"We are all Zimbabweans": South Africans march against xenophobia
Over 2,000 people marched through central Johannesburg Saturday in protest over the recent spate of xenophobic attacks that have claimed the lives of at least 44 mostly African migrants, dpa reported.
Waving placards reading "We are all Zimbabweans" and "Xenophobia hurts like apartheid" the diverse crowd of South Africans and immigrants wound its way through the central business district to a church that shelters hundreds of illegal Zimbabwean migrants.
Immigrants from Kenya, Cameroon, Mozambique and Angola marched under the flags of their country.
Zimbabweans were also present in large number among the protestors, some of whom wore t-shirts marked "amakwerekwere" (foreigner) - a term used derogatorily in South Africa.
The protest was organized by a coalition of non-governmental organizations on the eve of Africa Day, a day on which Africans celebrate continental solidarity but which looks set to be overshadowed this year by the violence.
Nearly two weeks of attacks aimed mainly at driving African migrants out of poor communities continued Saturday in a township near George in the Western Cape. Police fired rubber bullets to disperse rioting residents, who attacked and looted foreign-owned shops.
East of Johannesburg, a man was shot dead by one of the soldiers deployed to help police restore calm to the townships around the city, which have seen the worst of the violence.
The defence department said the soldier shot the man in Springs Friday night after the man pointed a firearm at him during a police raid.
Earlier this week, President Thabo Mbeki gave the green light for the army to be deployed to assist the police in fighting mobs that have have turned on migrants living in their midst, accusing them of taking jobs and public housing.
Since a speech decrying xenophobia a week ago Mbeki has been remarkably quiet on the crisis, which has shattered South Africa's tolerant image.
"Where are you Mr President?" a banner carried by one protestor in Johannesburg read.
Acting Foreign Affairs Minister Zola Skweyiya said Saturday he was worried that the attacks could fuel tensions between South Africans and other Africans.