South African march against crime draws small crowd

June 10th, 2008 - 9:32 pm ICT by IANS  

By Fakir Hassen
Pretoria, June 10 (IANS) An ambitious plan for a march of a million to the seat of government here to protest rampant crime in South Africa Tuesday attracted just over 5,000. Organisers said the low turnout was a disappointment, but added that the intention of generating greater awareness and public concern about the high levels of crime in the country had been achieved.

Correctional Services Minister Ngconde Balfour, Public Service and Administration Minister Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi and Provincial and Local Government Minister Sydney Mufamadi were loudly hailed when they joined organisers and victims of crime at the Union Buildings here, although expectations that President Thabo Mbeki would personally receive the petition left marchers disappointed.

Initiated by television presenter and comedian Desmond Dube, the Million Man March was inspired by an American protest model, but while it generated a huge media hype in recent weeks, the general apathy left many participants disappointed.

The march was also the butt of much scepticism in some circles, with one radio station factually proving that the sheer logistics involved in getting just a quarter of a million South Africans together in one area within a few hours would be impossible due to such issues as transport.

Among the marchers was Yolandi du Plessis, who said she and her immediate family had been robbed 14 times in the past three years, including an incident where both she and her sister were hijacked by armed thugs near her home in separate incidents.

Du Plessis slammed the apathy of people who moaned and groaned about the high level of crime, their insecurity, and alleged government failure to act sufficiently, but failed to join an initiative like this.

Many other marchers echoed Du Plessis’ sentiments, saying that a larger number would have sent a stronger message to government. However, she said she was happy to be there and would take part again in an anti-crime protest if the opportunity arose.

Some businesses closed and gave their staff the day off to join the march, which was also televised live.

Crime in South Africa has been cited by local and foreign businesses as a major factor impeding the country’s growth.

In a recent survey by PriceWaterhouse Coopers, Indian companies interested in investing in South Africa cited crime as one of the major concerns for them.

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