Five moments from the Durban Peace March that aren’t helping with xenophobia

The Peace March held in Durban on Thursday was meant to provide a platform for South Africans to stand in solidarity with our fellow Africans and fight back against the rampant xenophobia in the country. But things didn’t go quite as planned. Before the march even began, things started to fall apart. RA’EESA PATHER lists five moments when the march failed to do its job.

1. When it was all about fashion statements

South African singer Simphiwe Dana, proudly tweeted a photo of herself with popular tweeters Shaka Sisulu, Khaya Dlanga and Mayiholme Tshwete at the march. The four public personalities were looking fresh in their outfits, but swag isn’t going to stop xenophobia. Sisulu and Dlanga did their bit to help take a stand against xenophobia by organising the so-called Peace Bus, which transported people from Jo’burg to the march. But with violence spreading and foreign nationals being killed, some might argue that the march be a little less party, and little more serious.

2. When MK vets tore up a protest banner

Calls for the South African government to condemn xenophobic violence have come from far and wide. The government has been known to avoid calling attacks on foreign nationals xenophobic, instead opting to say they are criminal acts, a move many have seen as a failure of leadership.

On Wednesday, President Zuma released a pre-recorded statement, that was broadcast on SAfm, saying “What is happening in our country is not acceptable.” He went on to condemn the killings and call for calm.

But he did not attend the march. A protestor who chose to point that out in a banner was quickly dealt with by Umkhonto we Sizwe veterans who attended the protest. But freedom of expression is still a human right, and tearing up banners calling on leaders to act goes against what the march should be doing – encouraging leaders to act and educate against xenophobia.

3. When a man got ejected for “causing disruptions”

It’s unclear what happened, but tweets from journalists on the ground indicate that two people were ejected from the march for “causing disruptions”. Fist fights broke out and people were teargassed for attempting to start the march before “leadership” was ready, tweeted journalist Nosipho Mnogoma. Mnogoma said the clashes took place between marchers, who were allegedly impatiently waiting for the speakers to wrap up so the march could begin, and MK vets.

4. When all people were equal, but some were given VIP tags

The xenophobic attacks have demonstrated that South African lives matter more to some people than African lives, and the march seemed to build on that with VIP tags handed out to those deemed more equal than others. At a peace protest advocating for an end to xenophobia, surely the message should be that all Africans are equally important?

5. When predictions came in that the march wouldn’t help

#PeaceBus selfie on our way to the meeting point #StopXenophobia

A photo posted by Khaya Dlanga (@khayadlanga) on

Earlier on Thursday, Khaya Dlanga Instagrammed a selfie of himself on the Peace Bus heading to the meeting point for the march. The jovial photo had at least one Instagrammer predicting that the march wouldn’t live up to expectations and promises to bring change.

“As a Zimbabwean I think this is absolutely stupid, South Africans just find joy and fun even in the most inappropriate times mxm,” an Instagram user called Zibnik commented on Dlanga’s photo.

He may have been right, too. While the march was going forward, xenophobic attacks erupted in Benoni and Rustenberg, unleashing yet another round of violence against foreign nationals. While people may have come out in their thousands to protest for peace, the violence was still spreading.

– Featured image via @LeadSA on Twitter