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Brussels protest raises concerns for South Africa
Protestors, concerned with the deterioration of the socio-economic situation in South Africa, gathered in Brussels on Saturday.
The group of South African Belgians were part of a worldwide campaign called Move One Million whose aim is to raise international awareness about the worrying state of affairs in the country.
South Africa reacted to the Covid-19 pandemic with one of the most extreme lockdowns in the world. To date there have been 636,884 cases of the virus in the country and 14,779 deaths.
The loss of jobs has been severe, particularly as the country was already struggling with these issues due to years of institutionalised corruption, state capture, misgovernance and spiralling crime rates. South Africa was downgraded to full junk status by international ratings agencies at the start of the lockdown.
Dressed in matching black T-shirts with South African flags and holding posters stating "Enough is enough" and "Stop the rot, end the greed", the group held a minute of silence at Place du Luxembourg.
They symbolically stood in a circle and passed roses to each other, representing the movement of their protest around the world. They then walked to the South African embassy where they placed the roses outside the embassy’s door.
"We stand here today, in front of you in Brussels, as a group of volunteers who decided to come together to stand up for the rights of a people in a country we love dearly: South Africa," said Brussels campaign founder Tineke Remant.
"We talk to our friends and family who live in South Africa and hear them say they are dying a slow death. This is not about colour, race, culture, language, or anything else that provides division. This is about a government being called from around the world to listen and respect the needs and wishes of all their people in unity."
Remant said that many of those at the demonstration had either been born in South Africa or have lived there and they believed in what Nelson Mandela called Ubuntu, a Zulu term which means “I am, because we are” - a call for communities to stand together.
The Brussels gathering was one of many protests held across 16 countries on Saturday. Demonstrations also took place in South Africa as well as in the United Kingdom, Portugal, Mexico, Cyprus, Greece, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, the UAE, the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Uganda and Madagascar.
The Move One Million movement was launched in July 2020 with the aim of encouraging one million people globally to stand united in protests with the message that they are no longer willing to accept the various issues plaguing South Africa.
The laws implemented under the lockdown resulted in an estimated two million people facing starvation, bringing the total number up to 15 million people, said Natascha Proost.
According to Stats SA, the official statistic body in South Africa, the first quarter of 2020 resulted in at least 33,000 jobs lost, with the unemployment rate expected to exceed 40% by December 2020.
The level of poverty increased with the current national food poverty line a mere €29.58 per person per month. This situation was compounded by the fact that the Covid-19 epidemic led to more looting by state officials. The president of the country, Cyril Ramaphosa, recently launched investigations into corruption of COVID-19 state contracts worth a sum of €253 million.