I’d prefer to be doing something more ‘useful’ but I’m sitting in St. Georges Cathedral, waiting to play into a microphone, a sound clip of refugees speaking of their experiences. It’s one item on the programme at a public meeting protesting xenophobia. I’m wearing a t-shirt that says ‘foreigner on the front’, as are many. Archbishop Mokgatho’s wearing it over his long purple robes. I haven’t had a chance to read the back yet.
Themba Baleni, my soundman from Beat It days, greets me – we haven’t seen each other for over two years. He tells me that Peter, the cameraman we used to work with, is now living on the streets in Muizenberg. This I had heard already; but had hoped might have changed.
The cathedral is filling up with people from all Cape Town’s communities, archbishops, imams and chief justices will speak alongside the activists.
“I’m not sure I’m going to be chief justice for much longer,” says Chief Justice Pius Langa. Perhaps he means that he doesn’t expect to hold onto his position when speaking against the inaction and apathy of the government.
What follow are excerpts from his address.
“We come here [St Georges Cathedral], when there is great emotion in the nation, when we ask ourselves if there is something we have lost along the way.
“I was there [in the 80s] when we said, ‘I want my fundamental human rights.’ What we really meant was that we wanted everyone living in South Africa to enjoy those fundemental human rights.”
“Human rights are indivisible. They do not belong to you alone.”
“In 1994, the South African nation endorsed the demand for our freedom, for our fundamental human rights, by adopting a consitution that guaranteed just these things. This was not just for a few people, this was for all people within South Africa.”
“Are we as a society going to allow ourselves to be sabotaged?”
“We put socio-economic rights in the consitution. The constitution represents a positive fight.”
Zackie dashes up to adjust the microphone for the Most Reverend Archbishop Thabo Mokgatho.
“We meet today to sorry to our neighbours. We meet to say the appalling violence that has been visited on them is unacceptable.”
“This is not the time to point fingers at each other.” He’s perhaps aware that TAC, the city, and the provincial government are doing just that. I fear his plea will go unheard.
Archbishop Lawrence Henry “It’s not spaza shops that must be destroyed, it’s a culture of not caring that must be destroyed.”
I pass a note to Zackie, “South Africans of other nationalities, not foreigners.” Perhaps he used it when speaking; I don’t know, as I left before the meeting finished. I don’t have the stomach for two hours of speeches, and I suspected I might be better employed elsewhere.
Nokhwezi Hoboyi, from TAC, who is managing the speakers: “Is this how we treat our brothers, our fellow Africans, who gave us refuge during the time of apartheid?” The mike’s just that bit too high for her, and she stands on her toes to speak.