Saffers Against Crime

Last Saturday I photographed a march in the centre of London. Nothing unusual in that, but this march was different in that it was made up almost entirely of South African expatriates living in this country. It’s also attracted criticism both from some South Africans living here, and also from back home.
(C) Peter Marshall, 2007
This quote from Mandela was carried at the head of the march.

The march was against crime and in particular violent crime in South Africa and in support of the South African Police in their fight against crime. It was organised by a group called ACT4SA, ‘Against Crime Together For South Africa’.

In May this year, a group of young ‘Saffers’ in the UK were appalled to hear that one of their friends, Mark Joubert, had been murdered in a Durban restaurant. His death was one of many, the figures showing around 50 murders in the country every day, but it was one that aroused particular attention both in Durban and here. Working through the Facebook Saffers network they belonged to, they decided to organise this protest march in London. Hundreds promised their support, and on the day perhaps around 600 or 700 turned up and marched.

Before the march there were a number of comments by bloggers and others, mainly suggesting that if they wanted to do anything to help in South Africa they should start by going back there. At least one SA police chief went public saying that he didn’t need this kind of support.

The marchers, mainly young white South Africans, many here working in IT, were obviously sincere and concerned. It was a well-ordered march and the two speeches, one by one of the organisers and a second by Shannon Joubert, the sister of the murdered man, were positive about the need for South Africans in all communities to work together so that every South African would be able “to feel secure in his own home, to feel save in the cities, towns and rural areas… to travel to work, to school and other places without danger.” (Nelson Mandela)

(C) 2007, Peter Marshall
The march paused for a few moments opposite South Africa House

Unfortunately you don’t have to look very far at all to find sites where racist discussions are latching on to this protest, suggesting linkups with the British National Party and full of overt racist statements and language that we no longer allow in polite discourse.

The ACT4SA march was led by a banner shown above quoting Nelson Mandela, but the discussion of it on one web site i visited seemed largely concerned with racist and personal attacks on him and other black South Africans.

While I’m sure the organisers of ACT4SA worked from quite different motives, they will need to put in a great deal of work – especially to enlist support from more black South Africans – to stop their efforts being hi-jacked. The fight against crime in South Africa also has to me a fight against the racism which still seems endemic among many.

(C) 2007, Peter Marshall
I didn’t take any great pictures of the event, though overall they do give a good idea of what it was like. You can see them as usual on My London Diary.

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