Shining light into the despair

South Africans in East Auckland gathering together at Macleans Park.

South Africans in east Auckland came together at Eastern Beach to show support for their families and friends in their home country.

On Sunday July 18 around 70 people gathered at 11:30am for 30 minutes at Macleans Park.

“I wanted people to see that we’re not alone and it’s okay to feel what we’re feeling,” Tanya Gatland, the organiser of the event, says.

This meet-up is a result of South Africa facing the worst unrest in decades. As the Times previously reported, former President Jacob Zuma was sentenced to 15 months in prison.

His arrest caused looting and violence in the two most populous provinces.

More than 200 malls have been targeted, 800 have been looted, and 100 burnt down. The retail industry has suffered 5 billion rand in damages.

Because of dozens of pharmacies being looted, half of KwaZulu-Natal province patients don’t have their chronic medication and 45,000 businesses in Durban are out of commission.

The subsequent unrest has led to many South Africans in New Zealand to fear for their family’s safety.

Many vigils have been held throughout the country to “raise awareness for the violent riots” and reflect on family who are in affected areas.

At Macleans Park, Tanya read a letter out loud that was written by one of the South African men who had to stand and fight to protect his family and community.

“It had a really positive message about what can be achieved when people of all walks of life and colour stand together and work together to protect what’s left of their country,” Tanya says.

They then lit a candle and had a moment of silence for the 212 people who had lost their lives in the riots.

“Two ladies asked if they could pray which they did,” Tanya says.

Then the 70 community members joined hands and sang the South African anthem.

“There were lots of tears and shared hugs,” Tanya says.