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Xenophobia under spotlight at Interfaith prayer service


People who perpetrated xenophobic attacks were agents of darkness, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa said during an interfaith prayer service at Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg, on 24 May.

The service, aimed at fostering peace and co-existence in South Africa, was spearheaded by Gauteng Premier David Makhura, who was one of several leaders who condemned the recent xenophobic attacks that swept through KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, claiming at least six lives and displacing thousands of people.

It was organised by the City of Johannesburg, whose Executive Mayor, Clr Parks Tau, has also been extremely vocal in his condemnation of the scourge. Among those present were Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa, former Chairperson of the Independent Electoral Commission Brigalia Bam, Ekurhuleni Mayor Mondli Gungubele, his Tshwane counterpart Kgosientso Ramokgopa, Members of Parliament, trade union leaders and representatives of business.

Ellis Park Stadium was a kaleidoscope of colours as more than 2 000 people of different religious beliefs gathered for the service. Amid chants of “Africa We Are One” and “No to Xenophobia”, the gathering – which attracted dignitaries from as far afield as Bangladesh, as well as the rest of the African continent and the diaspora – took place on the eve of Africa Day today.

Condemning those who engaged in xenophobic attacks, Deputy President Ramaphosa said as the Freedom Charter clearly spelt out, "South Africa belongs to all who live in it". He said those with xenophobic tendencies had no place in a democratic South Africa and that their actions must be nipped in the bud.

Ramaphosa praised faith-based leaders for being proactive in tackling crises facing South Africa.He urged them to continue with their spiritual leadership and guidance in the fight against societal ills such as xenophobia, poverty and ignorance.

"We need to reaffirm our commitment to [African] unity, prosperity and equality. It is in our hands to remake the African continent and realise the dream of our forebears," he said.

Joburg Executive Mayor Councillor Tau urged Johannesburg residents to be ambassadors of peace. Echoing Ramaphosa, Mayor Tau said Johannesburg was home to all who lived in it as was South Africa as a whole.

He said the City was more than willing to welcome anyone who wished to work with it to unlock the potential economic opportunities available.

“Our home Gauteng and South Africa at large is your home,” he said.

He added that events such as this were necessary to dispel the myth that Johannesburg was a xenophobic city. Minister Mthethwa also condemned the “senseless attacks” and called on all South Africans to unite against the scourge.