JOHANNESBURG – Organisers of the anti-xenophobia match between Highlanders of Zimbabwe and Jomo Cosmos of South Africa say the message has reached home.
About 18 000 fans attended the match at Johannesburg Stadium on Sunday, which was jointly organised by mobile cell-phone giant, Econet Wireless South Africa, Southern Africa Women’s Institute for Migration Affairs (SAWIMA), ACTION Support Centre (ACTION) and Population Council.
“The match was way beyond expectation! It’s a really slap in the face of xenophobia, and I am pleased that both South Africans and Zimbabweans witnessed the match together,” said Bishop Paul Verryn of Central Methodist Church.
He said he also pleased by the government’s response to the Kya Sands xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals, mainly Mozambicans, Zimbabweans and Malawians by deploying both soldiers and police to quell out the violence.
The deployment of soldiers and police saw 10 suspected criminals being arrested, of which nine of them appeared before the Randburg magistrates court on Thursday last week. “I pray that after this crucial match people from all walks of life should build a strong foundation from this match played here,” said Verryn.
Speaking at the same function, SAWIMA Executive Director, Joyce Dube, said the match had in fact united foreign nationals and their local counterpart. “My appeal to all people living in this country, let us live together in peace and harmony while respecting the rule of law and humanity,” said Dube.
Apart from witnessing the match, people also celebrated their cultural richness, diversity, and embraced their culture through soccer, drama, poetry music and traditional dances. The match was organised following spate of xenophobic attacks of Somalis in Cape Town, among them Zimbabweans, Malawians and Mozambicans.
In 2008, about 62 people, mainly foreigners were killed in the violent xenophobic attacks while more than 200 000 others were displaced.