South African celebrities stepped up their efforts to help victims of xenophobic attacks over the weekend as a UK campaign for a boycott of music concerts featuring South African artists gathered pace.
Afro-pop group Malaika, involved in the first street demonstrations against the violence that had killed at least 56 people by Tuesday, visited Cleveland police station in Johannesburg where 1000 foreign nationals have sought refuge from South African mobs.
Malaika – scheduled to perform in London on June 14 alongside Bongo Maffin – delivered gifts for women and children.
Lead singer Tshidi Mholo and Bongani Nchang parcelled out napkins, sanitary pads and other toiletries to women and children who have crowded the police station to escape attacks. They urged other celebrities to follow their example.
Jabu Ndaba, the third member of the group, was missing as he battles cancer.
“All the things you see are from our own pockets. We want to send a message of support to those who have been displaced,” Nchang told reporters.
Mholo told of her heartbreak and embarrassment at the wave of anti-foreigner violence which began in the poor township of Alexandra two weeks ago, and had spread to most parts of South Africa this week.
She said: “I feel South Africans need to get over their bitterness. As a woman, I was more concerned about the women and children.
“I can identify with what they are going through because during the uprisings against apartheid, my mother was pregnant with me.”
Elsewhere, relentless campaigner, YFM’s DJ Sbu, led artists from TS Records where he is an executive to deliver a truckload of clothes, blankets and food to some 1000 people holed up at Thokoza Auditorium in Ekurhuleni.
DJ Sbu, who has been campaigning on his morning show for the violence to stop, was joined by hip-hop singer Pro, actor Tumisho Masha and Mafikizolo lead singer, Nhlanhla Nciza.
Sbu told the delighted crowd: “We are here to show our support and emphasise that the youth of South Africa are against these senseless killings.”
South African government officials said the violence was subsiding after troops were deployed to trouble spots. But aid agencies say up to 30 000 people have been displaced and thousands more are fleeing to South Africa’s borders, many returning to their countries in the region.
In the UK, a text-message and e-mail campaign has been gathering pace to boycott South African gigs, but the campaign is opposed by many who point to the good work done by South African artists since the violence began.
And Professor, from Durban-based kwaito group Professor & T Zozo, told New Zimbabwe.com in Birmingham on Sunday: “This is not time for Africans to unite against these hoodlums, not pick up fights with easy targets. I don’t know of one good South African who approves of this. And the artists have led from the front.”