MBOMBELA – “Thank you for what you are doing for us,” said a crying woman to Mr Duncan Nyawo on Freedom Day as he prepared to walk from the city to the Union Buildings in Pretoria in protest against the killing of police officers and farmers.
“The country needs more people like you so we can be united as one. We are behind you every step of the way,” she said.
Tears flowed freely as about 30 people gathered at Halls Gateway in the early hours of Monday morning to pray for and bid farewell to Nyawo and his three companions, Mr Ian Venter, Mr Alex Leitch and Mr Jaco Klopper. It was an emotional scene as hugs were exchanged and messages of encouragement whispered by family members, friends and well-wishers to the four crusaders.
Another companion, Mr Sipho Mnisi, (https://www.facebook.com/sipho.p.mnisi?fref=ts) will join the group in Witbank.
These men have been preparing emotionally and physically for more than a week to brave the 350-kilometre journey.
Their plight has evolved from standing up against the killing of farmers and police officers to also including opposition to rhino poaching, xenophobia and land grabbing.
Klopper, co-founder of Mpumalanga Animal Crime Watch (MACW), said he was “doing it for the animals”.
Emotions ran high, both for the walkers and the supporters.
“What is actually being done about these matters?” asked Leitch, who flew from Durban on Sunday to join the march.
“Cases are reported to police but nothing really ever comes from it. It is heart-wrenching that our beautiful South Africa needs people like Duncan to send a message about all that is wrong with our country.”
Leitch is a farmer in Ballito, KwaZulu-Natal, whose friend, also a farmer, was attacked a few weeks ago.
“I’m passionate about this plight,” he said.
In a time blighted with xenophobic attacks, land grabbing and the defacing
of statues and monuments, it was meaningful that these brave men’s journey started on Freedom Day.
“What will become of this country if there are no farmers?” asked Nyawo, who was also struggling to hold back the tears.
“It is barbaric and inhumane to think that white people need to pay for the sins of their fathers. We need to put the hatred and racism behind us and unite as one country. I live according to ubuntu, we are all family.”
As the men started off towards the N4, the well-wishers clapped hands and wiped away tears. They then joined them for about a kilometre.
Cars drove by and hooted in support and a few motorists even stopped next to the road to applaud the men.
“This pumps me up,” Nyawo said as he gestured to his supporters. “Now I am certain I am doing the right thing.”
Nyawo’s journey has generated momentous support on social media.
A few people have started Facebook pages in support.
One page, “The Truth about South Africa”, has started a page called “Long walk against the killing of police officers and white farmers” which has gained more than 2 000 followers from all over the world, in one day.
Since Lowvelder has started reporting on his mission on April 17, sponsorships for Nyawo have been pouring in.
AfriForum, The Farm Stall at Halls and private sponsors have provided the team with food, water, backpacks, walking shoes, money and accommodation.
J&M Security Nelspruit, ADT Security Middelburg and ADT Security Pretoria are ensuring the men’s safety.
However, not all the feedback has been positive. Nyawo has received numerous phone calls from people threatening to sabotage his mission, and even to kill him.
“One man phoned and said if I didn’t drop this, he would try everything to ‘bring me down’,” he said.
Despite this, Nyawo says nothing will stop him from completing this important task.
They plan to walk about 120 kilometres each day, stopping only to rest for a few hours.
“I am not going to sleep,” Nyawo said. “I just want to get there as soon as possible, even if I have to walk through the night. My spirit is fit and my heart wants to do it.”
The men will record a video diary along the way.
They hoped to reach Belfast yesterday and the Union Buildings by Thursday.
By: Marinette Potgieter – Lowvelder
Follow their journey on their Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/protestwalk