Iraq: Stop the war in Iraq – South Africa – Township demonstrates against the war

About 5 000 anti-war protestors marched from Klipspruit West, Eldorado Park, to Lenasia, south of Johannesburg. The march was led by the contingent of South African Human Shields who had returned from Iraq earlier in the week the march, and received a warm welcome from the protestors. A Human Shield spokesperson gave a harrowing account of her experience of the horror of the situation facing the Iraqi people.

Stop the war in Iraq. South Africa.

South Africa: Township demonstrates against the war

The turnout, though lower than hoped for, was a magnificent achievement with busloads from different parts of Gauteng as far a field as the Vaal triangle far south of Johannesburg. Small businesses had donated non-American soft drinks which were provided to the marchers at intervals along the route of the march. The march was livened up by the singing toyi-toying and slogans denouncing Bush, Blair and Sharon. Placards ranged from a montage of injured children pictured in Iraqi hospitals, to one headed "three empty war heads found in Washington" with pictures of Bush, Blair and Sharon.

A number of speakers addressed the protest. These included: a second Human Shield speaker, the Anti-Privatisation Forum’s Trevor Ngwane; a speaker from the Landless Peoples Movement; the Freedom of Expression Institute; the AIDS Treatment Action Campaign’s Mark Heywood and the Anti-War Coalition and Palestinian Solidarity Committee leader Salim Vally.

The Freedom of Expression Institute speaker issued a call for opposing the Anti-Terrorism Bill now before parliament warning that its provisions for detention without trial for "intimidation" and belonging to a "listed" organisation (the black majority-ruled government has apparently decided that the word "listed" is preferable to "blacklisted").

The TAC’s Mark Heywood drew attention to the fact that the US government had just requested $70 billion for the war whilst they had contributed only $2 billion to the Global Fund to fight HIV/Aids.

The march occurred against the background of the decision of the SA government to reject the US demand to expel Iraqi diplomats. It had taken the government 5 days of agonising over the decision and when the announcement was made it was justified on the basis that it was only the UN could decide the legality of the Iraqi government. They pleaded for the US not to use this decision to cut promised aid packages and to follow the example of the British government who had assured the SA government that its stance on the war would not affect relations between the two countries. Salim Vally demanded that the government issue an unequivocal denunciation of the war – something it has failed to do so far with president Mbeki wringing his hands and hoping the war would end soon.

The Democratic Socialist Movement (CWI affiliate in South Africa) had worked the whole week to prepare for the march, distributing leaflets at 6am in the week and putting up posters throughout Eldorado Park, Kliptown and Soweto. The 2 000 DSM leaflets distributed were the only ones that linked the ant-war struggles to the struggle for socialism and the central role of the working class. Although the platform was ringing with denunciations of imperialism, and even in the case of Trevor Ngwane, with attacks on capitalism, not a single speaker made any mention of socialism.

For the second time in two weeks the Anti-War Coalition in Cape Town organised a 10 000 strong demonstration. Protests at the US consular offices in Cape Town and Johannesburg.

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