Cape Town - Ebrahim Mayman, 3, sat on his father’s shoulders, waving a Palestinian flag in each hand high above a crowd of thousands.
“I want to show him what it is when people come together in solidarity,” said Ebrahim’s father, Faiek Mayman.
“It’s our brothers and sisters fighting for their lives there in Palestine. What’s happening there is wrong and I wanted to show my son what is happening in the world and what he can do.”
The two were among roughly 4 000 who marched up Plein Street on Wednesday to call for an end to violence in Palestinian territories. Those leading the march, organised by the Muslim Judicial Council, made their intentions clear from megaphones atop a float bearing the flags of Palestine, South Africa and al-Aqsa.
“Every day, Israel commits racist, violent, colonial crime,” said Alex Hodz of the UCT Palestine Solidarity Forum.
“It is required that we join the international movement to end the apartheid there and we call upon our government to take real action against Israel,” she said before the march.
She called on the government to withdraw the South African ambassador from Israel and expel the Israeli ambassador from South Africa. She also called on fellow students to support a boycott of Israel.
Terry Crawford-Browne invoked the words of Nelson Mandela: “We will only be free in South Africa when Palestine is free.”
“We call on our government to take the lead internationally, to stop making statements and then taking no action. We call for a complete boycott of Israeli products, international action to end the occupation of Palestine, and the right of return for Palestinian refugees,” he said.
Ntosh Mkonto, 21, sang a song in Xhosa as she marched with others from Equal Education. The name of the song, she said, loosely translated to “comrades”.
“The problem in Palestine is like what we had here in South Africa with apartheid and we need all comrades, all activists, to help out,” she told the Cape Argus.
Sheikh Ebrahim Gabriels, former president of the Muslim Judicial Council, led the crowd in chants: “Free, free Palestine!”
Amina Petersen, 37, said she came to march against the unfairness.
“We are going to our government and hoping they hear our voices so they go will go and help our brothers and sisters over there.”
Petersen brought her children Dhilshaan, 8, and Aaqilah, 14.
“They’re killing children over there and my kids are seeing it on Facebook. It’s important to show them what they can do,” she said.
Palestinian flags billowed in the wind as the crowd came to a stop outside Parliament’s main gate, spilling down St John’s and Roeland streets.
Yagyah Samuels, 30, said the killings in Palestine were not getting proper recognition. The march was about raising voices. “You don’t have to be a Muslim to be here,” he said. “You just have to be human.”
Cosatu regional secretary Tony Ehrenreich reminded the crowd that South Africans reaped the benefits of solidarity during apartheid.
“We are a people united,” he said. “As Muslims, Christians, Jews we come here today to say we support peace.”
The march came amid an escalation in violence in Gaza this month. Israel has responded to rockets fired out of Gaza with air strikes.