Interview: The cry of the South African diaspora: “Our citizens did not need to deal with more loss and anarchy!”

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Manuel Matola

There are 1,640 South African immigrants living in Portugal. Last year, the South African diaspora warned the world about the “slow death” of South Africa, a country that is now on fire. The É@GORA newspaper spoke with the representative of the “Move One Million” project, Lauren de Almeida, about the situation in Nelson Mandela’s country when the world tries to perpetuate the legacy of the greatest icon in Global History.

In July 2020, south african dispora have started the project “Move One Million” that shortly attacted more than half a million south africans all over the world warning the international community about the “slow death” of South Africa. One year after, how do you describe the actual situation happening in South Africa?
The situation in South Africa at present is disheartening. There are many emotions that South Africans are going through currently, a deep sadness for the devastation and destruction caused to our country’s infrastructure with the looting and burning of Shopping Malls, business, warehouses, industrial areas etc that have been damaged. Creating even more job loss within the country. It’s very upsetting to see the images and videos on social media. It is stressful for both those living there as well as those abroad with many loved ones and friends still there. The looting and riots that have taken place in our country have been said to be an attempt to destabilise our democracy. These events have sparked serious economic and social consequences with so many sectors being affected. This taking place amongst an already tragic pandemic where South Africa has had one of the most stringent lockdowns in the world, and so many lives have already been lost. Our citizens did not need to deal with more loss and anarchy!

How do you evaluate the reaction of the international community in relation to the situation in South Africa?

Lauren de Almeida, the representative of the “Move One Million” project in Portugal.
The international community, South Africans in specific, have reached out to Prime ministers and government news agencies in the hopes that South African citizens could be assisted in various ways. We have seen reports on the situation by various news agents globally, however its much in vain, as it boils down to a mere news report, with not much assistance from our International Community. Move One Million is specific and did raise awareness for the situation on the ground in South Africa with a gathering that took place in the UK, and New Zeland.

Refer to the purpose of this campaign spread out by south africans worldwide and what we witness happening in South Africa, do you believe the project “Move One Million” have failed on it’s purpose? Why?
No, we have not failed, Move One Million as members both Internationally as well as within South Africa come together to create awareness and take action by assisting communities where they can, be it funding to aid with food supplies, community clean ups, reaching out to the more vulnerable communities, old age homes as well as isolated areas within Kwazulu Natal and Gauteng. Move One Million is the largest civil organization within the Country. Our founding member Jarette Petzer is still hard at work on the ground assisting in communities and keeping in touch with members, and our CEO Derek Holmes has also sent messages to our members locally and Internationally with updates on what Move One Million is doing on the ground in SA.

The world celebrated Mandela”s Day on july 18. How can we explain to a young kid about Mandela’s Day while this youngster is watching pictures and videos of what is happening is South Africa?
Mandela Day is a day dedicated to good deeds within each community within the country. As a rainbow nation, the majority of our citizens spend the day or week giving out acts of kindness to one another, donating money, food, blankets, clothes, planting trees, the list is endless. To explain to a child that sees what is going on in South Africa is not easy, but we express to the future generation of South Africa, that Mandela stood for equality, fairness, justice and the good of humanity and our diverse and beautiful nation, and where some people are not always reflecting his image, it is our responsibility and duty as South Africans and the youth of South Africa to embody his vision to grow our nation successfully.

Is Mandela’s legacy still alive?
Yes, for millions in our country we believe in his legacy and continue to build on it, however there is and has been some political instability within the country and of course this is a concern for our nation. Nelson Mandela’s party has been in power for over a quarter of a century and yet there is still much to be done to change our country and its citizens’ livelihoods for the better.

How can the world perpetuate the legacy left by Nelson Mandela?

Nelson Madela. FOTO: MEDIA24/GALLO IMAGES/GETTY
Through hope, respect and kindness to one another. With compassion and humility to individuals, regardless of race, gender or creed, on a continual basis.

Given what is happening in its home country, does South Africa still have the right to claim Mandela’s legacy?
A tough question. I think the vast majority of our citizens would say yes, given the nature of our nation in standing in unity for the greater good, however from a political standpoint and the legacy of his party, that is questionable.

What future is expected for South Africa, it’s citizens and south africans in the diaspora?
Nothing can bring our nation’s spirit, through any crisis, or stumbling block, our nation always finds a way to come together in unity, South Africans are a very resilient nation. We always find a way within communities to assist one another. We have seen this by church communities coming together to sing praise and worship in shopping centres, hospitals and streets, to raise our nation’s spirits and pray for our citizens and our Country. We have seen truck loads of food parcels going out to give food to those who need, members of the community and businesses that are offering to aid and assist where they can. We have seen our community man access points in affected areas, mostly men, and some women standing guard every day and night to keep watch that these perpetrators do not come back to attempt this again, and the same for many malls and areas where there are no accidents, where our people have come together sacrificing their free time to safeguard these premises, protecting them from these incidents occurring, to ensure infrastructure is not damaged and there is no further job loss. South African individuals assisted in stabilizing the situations in Kwazulu Natal and Gauteng, before the president then sent in the South African defense force to assist. Thankfully at this stage there have been multiple arrests and confiscation of goods by the police force. South Africans are alert at this point and we will rebuild again, together! (MM)

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