Pretoria - Calls for unity, defence for President Jacob Zuma and jibes levelled at opposition parties dominated the march by thousands of ANC supporters in Pretoria.
The ruling party, backed by members who were bussed in from all corners of Gauteng, took the fight against racism to the streets and called for unity, non-racialism and democracy.
Clad in their party colours, they chanted the Struggle songs and marched from Burgers Park in the city centre to the Union Buildings, where they handed over a memorandum to the Presidency.
Taking pot-shots at the opposition, ANC Youth League secretary-general Njabulo Nzuza remarked that all people who perpetuated racism were coming from the DA.
“We must find a way to make racism to be criminal; there must a consequences for it,” he said.
ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said: “This is not a protest. This is a march for building; it is a positive march. We want to build a non-racist and prosperous nation.
“If we were not united we would not have defeated apartheid. We must build a non-racist society where we see people as people,” he said.
He used an opportunity to call for government to speed up the land redistribution process. “We must be more confidence, more bold, and not be apologetic about accessing the land. If we are not united, land distribution will remain distorted.” Mantashe said that he would like to see the march of the same nature in every province.
Commenting on the recent attacks against President Jacob Zumain Parliament, he said: “It is not about Zuma; it is about an attack on the ANC. When we defend Zuma, we are not really defending the president; we are defending the revolution.”
ANC deputy-secretary Jessie Duarte read out the memorandum, which conveyed a message against racism and promoted equality, social justice and human rights.
Duarte said the clarion call for unity, non-racialism and democracy had its roots in the 1955 Freedom Charter, which stated that the country belonged to all who lived in it.
She called upon the peace-loving people to join hands across any divide to fight racism. Racism must be criminalised in all its manifestations, she said.
Minister in the Presidency, Susan Shabangu, received the memorandum on behalf of the office. “The president has extended an olive branch to all sectors in the country to unite against racism,” she told the masses.
Shabangu said the march endorsed Zuma’s plea in Parliament for everyone to unite against racism.
Gauteng Premier David Makhura said: “Who told you that the DA is a racist party... It was the former DA leader in Parliament, Lindiwe Mazibuko… There is no room for racism in our society.”
ANC Women’s League president Bathabile Dlamini mobilised young people to march to higher institutions, where she said racism was prevalent.
Dlamini also called for party members to defend Zuma, saying: “Hands off our president; hands of our leadership,”
North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo denounced the tendency by some people, who showed disrespect in Parliament. “They forget that we are the ones who fought for them to be able to speak in Parliament.”
He called for ANC members not to copy the bad behaviours of those who were disrupting Parliament.
In his address, ANC Mpumalanga secretary Mandla Ndlovu said: “We came here to say no to racism. We in Mpumalanga are willing to work with anyone who say no to racism. In addition, we are not going to allow hooligans to remove the sitting president.”