A vigilante mob attacks a Nigerian man outside a church in Pretoria. File picture: James Oatway/AP
Pretoria - There is massive support for today’s Pretoria march against foreigners, with people from KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, Northern Cape, the Western Cape and other areas urging organisers to go ahead with the protest.

On Thursday, organiser Makgoka Lekganyane said: “Support for the march is overwhelming and we are forging right ahead with it, come rain or sunshine.”

Lekganyane said he had been inundated with calls from people in different provinces supporting the march.

“This problem of illegal immigrants is not exclusive to Pretoria; it’s a countrywide problem and needs to be thoroughly addressed,” said Lekganyane.

He said he was pleased with the attention the march was receiving.

“It’s all systems go from 11am and we, the Mamelodi Concerned Residents, are doing this for our people,” he said.

Participants are expected to start convening at Marabastad early this morning and march to the Department of Home Affairs head offices in the city centre at 11am.

Tshwane Metro Police spokesperson Senior Superintendent Isaac Mahamba advised people not to panic and appealed for calm.

He was referring to the rumours that the march would turn violent. “The department has deployed members accordingly. We are hoping for a peaceful march and that the organisers will follow the restrictions we have given them,” Mahamba said.

He said traffic would be affected from 10am from Struben Street, down to Thabo Sehume and Johannes Ramokhoase streets. “We won’t completely close down the streets, but instead move with the marchers as they pass,” he said.

SAPS spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Lungelo Dlamini said they and other law enforcement agencies would increase deployments to deal with any situation including threats of violence.

The march takes place on the back of protests that hit the city in the the last week.

They began last Saturday when community members torched two houses in Pretoria West over allegations of drug peddling and prostitution. Protesters said their targets were brothels and drug dens run by migrants from elsewhere in Africa.

On Monday night, 20 foreign-owned shops were looted in Atteridgeville, Lotus Gardens and Mamelodi East, while residents in Rosettenville, south of Joburg, burnt down 12 houses.

The march has raised fears of violence in the city, with some saying foreigners will be attacked. Some foreign national shopowners said they would remain closed today.

The organisers of the march said the majority of people in South Africa had an issue with foreigners occupying economic space which could be taken up by locals.

“We as Mamelodi Concerned Residents have taken it upon ourselves to act,” Lekganyane said. But he emphasised no xenophobia was intended. The march was simply a platform to voice their concerns.

Pretoria News