'We are militant, yes. We are radical, yes. But we are not thugs,' says EFF at Phoenix march
Scores of political, community and peace organisations joined the EFF in Phoenix on Thursday in a march against those involved in recent criminal acts which saw 36 people killed.
Hundreds of EFF supporters — most of whom weren't wearing masks — were ferried by buses to Gandhi Park in Phoenix, north of Durban, where the 3km march to the police station began.
The EFF announced on Tuesday their plans to “march to Phoenix against racist Indians” , which drew mixed reaction ranging from criticism from minority groups to support from those calling for justice for the victims and their families.
After a meeting on Wednesday, the party said it was embarking on a “solidarity march to Phoenix”. Representatives of various groups including the Phoenix peace and development committee and the African Democratic Change joined.
A heavy police contingent was present at the park and accompanied the protesters as they made their way to the station while soldiers and police were strategically positioned alongside businesses and near homes.
The party's secretary-general Marshall Dlamini, who previously said that the party would deal “decisively” with racism in the area, echoed his sentiments outside the police station, where a memorandum of demands and grievances was submitted to the station commander.
“We were looking for the cowards who blocked the roads and the streets because they claim to own Phoenix. We wanted to cross paths with them here on the road. We have not come here to negotiate peace. We will never sit at a table and negotiate with racists. That decision was taken on July 26 2013, when this organisation was formed, ” said Dlamini.
The memorandum from EFF regional secretary Khanyisani Khambule said the march was borne out of the frustration of “persistent failure” by the ministers of defence and police to prosecute those responsible for the deaths in Phoenix.
According to the memorandum, the EFF is calling for the police and army to:
- Conduct raids in Phoenix and not discriminate against black households taking “cabbage and spinach” while Indian killers were in their homes;
- Intensify their operations in Phoenix which will lead to more arrests and confiscation of illegal firearms that were used during the recent killings;
- Visit Bhambayi and Zwelisha and hold community meetings encouraging victims of the Phoenix massacre to open cases against the Indians who attacked them; and
- Not to tamper with investigations or evidence relating to the successful convictions of those arrested in connection with the killings.
Outside the station, there was a moment of silence for the 36 victims who lost their lives in the unrest.
Dumisani Ndlovu, a 53-year-old father from Waterloo, near Verulam, addressed the crowd, revealing how his son, Thamsanqa Hlongwa, 27, was murdered and his body set on fire in Phoenix last month.
“He was accompanying a friend to Amaoti when they were stopped and hacked to death. I just wanted to convey a token of appreciation to see so many fighters united. I can find comfort knowing that I am in good company with fellow mourners who lost their children, brothers and fathers during that horrible week,” said Ndlovu.
Hlongwa was buried on July 25.
The EFF's KwaZulu-Natal chairperson Vusi Khoza said unity among Phoenix residents against racism and crime is among the main outcomes the march should yield.
“After this march, we want to see the non-racist residents of this community stand up against racism. We want to leave a clear message that the EFF will always confront racism where it is happening.
“Lastly, we want to liberate the residents (not all of them of Phoenix) from the mentality that the EFF are thugs. We are militant, yes. We are radical, yes. We are confrontational but we are not thugs,” said Khoza.
African Democratic Change national leader Visvin Reddy said: “We are here today to seek reconciliation and peace. There is much anger among communities. People have lost lives as a result of the looting and killing that has swept through our province and our beautiful city.
““Our anger must be channelled towards a failed government. The government has failed to protect its citizens, and that is why we are in this situation,” Reddy said.
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