A planned march against crime in South Africa is highlighting how racial and economic relations have changed in the nation since the fall of apartheid 14 years ago.
South African entertainer Desmond Dube plans to hold the Million Person March Against Crime on April 24 to call for the South African government to do more to ensure safety on the streets.
He was inspired to action after the slaying of his friend and neighbor, Bashimane “Shimi” Mofokeng, last week, according to South African news reports.
The slaying was just one of many that have terrorized parts of South Africa in recent years.
Already the rally is generating a good deal of media attention and interest from the public, according to the reports.
“This campaign will grow, unlike others, because its leading voices are black South Africans,” wrote the South African newspaper Dispatch, in an editorial.
The Dispatch noted that previous anti-crime campaigns have been mostly organized by European-descended South Africans, which led to accusations of racism.
One organizer told the nation’s Sunday Times that people need to take action, because the government is sitting on its hands.
His sentiments were echoed by former cricket player Ali Bacher, who called the transition to democracy a “miracle,” but also said that the South Africans are in denial about the crime problem.
He told the newspaper that his grandchildren and several friends have recently been robbed at gunpoint.
The controversial new president of the ruling African National Congress, Jacob Zuma, has said that crime will be a priority if he takes over leadership of the government, as he is expected to next year, when President Thabo Mbeki steps down.
Zuma, who is currently battling corruption charges, said that the old regime is to partly to blame.
“People in this country were abused by the old (white) government which resorted to using deadly criminals as instruments to deal with freedom fighters. So there’s that kind of culture here,” he told The Guardian in the United Kingdom.
Last year, a study by the South African Institute of Race Relations found that most of the nation’s residents have grown poorer during Mbeki’s administration.
“Proposed march against crime gains momentum”
Mail & Guardian (South Africa), March 9, 2008
Dispatch (South Africa), March 10, 2008
“Prominent South Africans back million-man crime march”
Sunday Times (South Africa), March 9, 2008
“New date for million march”
The Times (South Africa), March 11, 2008
“Zuma stakes his claim as a president for the poor”
The Guardian (U.K.), March 9, 2008