as there is just too much crime. “We don’t deserve to stay like this. In 1994, we put down our votes for a better life. It’s not right what is happening right now. I am standing here because I love my people and I don’t like what it happening to them,” she said.
The community members, along with the GSCC are clear: if the Gauteng government does not respond to their demands, the protest action will not stop. Their message is: “We want them to feel what we feel, we will punish them if they ignore us,”