Faith leaders pray for peace during march

Left: Annie Smith, Veneta Gent, Ghalema Easton and Elma Buren, from Justice for Cape Town.

Religious leaders along with community organisations from all over the city took to the streets of the CBD in a peace and prayer march to Parliament.

The aim of the march, which took place on Thursday September 20, was to voice concerns about the socio-economic and political turmoil in South Africa, as well as the high levels of crime.

During the march, religious leaders emphasised that it was a peaceful protest, reminding participants to walk in silence and pray, with occasional chants of: “We want peace; Down with crime; Down with corruption,” among other things.

The march was organised by the Muslim Judicial Council, Cape Town Interfaith Initiative, the Western Cape Religious Leaders’ Forum and the Western Cape Christian Ministries Association.

Berry Behr, one of the organisers from the Cape Town Interfaith Initiative, said while people were not asking for anything new, it was important that they did not give up the fight for peace in the country.

“We have a constitution that ensures our human rights are respected and all those rights are being eroded. We need our human rights – the government is in breach of that. We are asking for a re-commitment and asking for the government to engage with us as a community and as spiritual leaders.”

Bishop Templeton Mbekwe, who led the march, said: “We are taking back our country from poverty, gangsters, drug abuse and crime. We will not be despondent. We are taking back our streets by walking through the city and praying for our country.”

Apart from religious organisations, the march was also supported by various community organisations who said they were fed up with crime, corruption and the increasing cost of living.

Achmat Abrahams, the Western Cape convener of People Against Paraffin and Petrol Price Increases (PAPPPI), said they formed part of the interface task team because they were concerned about the socio-political crisis in the country, the cost of living, and the high water, fuel and electricity costs.

“When fuel goes up, everything else goes up, and a large percentage of people live below the poverty line. When people are poor, it leads to crime. We have a huge problem with gangsterism and drugs on the Cape Flats.”

Annie Smith of Justice for Cape Town voiced her frustration with the City’s administation. “We don’t have safety and security on the Cape Flats. With the water issue – they gave us a reduction in tariffs, but it has gone down negligently as we’ve still got people with bills that are thousands of rands.

“They’ve made a fat profit out of us – it’s insane. The government has failed us. The people are angry. We want to educate people on how to work with their ward councillors. We don’t want politicians to run our city; we want people who know what they are doing to run it along with the people.”

Cassiem Gamiet of the Lentegeur East Concerned Community Seniors’ Club said they were fed up with the crime in the area. “We have shootings every day, and most recently, the (kidnapping) of children.”

Veneta Gent, a community activist representing Lavender Hill, said gangsters and gang-related violence were out of control. “People are being killed and children are being shot, and the authorities don’t care – the president doesn’t care. The Cape Flats is a war zone.

“People are being thrown out on the streets – elderly people and children in the Military Road vicinity. Our president needs to preside.”

The deputy chairman of the Muslim Judicial Council, Sheikh Riad Fataar, said all those present at the march were there to show peace. “All religions here know peace. Why is it taking so long to filter down to the streets? Why must we be scared when we walk in our streets?

“That peace will come only via your faith. We need to call on the Almighty, and pray that he makes us a nation of peace.”