JOHANNESBURG (AA) - Thousands of people, including government officials marched through the streets of Johannesburg Wednesday, calling for African unity and social-cohesion on Africa Day, a year after the country was hit by xenophobic violence.
In his address during Africa Day celebrations at the Yeoville recreation center in Johannesburg, South African politician David Makhura, who is the premier of Gauteng province, said he was appointing a panel of social cohesion experts to deal with racism and xenophobia.
“Much as we say that racism is a crime against humanity, xenophobia is a crime against humanity too,” Makhura told the gathering.
“We don’t want to see a repeat of xenophobic attacks on our fellow Africans,” he added.
Last year, South Africa witnessed a wave of anti-immigrant attacks, which claimed seven lives and displaced several hundreds of people.
African migrants were accused of taking jobs belonging to native South Africans, crowding social services and committing crimes.
Unofficial estimates claim that over two million African migrants live in South Africa, with the bulk of the numbers in Johannesburg, the country’s largest city.
Ambassadors and representatives of several countries, including France, Nigeria, Cameroon and Gabon attended the Africa Day event that was jointly organized by the African Diaspora Forum and the Gauteng government.
Africa Day is commemorated every year on May 25 to mark the formation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in Ethiopia, which is now known as the African Union.
South Africa joined the OAU on May 23 1994, after it attained its liberation from the apartheid regime.
Meanwhile, Marc Gbaffou, chairman of African Diaspora Forum, said: “Between 5,000 and 6,000 people participated in our parade march aimed at creating awareness for social cohesion between South Africans and African migrants as well as to celebrate Africa Day.”
Participants at the march carried flags of different African countries and were entertained by a police band as they walked the streets.