Overport was brought to a standstill on Saturday, 2 June, when fledgling activist group, People Against Oppression (PAO) hosted a protest march in support of the people of Palestine. About 4000 people joined the march which was led by high-profiled dignitaries including the grandson of the last Nelson Mandela, Mandla Mandela, eThekwini Deputy Mayor Fawzia Peer, Muhammad Desai of BDS, the ANC’s Omie Singh and Bishop Ruben Phillip, among others.
The protest march, calling for an end to the genocide against the people of Palestine, coincided with the 17th of Ramadaan, the day of the first battle in Islamic History, The Battle of Badr during the time of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). The crowd continued to swell as marching protestors made their way up Brickfield Road from the starting point at the corner of Alpine Road and Stanley Copley Drive in Overport.
Speaking at Overport Secondary School, where the march culminated, Mandla Mandela said that beloved former President Nelson Mandela’s name is synonymous with the Palestinian struggle because he deemed it to be “the greatest moral issue of our time. If the Palestinian struggle is the greatest moral issue of our time, then Apartheid Israel’s actions are the most immoral and must be condemned and held to account by all who love peace, justice and all who stand for human rights and dignity,” said Mandela as he called for the ANC to take action and boycott Israel. “We shall never succumb to their chequebook diplomacy and we call on the South African government to act against all those who go and fight in the Israeli Defence Force and who financially support Apartheid Israel in its oppression of the Palestinians,” said Mandela.
“We must strengthen the call to Boycott, Divest and Sanctions here in South Africa and encourage our friends all over the world to join in a total boycott of Apartheid Israel,” he added.
He called attention to the Sabra, Shatilla and Deir Yasin massacres, stating that Israel, as an apartheid state, must be charged for the 70 years of occupation in Palestinian land. “Israel has driven out six million Palestinians from their homes and consistently denied them the right of return. It has perpetrated wave after wave of massacres, indiscriminate killings and acts of genocide, ” he said.
Mandela added that Israel’s acts of genocide were unending with the ‘Great Catastrophe’ on 15 May 2018 when over 100 people were killed and 32 people had their limbs amputated as a result of injuries. One of the PAO founders, Ahmed Hansa, said that the organisation would plan another event soon. “It was an emergency movement when PAO was formed just two weeks ago. Palestine’s plight is an ongoing issue and PAO will sit down after Ramadaan month and plan a way forward. Effectively, the organisation was formed to take action against gender oppression and any kind of humanitarian oppression or genocide,” he said.
Hansa added that organisers were impressed by the turnout. “When people come out in those numbers, its an automatic success,” he said.
A mass iftaar was observed after the march.