FHR interviewed community journalist Simphiwe Gwija about his radio report on the Africa Day Events hosted by the ADF. Gwija, a South African citizen, was among thebeneficiaries who said the event changed their perspectivetowards migrants and their place in the diaspora. Africa Day commemorated the 62 killed and hundreds injured in the May 2008 xenophobic attacks.
Gwija described the atmosphere of the venue, the Yeoville Recreation Centre, in the often chaotic, vibrant Johannesburg suburb of Yeoville, home to thousands of migrants as "exciting".
"A candlelight prayer ceremony was led by Bishop Owen McGregor of the African Council of Churches, an inclusive, faith-based organisation. His topic was Migrants' Rights and The Role of the Church in a Community Affected by Xenophobia. "Bishop Owen McGregor said the churches have been assisting migrants in acquiring documentation, in finding a place to live and providing clothing and food. Importantly, they were attempting to give them spiritual food. The Reverend Bantu Xozwa, the Department of Social Development and financial service planner Sydney Mbongeni stressed the need for integration. Banners said, 'Say no to Xenophobia!' An advice desk in the Yeoville Recreation Centre hosted a variety of groups whose messages were essentially all the same. 'Africans are all one nation and the locals must tolerate migrants'. Bin-stickers carried one simple message: 'This is where xenophobia belongs – in the dustbin'.
"The day kicked off with a football tournament, which emphasised the concept of One Africa. Marc Gbaffou, AMF Chairperson, said, 'We Africans should look back to where we came from and see where going. This is our identity. You cannot ignore that we are Africans and we have to stop for at least one day of the year and celebrate our identity, our cultures – the way we believe in things is not necessarily the same way Europeans do. It is important that we join hands together and show the rest of the world how we do things. Football still has power to unite.'
"Also from the ADF, Cyprian Ikane said, 'I think that organising soccer on African Day helps people know one another and become one family.' Leratho Kathamba, a fitness trainer, said, 'On Africa Day we must learn to appreciate each other as human beings. We are all God's children, whether you COME from Cameroon, Angola or South Africa. It is important for women to come out so we can balance the scale. We have ladies teams so we can appreciate the sport and make it go forward.'
"More people were interviewed, their first names only were offered. They stopped dancing in order to express their appreciation of the football tournament and the concert, and to trumpet the message of unity and the importance of Africa Day and its essential role in endorsing the rights of migrants in South Africa. People talked about 'the beautiful combination of sports and music, which bring people together and change the atmosphere and break down tensions'.
"A community member known only as Makasonke said, 'As a South African citizen, I want to join in this action and help people to get better housing.' Theresa said: 'Will we experience xenophobic attacks after this concert? I don't think so – people in Yeoville are educated about it now and some regret it and some of these people who regret it are even here today.' An unnamed member of the audience said, 'This xenophobia they talk about is un-African and it is un-South African.'"