By Hassan Isilow
PRETORIA, (AA): Thousands of South Africans marched in the capital Pretoria Friday calling for an end to racism that continues to spark controversy in the country following decades of apartheid.
The ruling African National Congress (ANC) organized the march, which was attended by several of its top leaders and supporters.
“We call on all sectors of society to unite and build a nation in its diversity,” ANC Deputy Secretary-General Jessie Duarte told a huge crowd clad in yellow and green T-shirts.
Friday’s march follows a recent spate of racist incidents in different parts of the country.
The most high profile incident happened in January, when an estate agent Penny Sparrow referred to black South Africans in a Facebook post as monkeys.
A week later, a Durban businessman Justin Van Vuuren also described blacks as animals in a social media post.
A black government employee, Velaphi Khumalo, also posted that black South Africans should do what “Hitler did to the Jews” and cleanse the country of white people.
The incidents sparked nationwide condemnation.
“The ANC calls for South Africans to move beyond merely identifying racism as a persisting challenge to uniting in action and to completely eradicate it together with all other forms of discrimination,” ANC Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe said.
He urged South Africans to unite against racism in the same way they did to defeat the apartheid regime.
“The ANC seeks to mobilize all South Africans, black and white, to contribute to the ongoing transformation of our country,” he said.
Mantashe also claimed that the U.S. embassy in Pretoria was allegedly holding clandestine meetings with South African youth to facilitate regime change in the country.
“We are aware of the program that takes young people to the United States for six weeks and then brings them back and plants them everywhere in campuses,” he claimed during the rally.
However, the U.S. ambassador to South Africa Patrick Gaspard denied the claims. “I’m so disappointed as I always imagined that if I organized a coup it would look like Mardi Gras – food, music, dance,” Gaspard tweeted.
He said the embassy’s program called the Mandela Washington Fellowship has provided opportunities to hundreds of young brilliant South Africans.
anti racismSouth Africa
[Photo: Members of African National Congress (ANC) hold banners during a protest against Racism as they march to State house which includes Presidency office from Burgers park in Pretoria, South Africa on February 19, 2016. Photographer: Ihsaan Haffejee/AA]