STUDENTS from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University are leading the way in the metro in the fight against xenophobia with the staging of a silent march.
Nelson Mandela Bay leaders from civil society, business, the municipality - and the province's premier Phumullo Masualle - will join the student-led initiative from the University's North to South campuses at noon on Thursday in a unified show of support for its African compatriots.
"It's so important that we show our support for our fellow international students and others who have come under attack," says Pedro Mzileni of the South African Students Congress (Sasco).
"We're joining hands as different student organisations to demonstrate our abhorrence of these senseless acts of violence against fellow human beings and to show our commitment to a campaign to bring an end to xenophobic attacks," says Student Representative Council (SRC) president Hlomela Bucwa.
The students have called on fellow students, NMMU staff and all concerned members of the metro to join them on the silent march, starting at midday from the university's North Campus Conference Centre.
With 8 percent of NMMU's student body coming from 64 countries around the globe, marchers are being encouraged to wear black in a show of support for the recent atrocities towards African compatriots. Participating international students are encouraged to wear traditional dress and proudly display their nation's flags in a brave display of solidarity with their fellow countrymen/women living elsewhere in South Africa.
"Diversity is our strength. We want to speak with one voice. The students are keen to show how their lives are enriched by interacting with those who come from outside of South Africa," says NMMU's Centre for the Advancement of Non-Racialism and Democracy (Canrad) Allan Zinn.
The majority of NMMU's international students come from 34 different countries on the continent.
The march will culminate in front of NMMU's tower block on the steps of its Embizweni building, where the University's Chair of Council Judge Ronnie Pillay and NMMU's Vice-Chancellor Prof Derrick Swartz will accept a banner that symbolically represents the thousands of signatures collected during an anti-xenophobia pledge campaign.
More than 10 000 signatures were collected in a Sasco-led initiative at the University from late last week when xenophobia attacks broke out in various centres around the country.
The initiative by the students has received high praise from various quarters, including metro mayor Ben Fihla at a meeting hosted by former mayor Nceba Faku at the weekend.
"We are excited to see that NMMU students have taken the lead," Mr Fihla told representatives from all walks of life who attended the weekend meeting at the metro.
The march, pledge and many other projects in support of the University's broader African student contingent has also earned the respect of the international student body at NMMU.
"We're glad that this is not about politics, but about something far bigger - about supporting and protecting the lives of people," says Zimbabwean student and head of the International Student Association Brian Makamure, who added that international students would also proudly carry their own country’s flags.
NMMU students are adamant that the fight against Xenophobia will go beyond tomorrow’s march with student leaders across the political divide coming together to seek tangible way of supporting those who have been affected by the recent attacks on their African compatriots.
On Friday, Prof Swartz will be engaging with NMMU students at the Student Leadership Conference on matters critical to student leadership and transformation.
Inquiries: Debbie Derry
Tel: 041 504 3057
083 354 9793
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Port Elizabeth, 6031, South Africa
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