United South Africans say 'enough is enough'
About ten thousand people, not the envisaged one million, converged on the lawns of the Union Buildings for the Million Man March to protest against crime yesterday, but, in the words of the convener Desmond Dube, the point was made all the same.
"The message has gone through," said the popular entertainer.
Parents and their children; the sighted and the blind; from the Methodist Church to Hare Krishna followers; workers, the unemployed and schoolchildren of every shade and hue, size and shape - everyone affected by the scourge of crime - made time to hear Dube and other speakers demand that the government act on crime.
Even as a normal business day unfolded in the streets of the capital, from early morning the city experienced a steady trickle of people, each one of them bent on adding their voices to the anti-crime call - "enough is enough".
At 9.45am Dube came on stage to announce to the sparse crowd that the official function was to start promptly at midday.
Members of the DA then began chanting slogans and laid out fresh flowers in front of the elevated stage, in memory of one Danielle, a little girl whose angelic face looked out from the posters held aloft.
Handing out free sandwiches, they gave a rapturous reception to DA leader Helen Zille who appeared at 11am.
Smaller in numbers, the Independent Democrats and Azapo also made their presence known.
Small-time entrepreneurs also were busy, selling party T-shirts.
While all the Freedom Front Plus could seemingly do was to hold up their banner, a slew of energetic comrades in kangas bearing the face of ANC President Jacob Zuma - and SACP logo T-shirts as well - gathered around to do the gwiji, the struggle's dance and song.
They did it so well they were soon joined by white marchers who, while clearly not familiar with the lyrics, saw it as an opportunity to join in a common cause - the fight against crime.
"Viva" and "Amandla" they did hear, though. And they screamed their voices hoarse in unison.
Bantu Holomisa's United Democratic Front also carried their banner high with Holomisa sitting among other dignitaries behind the podium.
A day before the march, he'd said: "The UDM views this march as part of bolstering the efforts to combat crime in South Africa; it will send a strong message to the would-be perpetrators of crime .
"Crime in this country is killing and maiming our brothers, sisters, parents and children. It takes from our midst the people we love and the people we depend on."
And like most politicians who attended, Holomisa thanked "the initiative" taken by the organisers of the march. Correctional Services Minister Ngconde Balfour was heckled when he received the memorandum on behalf of President Thabo Mbeki,
In their trademark red waistcoats, Amadodana Ase Wesile, the Men's Guild of the Methodist Church, impressed the gathering when they sang their hymns. The marchers joined in and . it was if a church service had begun.
In the words of their church leader, Bishop Gavin Taylor, who heads the Limpopo region , the march was a chance to "awaken South Africans to the seriousness of crime".
Taylor said he hoped the government would take the concerns of ordinary citizens seriously.
Schoolgirls Nompumelelo Martin and Nthabeleng Mzizi, who are in matric at St Mary's in Waverley, Johannesburg, said they had come "to take a stand against crime".
Jacki Hewitt and a few of her buddies came dressed in T-shirts bearing a picture of her brother, Neil, who was gunned down in a Honeydew restaurant that was robbed in 2003.
Other relatives did the same, remembering the loved ones they had lost to crime.
When the clock struck midday, Bishop Abram Sibiya opened the one-hour proceedings with a moving prayer and a sermon that, if the country's rulers did not hear, God certainly did.
Speaker after speaker - from the wife of the slain Soweto businessman Shimmy Mofokeng, Dube's neighbour whose killing planted the idea in the actor's head, to Moeketsi Mosola, head of Tourism SA - appealed to the government to prioritise the fight against crime.
The numbers were not as swollen as the Million Man March in Washington DC in 1995, but in its own way, yesterday's march will also go down in history.