Police were called in to stop clashes between delegates from Morocco and Western Sahara at the 17th World Festival of Youth and Students on Sunday.
The clashes took place at the festival’s “Anti-Imperialist Court”, which National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) chairman Andile Lungisa said was “presiding over matters of imperialism against countries”.
Shortly after, delegates went scurrying to leave the building as partition fell due to heavy winds.
At a press conference on Sunday, Lungisa downplayed the clashes, saying that slogans were shouted and “that voices were high. We intervened but no police were called. There were no injuries. It was nothing”. However Moroccan journalist Ahmed El Jechitimi told the South African Press Association that problems began in Hall G when a group of whom he believed were Western Saharan supporters and members of the Catalonian Socialist delegations tried to replace the Moroccan banner with onive that read “Morocco is a Zionist State”.
“I was there. I heard shouting and there was an Algerian flag. There were clashes and slogans were being shouted and the police intervened,” he said.
A Palestinian journalist, who spoke on condition of anonymity said that there were clashes, but he could not say who started it.
Lungisa said that the festival had been a success with almost 17 000 delegates attending the event, which he said was the biggest number since the festival was held in Moscow in 1985.
He again urged the media to focus on the positive aspects of the festival such as the “seeds being planted by this festival towards a world in unity, solidarity and peace”. “A glaring minority [of the media] has undertaken this more challenging task of sitting through the seminars to capture the essence of the debates and discussions taking place there.
He said that on Wednesday there would be a march for peace from Church Square in Pretoria through to the Union buildings where resolutions of the festival would be handed to the South African government.
Police confirmed the incident later on Sunday afternoon.
Captain Dennis Adrio said police were called in to separate a fight.
“No injuries were reported, no arrests were made, and police were stationed at the event for the rest of the day,” Adrio said. — Sapa