Social media used to mobilise youth against xenophobia

Originally published: April 19, 2015 by  on Wits Vuvuzela

Young people from Johannesburg used social media to mobilise a march to the Gauteng Legislature in an anti-xenophobia silent protest

SILENT PROTEST: group of youngsters sit quietly in front of Luthuli house in Johannesburg CBD. Photo: Rafieka Williams
SILENT PROTEST: group of youngsters sit quietly in front of Luthuli house in Johannesburg CBD. Photo: Rafieka Williams

Using social media and the hashtag“#SilentProtest”, a group of young people came together in an anti-xenophobia silent protest in Johannesburg CBD (Central Business Dsitrict), yesterday.

Starting with a twitter rant, organisers Thabang Manyelo and Sandiselwe Gamede decided to put their concerns about the recent attacks on foreign nationals into action. They asked fellow twitter users to join them in a protest at Luthuli house at 10am yesterday morning.

In response to Manyelo and Gamede’s tweets, a group of approximately 100 youngsters, many of whom had never met before, came together to show solidarity with foreign nationals living in South Africa.

WE ARE AFRICA: Protesters from different backgrounds gather at Beyers Naude Square in solidarity with foreign nationals who have suffered. Photo: Rafieka Williams
WE ARE AFRICA: Protesters from different backgrounds gather at Beyers Naude Square in solidarity with foreign nationals who have suffered. Photo: Rafieka Williams

Manyelo said his hopes for the march were about “Applying pressure on the government, saying that we won’t stand for this and we’re hoping you [government] see us and actually do something about it, not just make a statement and then let it be”.

From Luthuli House to Gauteng Legislature 

The march started at the ANC (African National Congress) headquarters, Luthuli House where the protestors stood quietly holding up signs condemning ‘xenophobia’. They then moved silently, with tape over their mouths, through Beyers Naude Square to the Gauteng Legislature.

When they arrived at the Gauteng Legislature building, they remained completely silent for an hour before singing the national anthem.

Acie Lumumba, Chairperson of the Youth Council of Zimbabwe, thanked the youth for their support.

Lumumba said the march changed his perception of how the majority of South Africans felt towards foreign nationals.

“I came here specifically against the advice of many Zimbabweans because I wanted to know, is this really what South Africa has become. And I’m happy to go back with a message to say even if it’s one, even if its two, there is still hope where Zimbabwe and South Africa can have a young generation that intertwines and builds towards a more prosperous region in Africa.”

Silence is Golden 

Explaining the reason for silence, Gamede said they wanted, “To start peacefully and end peacefully… We need to find pro-active ways to challenge views that we disagree with, without killing each other.”

According to Manyelo, the big message that the march is trying to drive is that social media can be an effective part of activism. He believes that their efforts will have a ripple effect on the government to be more pro-active in doing something about the violence.

LEST WE FORGET: the group of youngsters ended their march on  Gauteng Legislature doorstep, where they sang the national anthem. Photo: Rafieka Williams
LEST WE FORGET: the group of youngsters ended their march on Gauteng Legislature doorstep, where they sang the national anthem. Photo: Rafieka Williams

Smash Afrika, Yfm presenter and a former Witsie also heard about the cause through social media.

“The reason why I came here is because we have a f*cking crisis in our country that we need to fix ASAP and the only way we can fix it, is if young people come together and stand up against this … Xenophobia is whack (sic) and it needs to come to an end,” said Afrika.

Kirsten Leo, a 23 year old former Witsie said, “People are frustrated and they are directing their energy in the wrong way … As South Africans we can’t allow this.”

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